Archive for the ‘quilt restoration’ Category



The commonest question I receive, apart from requests for copies of instruction sheets is from quiltmakers who have become concerned that the printed lines and quilting guides on their quilts made from kits aren’t going to wash away completely.

The markings are usually in a light blue and are typical of all vintage appliqued quilt kits, cross stitch quilt kits and wholecloth quilt kits.

The technology of the “wash-out” markings has never been totally foolproof and there are almost always traces to be seen if one looks carefully at a quilt made from a kit. As a child and young teen I did a lot of embroidery using ‘iron-on’ transfers and this was always an issue with them too, although there are things that one can try to mitigate the problem.

Below is a very lovely and very early quilt made from a kit that is in my inventory at the moment.

This is “Scattered Morning Glories” by Home Needlecraft Creations, made in the late 1930’s. It is #7127 and finished size is 79×97 – I took it out earlier this afternoon and examined it carefully in strong sunlight – there are two places – one on the front and one on the back where the word ’seam’ is clearly visible on the fabric, and on the white background if I really look closely, I can see traces of colour under the quilted lines.

PRICE: “Scattered Morning Glories Home Needlecraft kit #7127, 1930’s, finished and ready to use 79×97, $575USD + $25USD shipping = $600USD total

Below, the word ’seam’ on the quilt back.

The first step to take when doing either applique or cross stitch on the quilt top is to try to ensure that the printed lines are covered by your applique seams or your cross stitch embroidery. Try not to expose the quilt top to strong natural sunlight or to the heat from light bulbs as this might set the colour - I always try to keep my work in a fabric bag out of strong light and away from heat sources when it is not being worked on.

Do NOT succumb to the temptation to start ’spot treating’ the markings to see if they will come out!!!Wait until you’re finished!

Next, after you have sandwiched your quilt and are ready to start quilting try to keep your quilting stitches precisely over the dots you will be following – the stitching helps to break them up visually.

A word about finishing materials – BATTING: Quilter’s Dream 100% cotton Request weight in pure white if the background of the quilt is pure white; or in natural if the quilt background is ecru or antique white. I always use BACKING in the width required by the quilt top and choose natural rather than stark white, but that’s my personal choice. Again 100% cotton. Now your three layers are all 100% cotton and if shrinkage happens it will be uniform. Washed quilts always drape better than unwashed as what sizing there was breaks down and the quilting stitches get a little puckered – lovely!

Finish and bind your quilt.

WASH the finished quilt: Hopefully you have access to a large capacity washing machine. Run a full cycle through your empty machine using lukewarm water no soap - this will clear out any residue of washing detergent usually used in it, and ensure your wash will be pure and clean. Having obtained an oxygen based product such as oxyclean or a cleaning agent specifically for vintage quilts and linens, fill your tub after adding the agent with  WARM (comfortable to the skin)  not cold and not hot water and agitate to disperse the washing agent through the water.
Immerse the quilt in the water and gently push it down to be sure it is totally wetted. Agitate on ‘gentle’ for a few minutes. Stop the machine and soak for 15 minutes to a half hour. Drain machine and refill with WARM water, soak and run the agitate cycle on gentle again. Allow the machine to go on to rinse and completely turn itself off. Carefully supporting the wet/damp quilt from underneath – bending over the tub slide your arms under the quilt and lift it from below – never suspend a wet quilt as the stitches can/will break and damage the quilt. Make sure your clothing is well worn so that it will not transfer dye to the quilt if you hold it against your body.

Transfer carefully to the dryer on gentle/warm setting and dry to damp dry.  Do NOT use a dryer sheet and do not over dry! Carefully remove and fold finished side out and hang a clean white towel over a door or your shower rail and lay the folded quilt on top of the towel – let it air dry while folding and refolding to allow for even drying and be certain that the quilt is 100% dry before removing it.

Examine the quilt in a clean dry surface to assess whether you still have an unacceptable residue of blue ink. In my experience, at most I’ve had to wash the item once more – never more than that.

Put your treasure on your bed and enjoy!

Words about printed marks remaining on vintage quilt from kits:   ManyQuilt Historians acknowledge remaining marks as “beauty spots” – part of the way they document a quilt’s provenance. At the time that these kits were being made up, it was common knowledge that the washout ink technology was imperfect at best, and definitely the machines in which garments and bedding were washed then were in no way equal to what are commonplace today. Soaps were limited to Ivory soap, either flaked in the box or shaved by hand for gentle washing , while tougher textiles were exposed to Fels Naptha or Sunlight Soap – again shaved by hand with a dash of 20 Mule Team Borax to whiten.  Pretty rough and ready by our standards today.  There simply were no dryers for domestic use. Laundry  got pegged out on the line or draped over something to dry. Women didn’t have time to mess around and they were usually satisfied if it was’good enough’ . One can see the same standard being expressed in vintage piecing – if you ran out of a fabric you used the ‘best’ match you could find as ther were no resources beyond the twice yearly catalogue and what the stores near enough to you carried.  And if you made a mistake that was fine too since only God was perfect.

My personal take on the issue of remaining washout ink marks is that we must set aside today’s standards when assessing vintage treasures such as quilts and learn to accept that at the time these kits were popular different standards of perfection existed. I am the first person to refuse to accept anything less than perfect piecing on the contemporary quilts I make, but can also see the beauty in and collect quilts from 50, 60 or 75 years ago which were less than perrfect when completed, but still loved and treasured.


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Keep Warm and check back with me often!

Hugs – Janet



Most of my life I have been a terrible packrat and collector and I have come to the realization that I need to start weeding out my collections – have made a New Year’s resolution to do that and it may be easier than the second one to get fitter and lose some weight. I need to concentrate specially my collections of vintage quilt kits, both cross stitched (Paragon and Tobin)and applique and Doublestencil Smithsonian whole cloth and wholecloths embellished with needleturn applique.
In addition I have a huge supply of fabrics, mostly 19th century reproduction, amish-style solids and 1930’s both repro and genuine feedsack. As well I have a fair supply of 1970’s and 80’s tiny flowered calicos. Time to get sewing on my own planned projects so I will only rarely now be accepting commissions to hand quilt others’ quilt tops and now and then will accept a quilt restoration if I am intrigued enough. I am hoping my new commission clients may be interested in letting me surprise them after choosing colours and type of quilt – my creative juices are currently becoming frustrated! I have many antique and vintage quilt tops to be finished too.
As well, I have collected and dealt in Nova Scotian Folk Art for at least 30 years and am planning on keeping only a few sentimental pieces such as the fine Elmer Killen carving of a man and team plowing, which was left to me in my mother’s estate.
I also have smalls of all sorts to go.
Basically I’d suggest you contact me with your wish list and we’ll see what we can find – once the snow is gone and the tourists are here again I will be open 7 days a week and expect my collections to move fast, so perhaps checking out my inventory now is a good idea!
I am reaching the point in life where I want to do more of my own design projects and am also embarking on teaching online as my main occupation, so it makes sense to downsize. As well I am looking at some fairly extensive maintainance for my almost 200 year old home so reducing the stuff that will need to be pushed around from place to place makes a lot of sense to me!!!.


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