Antique and Special Project Quilts

Long-arm quilters rarely accept antique quilt tops to work on. I’m not completely sure why. Yes, there can be problems. Maybe I am not afraid of working on one as I have sewn so much over the years from satin, chiffon and velvet for wedding, prom and formal gowns to rip-stop nylon for a camping tent and down vests; double-knit for men’s dress pants to single-knits for baby things; and cotton for quilting, clothing, curtains and drapes.


full quiltApril 2017 – I started this vintage quilt restoration several months ago. I needed to separate the face fabric from the back fabric to throw out the old batting. It took me two weeks of carefully removing the quilting thread to separate the parts. I washed and pressed the fabric in an effort to get the dirt out but also get the old quilting lines out. To fix worn spots, I used a light weight jersey iron-on interfacing. Small squares of the jersey fabric were placed behind the worn spots and ironed to set. On the long arm, a tulip pattern was quilted edge-2-edge. New binding was made from a Kona cotton that perfectly matches the soft green background color. The finished, restored quilt measures 69″ x 79″ and is very, very soft to the touch.



December 2016 – This restoration of an antique quilt has to be one of the most challenging projects I have undertaken and one of the most rewarding. In September the owner brought the quilt to me for repair.finished-quilt

As I looked at the quilt I realized it had been loved to death and really should have the best parts cut out and framed or maybe just thrown away. Neither option was acceptable to the owner. The quilt belongs to her husband and was made by his grandmother and is very important.

So, a Plan B was devised. I cut each appliqué out, removing all batting and extra threads. There were 15 dresden plates and 15 butterflies. Five of the dresden plates were taken apart to find sections with no holes or tears. These were hand sewn over the bad parts of other dresden plate appliqués. original-for-websiteThe butterflies were in much better shape. A few required small pieces of a very light weight fusible interfacing be ironed onto the back to strengthen thin fragile spots, but only a few.

I created a new base quilt using kona cotton. The challenge was to find light weight cotton fabric that matched the apple green sashing and butter yellow corner blocks of the original quilt. new-quiltMy local quilt shop owner helped me find fabric that is an exact match. Unbelievable.

I cut the fabric, and pieced and quilted the new quilt by machine and then washed it in hot water and dried it in a hot dryer to get the maximum shrinkage. I wanted a vintage look and think that was accomplished.

original-3Next, was the job of appliquéing the now 20 restored dresden plates and butterflies onto the new quilt. I pulled out my small quilting frame and set up shop in the living room. I worked about 50 hours hand stitching and quilting these appliqués in place. I embroidered antennae on the butterflies just like the original quilt.

The finished quilt measures 55″ x 69″. The original quilt had 30 blocks, the restored quilt has 20.



December 2016 – This quilt was a group project. In October I received a telephone call from a member of our church staff asking if I would be willing to work with two ladies to create a quilt as a gift for a retiring pastor. Of course, I said yes. We had a team of 10 women to purchase and cut fabric, stitch the block sections and work on collecting the 168 signatures that were put into the quilt. I did the final long-arm quilting and the quilt was finished, label and all, one week before it was presented on December 15. I did an overall edge-2-edge on the 42-12″ blocks and then free motion feathers on the 8″ border. The king-size quilt measures 105″ x 115″ and currently resides on the couple’s bed.



October 2016 – I have not had many antique quilt projects over the last year until this one arrived (actually I have two more antique quilts waiting  for me to get started on). In June 2015 I did a Bethlehem Star quilt pieced by the same lady, Ruth Damaris Smith Prater. The quilt top was found by her daughter and given to me to quilt. The polyester fabric used created more problems for the long-arm than the previous top yet the eight points of the star finished perfectly against the binding. The background fabric and backing is unbleached muslin.



Christmas Eve Eve 2015 – In August 2015 a lady brought to me an antique quilt top made by her grandmother. The pattern is Grandmother’s Flower Garden. We estimated the quilt blocks were stitched during the 1930s possibly into the early 1940s as her grandmother passed on after a lengthy illness in 1948. The fabrics are beyond beautiful.

finished quiltThe finished quilt is shown at the right. Finished size 66″ x 96″

However the quilt top’s story is very complicated.

At first, with the top laying on my dining room table, the problems are not noticeable. When the top was first put onto the long arm, the yellow border problems began to surface. These were to be cut off anyway, so I started quilting.

The individual flowers are quilted with a rose pattern with thread to match the color of each flower. The borders around the flowers are free-hand feathers.

