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Vintage Quilt Repair

Detail of hole repair on Anne’s vintage quilt

One of the benefits of being the Guilds’ newsletter editor is you get the news before anyone else does! I must admit that I took advantage of this recently. A woman named Anne contacted the Guild about having her grandmother’s quilt repaired. I jumped at the chance to see what this was all about. If I did not want to do the repairs myself than at least I could take some pictures to share in the newsletter and hopefully someone else would take up the cause. With that in mind I reached out to Anne and arranged a time to meet her and her grandmother’s quilt!

Really blurry BEFORE picture

Anne was a lovely woman who was saddened by the state of her grandmother’s quilt and wanted it to be usable or at least in a show-able condition. This is Anne’s quilt. Note to self: take more than one “before” picture of the whole thing and definitely check the quality of the one photo you do take before jumping right in! If you ignore the blur and squint real hard you can see two very large holes at the bottom and top of the photo about 12 inches long and 4 to 6 inches wide. This was the main concern, but by no means the only one.

Although there is no piecing in this quilt (other than the one hand-stitched seam down the middle length) it still has the essential three layers to be called a quilt. The front fabric is what quilters call “cheater cloth” or “cheater fabric.” This is not a very kind description, in my opinion, because someone still put a lot of time into hand sewing and quilting this piece. And you really could feel all the love and soft cuddles this quilt has seen in it’s life time. “Cheater” or not, it deserved to be repaired and so I agreed to give it a go!

Close-up of one of the two major holes

First, I decided to tackle the two large holes. I cut pieces of batting large enough to cover the tear with ample room on both sides. I wanted to replace some of the batting that was missing from these spots as well hide some of those bright colours that would otherwise show through the patch fabric. In the end, this also had the lovely effect of making the applique flowers pop with a little bit of hand quilting…but I’m getting ahead of myself! I cut a piece of light polka dot fabric with enough seam allowance to turn under the batting as I appliqued it down.

Yes, I did iron and remove fluffs before attaching!

I covered the large holes like this and then made two more smaller patches on the horizontal ends, not to cover anything, but to tie in the over all design. Now, because I had four rectangular patches with rather harsh edges on the curvy cathedral window fabric, I decided to soften those edges with a little bit of applique flowers in keeping with the soft flowery feel of the overall quilt.

Test layout of circle flowers and stems

Another problem area was the binding. The original binding was made by turning the backing fabric and folding over to the front before being hand stitched down. It was soft and lovely but definitely showing signs of its age and use. I replaced it with double fold binding, keeping the colour consistent and sewing on right over top of the old so that it would have some more volume and protection.

Once the big holes and the binding were fixed I tackled all the smaller holes that became more apparent as the big distractions were hidden. I decided to carry on the the circular shape of the flowers and cover anything I could see being a problem in the near future. There were a handful of spots like this but the fabric choice helps to blend them into the overall quilt and most are difficult to see when stepping back from the quilt.

Random circle sizes appliqued over smaller holes.

I picked up this quilt on a Friday and had it finished to be returned to Anne by Sunday. And this is what the quilt looked like fully repaired.

Anne seemed to be happy with the result. I hope she and her family will continue to get some enjoyment out of it in the future.

Lastly, Anne was not sure on how old this quilt is, she just remembers it being her grandmother’s, passed to her mother and then her. Anyone have any guesses or educated theories on when this quilt might have come into existence? I feel like it is probably mid to late 1930’s. Here is my theory: because it is a “cheater” Cathederal Window- a type of quilt that became popular in the 30’s and because the fabric colours and designs are similar to the prints popular in the 30’s and because of how long Anne says it has been in her family. I tried to google search this fabric with no luck. Any other theories I would be interested in hearing!

2 replies on “Vintage Quilt Repair”

What a talent you are, Joanne. I would have been scared to touch it but you brought the quilt back to life! I would go so far to say that you gave it a new life .. your flowers and circles were a wonderful addition. I’m sure Anne was very pleased. I hope you are proud of your results. Great job!!