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Quilting an old quilt top

_nikki_'s picture

Hi all,


I am currently working on a quilt top that my great grandmother made almost a century ago. One of the fabrics she used has completely disintegrated and needs to be replaced.


I'm on the hunt for the perfect fabric to replace the old one . The quilt top was hand sewn, so it's a project that will take me quite a long time.


What I need help with is what to do with it once I finish it. I don't want to machine quilt it, and I've never quilted anything this large by hand. I was thinking of sending it off to be hand quilted.


Do any of you have suggestions or recommendations? It's a family heirloom and I don't want to just send it off blindly to anyone.


Thanks in advance!


Nicole Smith
Threads Editorial

Nicole Smith
Threads Editorial

starzoe's picture

(post #30448, reply #1 of 6)

I wouldn't try to replace any of the parts of your old quilt. Just as it is, it is a valuable antique and family heirloom and a window into fabrics of old. I would make a cover for it (like a duvet cover) to protect it. I take it you do not want to use it as a quilt, but to save it for your family as an heirloom taken out now and then to admire and fondly think of great-great-great grandma and her admirable handiwork.

rodezzy's picture

(post #30448, reply #2 of 6)

Taking it to a reputable quilt shop will help you on your quest for what to do and how to proceed.  They should be able to guide you to a person that will do what you need done.  I believe that, by you working on the quilt, you are adding your history to it.  It becomes an extension of the family history. 


If you can find a quilt guild in your town/city...they will have valuable information as to what quilters you can use, because most of the quilters in my quild send out their quilts to be quilted.  So they should be able to give you strong recommendations and advice on pricing.  Most churches also have quilt guilds that have tons of experience and advice.  Community centers also may have quilters.  Check with your fabric/craft stores where they are teaching quilting.  The teacher may have some answers and leads.


I've heard stories about quilts that were made generationally, unfinished blocks found and put into a quilt top by one generation, then passed on to the next and they in turn added the next step to finishing the quilt.  Thereby adding their own history to the story to be passed down.


Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

_nikki_'s picture

(post #30448, reply #3 of 6)

Thanks for the advice!


I definitely do want to replace the pieces that are missing, or atleast quilt in a backing on them. They are literally just a few strands of thread at this point.


I'll look into guilds in Brooklyn.


Nicole Smith
Threads Editorial

Nicole Smith
Threads Editorial

rodezzy's picture

(post #30448, reply #4 of 6)

You are so welcome. 


A quilt guild should also be able to guide you to a person to appraise the value of your quilt in the stage it is in now; and what the value would be after you do the repairs.  If you are interested.  Our guild had a person come into our last quilt show and appraise some quilts for the members who wanted such advice.  Everybody is not interested in monetary value, but some are.  So you do have a choice, for a price.  smile.


Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist

alotofstitches's picture

(post #30448, reply #5 of 6)

Nikki, why not "keep it in the family" and do the hand quilting yourself?  It's such a treasure I'd be reluctant to send it anywhere!  Besides, it was made by your great grandmother so it needs to be finished by HER GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER for the continuity.  I have a "cheater' quilt, king size, that I've been hand quilting for 3-4 yrs. now.  I do it simply for the pleasure of hand quilting.  I'm not on a deadline and not in a rush--just simply a pleasure to work on.  Your quilt top has been waiting this long so what's a few years more?


I've got a quilt I started in a class (I'm new to quilting) several years ago.  It's made from scraps left from garments I've made for my family.  My plan is to finish that top this fall so my aged mother can hand quilt it to give her a winter project.  I also intend to have my granddaughters who are learning to sew to do a little hand quilting in one block.  The quilt will be entirely "all in the family" and shared by 3 generations.  It won't win a prize but it will truly be a treasure especially 50 years later!

Teaf5's picture

(post #30448, reply #6 of 6)

Quilts don't have to be quilted; they can be hand tied with embroidery floss without damaging old fabrics.  However, besides possible value, you should think about how you want to use/keep the quilt and whether you need to completely finish it.  (Although I agree that it might be a relaxing exercise to do so!)


Fabrics that old are not likely to hold up to daily use, so maybe binding and backing the quilt without batting or with just a white cotton flannel inside might be a better option.  It could then be mounted or safely stored--be sure to check references on the best way to preserve the fabrics!