July 12, 2023

Caring for Family Mementos

Here comes some thinking and wondering that I've been doing lately.

Over the last few years, people have been asking me to repair soooo many really seriously damaged quilts from the 1960s-70s and onwards.  For the most part, these are family heirlooms, made by beloved grandmas and great-grandmas.  

I'm thinking that what I'm seeing are the quilts that have been used and loved and "used up" in the old-fashioned terminology. 

Many are not fancy in pattern or workwomanship.  Part of this is that in the 1950s-70s era, the making of super intricate quilts kind of drifted off.  I've heard that put to the country's excitement about all sorts of new technological advances, and the exciting prospect of moving into a modern world and leaving the past behind.  Another culprit is the advent of polyester batting which doesn't need nearly as much quilting.  

I've also thought about fabric quality, which I think has been on a decline for several decades.  I think it was in the 1990s or so when people started complaining about being able to see seam allowances through white and pale fabrics, which hadn't been the case before that.  A friend of mine who's been quilting for ages, brought one of the quilts she made in the mid-70s to a show and tell in about 2018.  She told us how she has used it lightly, stored it properly, and all that, and yet the fabrics are just pulling apart along the quilting lines...while sitting quietly in storage.  And this was name brand fabric, not a thinner, discount store knock-off. 

It's lovely to have people wanting to have the everyday kind of quilt to be saved.  Quilt historians of today certainly would love to have more of those from previous centuries (not just the "best" quilts, in other words) - but the time to save them is before they are really damaged. 

These fabrics get thin before they tear.  That means that one more wash can end up making massive damage, all at once. 

The cautionary tale here is that the time to start caring for family quilts is before you see the damage, not after.  Fabrics are not as sturdy as furniture or paintings or china.  Clothes that are worn and washed don't last past a handful or two of years.  And quilts are made of the same kinds of fabrics as our clothing.  Heirloom clothes like wedding dresses get special treatment, so should heirloom quilts.

I like to say that I can repair just about any quilt, given enough time and money.  And I have repaired things that have come to me looking like a pile of rags.  I'm happy to do so, because I value the family memories, too.  But the other side of that coin is that the more work I do, the less it is the quilt that the ancestor made and the more it has a lot of me in it, too.

I have developed a way to support very tattered quilts.  This neatens up the appearance and makes it safer to handle the quilt, but doesn’t actually repair the damage.  This can still cost several hundreds of dollars.  Some folks opt to have me do this to maintain the heirloom, and then also find someone to make a replica that can join the family and be displayed or used.  This is basically having the best of both worlds.

Certainly, loving use is often what quilts were made for initially.  But once the thought of saving one as an heirloom crosses your mind, that's the time to think about conservation, proper storage, and removal from use.

It's a personal choice of course, but I believe it should be a conscious choice between use and passing to the next generations.  Sometimes, it's really not feasible to do both.

What's your opinion?

June 20, 2023

A Bit of Whimsy


This quilt is basically a utility comforter.  It's made of large scraps and tied with yarn.  The ties are done with many colors that march in lines across the quilt rather than being a scattered mix.  I think this makes the quilt quite fun!

Plus, it's had a mishap that I think actually makes it kind of wonderful.

May 24, 2023

Rayon String Quilt

This small quilt that came to me for repair is a family heirloom with a touching story.  

Here's the story as told by the owner:
Thanks so much for restoring this quilt.  It was made for my grandfather around 1962-63 after he suffered three consecutive heart attacks.  Two women who worked in his accounting practice made the quilt, so it is precious to me.

What made the repair fun for me were the fabrics.

The fabric with the most disintegration was probably silk, given the nature of the damage.  But the rest are probably rayons.  (I didn't do any fiber testing because there weren't any really loose threads to remove and test.)  The feel of the quilt is wonderfully soft and light, a real pleasure to handle while sewing.

May 15, 2023

A Wedding in Italy

A flash of inspiration birthed this quilt.  It celebrates the wedding of two of my daughter's super super good friends.  

They married last fall with a destination wedding in Italy, a gorgeous setting.  This quilt is my rendition of a photo taken on The Day.  

May 8, 2023

Taking Care of a Crazy Quilt....by not Restoring It


The owner sent me these photos of her gorgeous crazy quilt for an initial assessment.  She and I decided not to do any repairs at this time.  However, it's such a beautiful quilt that I wanted to share it, and I am grateful that she has allowed me to share her photos.

It was made for my great great grandfather John Davis Cassada when he was born by his mother Lucy and his aunts.  Many were single or widowed from the Civil War.  All the initials are attributable to family members.  They were very thrilled to have a male in the family and used many 'fancy' scraps of silk and velvet. 

 John Davis Cassada was born in 1874.  His mother's name was spelled Lucie and Lucy alternatively.   John was born in South Boston, Virginia.  His family moved and he married and settled in Halifax then Raleigh area North Carolina. 

The reason I didn't have her send the quilt to me for repair is that the damage, shattering silk, is minimal for a silk quilt of this era.  Shattering is the damage caused by metal salts that were sometimes added during the manufacturing of silks during the Victorian era.

May 1, 2023

A Stylish Quilt made by an Amazing Grandmother


I am fascinated by this quilt.  It was brought to me for minor repairs by the granddaughter of the quiltmaker.  (Thanks to her for the photo above.)  Not only are the design and fabrics really interesting, but the stories about the woman who chose them are great, too.

First, the design.  I don't remember ever seeing a quilt like this, with it's plain, all-white center panel with a frame and the deep appliquéd drop around the sides of the bed.  Have any of you seen such a quilt?  

My mind wants to place it in the 1960s and as a pattern found in a women's magazine of that era.

The fabric choices are wonderful.  No tiny calico prints for this lady.  The prints are larger and bold.  The flowers are more than 6" across, stylized and unusual. 

March 23, 2023

New Video: "Welcome to my Studio"


Hi, everyone!  I'm announcing a new video on my YouTube channel.  It's a bit of a tour of my quilting studio and fabric stash.

You'll see fabrics, new art quilts, and loads of doo-dads.  

Click here to access the video.

Please come visit!  

(You can also find my channel and see the whole video collection, and my interview on the Just Wanna Quilt podcast, by searching in YouTube for my name - Ann Wasserman.)