What would you do if your favorite quilt was tattered and torn? The quilt your Grandma made when you were born? The quilt you made forts with, ate picnics on, and wrapped up in when you were sick? The quilt worn smooth and soft . . . and tattered on the edges . . . with time and love?
Send it to a quilt doctor! Dr. Aby’s diagnosis is that the backing fabric is very fragile, nearly worn out. In fact, one of the poly/cotton shirtings Grandma used was totally tattered. Considering its monetary and historical value only, the quilt was not worth repairing. But to the twenty-something owner of the quilt, it’s sentimental value far exceeds the historical and monetary value. Since Grandma has passed away, the quilt is her remaining tactile link to a loving person.
The doctor’s prescription: I found a navy plaid poly/cotton blouse in my stash of “shirts to repurpose.” The blouse had been washed multiple times as the quilt had, and it felt silky like the shirtings on the quilt–a good match for repairs. From the blouse, I cut rectangles large enough to applique over the tattered places on the quilt’s back. I pressed under 1/4″ and pinned them to the back of the quilt, selected navy thread, and hand appliqued the patches in place. Even with all the patches, there are many other worn spots too numerous to repair. I will suggest that the quilt be washed only as absolutely necessary on a delicate cycle and that it be kept out of direct sunlight to slow its deterioration.
Grandma turned the backing of the quilt to the front to make a binding. It, too, was very worn. So, I trimmed the edges of the quilt and used another plaid shirt to make bias binding. I also sewed a small label on the back so the quiltmaker and the owner can be noted.
It is the quilt doctor’s hope that these repairs to this utility quilt extend the life and memories of Grandma a little longer. Although well worn, it can now be well loved a few more years.
If you’d like to see more examples of utility quilts, type “Gee’s Bend Utility Quilt Images” into your browser. You can also search “Utility Quilts,” but many of those images show quilts with definite patchwork patterns rather than quilts of random rectangular chunks.