My mother is a great seamstress. When I was a kid, she sewed countless dresses for my sisters and me. Every trip we took, every wedding we went to, every high school dance, every Christmas, I had a new dress made for me by her. I am very fortunate. But I’ll admit that every once in a while when I was a teenager, I would come across a dress in a department store and feel a pang of longing for the kind of dress my friends wore (as well as dyed-to-match shoes, naturally). Whenever I made the mistake of pointing out a dress that I might have liked to my mom, she would invariably remark that “it would be a cinch to make.” In other words, “no point in buying that dress!”
It wasn’t until I became an adult and learned to sew myself that I realized the wisdom of my mother’s words. Okay, maybe she wasn’t actually trying to be wise when shooting down my 1980s department store fashion-sense, BUT, there was wisdom there anyway. I didn’t grow up to sew like my mom. She sews clothes almost exclusively; I am a quilter, and I do pillows, curtains, purses, bags and housewares (aka, potholders, placemats, etc). Every time I see a quilt I admire though, I hear my mother’s words and think to myself: it would be a cinch to make. Ok, maybe not a cinch, but doable with patience and care, and more importantly, it will be unique!
I adore vintage quilts. Really truly. I especially love 1930s era scrappy quilts from feedsack fabrics and muslin. To me, they are simple, beautiful, happy, charming, cozy, colorful little works of art — art created at a time when people had very little, but took joy in making something practical and lovely, while using up material that would have otherwise been wasted. A Canadian interior designer by the name of Sarah Richardson is known for her love of textiles and her brilliance in mixing patterns. She always manages to find the most amazing vintage quilts, which she masterfully incorporates into her room designs. She loves to mix old and new, and her ‘old’ is invariably a gorgeous antique piece of furniture or a stunning vintage quilt. While watching Sarah’s House and Sarah’s Summer House, I decided I might never be able to find vintage quilts like she could, but I could recreate them myself, and in the process, create a patterns so that you, too, can make stunning vintage style quilts — even if you’ve never sewn a quilt in your life.
I’m not a master seamstress, nor am I a master quilter, but I love it, and I’m happy to learn and sew along with you. My quilts are not perfect by any means, but I find it very gratifying to make something beautiful that may be appreciated beyond my lifetime. If you can sew, if you can cut and iron fabric, and if you can finish something you start, you can make anything you want, and you’ll get better the more you do it.
The first quilt I’d like to show you how to make is a pinwheel quilt, as shown in the picture to the left (bottom right corner of the photo) and right. These are photos of one of the bedrooms in Sarah’s farmhouse. Beautiful, right? I thought I’d start with a fairly straightforward two-color quilt. I’ll discuss my color choices, as well as the nitty gritty of size, scale, and construction how-to in the coming weeks. I can’t guarantee it’ll be a cinch, but I’ll make it as easy as possible, no matter how many quilts you’ve sewn. I plan to make more of Sarah’s great finds, as well as any that readers send. I hope you’ll join me.