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Thread: Trying to save this quilt...but how old is it?

  1. #1
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    Trying to save this quilt...but how old is it?

    I got this quilt at a local consignment store and haggled down to 20 dollars. It has so much character. You can see the printing still from feedsacks(?) used to make it. The batting is still really thick and not at all lumpy/uneven. It has names embroidered into it. I really want to fix it up. I've only done small fixes before though...and this one needs a lot of work.

    Are there any tips/info anyone can give me about this? My plan is to unravel (cut seams) the most damaged row and use that fabric to repair the rest. My questions are: Is this a good plan? Is it even worth this effort? Do I need to use a special thread for an older quilt? Any ideas on how old this quilt is? (Pics below)
    I'm a newbie, just introduced myself in introductions. I hope I can stick around for awhile since I'm amassing a bit of a quilt "rescue" collection..



  2. #2
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    Maybe was made in the 20's or 30's.

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    What is it's intended purpose? Do you want it in good enough shape to use or just display? The trouble with cutting a section off is that you will have to secure the ends of the quilting threads so they don't unravel. If you do that then you could use the damaged part to repair the rest of the quilt. I would only use the extra fabric to applique over the damaged spots rather than trying to piece them in. You want to be able to save as much of the original quilting as possible.
    If it's just for display, I would gently submerge it in a bathtub with mild soap and gently manipulate it and rinse it in the tub too. I'd let the quilt drain in the tub undernight so it would not be soaking wet before you try to lift it out. See how it looks after washing and lay it out flat on a sheet to dry. It's not a really practical time of year to attempt this if you live where it is cold and it might be better to wait until spring/summer when you can lay it out outside. If it's just for display I'd fold it so the "good" part was out and not bother to repair it but do what you think is best.

  4. #4
    Super Member Vicki W's Avatar
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    Definitely feedsack for backing, very nice find. I am always so glad to see people rescue quilts. The plum seems to be in the worst shape. Are the names complete enough that you might find descendants of the makers?
    Vicki W

  5. #5
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    Are there any town or county names? Any dates?
    Here in our community (West Texas), friendship/autograph quilts seem to have been popular right around 1930.
    I would definitely recommend gently washing it, and then you will have a better idea of what you have. It is odd that there is so much wear on the quilt top, but the batting doesn't show signs of shifting. Perhaps it hasn't been laundered much over these years. It will be quite a project to repair this quilt -- good luck!
    Dayle

  6. #6
    Super Member hperttula123's Avatar
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    It looks like there is a name on it. The quilting helped alot with holding the batting together.
    enjoy your life...it's the only one you have!!!
    Heather

  7. #7
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I would probably use RetroClean on it. See http://www.retroclean.com . Not sure, but I think a more archivalist approach to preservation is to hand apply fine netting over the worn spots. That wouldn't be enough if the quilt is to be used, but is the least invasive way to preserve the quilt for the long-term.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tartan View Post
    What is it's intended purpose? Do you want it in good enough shape to use or just display? The trouble with cutting a section off is that you will have to secure the ends of the quilting threads so they don't unravel. If you do that then you could use the damaged part to repair the rest of the quilt. ....It's not a really practical time of year to attempt this if you live where it is cold and it might be better to wait until spring/summer when you can lay it out outside.
    I would like to use it on a guest bed or the sofa. Thank you so much for the tips on how to approach repair. I was kind of scared to take part of it off, but its big enough that you would't really be able to miss that extra length. As for the washing, yes the weather here is terrible for it right now. Probably by the time I'm done fixing it and ready to wash, it will be 100 degrees again out here in Texas I anticipate starting another thread around that time on how to approach washing this massively HEAVY old quilt. I can't even imagine it waterlogged

    Quote Originally Posted by Vicki W View Post
    Definitely feedsack for backing, very nice find. I am always so glad to see people rescue quilts. The plum seems to be in the worst shape. Are the names complete enough that you might find descendants of the makers?
    The names on it are : Clara Harvill, Mrs. Louisa Ratcliff, Eva Swearingen (reminded me of the show Deadwood!), and initials EMB. I might could find descendants, but it seems like a needle in a haystack..

    Quote Originally Posted by Daylesewblessed View Post
    Are there any town or county names? Any dates?
    Here in our community (West Texas), friendship/autograph quilts seem to have been popular right around 1930.
    I would definitely recommend gently washing it, and then you will have a better idea of what you have. It is odd that there is so much wear on the quilt top, but the batting doesn't show signs of shifting. Perhaps it hasn't been laundered much over these years. It will be quite a project to repair this quilt --
    One of the feedsacks reads "Shreveport, LA". The brands are "armour's" and LION. One is actually fertilizer not feed. I would love to wash it since it looks kind of dingy. It does not smell as of yet so I am thankful for that. I wonder if the reason it has not shifted is the material of the feedsacks. Its not that kind of thin cotton like for floursacks its really thick, almost like canvas (but not quite). That thicker material makes up the entire backing, the binding, the brown stripe in the middle, and parts of the blocks. When I examine a block, the printed cotton is very thin in places, but this thicker material is not even threadbare! It shows tendency toward holes and a rip or two, but not like falling apart. It looks like it was going to be utilitarian as opposed to something "pretty".

