Repair & Restore: Giving Old Quilts New Life
Before an old quilt is repaired and restored, I study the quilt, checking the sections of the quilt that need repair.This Monkey Wrench quilt needs to be repaired next. Before I begin, I examine borders, binding, and patches for tears and worn portions. Examining the quilt in its entirety helps to understand the amount of work involved. Often, there are sections of the quilt that are more worn than others. There may also be one particular fabric that has not performed well throughout the quilt.
Before I begin the task of giving an old quilt new life, the approximate date of the quilt needs to be determined. This will help when sorting through my collection of old cotton fabrics. I will choose fabrics from the same era of the quilt being repaired or restored, and knowing the approximate date of the quilt will be helpful when choosing whether or not certain antique cottons can be used or not.
One quilt that I purchased to repair was a Jacob’s Ladder quilt. I loved the colorplay of the patchwork in this scrappy quilt and the quilt was cheerful to me. This Jacobs Ladder is dated circa 1945 and repairs to this quilt included a new binding and 12 new patches appliqued over the old, worn triangles. This twin size quilt was a pleasure to repair, and after giving this old quilt new life, I have added the quilt to my personal quilt collection.
A very special quilt that I restored came from my husband’s grandmother. She made three matching scrap Pinwheel quilts for her grandchildren during the 1950s, and one needed to be repaired. The task was a large one due to the wadded batting that needed to be completely removed. Since the quilt was hand-tied the job was not too difficult — but the entire quilt had to be disassembled to its separate layers. A new backing replaced the tattered, old blue cotton fabric, but care was taken to locate the same solid cornflower blue fabric. This old quilt received a new life with the repairs made and I was very happy to have “shared stitches” with the Shaw’s grandmother than I never knew.
Since the Monkey Wrench quilt is my next quilt to repair, I have begun to study the quilt. The quilt has several blocks with badly worn cotton fabric. To make the repair to this block, new triangles will be appliqued over the old worn triangle patches. This will not only keep the quilt intact for durability, but will not disturb the original quilt. Repairing patchwork with appliqued patchwork on top ensures integrity for the quilt being repaired.
I bought this Monkey Wrench quilt because the patchwork and design layout were simple and the overall colors are so autumnal. I especially loved how the quilter wasn’t afraid to use the double-pink calicos with the orange calico in this quilt.
When I began looking at the Monkey Wrench quilt to see how much repair work was involved, I discovered that there is another quilt inside this quilt. I am unsure what patchwork pattern was used in the interior quilt, but when looking into several of the block sections where fabric has worn out, it is very apparent that a double-pink geometric print has been used throughout the interior quilt. Before this quilt is repaired, a great deal of time will be spent trying to see what lies inside this quilt.
Somewhere another quilter gave an old quilt new life. How ironic that I will give this old ‘new’ quilt new life now…..