Quilt Repair by Hand

If you have a quilt needing repair, see my page Well Loved Quilt Repair  before emailing me.

This repair has taken me weeks to finish.  Initially, the idea was to load it on the longarm and topstitch the patches needed because there were so many to do.  But when I got it, I realized that the machine repair would make a mess of it as the backing was larger than the top.  This would result in tucks and puckers all over the back, and possibly on the top too.  The quilt was tied instead of quilted, usually a problem in this regard too.  You can see that there are lots of patches completely worn away.  The owner was not concerned with how long it would take or how much it would cost, so I decided with her permission to do this by hand.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

In some cases, the patches were just gone, like these blue ones, while others are barely hanging on, like these pinker ones on the left.  All of these would need to be covered with new ones.  Some of the batting was gone in spots, and bunched up in others.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I put the quilt on my table in the basement so I could leave it out.  First I had to buy some fabric with appropriate colors to blend into the existing quilt colors.  Luckily I did this prior to the lockdown the first week of March.  After the lockdown began, I made a goal of working on it 30 minutes a day, to plod along and get it done.  Some days I met the goal, and some days I just needed to take a break from it.  Many times over the next 8 weeks, I regretted even agreeing to fix this one.  One thing I know, it is the last one this badly damaged that I will ever agree to do in the future.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

So, here is how I did it.  When two patches were next to each other, I sewed the patches together first.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Then, I pinned them in place, turning the edges under, and whip stitched by hand.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

In some spots, four patches were together needing replacement.  On this patch, I had to add a bit of batting as well as that was gone in this section too.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I made a four patch, turning the edges under and pinned in place.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

After hand stitching, the damage was covered.  A few stitches in the ditch in the middle caught the bit of batting to hold it in place.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Some patches had small tears that could be stabilized from underneath, stitched down and treated to preserve the original patches.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Looking at the overall quilt, it is constructed with four-patches, so I tried to keep that consistency in design in the cover patches.  I chose the colors to use by what I was covering up.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Red patches for the left two and predominately white ones for the right two were chosen for this group.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

After stitching, the patches blend nicely with the surrounding colors.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

A few more to do.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Cover and pin then stitch. Repeat.  And repeat.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

On this one, the white on the lower left would be coming apart very soon.  To keep with the four patch design, I went ahead and covered all four.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Stitched in place.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

By using the same red print everywhere red was needed, it made the repair integrate into the whole and be less noticeable.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

More and more to do.  I covered a total of 86 patches with new ones.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Pinning and sewing, a few a day, I kept going until it was finally all done.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I fixed a number of small tears in other patches trying to preserve as many original patches as possible.  There was a tear on the back that needed repair as well.  But, finally, it was all done.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I hope the owner is pleased.  It will be boxed up and shipped back soon.

Quilt Repair at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

And I am done with repairs that need this much hand work!  But I am pleased with the way it turned out.

What are you working on now?

55 thoughts on “Quilt Repair by Hand

  1. I can understand why you would not want to repair another quilt that is so badly damaged. I am sure the owner is more than grateful that you completed this one though.

  2. Donna Weeks

    Although the repair job was tedious, you did a wonderful job of adding fabrics to keep the original look of the quilt. I was once asked to repair a quilt, but when I saw how damaged it was, I told the owner that it was beyond repair. Only 3 blocks were salvageable, with repair, from a queen size Dresden Plate quilt that used original feedsack fabrics. The owner decided to put it back in storage. With this quilt, the memory was greater than the need for repair.
    Have a great week.

  3. Hello Carole,
    Thank you so much for your report on this quilt repair by hand. I have a project similar to this waiting in my sewing room. My mother made each one of my daughters a patchwork quilt for their wedding. Kim’s quilt is a little over 20 years old, and it has been in constant use over the years. One of the fabrics Mom chose for this quilt has failed. I really value this and previous posts on quilt repair techniques. I have wavered back and forth between machine or hand repair for this one. Because it is an heirloom and my mother is no longer with us and Kim values this quilt so much, I’ve decided to do the hand repair. I so appreciate your detailed comments on this repair. I feel so much more confident in the job ahead, Now to find the right fabrics for replacement, then the job will be at hand. I’m going to work on it in evenings while my husband and I relax together watching TV (I sew or scrap during the day!). Thank you in advance for the help on this one!

  4. What an amazing job you did. Love the replacement fabrics you bought for this job, they worked so well and added to the beauty of the original quilt. No wonder you don’t want to take on another job on this scale again. A mammoth task!

  5. Julie

    It’s beautiful. My first quilt (~1974) was made one patch at a time and has lots of losses. The cotton blocks wore out but those polyester blocks will apparently last forever. I made fixes by hand & machine but wasn’t as careful to match squares. I should fix the fixes now that I’ve read your tips.

