Quilting with Old Blankets

Ask an Expert

Question text

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?

Submitted via email

Tips for Choosing the Right Ruler

Answer text

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

    Do you have a quilting question you’d like answered by an expert? Email your question to editor@nationalquilterscircle.com or reach out to us on Facebook.

    Please note: questions may be edited for clarity and relevance.

    Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

    Make a comment:
    characters remaining

    46 Responses to “Quilting with Old Blankets”

    1. Kitty

      Last week I decided to finish the first quilt top I made 25 yrs ago and use a blanket that belonged to my MIL . I am half way done tying it…so happy to do this . Hopefully will stay on as a family heirloom…

    2. Ellen Dormody

      I have made several quilts using satin bound blankets for the batting with great results. I am in the process of making another quilt but I will be using quilt as you with sashing this time. On my other quilts I used the blanket between the quilt top and the quilt back.

    3. Jeannie LeFrancois

      I was interested in how were wool fleece used in quilts when you just could tie or hand quilt a blanket. (Personally I can not see me hand quilting anything. But I have used wool pieces and been stitching the quilt fabric left overs to make a batting, but what did they do with loose batting?

    4. Susan

      I have an old quilt from the 1930's that was my grandmother's. In lieu of batting, it has a blanket. There have been no problem ☺️

    5. Leha Carpenter

      My grandmother made us crazy quilts in the 1960s using cotton thermal blankets instead of batting. They were the perfect lightweight quilts for the California climate, and had a soft, wide satin binding around the edges in pretty olive green to match the thermal undersides. I remember that when I hid underneath my quilt I could see the light shining through all of the colors of the fabrics because of the open weave of the thermal backing. Wish I still had that quilt. Thinking of trying to reproduce it was what led me here...

    6. Linda

      I use blankets to back my T-shirt blankets. I do not use any batting because it makes them too heavy.

    7. Susan

      This article really hit home for me. My mother was from Newfoundland, Canada. She and my Dad met at the military base in Argentia. I lived there for a few years when I was a little girl and my Dad was stationed there for a 2nd time. I was able to witness many of the cultural practices there, especially the crafts of an Irish fishing community. This especially included knitting and quilting for practical purposes. It got very cold in my grandparents home - a damp cold - which was only heated (at that time) by the wood stove in the downstairs kitchen. A blanket at our own home was starting to wear out, getting several holes in it. I remember my mother taking taking the blanket with us when we went to visit my grandparents. She also took some leftover fabrics and sheets. My grandmother had an old treadle sewing machine and she and my cut the leftover fabrics and sheets into strips. My mother sewed the strips together that would fit the old blanket. I think they used a sheet for the bottom. They then sandwiched the old blanket between the two "new" pieces. It made for a very lovely warm and heavy quilt. It lasted for about 10 years before it was time to refinish it again. I was in high school at the time and home for an extended period due to a blizzard shutting down the school for a number of days and left us all stranded at home. So, for something to do, my mother and I went through the closets, took old cotton shirts and dresses, cut them out into squares and sewed them together on her 1960s Kenmore to fit the old quilt she and my grandmother and refinished. My mother said this is what they did when she was growing up, too. That when an old quilt started to get ragged they would just renew it with old scraps of fabrics. I just loved how this quilt turned out as it had many items of clothing materials that came from my childhood. It really made it special. I'm sure many of the quilts from those old generations have several layers of antique quilts within them. Simple and practical; extremely warm and comforting, too! In my opinion, using old blankets, quilts, and cotton goods from the wardrobe is the only way to make a quilt that can last for generations at a time!

    8. Mika

      Absolutely!!!! Repurpose, recycle. I have used my old military blanket, an old zarape, moving blankets, you name it. All turned out really nice. These "foundations" had been well used and laundered. I trimmed any frayed edges and squared the piece up before applying the quilt pieces to cover

    9. jean

      I used a cotton crib blanket as batting for a lap quilt. Then I tied it. It is still going strong, just needs a new top.

    10. Jeanette L Kelley

      I have quilts made by my grandmother that had old quilts as batting. She also used old clothing, mom would remember items that had pieces of her clothing in them.