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    Super Member luvstoquilt's Avatar
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    What a great find. Lots of work but seems well worth it!
    "You must do the thing you think you cannot do"....E. Roosevelt

    Sharon
    Yorkville, IL

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    I would probably use RetroClean on it. See http://www.retroclean.com . Not sure, but I think a more archivalist approach to preservation is to hand apply fine netting over the worn spots. That wouldn't be enough if the quilt is to be used, but is the least invasive way to preserve the quilt for the long-term.
    Was just reading about this product..they recommend soaking the textile for up to 2 days. This seems like a really long time to leave something so old in water. would it still do anything with shorter soaking time? i've never heard of/used this product.

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    What a great find. Good luck in repairing it.
    Fabric is like money, no matter how much you have it's never enough.

  12. #12
    Super Member Vicki W's Avatar
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    I found a little data on two of the three women.

    U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 2
    about Eva Swearingen
    Name: Eva Swearingen
    Birth Date: 21 Oct 1914
    Address: 1201 Cardinal Dr, Woodville, TX, 75979-5428
    Name: Eva Swearingen
    Birth Date: 21 Oct 1914
    Address: Rt 1 84 214 Old Wharton, Spurger, TX, 77660

    1930 United States Federal Census
    Name: Louisa E Ratcliff
    Birth: abt 1868 - North Carolina
    Residence: 1930 - South Groveton, Trinity, Texas

    The locations seem to be fairly close. Seems like your quilt has always been in Texas.
    Vicki W

  13. #13
    Kas
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    I would suggest picking out the quilting past where you want to cut the quilt and then be careful not to cut that length of thread off. Then you have enough to secure the quilting so it doesn't continue to unravel. I also agree with the applique idea. I was just reading in a book by the AQS saying to take a section of window screen big enough to fit the bottom and sides of your tub and cover the edges so they are not sharp. Put the screen in the tub, put the quilt in an accordian shape on it and fill tub with cool water. Make sure the water isn't hitting the quilt itself. Hold onto the screen and pull it, quilt and all, up and then let it down again several times so the water is going through the quilt, but you aren't mashing on the fibers. Drain the tub, then pull the side of the screen over to the other side to sort of squish the quilt gently. You will need to lay it out over a clean white sheet on the grass with another sheet over it. Yep. Wait till spring or summer! Yikes! But do check for colorfastness before getting it wet. Do that with plain water on a qtip that you rub gently in a less obvious spot. If the color comes off on the qtip, well, you are asking for a muddy mess if you wash it. Keep us updated on your progress with pics! And good luck.
    Outside of a dog, a book is Man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.-Groucho Marx

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    Vicki that is so neat! What a treat to find out more about the people who possibly made the quilt. My husband is on ancestry.com. I'll give him the names and he might be able to find out some more information. Thank you!

    Kas--that is a great tip for washing. It really needs it, its so dingy. The screen idea sounds really cool. I have a large area in the front I can lay it out to dry, but of course definitely waiting until spring!

    All: I spent awhile looking at the quilt last night and formulating my plan of attack. This is what I came up with so far. The edge that has the most damaged block also has for some reason an extra wide piece of binding. (the other side, and most of the quilt shows binding maybe like 1" or less wide, but the end I wanted to cut was nearly 4 or so " of binding. I'm trying the following, since I want to avoid having to cut into the quilting itself and securing all that if I don't have to. I went ahead and unraveled the binding on the side and cut off the excess so it will match the binding on the rest of the quilt. That gave me some extra material to make repairs. I am hoping I have enough! I figure I will use up all that material on the front of the quilt. If I run out by the time I need to repair the back, I am hoping I can get some feedsacks of a similar age to use as repair since it won't be seen like the front will.

    I started this today so I will keep updating! What's neat too when I exposed the binding near those blocks I could see their original bright colors (on the edges hidden inside the quilt under the binding). What is now a faded dingy light blue was once brilliant, like our reply buttons on the forum here. Can't wait to get this quilt back in shape!

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    Ok so I'm fretting about some of the frayed blocks. Its looking more like I will need to add additional fabric. I have feedsacks in my stash that I got from estate/yard sales. some were made into kids pants or pillowcases, the problem is that they are not faded at all and super bright and colorful. while that's great, this quilt is faded. I took a photo so you could see what I have. I'm just going to proceed with what repairs I can make until I run out of original fabric. any suggestions? can i dye the fabric with tea to make it look less bright or is that a bad idea?

