August 20, 2012

Red, White, and Symbolic

This one-of-a-kind quilt recently came to me for repairs.  The center four blocks need no explanation.  The rest of the quilt is comprised of Grecian Square blocks, and sashing with red squares at the intersections.  I estimate that it was made in the early 1900s, quite likely 90 years old, maybe nearing 100.

The main problem was a lot of wear along the edges, especially the red rectangles, as well as some of the white fabric and the floral print backing.

It took quite a bit of time to find a good red, since the original fabric was quite faded out.  Remember the great red fabric I crowed about (pun intended) on the Peter Pan quilt I repaired last winter?  It was way too bright for these faded patches, though it was likely quite similar to the original look of the fabric.  I cut a piece and hung it in my sunny living room window for over a month.  It never did fade enough.  I ended up using a dull red fabric, in its original purchased color.  Sometimes it's hard to realize just how much old fabrics have faded.

The "Peter Pan red" is on the left.  The window-faded version is on the right.  The fabric I eventually used is above these, in between the two sashing squares.  You can see two completed patches down below, the ones with safety pins in them.  Two original rectangles are just above the patched ones.

The quilt had faded very unevenly.  Sometimes the patch fabric blended in quite well, as in the photo above.  And sometimes there was quite a bit of difference between a new patch and the original rectangle next to it, as in the photo below.  The owner and I decided that it would look better in the long run to use the same red throughout, rather than try to match each rectangle individually.  

Matching the white border and sashing fabric also provided a lesson in how fabric ages.  Below, you can see a true white in the center, a cream on the left, and on the right, the beige that I eventually used to more or less replicate the old "white".

Another spot that needed help was the Bible.  The pages were made with a brown silk that was no longer intact.  I patched it with another brown silk.

Here's a quick step-by-step of the patching process.  First, the torn original fabric:

Next, the new fabric, pinned in place, with one edge turned under, ready to appliqué.

And finally, the completed patch.  No, I don't iron the patches before I sew them on (unless they are deeply creased).  I think using them with a bit of crumple helps them blend into the original surface, which is generally somewhat soft and crumpled as well.

The back of the quilt is a lovely floral.  Here, you can see what fun the quiltmaker had with it.  She used the print to guide the placement of her ties, and alternated the color as she went.

I used the same beige fabric to patch the backing edges.  I made that decision because it would have been impossible to duplicate the print, and I felt that a similar though different print would create a lot of dissonance.  The print has enough cream background color that a small patch of solid fabric was less obtrusive.

Here is the whole quilt, repair work completed.

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