Quilt Restoration Project – Sunbonnet Sue and Green Boats – Part 1

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to help a family preserve some precious memories.  These quilts were machine pieced and hand quilted by the great-grandmother.  The plan is to restore them so that they can be gently used by her great-granddaughter in her new and first house.

Green Boats Before Restoration.

Green Boats Before Restoration.

 

The front of the Sunbonnet Sue quilt prior to any restoration

The front of the Sunbonnet Sue quilt prior to any restoration

This post is going to focus on the overall assessment of the quilts as well as the binding.

Luckily, most of the fabric on these two beauties is in pretty good shape. The pictures above show how beautiful these two are.  Upon closer examination the areas that need to be addressed are the binding, some holes and rips and some of the applique on the Sunbonnet Sue’s.

There are also stains that may or may not come out with gentle hand-washing, but they are not excessive and can be lived (loved) with.

Binding (before):

The binding on both were in very rough shape and all but falling apart.  Both were bound using the “fold over” technique and hand stitched to the front.  All corners were squared so had a lot of excess fabric.  As you can see from the photos below, not only was the binding ragged, the batting has gone through many washings and was literally falling out of the pink quilt.

Green Boats (3)

Condition of the binding on the green sailboat quilt.

Years of washing and use has made the batting separate and flake.

Years of washing and use has made the batting separate and flake.

Ultimately the goal is to make these quilts whole again without taking away from the loving care that went into making them.   It is for this reason that I decided not to worry about squaring the quilt (especially the pink one). Doing so would have meant cutting it down which would have altered the look of the top.

It is easy to see that there was no way to square this quilt without making the top look wonky - so I didn't.  It is beautiful the way it was made.

It is easy to see that there was no way to square this quilt without making the top look wonky – so I didn’t. It is beautiful the way it as made.

Binding (after):

Here are images of both the quilts showing similar before and after pictures.  I am very pleased about how this project is progressing.  I fixed the binding first for a couple reasons:

  1. There were no holes that were evident in areas that intersected the binding.
  2. By cleaning up the binding, I was able to arrest the flaking and loss of batting.

Green boats before and after binding

 

Pink before and after binding

 

The next step is to fix the numerous rips, tears, holes and issues with the Sunbonnet Sue dresses that have come up.  Now that the quilts are bound and no longer run the risk of further damage, I can tackle each section individually.  I plan on implementing hand-sewing techniques to fix all of them which will take time but will keep the hand made feel of the original work.

Repair Fabric:

Probably the most difficult choice through this process is the fabric.  Because original fabric is not available, it takes time to look through all that is available to find the best match.  I say best because there is no way to find a fabric that will 100% match up with the colors and patterns used at the time these were new.  Add into this the fact that colors have faded over time due to use and the environment, it is impossible to hide the repairs.

It will take a variety of fabrics to fix the different areas of these quilts.

It will take a variety of fabrics to fix the different areas of these quilts.

With this being said, I am not even going to try!  Instead, the goal is to choose repair fabrics that will blend well and lend to the feel of the original idea.  As you can see so far, the green and pink chosen for the binding is not an exact match, but are close enough to make the quilt whole without changing its look.

What’s Next?:

I can’t wait to get working on the individual applique pieces and that large hole through the pink quilt.  I am thinking a heart on front and back in the same pink as the binding may work perfectly for this.  A hear can easily represent the love that was put into this quilt all those years ago.