Friday, September 21, 2012

A Look at Cutter Quilts

"Cutter quilts" are old, worn-out quilts that are considered too damaged to be a useful covering any longer; rather than throwing them in the garbage, they are re-purposed by cutting them up and using the "good" parts in other items, like pillows or stuffed toys.  I've always taken a dim view of this practice, because pieces of cutter quilts were being sold online, and what was to stop sellers from cutting up quilts that were still in good condition?  I worried that pretty soon ALL the old quilts would be cut up, and once they're gone, they're gone.

Recently, however, I took a look at vintage quilts on eBay, specifically those labeled "cutter".  There are TONS of them, and they generally sell for under $40.  Vintage quilts in good condition (not labeled "cutter") were selling for hundreds of dollars.  Clearly there is a distinction between them, and sellers realize they will get more money for a usable, intact quilt, so my fears were put to rest.

I put bids on a few of the cutter quilts, and I ended up winning three of them.  The first one was mine for just $10!  I could hardly wait to get my hands on it, to see the actual condition.  Here it is:

It's a full-sized scrappy quilt, with a large and interesting variety of fabrics, which I love!  One edge is completely frayed and shredded, and there are MANY holes and missing pieces of fabrics, especially in the middle.  The first thing I noticed as I took it out of the box was that it smelled of cigarette smoke, so I had to wash it.  The picture above was taken as it was drying on my back porch--(it would have gone to pieces in the dryer).

Here you can see one of the intact areas of the quilt:

This quilt was entirely pieced together by hand!  The quilting was done by hand too.  I think the big, uneven quilting stitches are charming, and this quilt will be perfect for re-using.

The picture below shows one of the many damaged areas.  Some of the fabrics have completely disintegrated:

It probably won't surprise you to know that the first thing I've made with my cutter quilt is some hearts:

I want to salvage as much of the quilt as possible, so I cut the small blue checked heart (below) from a scrap.

The fabrics are beautifully faded and soft.

On this heart (below) I used a piece of the backing (from an area where the front had a big hole) as the base of a small collage of  fabric and buttons.

As I make more hearts and other things from this quilt, I will be careful to always tell the people who receive my gifts that they were made from a vintage quilt.  I want to be sure the work of the unknown quilter is acknowledged and appreciated.


Gill said...

What a great idea! I've never heard of 'cutter quilts' - is this a US thing??? I'm off to look on ebay now!

Kay said...

These are just lovely. I so adore the peace heart especially.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful way to use old quilts.

waggonswest said...

I have one that came out of the barn at my grandmother's house. I have always known it was a cutter quilt, but I've never been able to 'do the deed'. Seeing your beautiful hearts, I think it would probably be much better to pull it out and make something to be cherished rather than leave it unseen in its box.

LimeRiot said...

Oh awesome!! I was just posting on your other blog asking what cutter quilts are :). Now I know. Really neat, Leslie.

Alexandra Abarca said...

Hi Leslie:

Well I hope new things happen this week.... like.... jummmmmm....

Your idea with the quilt is lovely.

I send a email a few people, asking a word for the hearths, so now we have a list of words for work soon.

Have a nice week,

Costa Rica