Month of Makeovers Day 9: Fear of fabric and other lies I tell myself

Fear turns me into a procrastinator. Some people are afraid of tornadoes or spiders. Me? I’m afraid of ruining perfectly good things like new blank sketchbooks or pristine rainbows of pastels. The sketchbooks stay blank. The pastels never get out of the box.


Most of the time I can’t bring myself to cut up perfectly good vintage fabric. I’m always afraid whatever I create will be less than worthy than the original materials.

I’ve been putting off a project idea for months. I’ve been worried about using a borrowed serger with complicated threading. (What if the thread pulls out?! HALP! HALP!) And I’ve been anxious about cutting up a quilt my grandmother made, even though that’s what I’m planning to do. I’m afraid my makeover might ruin it. My inner critic will start yelling, “It was great until YOU got your hands on it! You RUINED IT!”

So I feel a huge wave of relief when I take out the quilt and realize it’s not the perfect fabric I’ve been seeing in my mind. It’s worn far, far beyond reasonable repair. It was being used as a rag because it’s excessively raggy. It’s so disintegrated it’s sad.

trashed quilt

It has stains I can never wash out. It’s been patched, cut down, and done over more than once.

quilt details

A closer examination tells me all the original stitching has been done by hand. The linen backing has held up better than the cotton piecing on the top, but overall it’s so fragile it can’t be made into anything that would get handled a lot.

more detail

At first I was thinking I’d only use the “perfect” parts. That would be about one square foot! I decide to honor the thrifty spirit of the quilt–and my grandmother–by using every bit, flaws and all. Making a string of pennants is the way to go, even though the trend has been done to death. (Hasn’t Pinterest moved on to tassels or something? I don’t care.) What matters is knowing my grandmother’s quilt is about to rise from the rag basket.

To make things interesting, I’ve also got a box of vintage pompom trim I got at a yard sale. It gets a preliminary makeover to match the jadeite green in the quilt. Here’s the top secret Rit Dye recipe that no longer appears on the Rit Dye website: Two parts Teal to one part Lemon Yellow. I follow the directions on the box for using it in the washing machine. (I toss in a linen curtain I got at a thrift store, too. That’s a project for another day.)

dye job

Now I need a pennant pattern. Lucky for me, I’ve got the perfect pattern in my recycle bin, hidden on the back page of a catalog. Here’s how it works. I rip off a page and fold it in half lengthwise. I draw a line from the outside corner to the inside fold and cut it.


Once it’s unfolded you can see I have the parts for two equal and identical triangles. They will nestle up to each other without wasting a thread of fabric. I didn’t get fussy about measuring the quilt or plotting the perfect placement. I’m improvising.


I want to mark and cut a strip of fabric the width of one pennant. I waste a good half a hour looking for a piece of blue fabric marking chalk I saw just the day before. I quit looking and improvise using painter’s masking tape. This actually turns out to be faster and easier to see than marking chalk would have been. All I have to do is line up my ruler along the premeasured tape guides and cut off a wide strip of quilt with a rotary cutter.

laying out

I use the magazine page patterns to place the ruler and use a rotary cutter to slice piece after piece. No chalk marking. No pinning. No measuring. Easy!

prepare to cut

A few minutes later I have a cutting board covered with quilted pizza slices!


Now I have to face The Borrowed Serger. I’m relieved when I take it out of the packing box and discover the threading is intact. I plug it in and it runs perfectly. Yay! I practice on a few scraps before putting the pennant pieces under the presser foot. I serge down a long side and back up the other long side, leaving the short edge of each triangle unfinished. The overlock stitching will keep the delicate pieces from disintegrating even further.


After all the long sides are secured with overlock stitching I run the triangles through the serger again, this time across the short top edges. I feed them into the machine one after the other so the stitching links them together in a chain. This is fun! I think I’ve just discovered what I want for Christmas. Pssst, ManRay! Hint! Hint!

joined tops

Almost done now. I pin the pompom trim to the pennants and move to my sewing machine. I use a wide, long zigzag stitch.

sew poms

They’re done! The first finished banner is just over ten feet long from only five feet of quilt. I wish I could show you a beauty shot of it hanging cheerily in my dining room, but my walls are solid 1940s plaster. Nothing gets attached to them without a drill and a masonry bit. Besides, the soft pastels are the perfect match for Luray’s house. I’m mailing this makeover to her after I make a few more matching strands.

Happy Belated Birthday, Luray! Can’t wait to see how these look in Lurayville!


See the entire list of projects for our Month of Makeovers HERE.

7 Comments on “Month of Makeovers Day 9: Fear of fabric and other lies I tell myself”

  1. Luray says:

    Wait, what? That’s for me?! You’re kidding! Oh Janeray! I was so kinda-jealous when you sneaked that quilt away right under my nose, but didn’t say a thing ’cause I would have been even more scaredy-cat than you about cutting it up. It would have just sat in a box while I agonized. Now I have to figure out exactly where to put it to show it off the best! Thank you! BEST SISTER EVAH!

    • Janeray says:

      Why, you’re very welcome! I’m going to make enough to string around your house here and there before I go mailing them along with the Wings.

  2. Sigrun says:

    Hi Ilona,
    I just read your comment over at Gwarlingo and wanted to tell you that I have just read Julia Cameron who says : “we are all artists”

    • Janeray says:

      Hello Sigrun! I’ve read that book, but it’s been a long time. Maybe I should go back and look it over again! I think she’s right about us all being artists. Not everyone is brave, or vulnerable, enough to let their creativity show. We worry too much about all the critics–inside our heads, and out in the real world.