Severely Damaged Quilt Repair

One of the services I offer is quilt repair of what I call well loved quilts.  This quilt was by far the most damaged I have ever been asked to repair.  The lady that brought it said that she had given it to her daughter and son-in-law for a wedding gift.  Once I had it for a while and was able to closely work with it, I became convinced that the only way this kind of damage occurs in just 7 years was from many, many washings with a washing machine and drying in a dryer.  The binding was almost destroyed, with the top layer completely coming apart all the way around the quilt, and the muslin backing was wearing thin.  The tearing along one end is likely due to pulling on that end over and over, eventually tearing the weakened fabrics on the top and backing, and  shredding the batting layer all across one end.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

This pulling on top of the weakened fabric from over-washing likely with harsher detergents resulted in severe damage.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

All on one end, the tears were terrible and went through all the layers.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

The binding was disintegrating, with the top fabric layer shredded, and only the bottom layer still holding on.  This isn’t rick-rack edging like I thought at first glance.  It is the top layer of binding which has drawn up from repeated washings after it split.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

The muslin on the backside was showing signs of stress along the other edges of the quilt, with small tears around the hand quilted hearts.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

The only thing to do here is to back the most damaged sections with new muslin, and attempt to stabilize the top on the new fabric.  The problem is that the quilt was hand pieced and hand quilted, so she didn’t want to back the whole quilt.  The owner had paid a quilter in Franklin to do this work, likely costing hundreds of dollars. I purchased new muslin, and washed it to soften it, pinning the selvedge ends as I showed in A Brilliant Tip.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

I ironed the shredded parts of the quilt top, trying to smooth out the fabric and preserve as much of the original as possible.  The backside at the top was a total loss, with most of the backing simply gone.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

Ironing from the top side, I could get the edges of the rips to at least close together.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

What started out looking like this…

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

I pressed to this.  Even with my best effort, it was obvious that some of the fabric was just gone on the top side too.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

I loaded the washed muslin on the longarm, and floated the quilt on top, smoothing it out as best I could, trying to get the edges as close together as possible.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

Tulle was place over the top, but immediately I could see this wouldn’t be enough.  The damage was just too severe, and tulle isn’t strong enough to hold the edges of the torn areas together.  So I cut some small patches of muslin to place over the top of the most heavily damaged sections. I added tulle over that to cover the muslin edges and the patches that were missing on the green rings, and stitched down the edges.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

Using the longarm, I stitched some hearts through the tulle and muslin patches, attaching the damaged section securely to the new muslin backing.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

I added more hearts to mimic the hand quilting.  The template I have was a bit too large, so I did these by freehand.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

These are also freehand over the tulle in one of the larger patches.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

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Then the time consuming work began.  Removing the quilt from the frame, the muslin needed to be trimmed to just enough to turn under on the backside.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

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Then the long edge had to be whipped into place. The new muslin backing only covered the top 1/4 of the quilt. The owner wanted as much of the original to be kept as possible, and she didn’t want to re-quilt the entire quilt.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

The new muslin backing is turned under on the backside and pinned to hand stitch down.

Severly Damaged Quilt Repair at From My Carolina Home

The hand work took almost 6 hours.  See part 2 – Severely Damaged Quilt Part 2.

What do you think so far?

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40 thoughts on “Severely Damaged Quilt Repair

  1. Pat

    Your work looks great so far. Do you think the fabric used was dry rot/defective from the start? I wonder why this quilt was so abused. The owner should have let you cut out a section of the “good part” and bind it for a wall hanging. Looking forward to seeing the end result of your labors!

  2. Seven years? It’s mind-boggling to see that kind of damage in such a short time. My son and DIL had their wedding quilt on their bed and slept under it every night for nearly 17 years and though some of the fabrics had faded and the binding is getting very thin and could use replacing it is otherwise in great condition. I did make them a new quilt for Christmas though, so the wedding quilt could have a rest!

  3. It’s hard to say if it was “well loved” or “well hated”! Oh my. I have well loved quilts that are 60 years old that look better than that! You definitely had a difficult task. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts and information on restoring quilts.

  4. debdevo

    I think you are a saint…and you make me think that I might be able to repair my bed quilt…instead of cutting it up for beds at the animal shelter…we’ll see!

  5. lv2bquilting2

    Carole, you must have the patience of a saint! If I did long arm quilting, which I don’t, I think I may have run screaming from the room lol Seriously, I am the type of person, who would not have the patience and fortitude this type of repair work requires, but thankfully, there are people like in the world, like you, who will tackle such a project.

  6. I think you have the patience of Job! And the customer is making the task even harder for you with the arbitrary constraints. You are right of course that a whole new backing was the only way to really re-stabilize the whole thing. Wow that’s a well loved quilt!

  7. 😳 I wonder why they didn’t do something about 3 years ago! You are working a miracle with this quilt. I am still shocked at the damage in such a short time. I have a very cheap, poorly made wedding quilt, and after almost 30 years it has some damage, but nothing even close to this!

  8. Demmi Murphy

    I have a quilt that was my great grandmothers and needs some serious repair. Can you help me? What does something like the repair you showed cost?

  9. shirley

    What a frightful quilt! I would have guessed it to be 107 years old. Can’t wait to see the miracle you have performed in the finished quilt.

