Why this Vermont designer makes clothing from vintage quilts

Gerard Ortiz

A quilt created from previous match coats and trousers is draped in excess of the again of a velvet couch in this Howard Road studio in Burlington.

On a closer glance at the quilt’s geometric design and style, you observe the designs forming its pattern are thanks to piecing multiple strips of cloth around a central square to generate a block. Then those many blocks are sewn together to variety the whole.

A photo of a pink velvet couch with a quilt draped over its back.

Kat McVeigh & Dale Donaldson, Courtesy


The quilt draped over the sofa in Kitty Badhands’ downtown studio was made from outdated satisfies, probable in the late 1800s. This individual textile will stay out its existence as a quilt, while a lot of other classic elements will uncover new existence as coats, dresses and other apparel, made by Kat McVeigh.

This certain pattern is acknowledged as “log cabin.” In The usa, its use and popularity day back to the Civil War. And this quilt laying on this studio sofa was most likely sewn in the late 1800s.

This certain blanket is in the Burlington apparel and style studio of Kitty Badhands. It will reside out its historical past just as it is: a quilt, a bedcover, a sofa adornment made approximately 200 several years back.

Dozens of other colourful quilts and textiles are stacked neatly on shelving in the studio space, nevertheless, awaiting their transformation into sustainable, wearable art.

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Kat McVeigh co-owns Kitty Badhands with companion Dale Donaldson. And to McVeigh, quilting is a variety of storytelling. She mentioned she feels her mission is to write these vintage quilts’ following chapter.

“1 of the matters I like most about our garments is that you can find a storytelling component developed suitable into them,” she claimed. “The finest factor I can do is, if you will find an unknown quilt out there getting auctioned off that is been sitting in someone’s basement for 80 a long time, I’m just heading to let the quilt explain to the story.”

Creating new apparel pieces from these textiles, “just presents a opportunity for the tale to be retold in a distinct way,” McVeigh stated. “And be heard by individuals who might not care about quilts, but adore manner.”

McVeigh began Kitty Badhands in 2016, solely as a quilting firm. And then she began creating outfits from the classic textiles through the pandemic, turning the material heirlooms into one particular-of-a-variety coats and clothing — distinctive, wearable artwork.

“I created clothes as a interest. And then in 2020 when the pandemic begun, I experienced much more time to perform on my pastime and it became the key target,” she reported. “So then Kitty Badhands shifted in probably the beginning of 2020.”

Stacks of quilts and fabric lay folded on multiple shelves in the corner of a studio.

Kat McVeigh from Kitty Badhands lovingly collects previous quilts and textiles from on line resources and in-person auctions. She then lives with the quilts in her studio for some time, having to know their designs and intricacies, right before ever creating the initially slash.

With a 50-50 partnership, McVeigh does “all of the making. And Dale does all of the like, powering-the-scenes stuff. And I know how to do about 50 percent of it, and he is aware of about 50 percent of it. So it will work out truly properly.”

With their dual backgrounds in the arts and Donaldson’s target on graphic style and design and internet marketing, the duo are setting out on a two-fold mission: continue to keep these aged textiles out of landfills by developing new a person-of-a-type apparel from them. And: generate shoppers to embrace sustainable garments.

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Donaldson has not long ago been sourcing new resources that will stand the check of time.

“Almost everything that we purchase — thread, zippers, snaps — we have absent as a result of various different versions of them,” he mentioned. “And you know, just about every time we acquire a action up, attempting to find the most sustainable version of that. “

Donaldson reported the present Kitty Badhands’ customer tends to skew more youthful and is passionate about the firm’s patterns, which breathe new daily life into aged textiles.

“And we just want to make certain as we expand what we are presenting, our prospects will have confidence in that we are building good decisions,” he claimed.

McVeigh stated as they grow, she appreciates the elements she utilizes to make her original-style dusters, chore coats and dresses, will come from resources other than vintage textiles.

“But the just one matter that I’ve learned from starting out with vintage elements is that sustainability is actually critical to me,” she reported. “So no subject what we make in the potential, or if we send it off to be produced by somebody else, it really is obtained to be sustainable.”

