Can This Quilt Be Saved?

You young people probably won’t believe it, but once upon a time, when we went to the doctor’s office, we could not bring an endless supply of entertainment with us in a device the size of a slice of toast.  While we waited to be called, the only thing we could do was read whatever magazines were supplied by the office.

I always ignored Field and Stream and decades-old copies of Highlights for Kids, which left me with Good Housekeeping.  And one of the fascinating monthly features was “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” in which a husband and wife listed the problems in their marriage, with a marriage counselor stepping in at the end to suggest solutions.

Which is probably why, when one of my quilts exhibited a clash of styles, that format popped into my head. (Although slanted more for a work team than for a marriage.)


Quilt Counselor: Today we are talking with the members of a quilt partnership that just isn’t working.  Let’s meet our participants:

Spool blocks, reproduction 1930s fabrics, put together c. 2010.

“Spools”:  I am a collection of blocks, made of 1930s reproduction fabrics, in about 2010, when my Quilter was just learning to quilt. She was extremely imprecise, so my blocks are of slightly different sizes.  They also have very little contrast — which means I have been called “bland” and “boring” by viewers.

I sat in a drawer until 2020, when my Quilter had one of her “Let’s Finish Everything!” spells. I did not see any way to join these segments into a successful whole, so I sent out a call to my fellow fabrics for help.  Ombré Jellyroll kindly offered to partner with me, and I thought her boldness would be a great solution.

Here is a picture of our first audition together:

Spools sashed with Ombre Jellyroll.

We looked pretty good together, right?

As we expanded our efforts, though, I began to have doubts about our partnership.

Initial layout in 2020.

OJ’s clear colors really cast me in the shade and made me look finicky and dingy. We had done so much work together, though, that I didn’t want to back out.  Not to mention, if our Quilter had taken a seam ripper to us [shudder], all my blocks would have just shredded!

I know OJ was just trying to help, but I felt totally overwhelmed and outdated by her style.

“Ombré Jellyroll”:  My name defines me perfectly.  I was manufactured about 2020 — so, 90 or so years younger in appearance than Spools. When we started our partnership, I had only the best in mind for Spools; I wanted to frame her uneven blocks, and showcase her soothing vintage style. 

Spools had arranged her blocks in columns by color, which I matched as well as I could, given the limited color range in my collection.  I have great respect for my elders, and I did not suggest to Spools that she could have mixed up her color placement a little, but maybe I should have spoken up.

I tried to speed up our finish, and zoomed across the quilt in bold straight lines.  I realized I was too modern for Spools — my direct approach only caused her to fade even more.

I offered to give her more input by making a border of 1930s piano keys, but that did not help me tone down at all; I was still boldly prevalent.  I should have minimized my width and/or mixed up the color placement.  Or, even stepped aside in favor of another fabric, Classic Cream.

Spools:  We took a break and went back into a drawer for three years.  Then our Quilter got on another “Let’s Finish Everything!” spell, and stitched everything together.  But it was no use, we are just not an effective partnership!  We don’t know what to do!

A quilt top that needs intervention.

Ombré Jellyroll: If only we were a painting, and not a quilt!  It would be an easy solution to use paint to either tone me down, or to increase contrast in Spools’ blocks, or just cover us up entirely and start over!


Quilt Counselor:  Spools and OJ are to be commended for seeking help.

At this point the entire Quilt Development Team was brought in to brainstorm solutions.  Over the next few days, Committees of Threads, Fabrics, and Notions presented their varied ideas to the Quilter.

12-weight Threads: Learn from Laura Heine’s Color Fusion, and apply us everywhere to add more interest!

Quilting with heavy threads, from Laura Heine’s book Color Fusion.

Vintage Ribbons and Trimmings:  We would look lovely stitched down the middle of the sashing.  We think we would add another layer of interest, and reduce the bright glare of Ombré Jellyroll.

Perhaps some ribbons and trims would help.

Fabric Paint:  Like OJ suggested, we could just paint over the whole thing and make it an art quilt, a lá Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed!

Tulle:  All knowledgeable quilters know that I can overlay bright colors to tone them down. Or overlay any color, really, to give it a changeable hue.  Or trap little bits of fabric and ribbon to add a confetti-type look….

Classic Cream Jellyroll:  It wouldn’t be easy to engineer this, but I could form a nice, traditional grid to overlay the bold colors of Ombré.  It would add a lot of weight to the quilt though.

Fusible Web and Various Scraps:  We would be the most fun combination to work with!  Add tiny pieces, press, and stitch!  Easy-peasy.

Quilt Counselor: The Quilter took everything into consideration, but said that first of all, she was not that confident in her abilities to do all the necessary alignment, and secondly, she did not want to invest many more hours in this quilt.  She was even overheard to say, “I am so over reproduction fabrics.”

Then one more voice spoke up:

Vintage Eyelet Trim:  I could form a nice, lightweight upper grid over the sashing to tone the brightness down somewhat — and one of my edges is already finished, so there would be less pressing.

Vintage eyelet trim.

Quilt Counselor:  This suggestion was met with approval by all stakeholders, and a team of Eyelet Trims auditioned.

The trims placed on top of the sashing to audition their effect.

After more hours of stitching, then two more borders and a facing, the quilt was finished!



Okay, back to me.

Of course I did not have enough eyelet trim, so I had to go 20 miles to get to a fabric store.  They didn’t have a huge selection, and I ended up spending about $30 to get enough.  And then I spent about 10 hours stitching it all down.  And after looking at all that lace for hours, now I don’t hate the original version so much.  So that may have been throwing good effort and money after bad. 

I don’t know if I am ever going to like this quilt.  I don’t think I know anybody girly enough to love it.  I am going to stick it in the closet and not look at it for a while.  BUT I am happy that I found a creative solution that I have not seen anywhere else.  And it is DONE!  This is my second UFO finished this year, and I have three more I am going to do before I let myself do anything new.

And I thought it was funny, that while I was listening to all these fabric voices, Lani Longshore was hearing them too for a quilt block she was working on.