Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Don't believe me just watch"

Six and a half years ago, I started collecting and sharing the quilts of the 1970s. Soon after, I realized a lot of the quilts of the period were made of polyester double knit. It seemed like an obstacle. To simply utter the words "polyester" and "quilt" in the same sentence usually resulted in snarky comments and dookie face. There were some folks who really didn't like polyester...but were they really looking?

I had a feeling there was something special about these quilts, but faced the prevailing attitude that collecting them would never amount to much. Rather than following the strong advice of the quilt historians to not bother with polyester quilts, I decided to dive in.


"Don't believe me just watch." That's how I feel today. A few months from now I will be exhibiting polyester quilts at the International Quilt Study Center Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska-- a premiere venue for exhibiting quilts. If the quilts could talk, they might express sentiments similar to Sally Field in her 1985 Oscar acceptance speech.

The exhibition is scheduled for May 26 to August 27. Here's the description on the IQSCM website:

"In the era of flower-power and “Mod” fashion, polyester double-knit reigned as the ubiquitous and indestructible fabric of the age. Today it is often criticized as cheap, scratchy and horribly outdated, but in a pocket of time at the beginning of the 1970s quilt revival when good quality quilting cottons were not available, quiltmakers used what they had. These innovative and shockingly vibrant pieces from the Bill Volckening Collection occupy an important space in American quiltmaking tradition."

"Don't believe me just watch." 

Stay tuned for more details. 


  1. I applaud you for saving a part of our quilt history that might otherwise have been forgotten.

    My quilting journey began when polyester was the queen of the fabric store. My mother made dresses and jerseys for my brothers and sisters from the “wonder material”. In fact, the only quilt my mother ever made was from scraps left over from these projects.

    I developed a psychological allergy to the stuff much to my mother’s chagrin.
    During my high school years, I pleaded with our local general store to increase their selection of cottons. Making my way through a sea of the slippery psychedelics, I found happiness in the few bolts of soft calm cottons in the back of the store.

    So, kudos to you for sharing these treasures of the more recent past with the rest of the world.

  2. Great news! Congrats. I saw the quilts at quilts at QuiltCon in Austin and was blow away. I love them.

  3. Fabulous! I have one of these polyester quilts and it is just as vibrant today as when I received it!

  4. I've been lurking on your blog for a little while. Time to comment! Love the quilts and your obvious enthusiasm for everything you write about. The Uptown Funk video is so fun--have you seen the mashup of old movie clips to that music? It's terrific!

  5. Fabulous news. I most definitely will come to see the exhibit!

  6. So neat! Kudos to you for doing what you wanted to do and ignoring the so called "quilt professionals".

    I live in Poland, and people here haven't heard that polyester double knit is bad material for a quilt. Every single charity quilt I've offered that was made of polyester double knit has been literally "snatched up" by recipients (I let them choose from at least 20 quilts when they get one).

    I am enjoying following your journey.

  7. Bill always takes me back to the wonderful sewing world of my teens... I made my first quilt in the 70's... though, a more traditional "trip around the world", it has many of those crazy colors... those greens and golds, and paisley red on the back. Nothin' but machine work all round... You're not getting it though! Thanks for todays eye candy Bill and Congratultions!

  8. Wow what a quick turn around! Congrats and yes, the polyester quilt I have looks the same as when I received it. I still can remember some of the clothing that generated the scraps for the quilt!

  9. LOL. I love "dookie face." I know I've had that look! Back in the 70s I worked for Jantzen giving tours of their manufacturing facility---all the way from roving to finished clothes right here in Portland. I had an entire wardrobe of polyester clothes for the job. They were indestructable and easy care. Though I have to admit to being a snob about textiles, each has it's place in our universe.

  10. Seeing your polyester quilts in person at Quiltcon in 2015 was the highlight of my trip to Austin. Anyone who has a chance to see this exhibit should!