The word "recycle" may not have been known to our ancestors, but whether they named it or not, that is what they did -- transforming odd scraps of clothing to make beautiful patchwork bedspreads in rainbows of color. s
History always repeats itself. Recycling is "in" once again, and here's an applique quilt idea that you can do with all kinds of odds and ends of cotton fabric, old and new.
Cover your quilt with the silhouette shapes of all your favorite things. To design the quilt, you can outline the shapes, cut them out in newspaper, and arrange them to make a balanced pattern. Nothing need be in scale. You could draw round your hands, trace an enlarged photo of your house, your children, your pets, use illustrations from children's books, or intersperse snowflake designs from folded paper, or the flowers from your favorite chintz.
Start with a focal point in the center of your spread and work outward, using large and small shapes to fill the whole area, making the pattern balanced and symmetrical or random and free, as you like. Use simple silhouettes or anything -- a pair of scissors, socks, a buckle, a pipe, a wine glass, a tea pot -- anything that means something to you and your family.
Once your paper patterns are arranged, rearranged and pinned in place, take them up one by one and cut them out in fabric. You must remember that the weave of the applique fabric should run the same way as the background fabric for strength and you should cut the silhouette one quarter of an inch larger than your pattern.
Trace close around the edges of your pattern and do the secret-of-success-in-applique trick -- stay stitching. On the tracing line, machine or hand stitch all around on the fabric, snip the turnbacks on curves and at points, and with your finger and thumb, press back. The stitched line (called stay stitching) will hold the shape of your pattern; curves will remain curves, points will stay sharp.
As you complete each shape, pin it back in position and, with tiny stitches, hem it in place.
The final step, the quilting, can unify the whole design. You can use quilting lines that enhance your applique pattern, or dispense with the quilting all together and embroider details such as features, doors and window, and use your finished creation as a summer-weight bedspread or wall hanging.