Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Repair Vs. Restoration

Recently I have been working on a few older, well-loved quilts.  One simply needed the binding finished as someone had placed new binding over the existing binding and made it 75% of the way around the quilt, but decided she was not able to complete it.  

Here is a detail shot of the binding that has completed when I received it... along with some repairs that had been done...

I'm not sure that I would do a repair such as this because, though you are stitching (quite heavily) to close up the hole in the quilt, it would cause undue stress on the surrounding fabric.  As you can see to the right of the repair, there is additional wear on the tucks formed by the repair.

The second quilt - A Grandmother's Fan quilt - needed new binding (it looked as though a small pet rodent such as a gerbil or hamster enjoyed nibbling on it for making its personal bed more comfortable - shown below).  And it had some well-worn places needing to be stitched up, replaced or covered up.

Not long ago I enjoyed book #18 in the Patchwork Mystery series from 2011 - Torn In Two.  The main character of the series, Sarah, does quilt restoration and I have picked up several good tips in the series regarding quilt repair and restoration.

It got me thinking... Is there a difference in the terminology used?  Is it interchangeable?? Does it matter???

After a quick search this is what I learned...

to restore to good or sound condition after decay or damage;mend.
to restore or renew by any process of making good, strengthening, etc.
to remedy; make good; make up for.

the act of restoring; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.
the state or fact of being restored.
a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.
restitution of something taken away or lost.
something that is restored, as by renovating.

"Repair is the act of repairing something or repair can be the act of repairing or resorting to a place while restoration is the process of bringing an object back to its original state; the process of restoring something." 
So, from what I found... No, they are not the same.  They can often be interchangeable, but in the quilting world they (probably) are not and yes, it really does matter.

What I am doing to these two well-loved quilts is not a restoration.  I am not using fabric that was a perfect match... I am not using fabric from the same era or a reproduction fabric... The tropical print fabric that is in the center of the fan came from the double-fold (5" wide) binding that I was able to salvage with no holes.  The blue is simply what I found available as the closest possible match. I pre-washed the blue fabric so that once in place it wouldn't shrink up causing additional stress on the surrounding fabric.


I appliqued the blades onto the fans with a hidden stitch and then used hand-quilting thread to give the outline quilted stitch look by catching just some of the batting and without going all the way through the quilt.

Over some of the smaller holes I used an off-white tulle and nylon thread to cover them.  You can see this as indicated by the arrow in the below picture.

The new binding is a black background with splashes of color... It was the best choice available.  You can see that the colors match well with the tropical print.

In Torn In Two a quilt ended up stained with coffee... Sarah explains in the the book that coffee was classified as a protein stain and "one method of treating the stain was to mix a thick paste of cornstarch and water."  

"She daubed the paste on a small, inconspicuous spot and waited for it to dry.  When the paste was dry, she carefully brushed it away.  Most of the stain was removed with no new damage from the paste.  This method would take a while, but it seemed to be working."

What repair or restoration techniques have you used?
What stain removal methods have you used?

I have used Retro-Clean and am simply amazed at how quilts look after using it!  Leave a comment... I'd love to learn from you!

Quilt Happy!

Melva Loves Scraps - Home of the Quilters Through The Generations series

UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Moving It Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts
Colour & Inspiration at Clever Chameleon Quilting
Mid-week Makers at Quilt Fabrication
WOW at Esther's Quilt Blog
Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts
Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter
Magic Crafts at Ulrikes Smaating (1st Wed of month)
Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese
Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty


  1. I try to use period fabrics when possible and enjoy "the hunt" often at quilt guild show sales. I do use colored fine tulle and attach with cotton thread using large, loose stitches. When I had a different printer I could scan a section of fabric in good condition and print it on period white fabric that had been fused to special printer papers, but it doesn't work so well on my current printer. Depending on what the quilt will be used for determines how much replacement I will do. If I restore an area, I add this information to the label I make for the back - very important to document what you know was original and what changes you made.

  2. Funny you should ask that question right now! Yesterday, I washed an old quilt that someone else had made for a fundraiser that I bought about 25 years ago. (Quilters are the best buyers of things that we can make ourselves.) I knew the binding edge was frayed before washing. I dug into some of my older fabric for a good match and laid the two options on the quilt. Now, should I remove the binding or do as is suggested and just go over the top? The quilt's been well-used and the old binding was a single layer. Part of me wants to rip it off and part of me wants to just proceed over the top. It's a utilitarian two-fabric quilt so I'm not worried about preserving the history of it. Decisions, decisions, decisions!! What would you do?

  3. I repaired a quilt for someone once...it was all polyester squares (ugh) that had been tied (made many holes in the cotton backing) and a dog had done some chewing on it. No way was I going to find polyester fabric to restore the quilt! I had some polyester I bought (who knows why), so I cut hearts out of it and used the hearts to cover the holes, on both sides! I did all the repair on my longarm and I quilted the quilt so there would be no more holes in the backing. I did a wavy stitch along every seam to either fix the seam or reinforce the seam. After the front of the quilt was fixed, I turned it over and did the heart appliques with my longarm on the back with the same orange polyester! I don't like to fix/repair/restore quilts!! It requires more patience than I have!!

  4. This is really interesting. Thank you for sharing your work and your investigation into the differences between repairing and restoring.

  5. I haven't repaired or restored any, though my son does want me to do that on the first quilt I made for him 43 years ago. This was so interesting to see what you did. From My Carolina Home does restoration/repair work, and I enjoy reading her posts about it. It was nice to see yours, too, and see how beautifully the work brings back an old quilt.

  6. Thanks for your interesting post, I know repairing quilts sensitively requires much patience, and I think you did an amazing job on the fans.

  7. I love that you took the time to repair a quilt. So often things just get tossed in the garbage. Thanks for the info!