  10. Sharon Schipper

    Wow. How brave you are to take this on with her restrictions. I think I would have suggested removing the damaged section and binding back to the undamaged rings! Of course doing some simple quilting on your machine would strengthen it back up. I wash my gift quilts in gentle detergent and on short cycle before I gift them, and use a color catcher, and I tell the folks that. I’m going to add not washing every week and use Dreft or something similar, and hanging to dry! Maybe we all need to add those instructions on a label somewhere on our gifts.

    I’m in agreement about old quilts that we find that have less damage than that. I’m trying to remember the history of old quilts that had an extra “flap” sewn at the top to protect them from the damage of men’s rough beards? or was it a separate piece all together? Is that why top sheets are long enough to turn down over the blanket, to protect the blanket from friction? One would hope they’ve figured out to only use it as a top cover and remove it at night, or fold it down if they want it to last, still getting the use of it, but not as the only top cover, which is why they tug on it. Thanks so much for showing how-to’s, Carole.

    1. Never hang a wet quilt!! The weight of a wet quilt is substantial, and can break threads, tear fabric, and pull batting apart. Wash gently in a tub lined with a sheet so you have a sling to lift it with. Use cold water and a gentle detergent like Orvis. Press out the water without wringing as best you can, and lay it flat to dry. It will take days to dry, but just leave it alone.

  11. Donna

    What a mess!!! It is hard to believe this quilt is only 7 years old! The couple obviously didn’t know or care how much work went into their wedding quilt! You are a saint for fixing it and I hope you are being well compensated for it!

  12. Amazing rescues so far! Aggressive quilt washer should be basted and quilted! IMHO, only baby quilts and picnic quilts should be washed more often than very rarely.

    Does your customer have any of the binding fabric left? I have baggies of pieces saved from the last hand-pieced quilt I made of small diamonds. I do also give washing instructions when I give, donate or sell a quilt.

  13. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole; You have taken on a big task, yet, I think you have it all under control and know exactly what you are doing. You are one amazing quilt repair quilter!! I applaud you for taking on the project and for finding the solutions that work to save it. I look forward to seeing more on the repair process. I hope that you have a great day!

  14. Rosemaryflower

    Nurses…
    I really wanted to be a surgeon. You have shown that you have very good surgical skills, Carole.
    I have repaired many things my mom made, crewel pillows that got loved too much. I made them into wall hangings. One needed extensive repair like this quilt. This quilt is a treasure, I am so pleased with your result

  15. Tami Von Zalez

    The quilt has to be older than 7 years, more likely 70 years with the fabric is such a state of disrepair and disintegration. Kudos to you for attempting a re-livening and repair. I repaired a small baby quilt only because it was my daughter’s and she was attached to it.

  16. Melanie

    I think you are an angel. What a shame that this beautiful wedding gift received the kind of abuse in 7 years….non-quilters really don’t know what goes into a treasure like this double wedding ring quilt. I think you are doing an amazing job. Makes me treasure my 80 year old DWR quilt even more, and it only needs a new binding which I will get to one of these days. :o)

  17. I too repair quilts and appreciate when others show their repairs. Am interested in seeing closeups of a section of the good part of the quilt too. Great job!

  18. nancyangerer

    I am afraid I would have said that that quilt was a total loss. It is sad that it had such hard wear in only 7 years. I have one very old quilt that is severely worn but I think I will make it into a teddy bear or something. Some would say that that is terrible to do to a quilt but I only have one bed that is double sized, and I have several old quilts that size. The other two beds we have are queen size, and our three children have queen size beds. I do want to replace worn binding on a couple of old quilts.

  19. auntiepatch69

    How can some people treat their quilts so badly? Thank goodness for people like you who can repair them. Great job!

  20. manasotavacation

    Wow….just short of a miracle. I doubt many folks would even ATTEMPT to repair that! If I were the quiltmaker I would be so furious that the special quilt was abused, I would not attempt to get it repaired. You have the patience of job and the skills of a neurosurgeon!!!!

  21. susan4cats

    Seeing all that damage just makes me want to cry. I can imagine the pain the woman who made it felt. You work miracles & mend hearts!

  22. Pingback: Just Some Random Thots | QuiltMouse

  23. Irena Mangone

    Carole You are a quilting magician How sad that. A quilt was so harshly Treated. Just a question several comments mention sewing new bindings. Do you use new fabric for this. As i understand that sewing new. Fabric onto old is not a Good idea. So how does one go about it

  24. Wow…what a job to do this repair. I am interested in seeing how you went about the repairs, step by step. Thanks for sharing the great photos. I can’t even see the tulle. You have more patience than I do. Perhaps sending it back with “Quilt Care instructions” to the owner would be advisable. I do wash my quilts as soon as they are done, because I like the “wrinkle-crinkle” look. I don’t wash them very often after that though. Most information I have on Quilt Care recommends airing the quilt. Mine get aired on the banister rail all day once a week when we change the sheets, and periodically tossed in the dryer on air setting cycle for 20-30 mins to remove any dust particles. I can’t imagine what looks like a double wedding ring quilt being treated this way. 😦

I am taking a blogging break, and will not be able to answer your comments during this time, but be assured when I get back I will read every one! All comments left during this time will be moderated. Thank you for reading my blog!

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