Every Quilt Tells A Story


vintage laura ashley patchwork baby quiltWhen I was first married, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks visiting my Mum in Oxford (we lived in California then).  The 1990 World Cup was on TV and the three of us worked on a patchwork baby quilt for the twinkle in his eye – he did the cutting – he’s a mechanic and good with his hands plus the direct descendent of two wonderful seamstresses.  Our first baby wasn’t born until three years later but we had the quilt ready – I’m nothing if not organized.  We used my Mum’s stash of Laura Ashley fabric that seems to have been around my whole life.

We now have four children but the quilt remained in the hands of number 3 who was six when number 4 came along and was not going to relinquish it – she still has it in her bed today.  So, when I was pregnant with number four, my three kids and I made a new quilt for the baby but that’s another story….

Today, as baby number one approaches his 19th Birthday, the original quilt is in a poor state of repair – the back and front have separated, some of the fabric has holes or is as thin as tissue paper and and it’s certainly too fragile to wash.

hole damage to vintage laura ashley paper-pieced quilt

heirloom grannies flower garden quilt in need of repair

I don’t claim to be an expert on quilt repair I’m just sharing how I fixed mine.

Mine is a hand sewn English-style paper-pieced patchwork – the very traditional granny’s flower garden pattern.  It wasn’t until I went to America did I discover patchwork can be done on a machine!  It’s funny because tradition seems to dictate that Brits focus on the hand sewing of the patches and then neglect the actual quilting, while Americans seem to use a machine to piece their patches and then hand quilt.  My quilt was all hand sewn but not quilted at all.  I had just folded the original backing fabric around the wadding and then hand sewed the patchwork piece on top – so there was no binding either.  It held up for nearly 20 years so not too bad.

new patch for old english patchwork quilt

To repair my quilt I made new “duplicate” patches to sew on top.  I still have the original fabrics – inherited from my mum – and it was very nostalgic, therapeutic and reassuring to work with them.  I’m pretty sure there’s enough – now vintage – Laura Ashley fabrics to make quilts for any grandchildren that might come along!

I couldn’t find the original template so I measured my hexagons and used a computer program to draw new ones (30mm sides).  I printed the hexagons onto regular printer paper and cut them out.  Normally, in English patchwork, the fabric is tacked (basted) on to the papers and then the papers are removed when it is all sewn together.  For my repair, I  folded the fabric around the papers and tacked/basted without piercing the paper so I could remove the paper before applying the patch.  I found it worked best if I ironed the fabric around the paper first.

grannys flower garden patchwork rosette reverse side
I ended up sewing four new rosettes of seven hexagons each and around 12 individual hexagon patches. Here’s some of them…

grannys flower garden patchwork rosette reverse side
The pinkish fabric on the bottom is not in my original quilt but it’s in my Mum’s beautiful quilt so I have added it as an extra reminder of her.

pink laura ashley patchwork quilt hexagon flower garden pattern

I hand sewed all the new patches directly on top of the old patches using slip stitch.  For added security and strength I put and extra piece of salvaged white sheeting fabric behind the original top.  I was surprised how well this worked, you really can’t see the difference.

new patch on old quilt

When the patches were all sewn on it was time to sew the back on.  My daughter wanted to keep the original back even though it was very thin (soft and comforting) because her granny had sewn two patches on it when it got caught between her buggy wheel and the pavement!  I cut off the very frayed edges and then made a new binding with some plain pink Laura Ashley fabric – from the stash.  I sought a little help on this from one of my favourite blogs flossieteacakes.blogspot.com.  The original wadding was in a sorry state so it was binned.  New wadding would have been too bulky as the old stuff had squashed thin – the repaired quilt needed to remain small enough to be taken on trips!

I decided to use an interfacing product called Vilene X50 which I bought at my local quilting store.  It is also known as Pellon I believe.  It had grid lines like graph paper which are iron on.  Anyway, it was the perfect weight for me.  I ironed it on to the backing fabric and then sewed the binding strips to the backing also.  I then folded the binding on to the front, ironed it, turned it under and hand sewed it to the front.  I think normally one hand sews the binding on the back but I wanted to be sure to get the join exactly in the middle of my hexagons.  I didn’t get the binding perfectly centred but that’s because I never measure anything – it’s art not science!

Two more holes had developed on the back so so I applied two more patches – I repair punctures also!

Finally, I washed the quilt carefully by hand – it came almost clean.  I put it in the front loading washing machine in a large net bag and then spun it.  I line dried it in the fresh Scottish wind!

Here’s the repaired quilt in my flower garden sitting on my Mum’s old garden bench – I’m wishing she was here to sit on her bench with a coffee and a cigarette like she used to.

repaired flower garden quilt on garden bench in my flower garden

It took me about three days to repair the quilt  but it was very rewarding and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Equally rewarding was involving my daughter – quilt owner and client – in the process.  She managed to gladden my heart by getting bitten by the patchwork bug and is now making a patchwork cushion cover with her beloved “Gabby’s” fabric.

hand sewn english paper pieced patchwork

how to make a granny's flower garden quilt

Here’s my daughter’s wonderful stitching – even neater than mine – and her project in progress – not bad for a 13 year old.  We spent a wonderful evening on the sofa “patching” together and watching The Waltons on DVD courtesy of Love Film – just listening to that theme tune cheers me up.  We were both delighted that Ma Walton’s patchwork quilts featured quite heavily.

When I was little, The Waltons was one of my favourite TV programs – I wanted to be one of those barefoot, denim dungaree-clad kids – I did have denim dungarees but mostly wore shoes – too cold and wet in Britain.

By the miracle of modern science – and the scanner I got for my Birthday – I can share with you a page from my six-year old self’s school “news” jotter. What I can’t understand is how my Mum managed to keep such a beautiful, tidy and uncluttered house given that she never chucked out any old fabric or old school jotters/reports/artwork.

a page from my jotter age 6

Anyway, it seems I have now turned into “Ma” Walton with my very own ramshackle house, lots of kids and a wonderful American “Pa” for my kids. Unfortunately, however, I can’t move in my house for bits of old fabric and old school jotters!

If you find this story useful or interesting, please leave a comment, thanks.


2 responses »

  1. A lovely story demonstrating the true meaning of patchwork. i confess I shed a tear. We miss your mum too, at the art class telling all her funny stories. She left a wonderful legacy, though. You and your ‘Walton’ family.

    I loved the Walton’s, it was one of my favourite programmes. Sigh!

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