  6. Bless you for doing such beautiful work. I have done one repair for a friend and it was quite time consuming. And my skills at the time are not what they are today! I think back to that quilt and wonder why he bothered with it, but there in lies the story of every quilt. Someone very special gifted a quilt because they love you. And when the recipient loves the quilt with abandon, well, it is destined to wear out. I hope every quilt I make holds up to the love and use that they will receive. Down the road, may my quilts find skillful hands like yours for repair. Well done my friend. Better to find my quilts being used for blanket forts than tucked away out of sight in a cupboard and forgotton.

  7. Rebecca DuBose

    Thank you for your info on repairing this quilt. I have one that I will do soon and the information is so helpfu.

  8. karenfae

    it looks great – it looks like it had as many repairs needed as one that I did. That one had such faded fabric that I had to bleach or tea dye some pieces to get it to blend in enough. I don’t really care for repair work and if the quilt hadn’t belonged to my sister in law of 40 years I wouldn’t have done it.

  9. Great job on the repairs to this quilt. It must be very precious quilt to the owner. You have made someone very happy!

  10. Melissa Mathews

    What an improvement! You did a fantastic job. That must be an important quilt to the owner and you are returning it in a greatly improved condition. When I return to our little red house in Henderson County, I would like to talk to you about what I think will be a more simple quilt repair. That won’t be until late summer or fall since we hope to resume QOV awards soon and I have 32 on our list. 😳

  11. Linda B

    Wow, Carole…what a job. As I watched your pictures, I wondered if it was at least clean, LOL. Long ago a friend got a quilt at some sale, and cut it up to make pillows out of…I still have this adorable cat pillow she made from the patchwork quilt. I wonder if that would be a suggestion to owners of hopelessly worn quilts…to turn them into something smaller: table toppers, pillows, pot holders, wall hangings, and then these smaller pieces could be distributed among family members? I am talking to myself…I have one very worn quilt that a great grandmother made, and thinking it would be pretty fabulous to cut up into table toppers and given as a wedding gift to nieces and nephews. I am planning to replicate it, but the original quilt is unusable at present…repurposing part of it into something that would only be gently used, have new backing and binding and batting, would that be a travesty? I am finally making progress on an applique project that I began back in like 1994, in a class. I never finished the class, and did not like the last five blocks that were part of the pattern, but had these beautiful blocks I did like. I have put them together into a wall-hanging size and putting borders on now. Already a great relief to have made a decision and completing it finally and have it to put out at Christmas! Have a great week!

  12. Linda Rattie

    Wow…it looks amazing! You must feel so good…now that it is finished. Lots of work…but I imagine the owner will really appreciate it. You should feel Proud of yourself for restoring a little bit of Quilt History.

  13. Sylvia E Anderson

    Good morning Carole, and God bless you for persevering through this tedious, repair and replace project. I could never have tackled such a job, because I would not have the experience needed to do so, and because I suffer from panic disorder, and this would have driven me batty. lol I think Linda B.’s suggestion about using salvageable parts of the quilt to use for smaller projects is a very good one, allowing more family members to receive a remembrance item.

  14. Dasha

    I have done repairs on quilts before, but nowhere near as complex as this one. Kudos to you for attempting it, and for completing the job too. 👏👏

  15. Thank you for this great posting on your process. Your fabric choices were spot on and perfect. Fabulous job on this repair. I know the owner had to have been so thankful and blown away by how gorgeous it is once again!!!

  16. sandy dublynn

    Wow, Carole!
    You did a beautiful job!
    The project came at a good time with the stay at home in place.

  17. June Neigum

    I was just asked to repair a baby quilt for a friend. I don’t have it yet and not sure what I’m getting myself into but can I ask for advice if needed?

  18. Wow Carole, what a chore this repair was. It might have been easier to harvest a few good patches for sentimental reasons, and just remake the quilt. I do think the results are amazing.

  19. Niki Winchell

    Great job, the finished quilt looks great. I hope the owner will be thrilled.

    I have finished a To the Nines quilt top for QOV. I need to make the sandwich and quilt it now. I don’t have a long arm. I haven’t decided what will look best on this quilt. I have a template with stars that I was going to try, but I need more practice with that technique to get my stitches even. With the leftover fabric from the quilt, I cut 6 placemats and a table runner. Those will keep me busy while I practice more with the template or decide on something else. Any suggestions for walking foot or free motion quilting with this pattern?

    Looking forward to Friday’s next step in the Scrap Dance quilt.


  20. I truly admire your attention to detail and the patience you kept with this project. You really did an outstanding job fixing it. Here is my quandary – One of the first quilts I made was a log cabin. It was in constant use for about 15 years. The fabrics were from the 1970’s and have really worn badly. I am attached to it and started the process of taking it apart with the thought of fixing it much the way you did this one. But since I would only be replacing about 20% of the strips it means a large portion of it will still have that older fabric. I feel like it wouldn’t be a ‘useful’ quilt. If freely used, it will just wear again (with the older fabrics), right? So, is it worth fixing? I like quilts to be used. This one has been sitting in my closet for over 20 years as I wonder if it is worth the time needed to fix it. I am curious to hear your thoughts?

