Joanne Kliejunas of Heirloom Couture

While reading a recent issue of FiberArts magazine, I came across an article about Joanne Kliejunas, who had made a jacket from a ruined antique quilt. The article outlined Joanne’s original struggle with the thought of cutting into an old textile, how she came to see that the original work deserved to be seen and appreciated, and how the coat itself became a metaphor for her struggle to work through the loss of her mother.

Joanne used organza, embroidery and gauze to stabilize and obscure badly worn parts of the New York Beauty quilt, and at the same time, the increasingly obscured quilt reflected on how memories change and influence.  The result is a stunning jacket, full of meaning.   A quilt that had been “loved to death” has found new life.

Repurposing vintage clothing and textiles is a tricky subject.  I have seen plenty of unfortunate projects that I felt were poorly planned and executed.  For this reason, I tend to be on the conservative side of this issue:  When in doubt, put the scissors away.

That’s why it is such a treat to find a designer who takes her time, evaluates each textile and makes informed and experienced decisions before deciding to cut.  Joanne now runs her own business, Heirloom Couture, where she takes damaged quilts and linens and transforms them into garments.  This takes the damaged quilt from the closet and puts it back out in public where the original maker’s work can be seen.

All photographs courtesy of and copyright Joanne Kliejunas/Heirloom Couture


Filed under Sewing, Viewpoint

3 responses to “Joanne Kliejunas of Heirloom Couture

  1. For me, the problem with making fashion apparel from old textiles is that they always becomes ‘dated’ and out of style, then it’s time for the thrift store pile. In the 80’s jackets sewn from quilts were popular, then they weren’t. Too often now I see the old dears hanging sadly on a thrift store rack, very unwearable and without purpose. So, I advocate sewing them up into pieces with longer life: pillows, for one, seem to hang around longer, and table runners are another object that transends current fads.


    • Jen, I agree. When doing this sort of thing, one must be very careful to use a pattern that rises above fashion.

      Joanne told me that she does pillows a lot for clients, expecially if the textile needs to be divided among heirs.


  2. Pingback: Quilts | The Vintage Traveler

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