May 24, 2022

The Exact Match

Finding just the right fabrics to restore a vintage or antique quilt can be a challenge.  The chances of The Exact Match are slim.  It's almost always about finding fabrics that blend in as unobtrusively as possible.  This is true whether using vintage or modern reproductions.

Sometimes fabrics that blend perfectly into the existing set of fabrics seem to fall into my lap, but sometimes a lengthy search ends up with settling for the better of several options.  

My restoration of this Lone Star quilt (1930s) serves as an example of the fabric search stage of quilt restoration.  I found these two potential greens at Reproduction Fabrics, my favorite source.  (I have no affiliation....)  One lacked the orange accent in the original fabric, and the other had a red accent, maybe too bright.

I thought I was going to find the red distracting and would choose the green without an accent color.  But when I stepped back further, I saw that the plainer fabric was really the wrong green, too greyed, and the red accents in the other were not so obvious.  

I went through the same process for the tan diamonds.  The photo at the beginning of this post shows the restored quilt.  You can read the whole story on a previous post

On the far outlying end of this spectrum is the amazing joy of having the Exact same fabric in  my stash of vintage/antique scraps.  Here are six stories of this happenstance. 

9-patch - 1950s-60s

The first time this happened was when a woman brought me a 1950s-60s scrappy 9-Patch every year after its annual laundering.  (I told her this would keep happening, but she didn't mind.  After about 5 rounds of this, I counted patches, and a quarter of the quilt was my work!)  

This was before I was photographing and documenting all my repair jobs. I had one fabric that was The Exact Match and a few that were good substitutes.  I still have some of this one, and yes, it was a very bright quilt!  I purchased the fabric at an estate sale where I got many really great vintage pieces in multi-yard hunks.

Rose Wreath - 1980

The story here, quite honestly, is a bit of a cheat.  This quilt was made as a wedding gift by a weekly quilting circle for the daughter of one of the quilters.  The daughter still had the remnants from the sewing!

This provides a really nice way to see how 30 years of use and washing fade different fabrics at different rates.




Most of the problem was loose appliqués.  I replaced a couple of leaves with the remnant fabric (see photo just above), which was still pretty close to the original color.  

I decided on using the darker of the two solid blues to rebind the quilt - a decision to go for the really different color rather than the original fabric that would now look like a failed attempt at a match.  

Full post about this quilt is here.  

Capital T - 1896 with 1980s repairs

This quilt has the embroidered date of 1896.  It also has a great, historical printed fabric showing the US and Cuban flags, which commemorates the Spanish-American War.



Some repairs had already been made to the quilt.  I had The Exact Match in my stash for one of the fabrics that had been used.  I know it was a fabric I purchased in the 1980s (or maybe 90s?), so I can guess that those previous repairs were made around then, too.  And I used my piece of it to make further repairs.

The full story and more photos of the fabrics and earlier repairs on in a previous post

Buckeye Beauty - 1982

I had such a close match for one of the fabrics in this quilt that I'm putting it in The Exact Match category.  The print is ever so slightly different.  The thing is, though, the fabric on the quilt was in fine shape, so I couldn't take advantage of the match.

More photos of this quilt on a previous post

sampler - 1930s

And, here we go again, the same story.  This quilt had 1920s-30s fabrics, maybe a few into the 40s.  And I had The Exact Match for one of them!  But that block was in perfect condition.  At least these two quilts gave me a couple of stories to tell you here!  (And yes, I believe the quilt was rebound at some point with a modern reproduction print.)

And here, just for fun, is one of my all-time favorite blocks!  You can read the story and see all the blocks on a previous post

Grandmother's Flower Garden - 1930s
And finally, this Exact Fabric incident just happened a few months ago.  You can see the effects of age on the white background.  I used to tea dye in these instances, but have stopped doing that because of the acidity left in the fabrics which can damage both the patch and the original fabric beneath over time.  If the quilt isn't terribly yellowed and the print isn't widely spaced, as in this case, I find that the new fabric can still blend in pretty well.  If that doesn't work, I will look for something else....or finally convince myself to experiment with dying fabrics with actual dye instead of tea.


In addition, the quilt had the same print in green on white.  Luckily, I didn't need to patch any of those, because I only have it in red.

That's just six The Exact Match stories from nearly 40 years of repairing quilts.  It's amazing to ponder the incredible number of printed fabrics that have been produced over these many decades!


But wait!  There's more!  

Here's another match in a 1930s Dresden Plate

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