Quilting with Old Blankets

I think it would be a fun idea to make a quilt out of old blankets, but I read somewhere that maybe that’s not the greatest idea. What do you think? Why wouldn’t I want to do this? Or if I did… any idea where I should start?

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Reusing an old blanket for your quilt certainly embraces the “reduce, reuse, recycle” concept and hails back to the early days of quilting, too. Some of the most beloved surviving historic quilts feature pieces snipped from other fabric items like clothing, feed sacks, and home textiles. Reusing an old blanket by using it as the batting for a new quilt was another popular way to really make the most of available materials.

Doing this today continues the innovative spirit of our quilting forbearers – as long as you keep a few caveats in mind:

  • An old wool blanket that still has plenty of warmth to offer but is truly showing its age can be used as batting if you wash it first. Exposing it to hot water in a modern, agitating washer is the best way to be sure that the blanket won’t shrink later.
  • If you use the entire blanket as a batting layer or even use choice pieces as applique or decorative elements and then wash your finished quilt, you could end up with a disaster when the pieces shrink at different rates. By washing the blanket first, you preshrink it and set the color, just like you do with new quilter’s cottons.
  • Any recycled fabrics you incorporate into your work need to be free of damage or pests. If your blanket is wool, it could be harboring moths or larvae – enough to damage your piece later. Again, a wash in hot water can set your mind at ease and eliminate this risk as well.
  • We’d love to know – how have you incorporated vintage linens and blankets into your new quilting projects?

    Happy quilting!

    Related Video: Quilting with Alternative Fabric

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    31 Responses to “Quilting with Old Blankets”
    1. Wendy

      I lived in Quebec, Canada. I have several antique small quilts made by the French Canadians, called couverture piers ( feet cover ) made out of quilted top, several old blankets for batting, plain back. Tied to secure the layers. Wonderful.

    2. Iris

      With regards using old blankets. I have been doing this for the last few years. I don’t like modern battings / wadding. They do not give enough loft for my taste. I live in Wales GB and a wool filling is our tradition. I use second hand blankets I buy on selling sites. As they are not new they have already been laundered . I also put it through the washer. They quilt beautifully and show my quilting designs to perfection. The quilt is light and warm and drapes lovely. I have had no problems at all. Batting is very expensive for a full sized bed, the blankets are relatively cheep to buy. In my quilt group all the ladies have been converted into using blankets for quilts, wall hangings etc. Wool blankets are ideal for baby quilts and safe to use where as polyester batting is not under 1 year old. Do try it, it quilts so lovely by hand or machine.

    3. Felicia McLemore

      How to figure out measurements if you want to resize a quilt block from maybe 8 half squares in 15 inches to 6 in a 10 inch space.

    4. espera

      In Australia we have a traditional type of blanket or rug made from old blankets called a “Wagga”. These were popular during the great depression and used by country people to recycle old woollen blankets. Nowadays they are made as art projects and are quite lovely. I suggest that you look on the web for images. This may give you a few more ideas on how to use old blankets

      • Karen

        I’m interested in the ‘wagga’ blankets but can’t find anything on Google regarding blankets, only the town of Wagga Wagga. Do you have any other information as to where I can find out more please? TIA.

    5. Deb E / Oregon

      Not only do I use old blankets as batting in my quilts (after a thorough washing, of course!), but I’ve used 1 or 2 layers of flannel, as well (again, after washing, due to the different rate of shrinkage of flannel -vs- cotton). I use the flannel more often in baby quilts, as those will be washed often, dragged about and receive hard wear, and flannel holds up quite well. I’ve also used sheets (washed first!) as a lightweight batting inside a quilt, too, where I wanted a very lightweight quilt. All of these work very well, depending on what the quilt will be used for. When I want a more traditional quilt, I still use cotton batting, and have also used wool batting (and I’ve purchased a silk batting, which I’ll use for a special quilt for me). I feel very lucky to live in a time where we quilters have SO many choices for our quilting projects!

    6. Karen

      When my children were going off to college in the late 90’s, I made them quilts using large patches of cotton corduroy on top, old blankets in the middle, and flat cotton sheets as backing. They were warm and my children loved the convenience of pulling up one item to straighten up the bed instead of three separate. Over the years they have needed a little patching and/or new binding, but they are still used as cuddle blankets to read or watch tv. My grandsons are still years from college but I have already started making my special quilts for each.

    7. Stephanie Roberts

      i have a quilt my grandmother made many years ago, she never got the chance to quilt it. do you know about how much it would cost to have it quilted?

    8. Andi

      I thought I watched a video for a quilt as you go quilt and the quilter used gauze for a very light batting. It was a summer weight baby quilt. I can’t seem to find it again. Was wondering if I should look for gauze or use flannel. The gauze is wider and measurements would work well. Should I use gauze and should I wash it beforehand. Also, there is gauze and double gauze. Which one?

      • Customer Service

        Hello Andi,

        Unfortunately I do not know what video you are referring to. However, if you are wanting the quilt to be lightweight you can absolutely use a lighter weight fabric like gauze. Double gauze is simply two layers of fabric. It is very soft and actually very popular for making blankets.