As I rolled the quilt onto the take-up roller it became apparent that there was a problem, a very serious problem. So serious I had to ask the owner to come to the house, twice, and see the problem. I sought the council of another quilter for in-put as to how to deal with the problem.

The problem … block units were made with different sized hexagon pieces. Most hexagon flowers were the same size, others were stitched together with hexagons that were a 1/4″ larger. One-quarter inch is a lot when multiplied by the 19 units to each flower, plus their borders. Single flower units could be quilted if I moved the sewing head slowly and carefully. However where ever a group of these oversized blocks appeared there was trouble. This happened in three locations on the quilt top. The yellow border, referenced above, was like a gathered skirt.

fullness first halfAfter rolling the finished quilted section onto the take-up roller and the bottom half of the quilt top brought up to be parallel to the long-arm bars, there remained a huge set of folds at one end that simply could not be “quilted through.” The six flowers at the front of the photo shown on the left, were considerably larger than the rest of the flowers on these same two rows.
After visiting with a fellow quilter, and two halvesthe owner, it was decided to remove the center two rows from the quilt top. The entire top, batting and backing, came off the long-arm and onto my dining room table. There I slowly snipped thread to release these two rows of flowers. The photo left shows the two halves with the problem rows removed.

Then I carefully hand stitched the two halves back together and put the quilt back onto the long-arm. Reloading the quilt took extra time to make sure fabric was square, there were no bubbles or wrinkles, etc.

In the end, the finished quilt came out beautiful. I trimmed the top and added a narrow yellow border using Kona cotton that closely matched the flower centers in color and texture. A hanging sleeve was added as well as a label giving the quilt top’s history.

I suggested the owner have the large blocks that were removed framed without any quilting. These would be original blocks hand pieced by her grandmother Mary Forde Black (1873, Ireland – 1948, Iowa) sometime between 1935-1940.

The owner was thrilled with the finished quilt, pictured at the beginning of this story, and picked it up in time to be a Christmas gift for one of her daughters. Below are close-ups of the quilted feathers and a rose flower.

feathers close up

rose green.jpg


December 2015 – A couple from the adult Bible study class at my church lost their home in a terrible forest fire two years ago. This past summer they moved into a new permanent home and a bunch of friends (myself included) decided to make a quilt for their new home.

The pattern is Lover’s Knot by Eleanor Burns and it fits a queen bed. A group of ladies gathered at one home to cut and sew the blocks.We then collected signatures, Scripture verses and well wishes from members of the Bible class. The quilt top was passed to several different homes so other ladies could hand embroider these signatures and messages on the light colored fabric of each block unit.

The finished quilt top was machine quilted by me and another lady stitched down the binding. We began the project in August and the quilt was completed in mid-December a few days before the class Christmas party. It was truly a group effort and the finished quilt turned out quite beautiful.



July 2015 – I thought I would post a couple of pictures of a recent vintage quilt I restored. The original quilted blanket belongs to our daughter-in-law’s mom. It was the blanket she had as a child, was very worn, and very important to her. I needed to take it completely apart, remove all the old batting so it could be replaced with new cotton batting, and then quilted, and have new binding sewn on.

The restored quilted blanket finished beautifully. I took and returned the blanket to it’s owner on a recent road trip to SoCal. She was very pleased to have her special quilted blanket restored.

Jeannies quilt


June 2015 – This Bethlehem Star quilt below was originally pieced using both cotton and polyester fabrics, probably mid 1970s.

After loading the quilt on the long arm frame, serious problems became apparent. Several areas would need to have stitching removed and resewn by hand to reduce huge bubbles of stretched fabric and piecing to replace missing fabric using scraps of fabric.

There were problems quilting it on the long arm as the polyester fP1030017abrics simply don’t lay flat. Running the long arm slowly, I could place my fingers along the sewing head enabling me to hold down much of the problematic seams. The final result is very nice.

The quilt was pieced by the owner’s mother and intended for a grand daughter as a graduation gift. I added a label after the binding was sewn on.

The owner said the result far exceeded her expectations. Thank you.

bethlehem star


January 2015 – Below is an antique quilt with 9-patches containing 3/4″ square pieces of fabric. It came with a number of challenges: a sheet for back fabric, polyester craft batting and tiny worn pieces in need of repair. Working with the owner, I decided to use the sheet and polyester batting. She commissioned me to make all repairs before beginning to quilt and to add the binding when finished. It was necessary to run the long-arm at the slowest speed and use my fingers to control the fabric as the hopping foot stitched. In the end, the quilt came out quite well.

antique quilt

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