Vintage Quilt - Potential Solution
Quilts

Working with a Vintage Quilt Top

Sometimes, the right person steps into your life at the right time. Serendipity in moments like those has been something I have been savoring over the past few weeks. A local woman, a friend of a friend, approached me about quilting a vintage quilt for her. We bartered for payment, and in return I am getting a meditation session with her a few times a week, fantastic suggested reading lists, and I am happy to say that my daily meditation practice is back and better than ever.

Vintage Quilt - Lots of Bulk

Vintage Quilt – Lots of Fullness and Bulk in the Center

So when I laid out the quilt top last week, I took a few deep breaths and stepped back to ponder the puzzle in front of me. She had a hard time squaring the quilt top, and she added some borders to bring it up to near king size. We knew ahead of time that there would likely be some fullness in the vintage quilt and she was OK with a few pleats if necessary.

I was not prepared for just how much fullness there would be, however.

Vintage Quilt - Potential Solution

Vintage Quilt – Potential Solution

Spending a morning on my hands and knees is not my favorite activity, but after getting up close with the vintage quilt top, I realized that the four-patch blocks are very inconsistently sized. The red sashing is better, but it, too has varying widths across the quilt top. Thankfully, with 8 strategically placed pleats that run side to side, the fullness was pretty much all removed and side to side, the quilt was much more forgiving.

Vintage Quilt - Potential Solution

Vintage Quilt – Potential Solution

My barter partner opted to take the quilt home to hand sew the pleats closed (like hand finishing a binding).

Vintage Quilt - Potential Solution

Vintage Quilt – Potential Solution

I expect she will be bringing the quilt back to me later this week. It will be much easier to quilt with the fullness and bulk tidily tucked away.

We opted for the pleats based on how the quilt is intended to be used. Have you ever worked with a vintage quilt and had this issue? How did you choose to solve the problem?

28 thoughts on “Working with a Vintage Quilt Top

  1. Andrea_R says:

    I’ve done a few vintage tops and most are pretty god. The wonkiest one had even more fullness than yours and was twisted. Since the owner didn’t sew and was paying for me to finish it completely, she was also okay with me reattaching the sashings to fix it. I did charge extra for that part.

    Once the top was fixed, I measured the extra lengths of sashings I had removed. One was on an angle and some were 2″ to a whopping 5″.

    But she was incredibly pleased with the finished quilt.

  2. Cindy Pieters says:

    I like how you are solving the excess problem, I’m not sure how I would have tackled. It may have involved a seam ripper not necessarily the best idea.

  3. Miriam says:

    what a nifty tip!!! I’ve hand quilted vintage tops, and that can be more forgiving on something like Grandmother’s Flower Garden. I’ve also picked out old stitches and re-sewn by hand. that’s definitely not something I like to do! my daughter has several vintage tops, and I’m going to remember your solution and hope i can integrate it as well. Thank you for another insightful post!

  4. I did have this issue once with the backing pleating during quilting on a quilt I made for my grandson. I stitched the pleat down the same way. It gets lots of use, has never come apart, and is pretty much undetectable. On vintage tops that have fullness (but not as much as the one you are working on) I have found that stipple quilting does a good job of taking up the excess because of all the different directions it goes in. For your project, I might have sewn the pleat with the excess material to the inside like a seam or removed some stitches and redone the sashing, but the condition of the fabrics would have been a factor. I think what you have done will be effective—especially if you choose quilting that does not call attention to it.

  5. Patty says:

    I think my LAQ used to curse me under her breath in my early days of quilting for ‘fullness’. Thankfully, I’ve gotten much better at it now! Good luck with the project.

  6. jayne says:

    I have never seen this technique of tucking the fabric to fix fullness. I think I would ave freaked out! I’m sure quilting will make it look like there was never a problem at all. For me…I’d need lots of meditation and perhaps a glass of wine or two! Can’t wait to see it after you work your magic on it!

  7. Suzanne says:

    Very clever! I’ve never worked with a vintage quilt, nevertheless I would not have had any idea how to fix it.

  8. What a challenge! I love that you bartered for this quilting task. It’s really a vintage quilt with a vintage way of payment too. I think the pleat idea is a good one but I would have difficulty with that. I would want instead to cut into it and resew the seam that way. Of course, I would have a mental fit having to cut into a vintage quilt. I guess in the old days, a wonky quilt was the norm. It is great that we have rulers to help us sew straight these days, however, there’s something lovely with those “unperfect” vintage beauties.

  9. stacyinswan says:

    I love how you handled this! I once had a vintage top that had curved pieces and it was not flat by any means. It was pastel colors and meant for a girl, so I used a very high loft batting and just did a loopy meander all over. I avoided pleats where possible but that meant there were spots had more fabric between the stitching – like it was poofy there . It actually turned out Awesome! Once washed and dried, it was a big poofy squooshy cuddly quilt and they loved it!.

