July 25, 2016

100-Year-Old Christening Gown


This christening gown is a family heirloom with a full pedigree.  The left photo is the front, right photo is the back, third photo is the matching slip.  Here's what the current caretaker knows about the gown:

"The 100 year old christening gown and slip belonged to my mother-in-law who was born in January, 1917.  It was handmade by her maternal grandmother and has stayed in the family.  My mother-in-law grew up on the north side of Chicago, married, and had nine children.  Now the fourth generation is thrilled to have their babies wear it for christenings.  Depending if it's a boy or a girl, a pink or blue ribbon is woven through the sleeve cuffs on each christening day.

"The generational countdown that used the gown is:
Mother-in-law 1
Her children 9
Grandchildren 17
Great grandchildren 10

"So 37 babies have been christened in this gown with 3 more on the way!"

What a wonderful story!

Both pieces have inset lace.  I really like the curved lace on the front of the gown.  The gown also has embroidered leaves and flowers, and a scalloped hem.

Both pieces have finely finished French seams.

Both have tiny shell buttons.

The gown has tiny faggoted trim on the shoulder and sleeve seams and the eyelets on the sleeve cuffs.

To repair the torn lace, I started by removing some older repair stitching.  I often like to keep old repairs because I think they add to the history of the item, especially one like this with family tradition.  But in this case, I felt that the lace would be better protected by adding a supporting fabric, and to do that, I needed to see where it was actually torn.

I backed the lace with crepeline silk.  I pinned a piece of silk (cut extra large for ease of handling) to the inside of the gown and attached it to the seam at the edge of the lace with a small running stitch.

I used a small herringbone stitch to attach the thicker (and therefore hopefully stronger) parts of the lace design to the crepeline.

Then I finished the edge of the crepeline with my favorite, the rolled hem.  I still get such a charge out of pulling the thread and watching the fabric magically roll up!

I followed the same steps to mend the tear at the front neckline of the gown, except that I used a cotton batiste instead of crepeline.

The patch does show, especially when photographed against the black background I've used for these pictures, but the gown will be worn over the slip and then the patch will not be nearly so visible.

I also put little batiste patches behind a few of the buttons where the fabric had torn.

I really enjoyed having the gown here for a while and being part of such a deep history.  I hope the gown and its slip will now be ready for quite a few new additions to the family!

July 19, 2016

LeMoyne Star Plus 9-Patch Equals a Great Quilt

This quilt is signed and dated, one of my favorite kinds of quilts.  It was made in 2002 in Intercourse, PA, by Esther Martin.  Sign and date all your quilts, folks!  Quilt lovers of the future will thank you!

Repairing fairly recent quilts like this one is very different from repairing quilts of the 1800s or the early 20th century.  It's so easy to find patching fabrics!  All I have to do is go into my sewing room and look at the piles of fabrics I've bought over the years for my own quiltmaking.

See how easy this was!  In these next two photos, the original, torn piece is on the right.  My patching fabric is on the left.  (The new solid matches the original unfaded color that appears elsewhere in the quilt.)


I really do like these colors!

Here are before, during, and after photos of one of the areas I repaired.

And another area with quite a few patches.  Challenge for the day:  See if you can find the patches!

I'll finish this post the way the quilter finished her quilt, with her very appropriate scrap binding.

July 16, 2016

Shopping Spree

I'm sure many of you know how easily this happens....

I was sitting down to repair this lovely Victorian silk and velvet log cabin quilt. 

And lo and behold, I discovered that I somehow had let my supply of black thread run completely dry.  And then somehow, my thread order ended up with just "a few" more spools than just the black.  The pages and pages of yummy colors were just more than I could resist!

This, by the way, is 100% cotton size 60 thread.  It's what I use for repairing quilts, especially ones like this log cabin with very fragile fabric.  Regular sewing thread is larger, size 50.

Close-up photos of the fabrics in the quilt and of the conservation work I did on the fragile old silks are in the previous post.

July 13, 2016

Lovely Victorian Log Cabin


This quilt exemplifies why people are drawn to the silk and velvet quilts of the Victorian era, don't you think?  Rich glowing colors and shiny fabrics.  It's all about the fabrics!

The counterpoint of the black vs. color makes the strong visual impact that quilt collectors love to see.

The logs are mostly silks.  They are about 1/2" wide, though you can see that it's not precision piecing - they do wobble a bit.  This makes me happy.  It says to me that a quilter doesn't need to lose the fun of fabric and color by stressing over precision (unless precision makes her happy) and can still make a stunning quilt.

The center squares are black and brown velvets.  The velvets of this era were made of silk.  As far as I'm concerned, silk velvet is the softest fabric ever made.  It also takes the dyes beautifully, and has some of the deepest, richest colors you'll see on a quilt.  

Polka dots, woven textures, and shots of still-bright orange and rose.  There is a wide variety of texture and tone in the black sections.  Even with all the aging, the fabrics still make this quilt a beauty.  Lovely!

The borders have mostly velvets.

