Long term UFOs – part II

The sweater quilt.  I joined Ebay in 1996 – those were the good old days before the vintage market got utterly saturated and you could sell stuff for a decent profit and find great stuff to buy.   There were a few awesome thrift stores around where I lived, and I scoured one in particular weekly or more.  At that time I was working in a gallery, putting off grad school, and convincing myself that I could be an artist even though I made little art and showed none of it.  To supplement my meager income, I produced a few craft items for shops and fairs and sold vintage stuff online – mostly dishware, printed tablecloths, and some clothing.  For a couple of years life was good, and my Ebay earnings paid for a few trips to visit friends and family scattered from coast to coast, but then I noticed a problem – namely I had a thrift-store problem, and for every item I bought to re-sell, I bought another or two or three to keep…  This also coincided with the bottom falling out on things like Jadeite dishware and the like, so it was time to quit.  But.I.Just.Couldn’t.Stop.   I loved the sensory experience of whirring through a rack of old sweaters and my fingers landing on cashmere or something sturdy and sheepy, never mind the other senses tweaked from mothballs or a neighboring browser or her shrieking kid.  I couldn’t quit the hunt for prime fiber, so I continued to go, but less frequently and I tried to stick to just the clothing racks and electronics (did I mention I also collected sewing machines?  Yeah, back then I rarely moved…).  I started to believe it was my destiny and responsibility to “rescue” sweaters of beautiful fibers that couldn’t be worn  any longer, and I still do to some extent.  But back to the 1990s, I had amassed a stack of sweaters in a pleasing color palette that I determined should be a quilt.  I also determined that it should be a king-sized one, which I don’t know why – did I expect to get a bigger bed?  Did I have a buyer in mind? Was that just the amount of fabric I had?  I don’t remember.  I also don’t know why I didn’t consider fulling [felting] them first, though I had to use the laundromat then and only did so when the need was dire, so my disdain of the place, and not wanting to do it by hand was probably it.  So I started sewing (on one of my many vintage thrifted machines) and in a day or so, finished the top.

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And then all movement on it ceased.  I remember showing it to a few people who really liked it, and one in particular probably would have bought it for a decent price, but I just couldn’t figure out how to finish it.  I had a stash of old army blankets that I thought I would use for the backing and I experimented with one but the stretchiness of the sweaters wasn’t playing well with the stiffness of the blanket.  The blankets were also fairly heavy and I wanted this to continue to have a sweater-like drape.  I also remember seeing a bolt of thin knitted material (wool & angora) in a antiques/junk store that would have been perfect, but it wasn’t there when I went back for it.  Then I think I thought I would back it with a cotton/wool plaid material that just never went on sale, or a cotton flannel plaid that never existed in the colorway I’d desired.  And then I hadn’t addressed a few of the holes that were in the sweaters from the beginning – I believe I was thinking about embroidery, but now I’d just like to repair them.  So here it is about 15 years later, or maybe I’ll say nearly 20 since that sounds more dramatic.  I actually still like it too, but its lack of a backside or trim is still troublesome.

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If I had fulled the sweaters beforehand (and some are a bit already) I wouldn’t worry about it and would leave the rough side naked, but as it is now, I can see little bits of sweater coming off everywhere and making me bats, and the seams probably aren’t the strongest.  The thought of attempting to back something so stretchy makes me ill, and I don’t really like a tufted look, but that would be easiest.  I’m considering maybe using a jersey sheet, but haven’t looked for a giant cheap one yet.  So this is the UFO that might fail my attempt to make it not so, but I will think about it, and maybe live with it on the bed for a bit…

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Filed under quilts, recycling, sewing

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