How to Mend a Vintage Quilt

If you live with your quilts–like this stunning double wedding ring, stitched by my mother in law when she was just 13–you’re going to have to mend them.  Here’s how I take care of this family heirloom and still keep it and (her memory) close. 

Every October, the quilt comes out of our bedroom blanket chest.  I look it over carefully, one section at a time for broken seams and disintegrating fabrics. 

Work in sections--Pay special attention to black fabric--often the first to breakdown

Black pieces are the worst.  Older black fabric dyes were caustic and while our quilt is less than a hundred years old,  some of the reclaimed fabrics in it could be much older.  When I find a badly frayed or rotted piece, here’s how I make and sew a patch:

  • Find a small piece of vintage fabric that fits the design well.  I buy a lot of old quilt top fragments for my Kiki’s Rewind Designs so I always have scraps to choose from.   Using vintage is a must, I think.    New fabrics don’t have the  soft look or feel of vintage.    And while you may be able to find reproduction prints that match, new fabrics would compromise the age of your quilt. 

    Patch vintage with vintage--no new fabrics (even reproductions) on old quilts--
  • Cut a patch that’s larger than the quilt piece you are going to cover.

    Work from side to side, trimming as you go--
  • Fold under one side of the patch  and pin. 
  • Fold and pin the opposite side.
  • Unpin from quilt but keep the seams turned under–and trim.
  • Trim the seam allowances you have pinned under.
  • Now repin  patch to the quilt and turn under the top seam.
  • Turn under the bottom of the patch and pin.
  • Unpin again, and trim those seams allowances. 
  • Pin the patch to the quilt for the final time, keeping seams as close to the original seams as possible. 
  • Whip stitch in place , using small stitches and good white thread (I ALWAYS use the German brands) adjusting  edges and corners as needed.

    Ready to whip stitch in place--
  • Gently knot the thread on the  back side of your quilt and clip excess threads. 

Another tip:  Before putting the quilt away in Spring, I wash it on the gentle cycle, with gentle (no fragrance)  detergent, using my front-loading machine.  I fluff our quilt dry on low heat.  Then, I fold it, wrap in an old, clean white sheet, and store in the blanket chest until the next fall–when it comes out, gets mended and keeps us warm though winter again.


    • Thanks for the comment, Marti. Glad you enjoy the blog.
      I’m always looking for for info on old fabrics–and new ways to use them. If you have any other blogs to suggest, I’d love to know about them. Good luck on IDing your fabric. It’s not always easy.
      Here in NC, our State Musuem has an extensive library that is open to the public. –a good source. I should probably do a post on it soon.
      Keep reading! C

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