  10. Liz says:

    I have never had a client unless you consider myself a client… give me anything like that, my answer to that was to tie it! It was the only way I knew how to finish my quilts when I started, I have 2 vintage quilt tops that were given to me to finish, from my step moms best friend, they were made by her mom or grand mother I can’t remember which… they both lay completely flat and were hand quilted so I know when it comes time for me to finally get the time to finish them they have to be finished by hand. This is will be a labor of love when I can get around to it because of all of the beautiful work that went into those designs. I am always thinking of my next project, to put together, to hand quilt, and I have so many tops waiting in line patiently… for my neck to heal so I can get back at it! Good luck with your labor of love… because that’s what the vintage ones turn into!

    1. Liz says:

      Oops hand pieced not quilted…

  11. aquilterstable says:

    oh this is really an interesting ‘fix’. I have a few vintage quilts to deal with myself, so I’m always curious how folks handle their issues…

  12. coollizzie says:

    What an enjoyable post – problem-solving! I, too, like your solution, tho like others, my inclination would be to rip off the borders, then see what could be done to even out the main part, then add the borders – IF it had to be quilted! My first thought was to sew a backing to it, pillowcase-style, and use it as a duvet cover rather than doing any quilting at all!!

    1. coollizzie says:

      Also – I am a handquilter and have no experience at all with longarm-quilting except what I read in blogs – it’s fascinating and beautiful!

  13. Wow, that seems like such a clever solution! I’ve never worked with a vintage quilt, so I have no experience or insight to share, but I look forward to seeing this one all quilted up. It’s good to know she’s no longer sitting idly in a WIP pile and is closer to becoming an heirloom piece 🙂

  14. Mari says:

    Interesting solution! I worked on a vintage top once with similar issues (plus blood spots!) and I ended up taking most of it apart and squaring it all up, then putting it back together. I also had to cut down the size because of damages to some of the blocks. Your solution is certainly quicker. Good luck with it!

  15. wazoo4u says:

    I’m a longarm quilter who also does repair and restoration on vintage quilts. This is a common problem with hand pieced tops. I have had much success with pressing the quilt using heavy spray starch. It takes a while, but you’d be surprised how it draws up the fullness. I also add strategically hidden seam fixers like yours. Good luck with the quilting! Pretty quilt.

  16. This is a really good solution. I made a quilt early on and it stretched quite a bit. I did a couple of pleats like this – tho I machine stitched the pleats. Once that was done and I quilted it you really couldn’t see the problem area. I bet this is going to work out well. I love when a barter works out. A win-win for both people1

  17. Lisa says:

    It’s great that you are meditating again. I have a vintage top waiting in the wings for me to fix up and finish….not even thinking about it until I retire.

  18. This is eye candy to me because it is my favorite period of fabrics. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  19. Tish says:

    I think this is a really good solution to handle the fullness. The quilt itself is beautiful and I really like the red sashing. I’ll be interested to see how you decided to quilt it. And very cool that you were able to work meditative services into the prices of the quilt.

  20. Yes, I have. I did the pleats with the machine from the backside, like putting in a seam. It was faster than hand stitching. Your solution is a fine one, with the customer doing the pleats by hand. Either way, taking out that fullness before quilting will help a lot!

  21. patty says:

    I am currently working on a vintage double wedding ring quilt made with a pink background and various prints for the rings that has some big issues. It had been quilted, but was done horribly. The person had also taken the backing, which was white, and rolled it over to the front and zig zagged it to finish it! Once it was taken apart, I got the full impact of how badly it was damaged with the quilting, the spray adhesive that had been used, and some big issues with the piecing. It was pieced by hand by the woman’s grandmother late in her life. There were holes in the quilt where it was missed when pieced and would not lay flat. I mulled over it for a year and a half before I finally decided the only way to fix it was to take it apart. I tried fixing the areas where there were holes, but it just made the wrinkles worst. I am almost done re-piecing the top (40 blocks!) and it now looks like the other beautifully pieced quilt her grandmother made earlier in her quiltmaking time. I just couldn’t quilt it the way it was.

    I actually like fixing quilts like this. I had a lone star quilt I had to partially take apart and resew so it would be flatter. I had to add borders too since all I had was the star. The woman loved it. Three generations had worked on the quilt and she never thought she would ever see it done.

    I am glad you and the customer were able to work out a solution. I do love that red sashing!

  22. Wow, that was a lot of fullness. Pleating was a great way to fix the issue and once sewn down and quilted, it will barely be noticeable.

  23. Interesting fix! and neat quilt top! I too have a vintage top to quilt – I was just going to add another layer of batting – but I might eye it closer and try some of your fixes 😉

  24. I’ve never worked with a vintage quilt, but have one put away that a friend bought me at an estate sale. I appreciate the tips you shared. Take care, Mary

  25. Kaja says:

    No experience with this sort of thing but I like your solution. Trading quilting for meditation classes sounds like an excellent deal all round.

  26. Wow; that was a lot of fullness! I think your solution was great for this quilt top and will make it much easier to quilt. I have had quilts that have had a lot of fullness in the borders and have taken pleats in them. I have also used the “soup can” trick for fullness in the center – you put a can of soup (or whatever you have on hand) on either side of the needle on the longarm so they kind of roll with it and it stretches out the fullness as you quilt. I don’t know if that would have worked for this quilt though with the amount of extra fabric; the pleating was probably the best solution!

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)