The silks in this quilt are definitely showing their age, a lot of shredding.  Some of the velvets have lost quite a bit of their pile.  My work on this quilt was to neaten up logs with dangling or raveling silks.  I decided to use a herringbone stitch to span the damaged logs and sort of encase what's left of the fabric.

The stitches go down into the seam allowances, so hopefully are not putting undue stress on the neighboring fabrics.  I use at least size 9 quilting needles and Mettler 100% cotton size 60 machine embroidery threads.  This is not going to keep the silk from further disintegration unfortunately, but it does neaten up the appearance for now.

 This is a close-up look at the herringbone stitches.

July 6, 2016

An Amazing Day at an Auction ~ Quilt Rescue!

 Beautiful Windmills, 1930s;  lovely, fine quilting.  
Tried hard to win, but lost to the antique dealer.

What follows is a guest post by one of my readers.  I think of it as a cautionary tale about what wonders can be lost without a bit of research into the proper care of antiques.  She had the good luck and good sense to help rescue an amazing and amazingly mistreated quilt collection.  I am grateful to her for the time she has taken to share her story here.  (The photos were taken when the quilts were on display, before the "disaster".)

After reading this sad tale, I hope you'll join me in thanking her for giving it the happiest ending possible.


You just never know what you’ll find at an auction, and on a beautiful, warm Saturday morning 2 weeks ago, I was driving through the rural countryside en route to my latest discovery—an auction of 38 quilts from a local medical center.  As a quilter and a lover of history, I was on a mission to simply study the old quilts and to see what they would go for. So, with clipboard in hand, it was off to the auction.

What I found when I arrived there made me want to cry—all of the quilts had been improperly hung in heavy, archival metal frames, their tops completely exposed, and the auctioneers had layered them against one another along the walls of the room!

My Friend's "new" Amish Broken Star, Modern

The quilts dated from the late 1800s to probably the 1980s, all mixed in with framed artwork. It was impossible to get a good look at them all in that small room.

1930s Cactus on Steps.
A Stearns & Foster Pattern

While milling about, I was shocked to hear one of the auctioneers admit that the medical center was originally going to ship them to the dump! To make matters worse, several of the quilts had been ripped in transport to the auction location. These old beauties had certainly suffered from abuse! But I didn’t know the half of it, yet…

 1880 Pine Tree, damaged in transport.  
Sold for $15.

Judging by the questions and comments I received as I studied the quilts, it was obvious that few were willing to deal with the quilts in those frames.

 1940s Periwinkle Stars.  
Claimed by a friend of the quilt maker's family.

So, a day of study turned into a rescue mission. I hurried over to the table and asked if the auctioneers had a screwdriver and could assist me in getting the larger ones out of the frames. To their credit, they said they would help me after the auction.

 My "new" Lone Star (Amish?).  
1930s, quilted in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

I called my husband for help, and then a quilting friend, and her husband was able to come to the auction later that morning. Between the three of us, we managed to rescue several of them. About mid-way through the auction, an antique dealer showed up and the bidding began to soar out of my meager range; still, our two households did a fair share of winning.

My biggest regret was losing the wonderful Amish wool economy block quilt to the dealer.

 Canadian Amish Wool Economy Block.  
Very nice condition (at least in the frame.)  
Won by the antique dealer.

Once the auction ended, it was a scramble to get the quilts out into an open area of the parking lot to remove the frames. And oh, the shock! They were not only improperly framed, but most of my quilts had bindings or borders directly stapled every few inches to the wood form of their frames.

 Pinwheels in Circles, 1930s.

It took the three of us all afternoon to free them. It was difficult to remove them without damaging them even further. Sadly, my “new” Kentucky Baskets will have to be cut down about an inch or two and rebound.

My "new" Kentucky Baskets, on point, 6" blocks. 
Very fine quilting. 
Amazing win at $37, but damaged by staples. Will have to be rebound.

But the saddest story of all was the beautiful bed-size Tree of Life applique quilt. The family of the grandmother who made it showed up at the auction. Again, to their credit, the auctioneers gave them the family quilt, and everyone applauded!

However, when they managed to get the quilt outside, they found that the back of the quilt had a long rip up the center, and that one of the front corner appliques had been badly damaged.

 Beautiful Tree of Life.  
Fine quilting, but damaged in transport.

On the lighter side, my husband and I made a very surprising discovery after the frames were removed. On the back of 2 of my quilts was a blue and white sticker which read, “Shelly Zegart, Antique Quilts, Louisville, KY”, along with a serial number.

 1930s Fans quilt in solids. Fine quilting.  
Another one that went home with the dealer.

I called my quilting friend who had won one of the 1930s star quilts, and she had also found a tag with Zegart's name on her quilt!  And, I suspect that the dealer's quilts also have a Shelly Zegart sticker.

 My friend's "new" Touching Lemoyne Stars quilt, 1930s

You just never know what you’ll find at an auction!

My "new" Carpenter's Wheel, 1930s.  
Fine quilting. 
One of the few they didn't staple directly to the frame.