October 5, 2013

A new life for my mother's knitted cotton bedspread?

Some years ago, my mother knit this cotton bedspread for me.  She loved to knit, the more complicated the pattern the better.  I used the bedspread for some time, but eventually put it aside.  It is quite heavy, and difficult to manipulate on the bed.  But a few weeks ago, I decided I was tired of the quilt I had on the bed, and pulled this out, to see if I'd want to use it again.

Alas, I discovered that there were a number of large holes in the spread, not just the stretched areas where blocks come together (easy to repair), but other places where the thread had unravelled within a block.  I must have washed the quilt with bleach, trying to remove a few small stains, one of which is visible towards the center of the photo.  The bleach not only didn't work on the stain, but I think it continued to eat away at the fabric.  Having done a little discharge work using bleach, I now know how important it is to rinse the bleach out of the fabric with anti-chlor, not just water, as the bleach will otherwise keep working away.  I've been thinking that I would do the best I could to "darn" the holes closed, but I've been putting it off, reluctant to do the work when I'm not sure I would enjoy the bedspread (for the same reasons I stopped using it before).  I thought about cutting the bedspread up to use for something else, but could think of no garment or other item that would work.

Then today, I got another idea when reading India Flint's book Second Skin: Choosing and Caring for Textiles and Clothing, which I picked up to follow up on the element of Dorothy Caldwell's work that has to do with mending and re-purposing fabrics.  Maybe I can cut out the blocks of the bedspread, stitch them onto another fabric, and put them back together again in some way as a bedspread.  Having a more stable fabric underneath will make the bedspread easier to handle (though will add to the weight).  To lessen the weight, I could make the whole thing somewhat smaller, or use fewer knitted blocks and add plain fabric between them.  India Flint's book mentions repurposing old linens, which I have an enormous supply of (inherited from my mother and my aunt)--maybe I could use some of these for the backing.  I pulled out a linen napkin, and did a quick trial, without cutting anything from the spread.  I've placed the napkin on the back of the spread:

Here's a close-up of the quick running stitch I did.  It's invisible on the front.

I need to think about this quite a bit more before making the irrevocable move of cutting into the spread. Any thoughts/ideas would be most welcome.

Here's another photo of the bedspread, showing how four knitted squares are sewn together into a large block, and also a bit of the scalloped border.

Here's the pattern my mother used, Mrs. Coolidge's Great-Grandmother's Counterpane (double-click on any photo to enlarge):

Here's a close-up of the end of the pattern.  yes, 216 different rows in each square.

And lo and behold, the pattern is available on the great knitting site, Ravelry: