Monday, July 8, 2013

Repairing a Quilt from a Fire

Fire and Quilt.  Two words that should never be put together.   Never.  

A close friend of mine recently lost her house and everything in it.   The family, with 3 adorable children all got out and everyone is fine.   She was not a quilter, but they lost about 20 quilts.   While running out, the husband managed to snatch their wedding quilt which was hanging on the wall, and saved it.   So to speak.

The quilt and I have a little history together.   It came into my home back in 2007.  It needed hanging sleeves and was sent to me.   I put them on using an old sheet that had special meaning to both of us, I didn't tell her that though,  I just quietly hand stitched the sleeves on and returned it.   I am very thankful now that I took big stitches so that it ripped easily off the wall.

The night of the fire, it rained.   The quilt was sitting for a time in the yard while their house burned down.   It smelled of smoke and one colour ran alot.   Of course it was that darn red that ran.  

The quilt came back to me to see if I could 'fix' it.

 I aired it out for almost a month.  And during that time, I looked at it   I had no idea how to get that red out.   The back was white and pink streaks now ran through it.  I decided that I would leave the back alone.   One, because I knew it was going back on a wall when they got a new house, and two, it was a reminder, part of history, their history.

I called the maker of the quilt, and I called an expert in quilting.   The options were:
1.  Throw it in the wash with hot water and synthrapol.
2.  Take a bleach pen to the spots that ran.
3.   My idea.

I just could not throw this quilt in a washing machine.   As easy as that would have been, I think I probably would have had an ulcer in the 40 minutes it took for the wash to finish.  And all I could think about was what if it made it worse?  How could I ever return it to them?

The bleach pen idea was dismissed as well.  For starters, it was not going to bring the colour back, just make it white.   And it deteriorates the fabric.  

All that left was my idea.   It involved applique.   I detest applique.  Let me clarify, I love fusible  applique, but this quilt was pieced and machine and hand quilted, and there is even trapunto in it!  The quilter is pretty extraordinary.   And I knew there was an excellent chance she may see it again someday.  Imagine if there was fused applique on it!

I took a few pictures of the quilt.  I did not take one of the whole quilt as I did not get permission.  It is a scrappy log cabin pattern with white in the centre with flowers, leaves and stems appliqued on the white part.

Here is what I decided to do. I took my ruler and measured the rectangle, or section I was going to applique over.   I added a 1/4" to all sides, and then cut out the piece from a  similar piece of fabric.   I folded the sides in and ironed them, and with very tiny stitches appliqued it over the bad section.   Slowly.

We had some lighting issues.  Today was very dark.   But above is the 'before' shot.  Below is the after shot...come on... you are surprised it turned out so well aren't you?  I sure was=)

Here is another after shot... you can see the two spots where I pieced due to the fact that they were going to run into the original applique.

Did you know that dragon flies are a symbol of renewal?   And it is also known that dragon flies are a creature of the water and those whose habitat is in or around water, dragon flies bring luck, prosperity and peace.   Do you know why I am telling you this?

  You already know I like to leave a mark on all my quilts, just a symbol of some sort=)  Did you also know that I live on the largest fresh water island in the world?  My friend lives here too.   I would think that qualifies for a habitat around water don't you?   

There were quite a few of the darker sections that needed replacing. Here is my little secret  (my friend doesn't read my blog so I know it is safe with you).  On the darker fabric I had to replace, I used the same fabric each time.   Ready for the identifier, it has dragon flies on it.

The places I had to do this, I was thrilled with.   When I did the white, you can find the sections if you are looking because it is white and there are still one or two places that show a light pink.  But when I covered up the red spots here, it was gone, and you couldn't even find where I did it... except by the dragon flies.  Now don't tell!

Lastly, the sleeve was done in sections.   Two of the five sections were still on there.  Even though they wouldn't match the new sleeves I was adding, I just didn't feel it right to remove them.  So they stayed and three new sleeve sections were added.   

While this isn't my quilt, I feel that we have a bit of history together.   I look forward to walking into their new house someday and see it hanging.   That will bring a big smile to my face.  I hope the dragon flies do their job too!


Sewing Junkie said...

Nice story. Sorry to hear they lost everything. Your solution was excellent. Hope she appreciates your efforts.

Myra said...

Good for you, Jackie. Looks great.

Gene Black said...

That is really great Jackie. I would probably have done the syntrapol method- and added some color catcher sheets.

Rolanda said...

Great work Jackie. I've had to repair an old quilt before and it is not easy. Actually, it is really scary. You did a wonderful job.

Lynn said...

Nice solution to the problem. Great execution too!

Eileen said...

Good problem-solving.

jlk said...

You saved it! How amazing.

CraftyViolet said...

So sad to hear about their fire. What a great gesture for the man to grab their wedding quilt. Glad you were able to repair it.

Candice @ Made With Love said...

You are such an amazing friend, and not to mention a quilt hero! :)

Mama Pea said...

Candice is are a quilt hero. Amazing. This makes me get tears in my eyes.

Margaret said...

Beautifully done! I am in awe. :-)

Dolores said...

Good call. Are you liking applique now? My friends and I have been known to use butterflies to cover up small boo boos in quilts. It's nice to know that you did it your way and it worked.

Jacque said...

I am wowed by your results....awesome job. I know that this will be so meaningful to her; sure hope the dragonflies do their job! :)

SarahVee said...

Amazing. A wonderful fix. Love the dragonflies - there seem to be a lot of them this year! Thanks for sharing the story.

Lauren M. said...

Great solution and the quilt will have even more special memories. Having ruined part of a quilt with red that I thought I had prewashed, I felt the pain again in reading the story.
I have tried synthrapol and it did work to a great degree on a little quilt I made and the colours ran.

sandra said...

What a beautiful job you did Jackie and what a special friend you are for doing that. I hope that your friend is recovering from the lost and moved on to build the new.
Blessings Sandra

Emily C said...

Very nice results. Love the little dragonflies.

lorraine said...

We lost everything last year in a house fire. Clothing and linens are hard to toss - you think - hmmm that will wash out - doesnt' The smoke/oil penetrates the fibers. Some clothing the seams fell apart (darn nylon wrapped cotton thread). Other clothing the stain stayed so they became "work clothes". A friend took on the project of "fixing" a hand knit sweater we had purchased in Canada. You are right about the smell it's hard to get rid of - the firemen said oxyclean but some items it is harsh on - colors - and others it doesn't ake out the oil stain. Back to my knitted sweater - a year later she remembered to give it back - it had been washed and washed - so it lost it's sharp colors BUT NO ODOR. How? She put it in cat litter (before the cat got to the litter obviously). That's the same stuff they use if you flood your house - if you have a raised foundation.
SO there you are - glad to hear you all got out safely. THE LESSON FOR EVERYONE IS GET OUT AND DON'T LOOK BACK.