Last summer, I worked on restoring a vintage quilt top for my friend, Imogene.
This quilt was made by Imogene’s great-aunt, Emma Salyer (Mrs. James Salyer), when she was young, and Aunt Emma gave it to Imogene as an unquilted top. Imogene says she’s reasonably sure the quilt is at least 100 years old!
Over the years, the white fabric with the black polka dots on it had gone bad. All the black polka dots disintegrated, leaving white fabric with little holes where the polka dots had been!
Imogene wanted to get the quilt finished, but it couldn’t be finished with the bad fabric in it, so she asked me if I would repair it first, then quilt and finish it.
The first hurdle was finding fabric to match!
I couldn’t find any fabric that matched that particular shade of aging, but I did find a white fabric with black polka dots of the same size and spacing, so I bought that, and my sister helped me tea-dye it to get the right aged color. You can see the new fabric on the left in the photo below.
Then on to the repairs . . .
In some places, entire blocks were made with this fabric as the background. In other places, only the center square was the bad fabric. I did those first, simply removing those squares from the quilt top, using the removed squares as a template and cutting new pieces the same size, and hand piecing them back in place.
This block pattern is called Nonesuch. (There’s another similar version called Indian Hatchets that reader Debbie alerted me to, but it doesn’t have the plain center square like this block.)
For the blocks, I first removed each block from the quilt, then disassembled the block, pinning it to a piece of freezer paper to keep all the pieces in order.
Then one at a time, I replaced each bad piece. I picked out the bad piece, used it as a template to cut a new piece, then hand stitched the new piece back in place. When I had all the units for a block done, I put the block back together, then hand stitched the entire block back into the quilt.
This part took me quite awhile, I won’t lie. If I did nothing else, one block would take me an entire day of stitching, maybe more. (The color is off in this block, since I took this photo at night. The replacement fabric is not that tan.)
But I eventually got them all done, and the top was all repaired.
Next up was to quilt it. I chose a plain unbleached muslin wide backing, and a natural-colored Quilter’s Dream cotton batting (Select loft).
I wanted the quilting to fit the era of the quilt, but also needed to keep it simple to keep Imogene’s costs down. So I chose a Baptist Fan pantograph.
At this point, I found out that there’s something to be said for computerized quilting, because let me tell you how difficult it was to drive this pantograph out by hand! Whew! So many bobbles and off-tracks! But from the back of a galloping horse, taken as a whole, it’s not too bad, and the busy-ness of the front hides all those mistakes.
I had, in my vintage fabric stash, a piece of fabric that worked perfectly for the binding, so I used that to bind it with, and now Imogene has a finished quilt!
One of my favorite things to do is rescue an old quilt top, so I really had fun working on this quilt, and I’m so happy that it’s now a finished item and no longer just a quilt top laying hidden in a drawer.