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I've been practicing my ladder stitch. It's a sewing method used to repair seams invisibly. I have used this stitch many times on qu...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Another fascinating aspect of older quilts is the batting. I think contemporary quilters are very accustomed to going to the nearest quilt store (or Joann's with coupons) to buy batting by the piece in a package or by the yard off a bolt. There is a choice between 100% cotton as well as blends of polyester and cotton, all polyester or wool. Bamboo batting is becoming more available also.

Before 1960, cotton batting was used almost exclusively. Earlier quilts were padded with all sorts of things, old quilts included. I bought a "cutter quilt" a couple of months ago, thinking I could save some of the string stars to use in other projects. That didn't work because the fabric was too brittle but what was interesting was the filler. Inside the top and bottom layers were random pieces of cloth, some flannel, some possibly wool. They were all of different colors and some quite small. The quilt maker not only economized by sewing together small strips of fabric to make the stars, she also cobbled together various pieces of whatever fabric was available to make a sheet of batting.

I have one quilt in my collection that has been dated circa 1860. The batting is raw cotton fibers with the seeds still attached. The quilt itself is getting more and more fragile with the years. The backing is shattered in a few paces so the batting is visible. The cotton fibers are feathery and soft. The batting is very thin so the quilt is also. I can only imagine the labor required to collect the cotton and spread it on the backing, then make the sandwich, baste it and quilt it. I am very glad to have found this quilt in the early 70's in a box at a farm auction, even though I had to withstand a lot of teasing and questions about why I wanted "that old thing". It has hung in every house I have lived in. It's now too fragile to wash so it gets vacuumed a couple of times a year.

When repairing an older quilt or actually, any age quilt that has damage extending to holes, batting must be replaced. It's important to understand the kind and thickness of the quilt's original batting so you can match it as closely as possible. Remembering that repairs should be as inconspicuous as possible, using the right batting will help the repair blend in. I am working hard to do that when I repair a quilt.

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