Friday, September 23, 2011

Pentleton Wool Quilt

During the 1980's my mother and father-in-law took a trip to the state of Washington to visit their daughter and son-in-law who lived there at the time. My mother-in-law was an avid seamstress, so while there she made a visit to the nearby Pentleton Wool Outlet.  It must have been just like a treasure trove for her, because when I cleaned out her sewing stash I found yards and yards of beautiful Pentleton wool. If you have not heard of Pentleton wool, you need to check out their website ( and blog (  The Pentleton name has long been known for high quality (and pricey) wool garments. 

Now, what to do with all this beautiful fabric?  I just don't do much garment sewing anymore.  Could I use some of it in a quilt?  I spent the summer pondering this. 

Several questions needed to be addressed before I even got started.  Was this washable wool?  I thought at least some of it was, but I decided to wash all of it in hot water and to dry it in the dryer.  If it was going to shrink, or even felt, I wanted it to do it now before I sewed with it. And I was right.  Most of it came through the washing beautifully.  There were 4 pieces that did shrink significantly, but I'm okay about that.  Now I know what I'm dealing with.

Next, what design would highlight this fabric?  Which fabric patterns could work together?  My goal was to use what I had, and to highlight the beauty of the wool.  In the end, I choose 3 earthy plaids that seemed to coordinate with each other.  As beautiful as these were, I thought they need something more to add contrast.  I had some solid black and red.  I decided to use these as contrast fabrics. I wanted large chunks of the plaids, so I decided to make a very simple block with triangle corners.  By working it out on graph paper first, I managed to have the triangle corners form alternating red and black diamonds. At first I didn't want any borders, but in the end I decided a border at the top and bottom that repeated the quilt diamonds gave the quilt just enough detail to make it interesting. 

Who was the quilt for?  My mother-in-law - of course.  She's now in a nursing home, but her mind is good, and I'm hoping this quilt will bring back some very happy memories.  I decided I wanted flannel on the backside.  Soft and warm.... it seemed appropriate to pair with the wool.  Of course, I pre-washed and dried the flannel also, since it will get some heavy-duty washings in the nursing home.

Once the quilt top was put together, I had to decide how to quilt or tie it.  I thought about using a long-arm machine and quilting a rather large all-over pattern.  But I decided, instead, on hand quilting in and around each diamond, and then adding large buttons (again, from my mother-in-law's supplies).  The hand-quilting is done with 3 strands of embroidery floss and rather large stitches.  That and the buttons are enough to hold it all together, but loose enough that, again, the fabric takes center stage.  The busy pattern of the flannel on the back hides the hand stitches; they hardly even show on the back.

Finally, a simple black cotton binding finishes off the edges.  I'm happy with the resulting quilt. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law will love it.  My only conundrum is that I still have lots and lots of wool....  There are probably more wool quilts in my future.

The finished Pentleton Wool Quilt

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