Quilt Repair

My mom-in-law gave me an old quilt they had lying around the house. It was in pretty rough shape, and she doesn’t really have the time or inclination to fix something that busted up, so I took over. It’s probably from the 80’s, or 70’s at the earliest. If you come across some kind of antique quilt, for the love of all the snakes in Texas, please do not do what you will see here! Antiques should be left alone, unless an expert (or the Antiques Roadshow) tells you otherwise.

This is just one example of the injuries to this quilt. There were several patches missing, or so damaged that I just decided to add a patch over them, rather than trying to reattach the damaged pieces. To do so I dug through my fabric collection, and found pieces as similar to the fabrics already in the quilt as possible. Fortunately, this is a true scrap quilt, with a huge variety of fabrics, so I was able to use stuff I had on hand.

You can see the craziness inherent in the quilt. At the bottom are some of the fabrics I planned to use. To add a patch, I basically eyeballed everything. This quilt is very in-exact anyway, which made it very simple to repair. If it had some kind of precise pattern to it, this would have been a lot harder. I just picked a chunk of fabric that I thought would look good, cut a piece big enough to cover the wound, plus about 1/2 inch all the way around for hemming.

The way I did this was to lay the quilt out, lay the patch on top of the damaged area, and fold the edges of the patch under, to prevent it unraveling in the future. If you leave the raw, cut edge of the fabric hanging out it will slowly disintegrate, which is why you fold the raw edge under, which is called hemming. Fold it under, and pin the patch flat onto the quilt. Feel free to go all the way through the quilt. Don’t worry about only sewing onto the top layer, because sewing all the way through is what makes it quilted.

Personally, I didn’t iron anything, but you can iron each patch after you’ve folded the edges under. This ensures that the fabric stays in that position, and you don’t have the edge keep popping out. My iron unfortunately vanished in the move, so I just pinned the crap out of everything.

The best way I found to sew this is called a running stitch. The way I do this is not necessarily perfect, but it’s easy. You don’t go up and down all the way through the fabric. I hold the area that’s going to be sewn, and fold it in half along the line that will be sewn. I then sew through both layers at once, sticking the needle in the back, pulling all the way through, then sticking it in the back again. Let me go fabricate some pictures I didn’t take at the time, then I’ll be right back.

You can see the pin on the left, and the needle going all the way through in the middle. I used white thread on dark fabric so it would show up, but generally you’d want to use something that blended better.

This is the first stitch. You can see I pulled the needle all the way through, and inserted it into the same side as before. The maroon fabric is the patch, by the way, and the blue is original to the quilt.

I made big, fat stitches so they’d be easier to see on my poopy little camera. Generally, you’d want to make smaller stitches. Here you can see what the series of stitches should look like.

The running stitch is great because it’s easy, fast, and super versatile. I’ll be referring to this in an upcoming post, so be sure to practice! I’ve also heard this called a whip stitch, which makes sense. You hand makes a whipping motion as you do a series of stitches.

Always remember this is a hand-made item, so all the little imperfections, and uneven stitching make it look more authentic. This is not the process you’d use for creating a quilt from scratch, but you can use this method to patch or sew a ton of things.

This is a shot of the (mostly) repaired quilt. It’s now sound enough to be used and run through the washing machine, but it needs a whole new backing put on. The backing is the plain fabric on the back which holds the whole thing together. My plan for this is to buy a king sized sheet at the thrift store, and just layer it on top of the fabric already on the quilt. Fabric at Hobby Lobby, or wherever, generally is only a yard wide, which means you’d have a seam running down the middle of the quilt. This is generally a no-no, but extra wide fabric is expensive.

Hence, thrift time!! And my loyal minions know I loooove me a thrift store! Sheets are usually cheap, and I make sure to get a high thread count, which makes it more durable. That’s a tale for another post, however.


September 13, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Thriftiness is Cool.


  1. Purse Improvements « My Attempts at Cleverness replied:

    […] I have my trimmed, folded, and pinned pocket-to-be. On this project we’re using the whip stitch again. Once you have the pocket pinned where you want it, start sewing around the outside edge. Be […]

  2. Why my folks are cool « My Attempts at Cleverness replied:

    […] will cover that in the final installment of one of my earliest blog posts, about repairing this exact quilt. It’s all coming full circle, as though I planned it all […]

  3. Quilt Repair Finale « My Attempts at Cleverness replied:

    […] few of you may remember one of my early blog posts about repairing this quilt. It’s a family hand-me-down from the 80′s or 90′s, and it was in rough shape by […]

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