November 30 2013 -
Derek came in on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a quilt he wanted repaired. It was a gift, intended, I’m sure for Christmas. The recipient had no idea that he had retrieved it from the hiding spot and was going to have it become a present for him. With the overwhelming amount of repair needed there was no way I could have it finished by Christmas, but could I have it ready by April 1, his birthday? This quilt was in tatters. The tatters were tattered.
It was a daunting task, even with four months; well three really, as I knew I wouldn’t even touch it until January.
Could I say no? This was what I always talk about with quilting – I love it because you can wrap yourself in the art. Quilts are made with love. I suppose most art is, but did I mention the wrapping up in it? It seemed, however, this quilt had been loved to death. So, could I do it, even though Libby and Jan were looking at me with raised eyebrows and looks of concern for my mental stability? What could be done with the quilt? Could it really be rebuilt? Or was it a lost cause?
So I asked a couple of questions…what did he want done –rescue as much as I could? Or replace and rebuild to the same exact size, shape and character? Would it be used? Or placed out of harms way and just be seen? The level of repair would be dictated by the level of use it would be getting. I was clear – no level of repair would be worth his money or my time if it were thrown on the couch with the dogs.
But, I already knew my answer. He had me at “hello,” as it were. Of course I would work on it and do my best to bring it back to life. I would have it ready by April 1 and I would keep as much of the original work as I could. Oh, did I mention that I agreed to keep the fabric from the back in tact to use it in the repair? And that required unquilting the entire twin size quilt? Picking out stitch after stitch by hand? Twin Size? Yep, too late now, I was hooked.
We decided it took me between 15 and 20 hours to unquilt it. And then the real work started. Putting it back together. And, as usual, there was more damage than we originally thought. More little holes, more rips, and fewer areas that were in tact enough to use outright. Even the fabric that was not actually ripped was so very thin. So, I found small areas with the least amount of damage and cut squares in various sizes. The saving grace was the scrappy nature of the quilt. My fussy cutting the salvageable pieces and putting them back together would only enhance that scrappy feeling. Ok, maybe it just wouldn’t fight it – but one can hope! I also decided to use the old backing as a border to frame the center blocks that were from the original top. I used a woven interfacing to stabilize the fabric; it too was close to fraying and pretty fragile.
Together, Derek and I chose a new backing – something appropriate for Matthew’s personality and that fit the feel of the quilt as well. I requilted it with the 5 inch cross hatch pattern the first quilt had. I bound it by hand with a green that I had selected for a narrow portrait border on the front between the scrappy blocks and the border that had been from the old piece. I washed it and laid it out to dry.
Derek came to pick it up, orange and yellow flowers in hand. (how did he know??) He seemed genuinely pleased with the outcome. I was able to point out that all but three pieces in the center were from the original quilt. I used small pieces from other areas of the quilt to patch and repair the blocks that I used for the new top. A customer/friend of mine had provided period appropriate scraps to help out and a few choice ones had made the cut. I think he made a mental note to point them out if Matthew asked. I wrapped it up and tied a ribbon around it for him – he was on his way to the birthday party! It was even still a little damp from the soak it had in my tub. Derek didn’t appear to mind. A big hug and one more thank you and he and the quilt were on their way.
I was sad to see it go, but happy it was going home.
P.S. – Derek, a yoga student of Jan’s reported there was a lot of emotion at the party from Matthew, and that they called Matthew’s mother who was tearful on the phone back home.