Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

April 12, 2009

Ragged Treasure from the Recycling Center

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 8:40 am
Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Look at the ragged treasure of a quilt I found for two dollars. I could see the potential in the dirty, ragged quilt they were selling for dog bedding! Our recycling center here in Madison County, Arkansas gives me a chance to shop when I drop off my sorted items. It is a poor county, yet we have access to a large recycling center. A dedicated core of local citizens over a decade ago pushed local government to fund the Recycling and Transfer Center as it is called. Any reusable items donated to the recycling center are offered for sale in the adjacent resale shop. Books, clothes, flower pots, tools and more can be recycled to my house for a small fee.

As an avid quilter and amateur quilt historian I was excited by the graphic sunrise design on the tattered quilt made circa 1930. It had seen hard use as the batting was coming out of threadbare fabric in many places on the top and one edge was torn and tattered. But the biggest problem was how dirty it was. I could not begin my repair efforts until I had washed this quilt. And that would be a risk. It could disintegrate in the washing machine. I stabilized all the weak areas with multiple safety pins to minimize the affects of agitating the quilt in water. I used a commercial washing machine because those machines tumble the clothes.

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

My risk paid off. I now had a clean quilt to restore. I named the quilt Golden Sunrise. An Arkansas woman unknown to me had hand pieced and hand quilted the blocks and added triple sashing and border to create a bright and cheerful quilt for herself and her family. I decided the ragged border on one edge was beyond repair, so I cut that border off and sewed a new binding around the whole outer edge. It looked good except for the batting popping out in many spots.

I used the trick of applying a circle of fine beige tulle or net over the delicate spots and carefully stitching the tulle to strong sections of the quilt. Once this is done the repair is nearly invisible even up close. As you can see from a distance in the picture, the quilt looks intact. I believe I spent about one hundred hours recreating this beautiful piece of folk art. I added a label noting where I found the quilt and documenting my repairs because I had become a co-creator of this treasure.

Paula at the quilt show

Paula at the quilt show

Sharing My Vision

Last weekend my Golden Sunrise quilt was a centerpiece of the special exhibit I put together called “The Drama of Two Color Quilts.” Three different groups of school children visited my booth at our Quilt Guild’s biennial quilt show at the Springdale Holiday Inn Convention Center. I showed them the vintage coke bottle with a sprinkle top on it for sprinkling clothes before steam irons were invented. I used a sprinkler like this almost every day growing up in Miami, Florida in the 1950s. Many of their eyes widened at my story of our putting the rolled up, sprinkled clothes in the refeigerator if we had to leave off the ironing for awhile. Some seemed to believe that I was “pullling their leg”, but I explained that once damp we wanted to keep the clothes damp without going sour until we could accomplish the ironing. Then I showed them the heavy iron that I currently use by heating it on top of my wood stove. I explained that our only source of power was the solar energy form solar panels on our roof, so we were very careful about any electricity we used each day. This was how I iron my quilt projects all winter. I pointed out that I was using energy that would have gone unused. I commented that irons and refrigerators are some of the largest energy hogs in our households. One boy spoke up and said that some things like a TV even use energy when not turned on. Obviously someone in his life is talking about energy use in a positive way.

When I pointed out the gold quilt on display and described the ragged and dirty quilt sold as dog bedding for two dollars I had their attention. This was a “rags to riches story” to capture their imagination. In fact, the next day at the show one of the teachers told me that she had asked the students to write about their experience at the quilt show. One girl had carefully listened to each detail about the quilt discovery and the restoration because she described it all in detail in her paper.

As a school girl, I had a strong reaction to learning about all the tons of rich topsoil lost to erosion because of not plowing fields following the contour of the land. I remember being concerned about the loss of soil and then the harm all the soil caused in the waterways. My young adult career did not reflect that concern, but it was planted deep in my consciousness! When Jeanne and I began to build our homestead in 1987, we knew we wanted our raised beds to follow the contours of the mountainside. Perhaps my story of seeing treasures in ragged quilts and of living off the grid will remain an influence about possibilities with some of those young people.

Photo credits:Each of these photos was taken by Judy VanderHam at the April, 2009 show sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Quilt Guild. We thank Judy for her generous assistance!


  1. What a beautiful quilt to see on these gray days! It is so like you, Paula, to bring it to light, so to speak!

    Comment by lila — April 13, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  2. I love your entries. I especially love how you write. While reading each I felt immediatly gently and delightfully whisked away. The Golden Sunrise piece was powerful and touching…not just because of all the incredible, tender loving care, time and energy you put in rehabing the old quilt, but also how well you obviously connected to the children. You have always connected so well with children. You are able to trigger their excitement and curiosity and hold their attention while telling your story, which is always filled with important bits of simple wisdom.
    I’m hooked and will continue to check out your blog on a regular basis. Thank you Paula. You are a wonderful artist!!

    Comment by Martha — April 13, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

  3. More beauty than my words can express. I hope u know how much i love you, your home, garden , animals, art, lifestyle & more. This is a great website.

    Kudos to Jeanne & you

    love, lea

    Comment by lea donovan — August 12, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

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