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:


  1. I don't know if you are a fan of the new bed runners, but that would make a nice accent as a runner at the foot of the bed. It wouldn't use all of it by any means but maybe an area that is all still intact.

  2. It's not clear how big each "square" is, but how about making one or more decorative pillow covers for use on chairs or a sofa? Then you'd have something that you would see frequently and could even hug! Does the yarn have pink and green in it or is that just from the camera's flashlight?

    I also like the suggestion above about a bed runner.


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