  16. #16
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    It's light that fades fabric, and it actually does not take that many hours to do it. I think if you left your new feedsacks in a sunny window for several weeks, you would find them faded to a much softer look. If you Google, you can find info about how fast fabrics fade when subjected to light. After that, if the whites need to be yellowed, you could consider dying; however, I think RIT and similar dyes are preferable to tea dying as the tannins in tea are hard on fabric.

  17. #17
    Senior Member so-sew's Avatar
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    What a treasure. Love all that quilting.
    Some things have to be believed to be seen. -Ralph Hodgson-

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    Super Member damaquilts's Avatar
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    good luck with the quilt. I have some that were in that shape and I used them as the inside of another quilt. I figured it would keep the old ones safe and I could still use them for warmth. Not a good idea after I had to leave my daughters they got ruined because someone put them outside and left them for the dogs. GRR. Anyway. I have a friends 2 quilts that I really need to finish. She wanted them repaired so they were useable. I am very carefully trying to replace the fabric pieces with ones that look as much like the old ones as possible. I am appliquing on then requilting the replacement patches.

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    Senior Member coldquilter's Avatar
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    what a cool find
    Michelle

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    Junior Member SandyQuilter's Avatar
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    Since you plan to use it, I would wash it before starting to repair, unless there are holes in it, which should be cover-basted with netting. I had a 20s quilt that looked okay, but after soaking in the bathtub, the water turned Hersey chocolate brown, ugh it was awful. Add a two or three drops of liquid soap and let it soak in cool water in the tub for around 30 minutes, gently hand agitate it and push to the side of the tub to let the dirty water drain out. Rinse two or three times, as soil requires. Squeeze it to the side of the tub and gently press the water out. When lifting use care to grab large amounts of quilt so as not to break stitches. Have someone help you carry it out of the house on a sheet, open the sheet on the grass and CAREFULLY open the quilt to dry. Cover with another sheet to protect from birds and animals. This is how I wash all my good quilts--I want them to last.
    Oh, the quilt fabric looks older than the 20s. You date a quilt by the newest fabric, not the oldest. We all keep our fabric for years before it is used up and so did earlier quilters. There a number of fabric dating books available.
    Happy repair
    SandyQuilter

  21. #21
    Super Member Mariah's Avatar
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    very old quilts...

    I read your reply about the old quilts and am wondering about the fine netting. I have 2 quilts made, about 1940-1950's. They both have places to repair, and of course, I don't have the fabric or even close to it.
    Please explain about the fine netting, and how to use it.
    Thanks,
    Mariah.
    Have a wonderful Quilting Day, make it your way!
    Marta
    Martha Tompkins

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    Thanks y'all for the tips regarding the fabric for applique. i do have some rit dye handy, and I can also leave a few scraps in a sunny window and see if i can get some results there. gosh i really do want to wash it but its quite cold here right now. i live in central Texas--we have been in drought conditions but its been rainy the past few days. once it dries out and we get some more consistent sunny days i can attempt a wash and dry--does it have to be very warm out? i anticipate we'll get some 50- 60 degree days or something like that coming up, sunny all day. i could probably do the washing part the day before and let it drain in a tub overnight and start in the morning to dry it out. what do yall think?

    p.s. the repairs ive done so far are very minimal. i took off some of the extra binding to use as patching fabric for some small holes and i've sewn closed a few small areas that were coming undone. i have another true cutter quilt coming from ebay soon, and i may be able to use the backing (its a faded floral print) for some repairs so i'm waiting for that anyways. too bad i didn't get this project during the heat of our summer this year, bone dry, stuck indoors, full sun for weeks...would have made this so much easier!

  23. #23
    Super Member urgodschild2's Avatar
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    This was so interesting to read. I have my grandma's quilt that she made at age 10. The date is 1904. It will need a lot of repairs but I am up to it. I just didn't know how to go about it. But the suggestion of appliqueing the pieces on would work. Some of the squares are 1" squares. I can imagine my grandma learning to sew by making this quilt as a little girl. My quilt teacher said that it looks like someone added on to it at a later date because the material does not match. So it is interesting. I haven't had the courage to really start on it yet.

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    I have read somewhere that some restorers of quilts will recommend using tulle basted over torn areas to keep it intact rather than trying to patch...forgot why-- guessing maybe because that fabric is so fragile it will just split when you attempt to put a needle/thread thru it.......I have an antique quilt found reasonably at a local antique store....bed size, but parts of it are very thin/worn away so cotton is showing. I do not use it...it hangs gracefully on a quilt hanger (good side showing) for all to see.....in a area that does not get direct sunlight.......

  25. #25
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    An update:
    I washed the quilt and had it out on the lawn to dry with no problems. While it seems slightly cleaner (less dirty feeling) the color has not appreciably changed. I think now that its clean I can proceed with matching any fabrics for the appliques. Also I got a cutter quilt which has some fabrics which might work for appliques. So made some progress!

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