Saturday, June 5, 2021

Vintage Corn and Beans Repair, Part Deux: How to Patch a Giant, Gaping Hole in the Middle of a Quilt

You guys, I was so proud of myself at the end of the day's work on this vintage quilt repair yesterday.  I managed to patch the gaping hole in the quilt backing, fill in the missing cotton batting from the right side, and then patch the giant hole in the front of the quilt with my recreated block -- and I did it all by machine so the repair is strong enough to stand the test of time.  Moreover, the quilt lays perfectly flat through the repaired section and there are no unwanted tucks or pleats around the repair on either the front or the backing side.  WHEW!  Fools like me rush in where angels fear to tread...

More Obvious Than I'd Like, but Better Than the Gaping Hole

There was some damage to parts of the sashing beyond the edges of the missing block and there was also a good bit of distortion of the quilt around the chewed area, such that a perfectly square block would not work as a patch by itself.  The adjacent blocks in the quilt measure about 12 1/4" finished -- who knows what size they were originally, as they have probably shrunk over the years.  In order to make a block that would fit perfectly between the corner stones to cover this hole, I'd have had to draft a non-square polygon with 48 templates for patches that were each slightly different in their sizes and their angles, and then I'd have had to exercise extreme care throughout piecing to make sure I was sewing the right patches together in the right order.  My time = my client's money, and there isn't enough time in my labor quote to do it that way and address all of the issues that need repair.  So I made my replacement block finish at exactly 12" so that I could cut and piece it as quickly as possible, using coping strips to ensure that my patch would completely cover the hole in the quilt.

See How Smooth and Flat the New Section Lies?  Victory!

As badly stretched and mangled as the edges of the hole were initially, my biggest concerns were ensuring that my three-layer patched section would be securely anchored to the surrounding original quilt such that it wouldn't pull loose and separate, and that my patched section of the quilt would lay flat without any puckers or tucks in the backing or in the front of the quilt from my machine stitching.  I was EXTREMELY relieved when I draped the quilt over my long arm frame and saw how flat and smooth the repaired block lays.

In case you missed my first post about this quilt, here's what it looked like after it was attacked by my client's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

Prior to Repairs

See how the hole bows out around the edges?  That's where it was all stretched out from the dog's pulling and chewing, and I think that's why my 12" block that should only have been 1/8" away from touching the corner blocks ended up floating away from them a bit more than intended.  

Here's how I replaced the missing section of this quilt.  First, I cut a 14" square patch from the closest color match of new fabric that I was able to find.  Those streaks you see on my fabric patch are deliberate; I splattered and soaked it in bleach water to get a mottled, aged look so it would blend in with the aged, stained original backing fabric better.  Then I washed my repair fabrics in HOT water, wanting them to shrink as much as possible since the original fabrics in the quilt have likely been washed many times over the years.  I don't want my patches to shrink smaller than the quilt around them and tear right out of the quilt as soon ass it's washed!

Step One: Oversized Backing Patch

My backing patch extends well beyond the edges of the hole on all sides.  I positioned the patch and turned the edges under by "eyeballing" at the ironing board, using Elmer's Washable School Glue to baste the patch in position for stitching.  Just a thin bead of glue under the turned seam allowance, heat set with the iron to dry the glue quickly.  Then, not trusting the glue to hold against the weight of the quilt as I moved it from my ironing board to my sewing machine, I added pins for security.  The pins also allowed me to turn the quilt over and preview where my machine stitches were going to land on the right side of the quilt.

Backing Patch is Glue Basted and Pinned in Position for Stitching

The cardinal rule I follow when working on a vintage or antique quilt is that I want to avoid doing anything to the quilt that could not later be UNdone -- so I am not removing any of the original backing, batting, or trimming away bits of the original block that will be covered by my patches.

Machine Stitching for Strength and Speed

For strong but inconspicuous machine stitched zigzag, I used Aurifil 50 weight, 2-ply cotton thread with Medium Mint in my needle and Natural White in the bobbin.

Machine Appliquéd Patch with Narrow Zigzag

The stitch length and width are both set to 2.0 on my Bernina.  No tension adjustments were needed when sewing the backing patch in place -- I was only seeing mint thread on the backing side and only white thread on the other side with the default tension for this stitch.

