Seeking Advice on a Damaged Quilt

Hi everyone! I’m back from my travels, and an adventure they were.

Me & my sister Annie, circa 1975, under one of these quilts.

I spent the night on the way there in Chicago, compliments of United Airlines. I was not able to collect my checked bag, so I had to beg a toothbrush and toothpaste off the bellman at the O’Hare Hilton and wear ALL the same clothes for two days. At least I got a bed and a shower. No complaints about that!

I opted to be re-routed to Lexington from Louisville so I wouldn’t have to wait 24 hours for a flight out (through Cleveland!), but my bag went to Louisville. They sent it by courier to my parents’ house, where it arrived at 10:15 that night. Two very long days!!

On the way back, the 12-year old boy traveling alone and sitting directly behind me threw up during the landing. Everyone felt really bad for him. It *was* pretty bumpy and it was a small plane.

But I had fun visiting with some old friends and my parents were very happy to have me around for a week. Well, almost a week – my mother was really disappointed when I had to spend the first night in Chicago!

Anyhow, while I was there we dug out a few things, as usual. My mother wanted to know what I thought of the quilts my sister and I had on our beds when we were kids. I’ve shown one of them to you before.

They have sustained some significant damage. I honestly don’t know if they can be saved, so I’m posting the horrifying photos here to see if anyone out there has any suggestions. If you want to see them in more detail, click on the photos and you will be taken to Flickr where you can view larger versions.

This one has the most damage to the fabrics. Large portions of the white areas on the front are just gone, and some of the patterned squares are missing as well.

Quilt handmade by my grandmother in the 1970s

These shots show some areas closer up.

Fabric damage to front of quilt.

Fabric damage to front of quilt.

The other major problem on this quilt is that it has some serious mold. My parents basement has always had a water problem, and this quilt apparently got wet during the last catastrophe and then was not adequately dried out before it was stored.

Mold damage to front of quilt

There are spots of mold on the back as well.

Mold Damage to back of quilt

The other quilt does not have the mold damage, or as much damage to the fabrics (for some unknown reason), but is just overall a lot grungier looking. The quilt in the photos above is at the top of the photo below. See how the quilt at the bottom of the photo looks brown in comparison??

Matching quilts made by my grandmother in the 1970's.

So, the questions are, is the fabric damage repairable/reconstructable, can the mold be removed, can the grungy one be gotten clean again, and would you clean first and then repair (to get a better match of the fabrics) or repair and then clean (so the whole thing doesn’t fall apart when you clean it?)???

All recommendations welcome!

This photo shows me and my sister, circa 1975, sitting together in one of our beds (I can’t remember whose this was), under one of these quilts. (I’m on the right.)

Me & my sister Annie, circa 1975, under one of these quilts.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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11 comments to Seeking Advice on a Damaged Quilt

  • I have come to believe that as much as I would like, some things are just not worth it. If you love the white quilt so much, I would soak it in a diluted bleach to remove the mildew, put it in the sun. Then cut out the blocks that are intact and whip them together for a doll quilt. Even though I am not a fan of bleach, I am less of a fan of mildew.

  • i have to agree with diane- salvage what you can, or put the whole thing under glass.

  • What a shame! I’ll ask my friend who has worked as a museum conservator and archivist and get back to you.

  • Evonne

    I agree with the previous comments, just save the portions that can be saved. I think it would be really sweet to make baby quilts for the next generation? The second quilt was maybe made of a different fabric? Some fabric has different chemicals in it which causes yellowing faster, just like some book paper gets yellow while other books remain white. It seems to be a part of the fabric rather than something you can wash out?? Good luck handling these wonderful quilts. They are certainly family heirlooms!

  • I love that picture of you and your sister from when you were kids! So fun to see. It was also fun to follow you along on your travels via your updates on Facebook. Sounds like a great trip, in spite of the travel woes.

    I don’t have any answers for you about selvaging the quilt, but I know mold is not something to be taken lightly, especially if you have allergies or asthma. I would agree with Diane’s suggestion to save a part of it and turn it into something you can preserve better. I think it would be fun to have a piece of the bedspread from my sister’s and my bed when we were kids. Even just framed and hanging on the wall.

  • i just recently came across a solution for removing mold from fabric. i need to go find it, and i will let you know. i would contact a local quilt guild and ask for a quilt restorers info. we have a person here but i think its best for a person to see it. they can tell you what you can do. i think if its childhood memories, its worth trying to salvage. i hate cutting into any quilt

  • i cant locate the specific link but found this. again i would talk to a quilt restorer before doing anything

  • Aww, at least you know the quilts were well-loved. I don’t have any tips on restoration, but do let us know what you do! I spent a night in O’Hare once, myself (IN O’Hare, no hotel rooms were given) – with my dog. It was quite a long trip. Memories, eh?

  • I agree with what has been said up to now, but perhaps you could just make a close reproduction?

  • A friend of mine routinely gets antique linens and clothing that has been discolored. She soaks them in Oxy-clean for a day or two and then rinses them out. The whites usually get white again. I’d try that with the one quilt that looks more aged.

  • Ooo, those quilts are sad

    Hi Amy I asked my conservator/archivist friend and this is what she replied in her email

    Ooh those quilts are so sad!
    These quilts have sentimental value, but little else.  If they were 19thC, they would be painstakingly cleaned and then kept as is, but 1970s quilts….  I would seek some similar fabrics and start again!

    At AU $130 per hour, she could try a textile conservator, but realistically, the quilts are long gone.  Mildew is there forever and fabric has rotted away.  If I was her, and didn’t want to start again, I would take the quilts apart, save the fabrics I could, and back them onto something else (perhaps fusible interfacing?) or hand sewing to hold the layers together, then making up a new quilt top.  There might be enough for a cushion!

    It sounds harsh but I suspect you already knew that. Sentimental value is so important tho’ so would be nice to do something…

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