February 20, 2020

Pinwheel Quilt - The Fabrics and The Repair

This quilt measures a whopping 93" x 109" !  The blocks are about 11 1/4".  I think many of the fabrics date to the 1860s and 1870s. 
 before restoration

after restoration

The good news is that this quilt is a beloved family heirloom.  For amazing family story and photos of the four generations of women whose lives are intertwined with this quilt, read Pinwheel Quilt - The Family Story and Photos.

The sad news is that it is a victim of the caustic nature of early black and brown dye processes.  Many of the early dyes added metals like iron to the dyes as mordants, the substances that help the actual dyes adhere to the fibers.  These metals have destroyed the fibers over the years.

So all the brown plaid cotton and the black wool challis pieces were beyond help.

The wool in particular was such a gorgeous fabric!  It is now tissue paper thin.  The cream-colored dots were woven of, I think, a cotton thread.

I found an absolutely wonderful set of fabrics to reproduce the original choices.  All but one of these come from the wonderful, wonderful Reproduction Fabrics shop.  Reproduction Fabrics has helped me save quilts so many times!

(two stripe swatches - I chose the one on the right.  A little bright still, but not so much as it looks in the photo, especially with careful cutting to use mostly the tan sections of the stripes, and not unlike some other brighter whites in other fabrics.)

And finally, here are some shots of the other fabrics in the quilt, the ones that weren't brown or black and that survived the decades intact.

Here are a couple of red patches that met with a spill of something or other.

Showing lots of piecing of tiny scraps.

This is a brushed cotton and/or a very worn flannel.

I'm really fond of the overall look and feel of this quilt, which is probably fairly obvious by the length of these posts!


  1. It's a beautiful quilt, again, thanks to you, Ann! I love the colors and design.

    1. Yes, I love everything about this quilt!