Recently, Mimi wrote a post about the pros and (mostly) cons of commission work and I jumped right in to leave a comment that my experiences and feelings pretty much echoed hers. So imagine my surprise when only a few days later, I was approached to do a restoration and found it to be an irresistible challenge. It wasn't a quilt, but it definitely was patchwork. The request was framed like this..."Aunt Jan? Do you think you can do anything to save Blankie a little longer?"
When you are considering such a request, it is important to ensure that you and the client understand what is being asked and to establish reasonable expectations. I was long acquainted with Blankie, but we hadn't seen each other in years. A mom and one, maybe two, grandmothers had left their imprint on it (him?) through tucks, embroidery and binding in various efforts to lengthen its life. But clearly, Blankie was on its last legs. I tentatively questioned my 10 year-old niece.
- *Do you want new binding?* You don't have to...it didn't have binding at the beginning.
- *Do you want me to try to keep your name on it?* Can you? It's ok if you can't. But could you save it for me so that I can frame it?
- *Do you want patches on some of the holes if I can manage it?* Sure, that's ok. Gram put a heart on it but you can only see a little of it here on the edge, under the binding Mom had to put on when the edges got ragged.
- *I might have to cut some of the worn edges off...would that be ok?* Oh sure. I don't care if it's smaller. As long as it's still Blankie.
And so it was that entrusted with Blankie, I returned home from Cincinnati two weeks ago to ponder the task ahead. After wandering fabric store aisles and considering various restorative possibilities, in the end I purchased two colors of closely matching cotton thread and a package of pink satin binding, deciding to try to keep it as close to original as possible. I washed it, after first checking with *mom* to make sure this wouldn't in any way destroy its blankie-ness (*sniff sniff*.) And then I pulled out the scissors.
First I lopped off all of the edging and then carefully detached the embroidered name. Actually, first I took a deep breath. Cutting into someone's Blankie isn't easy!
Hmmm. I decided my best approach would be to whipstitch the raggedy edges under (as well as possible) to stabilize the name enough to applique onto a background. Then, using a piece of blanket fabric from one of the trimmed off edges as a background piece, I appliqued the name down with a tiny blanket stitch to hold in any stray edges. Using 100% cotton thread, I first ran it through a wax chunk to add a bit of strength, avoiding the cutting effect of using a stronger, poly-cotton thread.
I then cut an oval paper template around which to form the name patch before applying to the blanket.
At this point, I needed a break and the project needed a bit more pondering. We headed to Michigan for a beach day, followed by several days in Chicago which was intended to be a househunting trip but somehow turned into a shopping spree for everything from gifts for Japan to serious fall wardrobe enhancement. (Funny how that happened.) I returned mid-week, reinvigorated with the Blankie deadline pressing in on me, only to have my sewing focus thrown off by house related activity (ending in a Big Nothing.)
SO! Pedal to the metal time. I attached the new satin binding to the remaining blanket center and then hand appliqued the name patch diagonally in one corner.
Our post office closes at 2:00pm on Saturdays and this had to be in the mail today so I was up early in the sewing room, facing the last challenge, the worn-through holes remaining in the body of the blanket. It's probably difficult to see in my photos...sorry, no waiting for a sunny day to shoot the perfect shots on this project...but the blanket fabric is a soft flannelly twill. When it was new, it was much firmer, but now it's quite worn, literally melting away from love. So how to repair the large holes without further weakening the fabric?
At first I considered just bonding a patch to the blanket, but when I tried a scrap sample, the raw edges of the fabric patch were still somewhat shreddy, despite the bonding. I considered adding a blanket stitch around the edge, but then was confronted with the problem of where and how to hide the thread ends? So much for that.
I ended up thread-darning the three holes, then pressing a circle of WonderUnder over each darned area. After peeling off the paper, I cut three heart patches (again, from the trimmed off blanket edges) leaving a 1/4" seam allowance around each. I then appliqued the hearts over the stabilized holes, following each application with a firm hot press of the iron, which adhered the center of the hearts to the blanket for a little more support.
Tick, tick, tick...
and that's a wrap! Because anyone who has to celebrate her birthday on September 11 should at least have her Blankie, don't you think?
*** I decided to include so many detail shots because I couldn't find any information about repairing such a well-loved item and thought my experience might be of some help to someone out there facing a similar dilemma. Not because they are particularly fascinating! As usual with my photos, you can click any of them for a larger view.