The Economy Quilt (from Needlework Economies edited by Flora Klickmann)

A Book of Mending and Making with Oddments and Scraps. Thus is the book subtitled and what a little gem it is. Now there are indeed many books, and reprints thereof dealing with post-WW2 thrift but those dating from post-WW1 are much less common so it was a great delight for me to recently lay hands on this fascinating little volume, undated but having a typically Arts and Crafts cover.

I did want to share for you one particular project, which struck me as uncommonly useful and economic, not least because it utilises tiny scraps and threads and all of the snippets which are typically discarded during any needlework project.

The Economy Quilt

Bedclothes become an expensive item when there are several beds for young people to be made up, as well as those for their elders. Yet warmth is essential, if their health is to be maintained.

In the winter, there usually comes a night of sudden cold, so raw and so intense, that it seems next to impossible to put too much on the beds. Every spare blanket is turned out, and every eider-down, and still there is not enough! Next morning someone is sure to say they never got warm all night!

Of course, eider-downs are ideal. They are warm without being heavy. But real eider-downs are expensive. Here is a substitute that was popular in our grandmothers’ day. It is simply a quilt formed of small bags, sewn together like patchwork, each bag containing a certain amount of snippets and clippings. Very simple, isn’t it? And yet these quilts, that cost practically nothing, are invaluable in the cold weather. Put one of these over the outside of the bed, and the sleeper keeps as snug and warm as though under a couple of down quilts.

One great advantage of this quilt is the ease with which it can be made. A child can always run up a little bag; a child can also cut up snippets, if it is old enough to be allowed to use a scissors. Mother can run round a few bags with her sewing machine, just before putting it away after doing needlework. In this way the bags accumulate in a surprising manner, and joining them together, a few at a time, either by hand or machine, is not laborious or brain-wearing work.

The Method I Always Adopt

For some years now, I have made it a rule always to have one of these quilts on hand. If I do not need it myself, when it is finished, I always know someone who can put it to good use. Any woman who has an elastic family and a non-elastic purse, is glad of one for a gift.

I save every scrap of material that would otherwise be wasted. If it is not new, I have it washed and thoroughly dried. All this waste goes into a bag that I keep hanging up in a cupboard in my bedroom. I never allow a large amount to accumulate, lest moth should get at it. I have seldom more than a couple of handfuls at one time waiting to be dealt with.

On my chest of drawers I keep a box. In this there is always a pair of sharp scissors. When I have a few moments idle – between the lights when it is too dark to see much else, or when my eyes are to do work requiring close attention – I cut up a few of the scraps from the bag into snippets about an inch square sometimes smaller, never larger. I put these in the box.

Then again, whenever I have any bits from dressmaking, or mending, or darning, it has become second nature to me to cut them up there and then into snippets, and put them in the box. In fact, I always have the snippet box on the table beside my workbox when I am sewing, and the bits go in as a matter of course as I go along. It keeps me so tidy. Everything comes in useful, even the fragments of darning wool, ravellings and basting threads!

I save any scraps of material large enough to make the bags; a useful size is five or six inches by three inches. I run up three sides of these when I have a spare moment; put in a small handful of snippets, and close up the end. These I put in a drawer until I have time to join them together.

I always machine mine together, as it is the quickest way.

Do not fill the bags anything like full, or the quilt will be impossibly heavy. If you fill the bag about a third full, or at most a very loose half-full, that will be quite enough. Each little bag just wants a slight thickness inside, to give the extra warmth, much the same as we sometimes line quits with a layer of cotton wool between two cotton covers.

The reason we put the clippings in little bags, instead of into one bag, is to keep the stuff evenly distributed over the surface of the bed. Otherwise, every time the sleeper turned over, or disarranged the coverings, there would be the chance of all the clippings slipping over, and collect themselves on the one side or the other of the bed, or possibly all falling to the foot of the bed.

A quilt made of the bags, not too full, can be shaken and kept thoroughly aired.

Almost any sort of material can be used for the bags, provided it is not too delicate in colour, as one does not want to have a quilt of this sort frequently going to the cleaners. Strong stuffs are best, such as cretonne, serge, stout print, sateen – anything in fact that will stand some wear.

Mix cotton clippings with wool clippings in each bag. Obviously the quilt will not need any lining, as the back will be fairly neat. If you like, you can finish the edge with a cord; but I myself always aim to get the outside bags all one colour scheme; this in itself makes a certain finish – a kind of border – and I just leave it at that. After all, these quilts are not for ornament so much as stern utility; nevertheless, they can be made to look really pretty, if a little care and taste is expended on the placing of the various colours and designs.

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