  21. Donna

    Carole, you are an angel and did a great job with not much to work with!!! Was this another one with a lot of sentimental value? It didn’t look like a great quilt to begin with. I saw corduroy fabric in there and it was just zig zagged! I can see why you only worked on it for 30 minutes a day! Bless your big heart for taking this on!

  22. Joanne

    Repairing holes is always a pain whether in a pair of jeans, a wall or a quilt. Your patches blended nicely with the original. Did you try to sew through the backing when you appliqued the new patches in place?
    This quilt obviously meant a great deal to the owner. You have made it usable for many more years. Very nice job.

  23. Joan Sheppard

    (In big bold letters) YOU ARE MY HERO! These quilts are treasures to people, they bring a wave of emotion everytime they see it, smell it, memories of good times and bad and you recognise and support the owners feelings and for that alone you should be applauded. Then to doggedly (how often do I get to use that word) you fixed and mended and rebuilt those memories. Thank you for being that person.

  24. Shirley Marvin

    When I do quilt repairs on older quilts, which show lots of use – I shop at the thrift stores to get needed faded materials. that way they are used similar to what is on the quilt and blend in so well.
    You did a lovely job and patience is what is called for to do this type of work.

  25. You must have the patience of a saint! You did very well and I hope your client is happy, as she should be. BTW, I love your garden and wildlife pics. You sure do live amongst beauty!

  26. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole, You are an expert at repairing quilts! This one turned out so beautifully and will be treasured for so many more years to come, due to the special hand work that you did. It is always inspiring to see the pictures as step by step the worn quilt is repaired. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful process with us! Have a great day!

  27. Well done Carole, your patience and persistence has paid off the quilt looks amazing. So much work and all by hand. That quilt will be treasured for many more years to come.

  28. stephzw

    You did a wonderful job on the quilt. I’m sure the owner will be pleased with the results. I’m putting together the blocks from the stash busters challenge. This is the 2nd one I’ve done, using a different pattern, and all scraps. I like it very much. One for family one for charity.

  29. Sharon Vrooman

    I always enjoy your share of vintage quilt repair – I pick up a lot of good tips to add to the box. This would be a project that I would not have tackled – mainly with all the ‘new’ fabric, it just isn’t original any more which sort of defeats the idea of saving an heirloom.

  30. Mary

    You did a super job repairing this well used old quilt. Somebody must have loved it a lot.
    The fabrics used to make these quilts weren’t of the quality that we are lucky enough to have these days so they did wear quite badly.
    Kudos to you for tackling this one. I like seeing how you go about it. :))

  31. thatfabricfeelingcom

    Carole, you work miracles!! Another quilt that looks good as new! Well done and hope you are well.

  32. You did such a fabulous job on this Carole! The fabrics you used matched so well! That is a huge amount of patches to replace, ugh! My current project is using up my HST from the past 12-18 months. I have a table topper ready to sandwich, and am going to get 5 new potholders. I have another 20 or so in another size, but I’ll hold off on them for a bit. I am looking forward to sandwiching and quilting these!

  33. Phyllis Smith

    Hi Carole,Well, all I can say is an old southern saying.

    Bless your pea picken cotton heart! That was a hard repair and I’m with you on wishing you hadn’t taken that task on. I have had a few of those projects come to me and one I just had to tell my friend I wasn’t going to be able to fix the problem. I have been friends with her for over 40 years and it’s best to be honest and tell them I just couldn’t fix the repair for them, it’s just not that easy to repair some things.


  34. Hey Carole…I hear you! I have been hand repairing a trip around the world quilt for over a year! At first, I offered to make a new quilt using repro fabrics like the ones in the quilt, explaining it would be a lot cheaper and longer lasting. Oh no! Grandma made the quilt and I want it fixed. Every square I replace, I find two more. By the time I am done, it will be nearly all new fabric! I’m with you..no more ‘totaled’ quilt repairs for me!

  35. Melanie

    Wow, terrific job, Carole. The owner will be thrilled. Being in shelter gave you plenty of time to tackle such a big job! I’m currently working on a lap quilt for my brother for when he’s in his wheelchair. Something easy, very washable, and back with a race car theme since he is a Nascar fan. Hope it makes him smile.

  36. Marsha

    You did a great job and I know it took a lot of time – hopefully it is loved and appreciated.

  37. Kim Sharman

    Gosh what a fabulous job you have done in repairing this quilt. I love that you hand stitched so much love into each of these sweet squares. Your repair work is beyond compare. How lovely this quilt now looks with the addition of the new fabrics. I can well understand why you might not be looking to repairing another quilt in the not-too-distant future.

  38. Well deserved credit on saving a quilt in great need of TLC! You did a great job on it and most importantly sharing how you saved it which will be beneficial to others.

  39. Karrin Hurd

    Amazing work, and what tremendous patience you had to do this. I once repaired an old crazy quilt. I loved working on that one.

  40. Such a lot of patience needed to tackle such a big repair job. No wonder you have had enough! I do hope the owner appreciates all the time that you spent on this job. But then, non sewers rarely do, it seems.

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