McVeigh additional: “It has to be very good for the world, fantastic for the neighborhood. If an individual else is likely to make our outfits, I want them to be paid out properly and taken care of nicely. So I will not consider that which is an aspect of style I may have viewed as if I hadn’t begun in the vintage textile arena.”

A person with a beard and ballcap stands to model a coat made from an orange, red and yellow vintage quilt.

Kat McVeigh & Dale Donaldson, Courtesy


Dale Donaldson switched occupations to companion with Kat McVeigh as Kitty Badhands started producing wearable art from classic textiles. Donaldson sources new resources that will gasoline the duo’s mission to produce sustainable clothing.

Setting up her stitching everyday living early on and learning at the elbow of her grandmother set McVeigh up to see the probable in applying more mature, worn fabric to make something new.

“My Mom-mom was constantly earning quilts,” she stated. “I never don’t forget her educating me how to sew. I just bear in mind likely more than there and assisting her hand stitch the triangles. And I considered it was seriously appealing to listen to like, ‘Oh, that was your mother’s dress for communion.’ And ‘Oh, people were the curtains that we hung at Halloween in the ’70s.’ And every single piece was variety of place into the quilt.”

A person stands to model a multi-colored motorcycle-style jacket made from a vintage quilt.

Kat McVeigh & Dale Donaldson, Courtesy


Kat McVeigh is continually making new models to incorporate classic quilts and textiles into, like this prototype of a classic bike-design and style jacket, which she plans to create much more of to offer to consumers in the fall.

The ‘Kitty Badhands’ moniker started as a nickname from higher education that McVeigh made use of as an on the web keep to offer her early items. That title trapped. And for McVeigh, her spark to make the to start with coat from a vintage quilt commenced with a random concept.

“And I made just one and everyone wanted it,” she reported. “So I designed a different and then I made another and I produced a different.”

Some quilts McVeigh and Donaldson lovingly gather are hundreds of years old, and they bear their proprietors marks, together with those people of the maker. In point, a good portion of the time spent earning the new items entails learning up about the earlier.

McVeigh deciphers quilt designs utilized along with elements and stitching methods to piece together the quilt’s historical past, if a person is not offered from the vendor.

“Sometimes they’ve signed and dated it,” McVeigh stated. “And the person who’s mentioned it claims where it really is from. And so you know that Elsa May possibly in 1884 made this in this town in Kentucky. And occasionally you know very little about it, particularly if it can be a pattern that the quilter created up by themselves.”

And even the fabric functions as a textile time-equipment.

“Occasionally you can tell a very little bit of specified fabrics that were being additional well known in specific situations during background,” McVeigh reported. “So for instance, some quilts are created out of feed sacks, which ended up actually common in the 20s, 30s and 40s.”

A hand-stitched signature, reading, "Eve Osgood Cross, 1834" on green quilted fabric.

Kat McVeigh & Dale Donaldson, Courtesy


If a quilt has been signed and dated, or if there is a distinct or exceptional sample or exclusive mark, Kat McVeigh functions all those particulars to be prominently showcased in her clothing as a way to honor the original maker.

And of the sure stitching sewn by hand, Donaldson explained, “It is practically like a signature. Everybody hand-stitches otherwise. At times it is like super-neat, occasionally it can be like all more than the place.”

For McVeigh and Donaldson, their do the job reaches back again into the previous, when however becoming ahead-looking.

“My favored section of the position is getting to see the consumer in their coat, joyful and usually with a tale about a person halting them,” McVeigh stated.

She added: “It truly goes back again to that storytelling ingredient. And also the ‘giving the quilt a new life’ is that if someone’s obtaining stopped in the grocery retailer to talk about their quilt, the quilt maker is there all over again, you know?”

As McVeigh and Donaldson function on fulfilling the mission of Kitty Badhands, they say they’re making sure these textiles and quilts are “not in the back again of a closet someplace. They are not in a landfill.”

And they attempt to generate one particular-of-a-form clothing in the hopes it will be handed down, like the first quilt was. The approach virtually allows bring the authentic artisan again to daily life.

“They’re staying talked about by persons who never know them, but they know their do the job,” McVeigh claimed. “And they are appreciating it … And I believe which is seriously nice, since which is what we all want, is to stay on through our function at the time we are absent.”

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