Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Quick and Dirty Quilt Repair

While I was cleaning up my sewing room last week I found some old quilt photos.

The handsome young man on the left is my eldest, Fillius Major, when he was about eleven or twelve. The figure on the right is my 20 years younger self. Together, we are holding up our first and only joint sewing project, a quilt which we made for Grandpa Jack. After suffering many strokes, he had just entered a nursing home.

Grandpa Jack was my husband's father, and our kids were very close to him. So this was a sad change for all of them, but particularly for Fillius Major who could remember when his grandfather had been active and vigorous. I thought that making a quilt for Grandpa would not only be a useful gift, but a tangible way for us to express our love for him.

Fillius Major chose the fabrics, and I sliced them into squares with my rotary cutter. He sewed together some of the patches; I did the rest and attached the borders. A beginning quilter, I couldn't decide whether to tie or quilt this project -- so I did both, running diagonal lines of machine quilting through half of the squares and putting yarn ties in the middle of the others. Fillius M. made a presentation block for the lower right hand corner which he decorated with permanent fabric markers.

The gift was a great success and saw much hard use -- first in the nursing home home, and later by Fillius Major's kids. (The quilt passed to F.M. after the death of both grandparents.) Through the years it would come back to me for minor repairs and I would cover small holes with applique. (Hearts are easy! And that circle on the blue square is a planet I cut out of a piece of astronomical fabric.)

But the poor Grandpa Quilt (as the grandchildren call it) is now on its last elbows. One of the squares had simply shredded away. Another was beginning to shred. There was a rip along the edge of another block. (I must say that it's been interesting to see which fabrics have held up and which haven't. Both of the prints that shredded were fabrics that I gotten from Grandma's stash, so they were older to start with. Maybe that's why they didn't hold up.)

This quilt was woefully under-quilted which I think accounts for the stress the fabric suffered as a result of so many washings. Some of the lines of quilting had broken over the years, and the yarn ties had shriveled up and pulled through the fabric.

And here's the reason we should always use double binding on our quilts:

As you can see, the outer layer of the binding wore out, but the inner layer is still intact. (Yeah, I did a pretty crummy job of attaching the binding by machine. But it was the first one I'd ever done.

I decided that given the quilt's poor condition, a quick and dirty repair would be appropriate technology. The first thing I did was to replace the disintegrated patch. I still had some of the same fabric in my stash. Though old, I was sure it would last at least as long as the rest of the quilt. I just slid the square under the edges of the other patches and machine stitched it down.

I did the same for the other shredded patch. The block with a rip at the seamline was mended with a line of zig-zag stitches. And then, hoping to stabilize the poor quilt, I ran lines of machine quilting through the blocks that had originally been tied. Yay, walking foot! (I didn't have one of those when I originally made the quilt.) The minimal quilting I'd done in the border was broken here and there. So I echoed the original line of stitching and then bundled the quilt into one of those nylon Priority Mail envelopes, sending it off to Ohio for the grandkids to love and play with again. This is probably its last repair.

Someday it will be laid to rest in pieces, but I won't feel sad. It's been interesting to see how well (or how poorly) different quiltmaking techniques have stood the test of time and hard use. I am happy that the quilt has been so well loved, and given the improvement of my skills since then, I feel confident that my current quilts will last longer and hold up better.


Leeann said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. What a well loved quilt, I hope its loved for a few more years! My first quilt has patches wearing too, they were made from an old dress I cut up, so were much older than the other fabrics. Get your son to take photos with the grandkids and the quilt being loved, to put with your first photo.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Thanks! That's a good idea.