Patchwork – Building Fabric, Sculpting Clothes

Boro Textile from Japan (c) SRI Thread

Artists, seamstresses and quilters alike are fascinated with the process of patchwork and so am I. So here’s a patchwork post. A post of tiny thoughts, some recycled, some found, sewn together without a plan. Let’s see where it goes.

Patchwork is not a necessity these days, however it never seems to lose its appeal. What’s fascinating to me, is building a piece of fabric using many scraps. It’s rewarding and empowering to create something from odds and ends or disparate pieces. My brain seems to work this way too.

Gibbous Fashions works this way without using sewing patterns. The designers “build” their garments, so the work is comparable to sculpting. Based in Portland Oregon, it’s a self described “miniature fashion house”. All of their creations are one of a kind using vintage and Victorian clothes, lace and other bits and pieces many found or donated. And while many of their garments are very steam punk, and bit over the top, their online stitch gallery is quite interesting.

Patchwork Inspiration: Gibbous Fashion
(c) Gibbous Fashions

But when I think of patchwork, quilts are usually the first thing on my mind. I love them old, hand sewn and tattered reflecting the times when creating them was a necessity and resources were limited. Today, patchwork often involves buying yards of pretty fabric to cut up, all just to sew them back together again. And to me, that seems a bit, erhhh, neurotic unless there is a strong artistic expression, a story or brilliant idea behind it.

Gees Bend Quilts
On the left: Made by China Pettway, born 1952, blocks, corduroy and cotton hopsacking, ca. 1975, 83 x 70 inches
On the right: Annie Mae Young, born 1928. Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of corduroy strips, 1976. Denim, corduroy, synthetic blend, 108 x 77 inches


The image above pictures two quilts from the now famous Gee’s Bend quilts. Their work is breathtaking and has made its way into museums and galleries everywhere. Never has the idea of art in everyday life looked more beautiful. Read more about their fascinating story here.
Patchwork Inspiration: Alabama Chanin
Of course, talking quilts, I have to mention Alabama Chanin who takes inspiration from quilting and textile history in her home state of Alabama. Pictured above are her rescued quilts, with t-shirt appliques and stitched stories.  There is nothing Nathalie Chanin can’t do, it seems, from couture, to cooking, to home accessories. And everything is hand-sewn.

Patchwork Inspiration: Jung Yul Park/Pojagi Studio


And this is one of my favorite patchwork techniques, which makes the fabric reversible: Pojagis. The one pictured above was made by Jung Yul Park. See how the light enhances the beauty of the fabric. 

Patchworks take time, and this chain of thoughts is just beginning. There are so many more quilters, artists and designer worth mentioning, but here’s only one more for today: Liane from enhabiten. Using vintage materials, quilts and army bags she transforms and patchworks them into anything from pin cushions, crazy quilt bunting and pillows.

(c) enhabiten


Some of my favorites are her inside out pillows where she chooses the “wrong” side of a rescued crazy quilt to display the subtle stitching. That is really brilliant. Go visit her lovely store and blog. I’m sure you’ll find something for the holiday season.

But first Thanksgiving is approaching, my favorite holiday. I’m already obsessed with trying recipes for cornbread. Cornbread is not part of the German diet, but I love the idea of stew and cornbread. 

And since cornbread is the off-key piece in this patchwork post, I’m going to leave it here and gather more pieces (and bake some cornbread).

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9 Responses to “Patchwork – Building Fabric, Sculpting Clothes”

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  1. deanna7trees says:

    such an interesting post. love putting pieces together into patchwork. I've done some pojagi and have done lots of research on korean patchwork. the transparency of the pieces are wonderful. would love to be able to take a class with the master, Chungie Lee.

  2. Liane says:

    i really like this post as well. lots to think about and inspire. the jung yul park image….that sparks my interest! thanks so much for the link.

  3. Chppie says:

    Loved this post and the links. Thank you for your insightful commentary. Lots to think about. I think I might be rooting around to see what pieces I have which might become a patched piece. Thanks for exposing me to new artists.

  4. Kate Pabst says:

    I saw the Gee's Bend quilts in San Francisco at least 5 years ago. That work clothes quilt has stuck with me since then. It's actually what I thought of when I saw your first photo of the Boro Cloth and planned on commenting recommending the Gee's Bend quilts but then, there it was!

    Thank you for sharing these resources. They are all beautiful and so different.

  5. suschna says:

    Über dieses Kaufen, Zerschneiden und dann neu zusammensetzen habe ich auch schon öfter nachgedacht. Oft ist es vielleicht auch die Sehnsucht, so einen alten Quilt "nachzumachen" und da man, anders als früher, keine Stoffreste vom Kleidung nähen hat und die Kleidungsstoffe oft auch nicht quiltgeeignet sind, muss man eben Patchworkstoffe kaufen. Mir wäre es aber auch lieber, der alte Gedanke – Wiederverwertung – würde eine größere Rolle spielen.

  6. kampinga says:

    What a lovely collection of thoughts and facts! I agree, I love love love old patchwork – quilts, clothing, anything. Those pieces very often seem to me to have such a strong, direct link with the past. Scraps saved to be put to use again, all with a history to themselves; pieces of old shopping lists used a templates; repairs to a piece of clothing – they're a bit like journals, really, telling the passing of time.

    Which may well be why, come to think of it, I find it so much more fun to make stuff from recycled materials – it feels a bit more like being part of a chain, of history.. (I obviously like to feel grand..:-)…)

  7. Melissa Lynn D says:

    Oh no! Cutting up yards of fabric and putting them back together again is neurotic? I'm in trouble! :)

  8. apinchofit says:

    Love the Pojagi one….He he I clicked on the link given to your Pojagi post and felt in love with it.. :)

  9. Lambert says:

    This post is hitting a cord, I love handsewn, repurposing, stitching, patches and mending … the japanese concept of "mottainai".
    I like your choices of photos as well.

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