Leafy Crazy Quilt

Some time ago, I realised that many of my plant dyed cottons and linens were becoming a quilt top. This may have been, ah, a few years ago. It wasn’t the plan initially, but sometimes things come together in such a way that even if I had an initial plan when I began patching fabric together, I discard it and follow the lead of the project (or perhaps it’s my own imagination).


A bit later it appeared that my learnings about indigo dyeing with old clothing, discarded worn tablecloths and such were headed in the same direction and might be becoming a quilt back.


I have decided that we don’t need more seriously warm quilts in this city.  We live in a place that is warm most of the year round.  We have quilts with polyester batting that are too warm to use except on the very coldest nights.  Thin quilts, and the last one I made with a batting made of a worn out cotton flannelette sheet are getting more use and allow layering. And–I have a back catalogue of worn out t shirts that are up to 24 years old.  You ask how I know this. Some of them are for events I was part of organising in the 1990s.


This particular t shirt and several others got a makeover about the time I began this blog, in which I re-cut the side seams, armholes and sleeves so that they were not quite so loose (the 1990s were a time of oversized t shirts, and I liked it!) Many are raggedy and worn through.  Others were gifts or free in contexts where I felt unable to refuse.  And I can only wear so many t-shirts gardening and in bed!


So–they are the batting. I cut out the sleeves and added them to the rag collection, and cut off hems and necklines. Then the awkward process of figuring out how to control a batting made of uneven rectangles (more or less) made from stretch fabric.  What could possibly go wrong? In the end there was a festival of pinning them to the back and then a palaver of stitching them down.

Eventually the indigo patchwork was completely covered with t shirts…

There was the binding creating stage… and then the binding application stage.

And yes, I quilted after applying the binding. Not sure that’s the approved order of things. Don’t look to me for quilting advice! I find this part to be a process of arm wrestling a big item through the sewing machine over and over again, while executing kilometres of stitching and rethreading the bobbin and oiling the bobbin casing, a lot.

Why yes, that is a kangaroo paw print. By this stage I knew who I wanted to give the quilt to. I checked with them ever so gently because, I do not wish to give a quilt like this to people who might not like it. The last thing I want is for someone to feel burdened by the gloriously strange thing this is, compared to a regular quilt. For some people, this is an amazing thing. For others, it might feel quite different.

It is made up of flour sacks, offcuts, calico, linen clothing that has been dismantled and repurposed. There are tablecloths, trousers, shirts, bits, bobs, scraps, remainders and offcuts. It contains a pocket and some darts as well as the places where hems and seams used to be.

The indigo dyed backing contains patches that have been dyed plain, some that have been tied or clamped first, some that have been plant dyed and overdyed with indigo.

It is covered with stitching that is trapping the t shirt batting in place, and another layer of stitches scribbling all the layers together.

It records quite a few eucalypts–favourites like E Cinerea and E Scoparia, lesser used lovelies like E Cladocalyx and E Sideroxylon. There is evidence of iron and copper (which I wrap bundles around). Plus experiments with tamarisk and shoak, walnut leaves and kangaroo paw flowers, agonis flexuosa and all manner of other plants besides. There are some tannin mordant experiments as well as plenty of soy. There are even some fold and clamp patches as well as many that were rolled and bundled.

It has gone to fine friends. I hope theirs will be a happy home far into the future, and this quilt might be some small part of that happiness.


Filed under Natural dyeing

13 responses to “Leafy Crazy Quilt

  1. janewheelercouk

    what a thing of beauty, and loving labour. lucky friends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ditto-what patience and perseverance!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sophie

    So beautiful Mary! And love the t-shirt batting idea!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sophie! There are some fabrics I really struggle with working out how to re-use, and this felt like a big win for the stash of dead t shirts 🙂


  4. Sue Hetzel

    It’s an inspiration, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Definitely looking at t-shirt batting now. I have so many like you say. Lucky friends indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

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