When I first met Pat, he had this quilt on his bed. It was soft, slightly tattered, definitely loved and just the right weight to be used all year long. That quilt stayed on our bed for some time – I don’t remember exactly when it was deemed a little too shabby to be used everyday anymore, but I do know it was pre-Edie. I assured Pat it could be fixed, that I could fix it and so I put it in a pile of projects to be worked on and there it sat, for some time. The quilt would come up now & again and I’d think, fixing that quilt would be a great gift for him. We have a number of quilts his grandmother made that I blogged about last year (only I’ve just realized that the images are MIA so I’m not linking that post until I figure out where those images are), but as I have realized, this quilt was different, because it was made by his other grandmother. His maternal grandmother was a beautiful seamstress, quite the quilter and owned a fabric shop at one point. Her quilts are all over our house. This quilt in question was made by his paternal grandmother, who was not known for her sewing. She was married to a farmer and I don’t think they had a whole lot to their name to begin with when a tornado came through one spring day in the mid 1990’s, leaving them with their lives, but not much else. Pat’s grandfather was never quite the same after that, but I suppose when you are 94 years old and have a house land on you, you’re bound to experience some sort of effect.
In researching how to repair some of the other quilts around our house, I came to the realization that this quilt needed more than just a few patches and a new binding applied – if I was going to do it right, which I wanted to do, as Pat loved this quilt, not just because it’s one of the few things left from his grandmother, because it was he thought, the perfect sleeping quilt. And doing it right meant taking the binding off, taking the back off, replacing some quilt parts, the backing and the binding.
Surely it couldn’t take that long. A few hours with a seam ripper and it would all be good, yes?
I thought I could start it just before Thanksgiving and have it done by Christmas. His birthday later this month at the latest.
That was before I got into it and realized that this quilt had been quilted through all the layers – top, batting and back. Machine quilted, with lots of tiny, tight little stitches. The quilting rows were about 2-3 finger widths apart, and the quilt fits a full size bed. That’s a lot of tiny, tight little stitches to pull out. I literally have to take the entire thing apart.
Parts of the quilt are so fragile that I have to very slowly and patiently pull every stitch out as carefully as I can. I have spent hours on this quilt, I have gotten friends to sit on the opposite end of the quilt and help me, and for about 20 or so man hours spent taking the quilt apart, I have gotten about a quarter to a third dequilted.
I realized as I got into the project that the batting between the layers was disintegrating, leaving a trail of fuzz behind. I had every intention of surprising Pat with this project, but between the mess it was leaving behind as well as the realization that this project was going to take far longer than I had anticipated had me share with him that I was finally working on his grandmother’s quilt. So much for the surprise, as well as the idea of it being a Christmas or birthday gift this year. This little project is definitely much bigger than I bargained for.
But the quilt itself? It is most definitely a scrap quilt. There are some old flannels that I imagine were shirts of Pat’s grandfather. There are some sweet children’s fabrics, there are what appear to be upholstery fabrics, seersucker, dressier fabrics, vintage prints and more. As I slowly work my way up and down the rows, I wonder where each piece of fabric came from and I ponder what scraps I’m going to use to repair the quilt.
As you can see, it’s very much a patchwork quilt, no real pattern, so I think it gives me some room to include some scraps of our lives in it. I never really knew his grandparents, but as I work on this quilt, as I get to know each and every bit of fabric used, I feel like I’ve gotten to know them just a little bit. I’m actually glad I’ve waited until now to repair this quilt – had I done it earlier, I wouldn’t have done it right. This way, it will hopefully be around for many more years.
But first, I need to get the darn thing apart.
4 thoughts on “How my latest project became way more of a project than I thought it was going to be when I started it.”
That is just amazing. Like scraping the paint from an old wall in a new house to reveal layers or color and wallpaper beneath. I wish you luck undoing ll those carful stitches and then, of course, getting them back together again!
I can't imagine undertaking that job, but I can totally understand how you feel about the material, and how cool it will be to add some material from your family to that quilt.
That is one heck of a job in front of you. I do not envy anyone facing quilt repair. My MIL gave me some old tattered quilts she thought I'd WANT to repair…I hate to admit I eventually ditched them! I mean if they did not have sentimental value to the family they weren't worth my efforts – she didn't know where they came from just that they were old and there were gaping holes throughout. Now if it had belonged to mygmother or my hubby's I might've attempted the fix. I'm sure Pat will forever love your efforts in doing this.
WHAT A JOB! That is serious commitment to your family's history–what a loving thing to do.