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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...

Monday, October 17, 2016

So when do we repair a quilt, when do we restore it and when do we opt for conservation methods to protect it? Funny question but when you like to collect and work with older quilts, it's an important one.

I think of repair as the simplest of the three processes. It involves using a needle and the most appropriate thread to close open seams and loose binding. Nothing is changed about the quilt except it's original integrity is restored because all the seams are intact and the batting is enclosed once again.

Restoration is more extensive. Fabric patches may be replaced. Holes may be filled with batting, patched, and requilted. Fabric type and color should be matched as closely as possible, which sometimes is a job in itself.  Patches are replaced as invisibly as possible. If there is a hole all the way through the quilt, the backing is patched first, then the batting is replaced before the fabric patch is sewn into place. Quilting is redone to make the patching virtually invisible.  Restoration could include redoing worn binding by sewing a new binding over the old.

Conservation is all about stabilizing the existing fabric with techniques that will maintain the quilt as it is while protecting it's historical significance. Fabric is added only when needed for structural support.

So, hypothetically, what should happen to the quilt great grandma made? It has worn binding, a couple of holes, and shredded fabric in several places. The answer is complicated and requires careful consideration. If the quilt is special enough to be museum quality, then conservation is the best route. If it's main value is sentimental, restoration will help it last for more generations to enjoy.

I collect older quilts that often need some work. My decisions on what to do with them never involve the sentimental and I know that few if any of them are unique enough to hold historical interest. So I opt for restoration if repair is not enough. I do have one that I keep to practice conservation techniques and use in demonstrations.

I wish that there were historically important quilts handed down in my family. There aren't. But I can appreciate the work of women from other families and do my best to do what is necessary to help their quilts last many more years.

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