Filling In the Missing Batting with Quilter's Dream Cotton

Once the backing patch was sewn in place, it was time to shape a scrap of 100% cotton batting to fit inside the hole.  I chose Quilter's Dream Cotton batting because it was the closest to what was used originally in the quilt, and I carefully trimmed it to fit the jagged shape of the hole as closely as possible to avoid either lumps where batting was doubled up or flat spots where there was a gap between the new and old batting.

In the photo below, you can also see my white zigzag stitches -- that's the bobbin thread of the stitches holding my backing patch in place.  Most of those stitches will be covered by my block patch.

Trimming Batting to Fit.  Notice White Zigzag Stitches from Backing Patch

After cutting the batting and smooshing it into position inside the block, it was time to prep and position my replacement block patch over the hole.  One advantage of the white coping strips was that it allowed me to keep the block edges nice and straight while morphing the edges of the white strips organically to cover what they needed to cover and then curve around the edges of the corner stones a little bit.  As with the backing patch, I glue basted the block patch in place and then secured it with pins to ensure it stayed in place as I moved the heavy quilt over to my sewing machine.

Positioning the Block Patch Before Stitching

I machine stitched the block patch to the front of the quilt the same way as I'd done the backing patch, but this time I had my Natural White thread in my needle and the Medium Mint thread in my bobbin.  I did need to reduce my tension a little at this point to prevent dots of mint green bobbin thread from showing up in the needle holes from the right side of the quilt.

Grateful for the Deep Throat on my Bernina 750QE

See all of that quilt bunched up in the throat area of my sewing machine?  This is one of those times that I'm really grateful to have the larger 7 Series Bernina machine, even though I'm doing most of my quilting on the long arm these days.  It would have been really difficult to keep the area I was stitching nice and flat if I was trying to wad up the surrounding bulk of the quilt in the smaller throat space of a standard sized sewing machine.


The one thing that reassured me as I was working on this repair, weighing my options and hoping for the best?  Knowing that, no matter WHAT I did to this quilt, it was guaranteed to be much better when I was finished with it than it was before I started!


The patched area still needs to be requilted through all three layers both in the block and in that one area where the patch extends further into the sashing.  That will be fiddly to do, because the original quilting was done by machine in the early days of machine quilting, before it was common for quilting designs to be adapted for continuous stitching without all of the stops and starts.  (Hand quilters prefer to quilt just beyond the seam allowances and pass their hand sewing needles to get from one spot in the design to another without stopping to break their thread and tie off stitches).  I'll be quilting my patched block on my domestic 750QE sewing machine with my walking foot with a white cotton thread in a similar weight to the original quilting thread.  

Before I do that, though, I need to evaluate the rest of the quilt and patch whatever else needs patching. That way I can do all of the quilting in one go.  I think that pink and red/cream print block needs to be patched over as well because all of the light pink fabric is shredding (it's some kind of a dress fabric that originally had a satin face), but I was not able to find a very good match for the print so I'm stalling and trying to think of another way to save it.

That's all you get for today, folks!  No word yet on when my new long arm machine will be delivered, and although I've had some interest in my APQS machine it is still available for sale.  If you know of anyone who is looking for a fantastic used long arm machine, with or without computerization, please share this link to my listing on Facebook Marketplace.

I'll be linking up today's post with:

Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


Frau Augensterns Welt said...

Wow, that is a beautiful quilt! Glad you were able to fix it. The pattern is really beautiful. Could you give me a hint where to find it?
Love greetings

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Nice job, I've done lots of "dog vs quilt" repairs and your process is the same. Looks great and now the client can enjoy it again.

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Great photo journal of your repair, Rebecca!11 Brilliant idea--add 'coping strips'! said...

Totally amazing repair! How wonderful that the quilt is "whole" again!!!

piecefulwendy said...

It looks fantastic, Rebecca! Well done!

Sandy said...

Amazing rescue, Rebecca Grace!

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Wonderful repair, well done! Bravo, belle réparation !

The Joyful Quilter said...

I admire quilters who will take on this kind of work. After one single quilt repair job, I said, "NEVER again!!" You are a brave soul, Rebecca.

Quilting Gail said...

I'm VERY impressed. First, that you took on this challenge and Second, that it was successful!!!

Anne-Marie said...

This is fascinating. It's also something I don't think I ever want to attempt. Kudos!

Miaismine said...

Thank you so much for sharing your process on repairing this precious quilt. So much skill, thought, planning and prep made this a beautiful finish!

Susan said...

That's a nasty hole! You did a great job fixing it.