Repairing crazy quilts. Well. These are pretty difficult to work with, in my estimation. Hence the title of this post!
Most often, the problem is what are called "shattered" silks. This is disintegration caused by the dyes and processing that were used on the silks in the late 1800s and into the beginning of the 1900s, basically in the Victorian era. Metal salts were added, both as mordants on the darker dyes, and to add that famous silk rustle, and to make the silks heavier since they often were priced by the pound. (So you see, there have been unscrupulous businessmen around for a long, long time.)
The problem is that there is no way to reverse or stall this damage. Keeping the quilt out of the light and in even temperature and humidity can slow it down, but that is the best deal you're going to get.
Another problem is the lovely embroidery. The fabric under the embroidery can't be replaced unless the fancy stitches are removed and then re-embroidered after the patching.
The more I work on these beautiful, jewel-like quilts, the less and less I choose to do.
Here's one technique that I use. Often the damage takes out either the warp or the weft threads, leaving long, loose, parallel threads. I will couch across those to keep them from dangling off the surface of the quilt. This also protects them a bit from catching on a ring or something when the quilt is being handled. (It's always a good idea to take off your jewelry and roll up button cuffs when handling damaged old quilts.)
Here's a piece of cream fabric ready to be couched down. Choose the least obvious thread color.
Couching begins by laying a long thread perpendicular to the loose weave. In essence, take a super large stitch the width of the area. Bring the needle up alongside the stitch.
Take tiny stitches across the laid thread, working your way back up to the beginning.
Here's the finished effect.
When it comes to actual patching, here's my technique-of-choice. I never remove any embroidery. I patch only up to the edge of the stitching. From a distance, this is still usually a visual improvement, even though some tattered fabric under the embroidery is still visible upon close inspection.
The original look.
I trace the shape onto tracing paper and use that as a pattern to cut the patch fabric. I trace the actual edge of the fabric shape, not considering the embroidery at all.
Here's the patch pinned on.
I carefully, very very carefully, trim the patch to fit within the embroidery, with a narrow turn-under allowance. Lift the edge of the patch and keep a finger on the tip of the scissors underneath the patch at all times, to keep it from catching onto an embroidery thread. And here's the completed patch.
Here's another example.
And now it's time to enjoy the wonderful collection of fabrics in this quilt.
Here's my absolute favorite brocade:
The backing fabric on this quilt is particularly lovely, I think.
There's a tiny little crinkle texture in the lighter colored stripes. The stripes are about 1/4" wide.
Crazy, yes, but still beautiful.
Here's a photo of the quilt after repairs.
And for more on repairing crazy quilts, see this post which details several techniques for repairing different types of damage.