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QuiltCon Repurposed & Upcycled

Updated: May 4

2024 was my first QuiltCon, and while I was excited to see my own quilt hanging as part of the show, I was also on a mission, a kind of scavenger hunt, to find every upcycled, repurposed, thrifted fabric, unexpected textile, in or around the show.

My goal was to show how secondhand and repurposed can be as good (or better!) then new, and that you can still make something fresh and clean and modern with thrifted materials.

"Those are pillowcases??" - me looking at a quilt by Emilie Trahan

1. Bright & Modern

This first group of quilts made with upcycled or repurposed materials were the ones I found most surprising because they looked just like quilting cotton. Solid and saturated colors, clean lines, all the things you expect to see in a MQG quilt, but with surprising materials.

Watch the video below for footage of each quilt and my reaction to finding out it was repurposed or upcycled.

2. Shirts & Things

This next group of quilts all used upcycled shirts in their materials, but they are far from similar. From the most amazing t-shirt quilt to a quilt inspired by Rothko, to the quilter's husband's military uniforms, these pieces show the vast range of styles available when you upcycle.

Men's shirting is a wonderful fabric for upcycled quilts, especially because it's always available in your closet or the thrift store. It's usually a bit lighter weight then regular quilting cotton but still works well for both traditional and modern quilts.

3. Denim & Indigo

I was blown away by the amount of denim and indigo-dyed fabrics I found at QuiltCon. I wanted to highlight the ones below because they represented such a mix of styles, from soft and organic, to plays on traditional, to modern and bright. They really showed the variety that is possible when you work with these natural or upcycled materials.

And of course, my own quilt fell into this category. The scrappy challenge was about using 30+ fabrics in your quilt, which most took to mean 30+ colors/patterns of quilting cotton. I challenged myself to use 30+ fiber/weave/weight combinations. There were 10+ denims (one from a pair of Levi’s I found on the side of the street in San Francisco), 4 different leathers, 5(ish) silks from dupioni to raw to a charmeuse, some 100% linens, linen cotton blends and then a range of cottons from plain muslins to shot cotton and quilting cotton. And all from my stash or bought secondhand from Scrap SF the creative reuse center where I volunteer.

4. Organic Shapes & Texture

You are about to hear me say the word "texture" about 20 times. Because, for me, texture is a key component in quilting. These were the quilts that I just knew were going to made out of repurposed materials. You could tell from a distance that the dimension and yes texture, could only be achieved from textiles beyond quilting cotton.

5. Quilts with a Message

If you have read anything about QuiltCon 2024, you have probably seen the best in show quilt that addressed gun violence in schools. And throughout the show there were at least six or seven other quilts addressing gun violence, along with multiple quilts addressing women's rights and other important issues. The last two quilts I wanted to highlight used repurposed materials to help convey their message, which added to the power they had.

So what's next?

Well... I believe QuiltCon needs to have a sustainable category (The Festival of Quilts is doing it already!). I'm brainstorming how we could make that happen, but if you have any ideas, leave a comment!


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