July 10, 2018

The Rescue of an Heirloom Child's Quilt

This was one of those times when repairing a quilt was all about saving family history and sweet memories.

Here's the email message that introduced me to the quilt:
"I discovered my husband's baby blanket. It's survived 4 children. We are retired military and we have little that has not been lost or ruined from our many moves over 21yrs. Besides the blanket I have only 3 pics of my husband's from his childhood. It would mean a lot to him and me if someone of your skill level could help restore this precious gift."

The owners of this quilt sent me some photos before sending the quilt, so I could get a general idea of what would be needed and give them a general idea of the cost.  It was pretty wrinkled up, but I wasn't concerned, since people often don't spend lots of time taking perfect photos.  Mostly I was looking at the torn squares and open seams.

Once the quilt arrived at my house, though....  I discovered that "wrinkled up" was all the poor quilt could do.  The quilt had been filled with a wool blanket rather than batting, and at some point when the quilt had been washed, the blanket had felted up and had shrunk significantly!

You can see the khaki-colored blanket peeking through the really torn squares.  Once I touched my finger to it, I knew exactly what had happened!

So my repair story took a sharp turn down a longer road!  I was going to have to take the quilt apart, mend the squares, and then re-build the quilt with a new batt and probably a new back as well.  Thankfully, the quilt had been tied, so it would be a much easier process than if it had been quilted.  The owners approved this new plan. 

And that's what I did.

First I took out the machine stitching around the edges and clipped open the remaining yarn ties so I could separate the layers.  When the quilt was back to being just a top, I patched lots of little squares and closed seams.  Here is the quilt top during that process, with some of the patches already stitched and some more patches to be appliquéd pinned in place.

To re-fill the quilt, I used a cotton batting that doesn't require super close quilting.  The grandmother had used a white sheet for the back and binding, so I too used an old sheet that I'd purchased at an estate sale.  I tied it with a cream colored yarn, also replicating what she had done.

Here is the finished quilt.

And here is the felted wool blanket piece lying on top of the finished quilt.  You can easily see why the poor little quilt had been so bunched up!   The quilt top measured 40" x  68", and the blanket piece had ended up measuring 29" x  53".

Here is the repair report that includes swatches of the fabrics I used for patching, followed by more of the quilt's story.

"My grandmother made the quilt for my first birthday. I was born in 1967. There is a date on the quilt that reads 1968. My mom told me that her mother used an old wool blanket for the filler since we lived in Michigan. My mom gave me the quilt in 1987 when my son was born. We used the quilt with my son and daughter who was born in 1989. I joined the US Air Force in 1988 and the blanket traveled with us to every base that me and my family moved to. My wife was going through some boxes that we had stored and when she came across the quilt she saw the damaged state it was in and that was when we contacted you to have the repairs made. I am glad that she found your site and made contact with you, the quilt looks great and we are both very happy that you took the time to look the quilt over and make the repairs." 

Of course, being a dated quilt, I feel I need to show the original fabrics with a couple of shots of areas without patches.

It was a real treat to work with both husband and wife on this rescue!


  1. Such a lovely story. I am a quilter and learned a priceless tip from my husband's grandmother. For every quilt she made, and there were so many, she saved left over fabric, usually cut to size, from each project and gifted it with the quilt. This provided repair fabric, particularly with children's quilts, for the recipient. I still do this with contents in a zip lock bag, labeled for their information.

    1. What a great tip indeed! I've repaired a couple of more recent quilts that still had original fabrics on hand to work with, but what a great idea to make that happen on purpose.

  2. Lots of feedsacks I recognize. You do awesome work!

  3. Another wonderful family textile heirloom preserved for future generations! Great job Ann!

    1. Thanks, Martha! Yes, taking care of those pieces with stories and lots of family love is really special, isn't it?