        Ashley NQC Video Membership

        We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.

    9. Karen

      I twice used those velux blankets, DO NOT DO IT…the blanket disintegrated after several years, the foam inside the blanket slows the needle making it very difficult to machine quilt…I repeat do not use a Velux blanket.

    10. Melody Cesare

      I made a rag quilt t-shirt blanket for my son. The front and back were the tshirts, and the old blanket was quilted inside. It’s the best blanket I have ever made. It is thick, warm, cozy and loved.

    11. Caroline

      I made two wedding quilts from antique table clothes and crocheted doilies of different shapes and sizes. They came out really lovely.I had them professionally quilted after I made to top.

    12. Lesley

      Another great batting is bleached mattress padding. This can be purchased in thrift stores and bleached, making great throw and baby blankets. The quilting is very lofty, and shows beautifully. We all have mattress pads that are worn out, stained, etc. Why toss them out? Bleach it, use it!

    13. Penny

      I was wondering about a polyester fleece blanket being used as batting. I have a few of those and I can’t afford to buy actual batting right now.

    14. Ann Springer

      Can you use cloth napkins for quilts? I have a drawer full That were my mother’s and grandmothers.

      • Beth Holness

        Of course you can use them. Just be careful of the fabrics, they maybe a blend of man made fibres and either linen or cotton. One of my favourite ways to buy fabric is cloth serviettes from the thrift shop.Beautiful little squares of fine fabric waiting for a second life.

    15. Judy

      I made a winter blanket out of 2nd hand coats made of wool. I took them apart , washed the wool in hot water and made 5×5 blocks. I used batting for the middle and a flat sheet for theback. It is so warm that you only have to use a sheet with it in the winter. I have made 2 like this and they are wonderful and repurposing old coats.

      • Lori

        When we were cleaning out my husband’s grandmother’s house we found two wool quilts that had been made from men’s wool suiting. She’d reused his old suits to piece a quilt. Even though they’d been in the empty house for over 10 years they were in good shape, she’d evidently preshrunk the wool because they washed very well. Estate sales in our area have men’s suits for sale costing next to nothing.

    16. DENISE

      My husband brought quite a few old grey army blankets into our marriage and I used them to make dressing gowns for each of us, and then cut the remaining ones into squares and crocheted round them. I also crocheted a pile of ‘tartan’ squares and then joined them alternately to the blanket squares, finishing with a crocheted 4″ border . It turned out brilliantly. So…. why not take this and join your blanket squares to all those leftover quilted squares? Crocheting round them, or joining with a heavy cotton lace as sashing would help eliminate problems with any residual shrinking. Wishing I had some more old blankets to try this with.

    17. Patricia Hadfield

      I love the idea of using old blankets for quilting and reminds me of using them during WW2 to make warm coats.

    18. Kate

      One of my kids friends brought me a quilt. Her grandmother had made it with her pajamas, scraps, and other clothing that this young lady had worn as a child. The grandma used an old comforter has the batting. And then had tied it. The polyester fibers in this old comforter scrubbed the fabric until it had many holes in it. Luckily we were able to rescue it but the fabric had disintegrated in certain places beyond repair and weakened all the adjacent triangles. It was a time consuming rescue, but she was very pleased with the results. The point is be very careful on what you use. Polyester gets rougher as time gets on and is difficult on everything surrounding it.

    19. Esther Edgar

      I have always enjoyed using my sewing machine but just began patchwork some 7 years ago.
      I decided to try a sampler for my own use and used a worn wool blanket which had long passed its sell by date. I used a double size flat sheet for the backing.
      It was a great success and dresses our bed all year. On frosty nights it is used on top of our summer weight duvet. We love it.
      Esther Edgar

    20. Carolyn Edwards

      I used an old army blanket instead of batting for my husband a camouflage quilt for his hunting camp.

    21. Peggy

      My mother made a quilt of old wool skirts that had belonged to my two sisters and myself. The skirts were not preshrunk by washing, prior to making the quilt. For the backing Mom used red flannel to make a soft liner. She used the ‘tacking’ method to quilt (one stitch secured by tying a knot in the thread and leaving excess thread about 1-1/2 inches long). Mom used red yard as the thread. Over the years as the quilt was washed the flannel backing kept its size, however the wool side shrunk. The only way one might fix the shrinkage would be to take the backing and tacking loose and virtually remake the quilt. But, Mom made it and I cherish the quilt. It brings back many wonderful memories and I won’t remake it by tearing up and reassembling, but rather use it on special moments when I need to snuggle with those precious memories.

    22. Karen

      Do not use the foam in the center type Velux blankets as the foam will slow the machine needle down resulting in missed stitches. Maybe the new no stick needles would work, but in my experience sewing machine quilting will not work on this type of blanket.

    23. Penney

      I’m looking for guidance on how to draw my own paper piecing pattern from a picture. Can anyone help?

    24. Kubis Brown

      My sister gave me an old mattress pad, knowing I sew a lot with the ladies at church. I used it for the batting of a lap quilt for nursing home residents. It seems to have worked well, but is heavier than the double knit I had used before.