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Restored at last!
Last year the Super Bowl Sunday edition of the Journal Gazette featured an article about Born Again Quilts restoration studio in their Crafty Living column.
It was a great interview. Crafty Living columnist Joyce McCartney recently finished her first quilt, photographer Clint Keller’s wife and mother are quilters and best of all I met my two guests Becky One and Becky Two.
Becky One was referred to me by a friend. When I got the call from Joyce to do an interview, I asked her if she would like to see a quilt autopsy performed. How could she refuse? I call up Becky One and set the time and date. She emails photos so I have a good idea of the time period involved and she informs me she will bring her friend Becky along who also has a quilt in need of restoration.
Becky One’s quilt proves to be from the late 1800-early 1900 time period. Nine-patch blocks alternate with one of the nine-patch prints. The quilt top has an ultra white border, polyester batting and is hand-quilted. The quilt’s major problem is the light brown fabric with dark brown solid circles. The brown circles disintegrated leaving holes. The fabric so weakened, many of the squares are also ripped. Becky One asks me to replace the ten worse squares, remove the white borders and rebind the quilt.
The search for replacement fabric begins! This quilt will need a lot of it, and because it is a two-fabric quilt, finding identical fabric is going to be a challenge. Online, I go directly to www.bonniebluequilts.com. There I find the dead–on match for the blue fabric. The problem child fabric is much harder to replace. After searching other venues, I find a BBQ fabric is the closest match. When the fabric arrives, the dots aren’t as big or as dark brown as those on the quilt. The background is noticeably lighter. Undaunted, I tea dye the fabric to more closely resemble the original.  
Choosing the ten worse blocks was pragmatic with so many horrible ones to choose from. Near the border some of the blue print fabric is noticeably lighter. I target these for replacement so they blend better with the rest of the quilt.
The entire nine-patch blocks are removed, completely replaced, reset and hand quilted.
The binding and wide borders are removed. I confer with Becky One. Since the blue fabric now sprinkled throughout the quilt and set for binding-why not replace the borders with the same fabric? She agrees and more fabric is purchased. The borders are hand sewn into place. Using the back of the quilt as a guide, the borders are hand quilted to match the original design.
Next is the bath. The quilt has stains on the back and Becky One wants them out. This is going to be tricky since many blocks still contain fragile and ripped fabric. A white sheet is placed in the bathtub and a small amount of Orvus soap is added to running lukewarm water. The quilt is lowered into the bath and left to sit. From time to time the water is stirred up, and finally drained. After multiple rinses, the quilt is picked up by the sheet and tilted so gravity drains excess water. Out to the patio the sheet is laid out and the quilt is placed face down. Another white sheet is placed on top to protect the quilt from the sun and to absorb water. When dry the quilt looks better. The stains on the back are noticeably lighter. The background of the original brown dot fabric more closely resembles the reproduction fabric.
It is December 4, my son’s 21st birthday. Becky One comes by my booth at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s Holiday Boutique to pick up her treasured quilt and leftover fabric. In the future this quilt may once again grace the BAQ studio if Becky One decides to have more blocks replaced. As the first big snow of the year falls, Becky and her quilt are reunited just in time for the long winter ahead.
If you missed the original article with the photo featuring Becky Two’s quilt, find the link on the www.bornagainquilts.com home page. Looking for reproduction fabric of the 1800s? It is available at the studio.

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer