May 27, 2014

Crazy Quilt Saga - Repairs

This crazy quilt provides a good example of the different techniques that I use to help maintain aging silks.  It also had a special problem - a silk ruffle on the edge, some of which was in really bad shape.

I used three different techniques, depending on the type of damage in each patch:

1. I used the couching stitch to secure tears and disintegrating fabrics in the shattered silks.  A previous post has photos of the couching stitching in progress.

Two other posts shows the couching stitch:  on World War II Japanese silk banners, and on on a mid-19th century appliqué "mistresspiece"quilt.

2. Where there were painted fabrics or irreplaceable, unique fabrics, I covered those areas with sheer silk crepeline.  I've written up some how-to tips for applying this silk.


3. Where matching the broken fabrics was fairly straightforward, I patched with new silks.  A previous post has photos of applying a patch.

There are two patches in these photos, the plum on the left, and the red on the right. The red had an embroidered flower, which I reproduced.

The black and white patch on the left gave me the opportunity to use one of my favorite fabrics.  It's a gingham check taffeta.  I've used it once before - to make a bowtie for Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest.

A bit about finding fabrics:  
I had two choices for this red patch.  The one along the bottom of the photo was a closer match although a bit too bright with a pink sheen.  The one I chose was a bit too dark.  If I have that kind of choice to make, both with fabrics and with threads, I pretty much always go with the darker option.  Darker blends in better, while lighter runs the risk of "shining out".  Also in this case, the darker one was softer, and more likely to lie better on the quilt.

The quilt has been restored on the past, having several places with patches already applied.  The pink in these photos is one of those older patches, next to a new navy patch added by me.  It's nice to have a family piece that shows such a history of care.

In this spot, a cream brocade patch had been applied to a damaged red patch.  Not only did it not match the original color, but it also didn't cover the entire original shape.

So I removed the brocade patch.  I discovered that there also was an old red patch beneath the brocade patch.  

I left both reds there, and added one of my own, that filled in the entire shape.

Here's the entire area, before and after the patching.  There is the new red patch, a navy patch to its left, a black patch above, and a yellow triangle with couching stitching above that.

The ruffle adventure:

One of the three fabrics used in the ruffle was totally shot.  It might have been possible to encase the old ruffle between two layers of the silk crepeline, but the owner decided there was not enough fabric left to have a good visual effect.

The fabric was a dark forest green.  I always look to patch and repair with fabrics very similar to the original, but in this case, I couldn't find anything of a close enough green and similar enough weight.  All the green fabrics I found were lighter and/or bluer greens, and looked intensely modern next to the rest of the colors in the quilt.  When that kind of thing happens, I look for something that blends in or is similar to other fabrics elsewhere in the quilt.  I went with a light tan dupioni, the dupioni having a bit more body than some of the other lighter weight silks.

Removing the old ruffle took quite a bit of time.  The quilt had been finished with a knife edge, i.e. the top and back turned in towards each other, with the ruffled fabric inserted in between them.  Then the edges had been decorated with feather stitching, going all the way through everything.


I spent quite a bit of time teasing the old fabric out from between the embroidery stitches.  Luckily, it was super fragile (not usually considered a lucky thing of course), and gave way bit by bit around each embroidery stitch.

I had measured the old ruffle before removing it, which was good, because the removal process didn't leave much to measure.  I hemmed both long edges of the new ruffle, and gathered one edge.  I seamed the new fabric to the remaining old ruffle sections, and stitched the gathered edge to the back of the quilt.

The backing is a lovely checked silk, and is in great shape. 

Here's a how-to tip as you maneuver your way around a crazy quilt.  I drew a map with each patch marked as to which kind of repair I had planned.  That way, I could know what fabrics I needed to search for, and could keep track of what was done and what was still to do.  (Or maybe it's a map to hidden pirate treasure........)

And here's the finished quilt:

The story of of the quilt and its maker is in a previous post.


  1. Hi Ann...You do wonderful work! I've been repairing knit and crochet items for years, which is sometimes a real challenge. I recently inherited two quilts and am in the process of gathering more info about my dear, late maternal Grandmothers Crazy Quilt, that her Mother and aunt made in the 1800s and the quilt miraculously survived the Johnstown, PA Flood (May 31, 1889). Thank you for sharing info about your repairs on Crazy Quilts. I'm trying to gather as much info as I can, before I begin repairs on my Grandmothers Crazy Quilt.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and great skills! Happy Quilting!
    Sincere Regards,

    1. Thanks so much for writing, Linda! Sounds like an exciting project!

      I always recommend to people with family quilts to write down the history of the quilts and quiltmakers - their names, where they were living and what their lives were like at the time they made the quilts, how they came to you, etc. All this information makes them much more special as a family heirloom, and also can be really great if a local historical society is interested in local quilts - especially with the connection to a big historical event. You can keep the information, preferably with photos of the quilts attached, with your other important papers.

      I enjoy posting on my blog about family quilts with interesting histories. If you'd like, you can take some photos and either write the stories yourself or tell me facts and I can write them up. :-)

      Good luck, and keep in touch if you'd like.

  2. I was so happy to find your post(s) about repairing crazy quilts. I have one from my mother and grandmother that has been languishing in a closet for years - I have new inspiration and bravery to attempt a repair! One question - where do you find the replacement fabric? Thanks~ Cay

  3. Thank you so much for the informative and detailed post(s) about repairing crazy quilts. It's given me the inspiration, knowledge and bravery to try a repair on my grandmothers's beautiful crazy quilt. Question: where do you find your replacement silk fabric, and what thread do you use for the repair? (Not the embroidery) Thanks! Cay

  4. Thanks for writing! I'm happy to be helping with your heirlooms.

    I always recommend to people with family quilts to write down the history of the quilt and quiltmaker - your ancestors’ names, where they were living and what their lives were like at the time they made the quilt, how it came to you, etc. All this information makes it much more special as a family heirloom. You can keep the information, preferably with a photo of the quilt attached, with your other important papers. Or you can slip the papers into an archival sleeve and store with the quilt. Or you can stitch on a fabric label made with a piece of washed cotton fabric and a Pigma pen.

    I shop for vintage fabrics at rummage sales and estate sales. You can also check with antiques dealers to see what they might have. Silk will crumple and crease if you squeeze it in your fist - polyester will not. And you can shop at fabric stores to find new fabrics.

    I use the thinnest cotton thread I can find, size 60 or smaller.

    Best of luck with your sewing!