Monday, December 21, 2015

Calicos redux

Several days ago there was a cry for help on the Quiltart email list.  Somebody wrote:  "I'm looking for some older (1980's) calico-type fabric to complete a quilt I started back them.  I have looked around now and some fabrics seem to almost fit the mark, but they are in colors more suited to the Modern Quilt movement and don't really fit into what I was working on.  If you have any older calico-type fabric....."

Here's a photo of her old blocks, newly unearthed and not even ironed yet:

Well, she was calling my name.  I even recognized a couple of the fabrics in her blocks as ones that I still own.  I guess that in the 1980s I was buying those same calico prints, and despite periodic efforts to clean out my stash I still have a bunch of them occupying space. (I suspect they breed in the dark.)

Perhaps a decade ago I was making what I called "good-bye quilts" to use up all those fabrics that I knew I would never use again for anything important.  I sewed up all those horrible earthtones and gave the quilts away, to people who either had never moved beyond earthtones or might have been colorblind. I have segregated many of the calicos into a separate box that I offer to new quilters who want to practice their skills, and have given away a lot.  But I still have plenty.  So yesterday it wasn't hard to come up with a big shoebox full to send away.

How do you like those teeny-weeny little flowers?  Those washed-out and grayed colors?  Oh, so '80s!!  As you can tell by the size of the little bundles, most of them have been used, neatly re-folded and stashed in their drawer or bag or whatever.  

I confess that I didn't send off all my old calicos.  Some were so beautiful that I couldn't part with them; some were remnants from past sewing projects that I loved.  Some were way older than the 80s -- think 60s -- and have achieved the status of vintage.  It's surprising how some of those old-favorite fabrics have appeared in dozens of my quilts, a little bit here, a little bit there, and I'm not ready to close the door on that potential.

Here are some close-ups of the classic 80s prints.  Don't they make you want to go do some tedious precision piecing and recapture the glories of your youth?

My internet pal wrote me as we corresponded over addresses:  "I started this quilt in the 1980s when our daughter was about 4 or 5, and now she is 36 with two kids of her own!  I think it is time I got 'her' quilt done!"   She promised to send me a photo of the quilt when it's finished.  I'm just glad to send my fabrics on their way and anticipate their being used and loved.


  1. Ah I recognise many of those fabrics - is that some Tana lawn in the the middle of the final photo? Like you, I'm boxing up my prints-of-all-eras to give away, either to quilters or to the charity shop in bags labelled "craft fabric". They gave me pleasure in collecting them, and as such, their job for me is done. I like to think, though, that they still have a job to do for someone else, someone who will use them in a quilt - as yours will be doing.

  2. That navy with the little white four-dot pattern is from the seventies. I made a dress of that in 1977 and wore it for more than twenty years, until the fabric on the shoulders (where it got the most sun) simply fell apart. I still miss it. (I used pearl buttons that had been my great-grandmothers. They're on another dress now.)
    I don't remember having any of the others, but I'm not a pastel type.
    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. I also recognize a lot of those fabrics. I rarely use prints anymore and have given a lot away, but still have much more than I should.

  4. I recognize some of those fabrics. I do believe they are still residing somewhere in my stash. I HAVE cut most of them into strips to use for string piecing/scrap projects. I use lots of them when I make Chinese Coins quilts (my daughter's favorite).

  5. That first close-up picture - I have the one your thumb is on. Second picture, I have the one at far right. Third picture, I have the one that your index finger is on as well as the one that is in the center. BINGO!!! LOL

    1. You win!!! shall I send you some calicos as your prize??

  6. In the last photo - there's that Pantone 2016 pink and blue everyone says they remember from the 80's! I didn't remember it from that decade, but then again, I've never been much for that combo of pink and blue. Fascinating story!