Heirloom: something of special value handed down from one generation to another (Merriam-Webster).
The word “heirloom” may conjure images of sparkling gems, shiny watches or glowing pearls. But some precious heirlooms, although just as timeless, weather more quickly. Beautiful garments, quilts, handbags and accessories, made with great skill and care, deserve the title of heirloom as well. But caring for these treasures can be much more intimidating, as they are so much more delicate.
We are continually building our educational content and empowering our community to deepen their relationship with their clothes. Continue to develop your sewing skills, and you’ll soon be able to undertake a more complex project, like this one.
Great Grandma Pearl, a prolific quilter, created this quilt over 50 years ago. By 2017, the quilt looked exhausted. The fabric was worn and torn, the thread was frayed and the insert felt lumpy and crumbly.
The quilt was literally spilling its insides out of holes like these.
Fortunately, after years of making clothes without a pattern, I felt up to the task of disassembling and rebuilding this masterpiece. Seam ripper in hand, I gently tugged at seams. I gingerly worked over the entire blanket, assessing the extent of the damage of the decades.
After completely ripping out every seam of the outer quilt, I took a good look at the insert. It was a complete patchwork of pieces of fabric that had clearly lived out their life as a garment, and retired to be quilt stuffing. It was obvious because of the beautiful patterns, colors and delicate embroidery and stitching covering the insert.
The insert was badly worn in many places and unusable. But the discovery gave me an idea. Instead of buying new fabric to use as the insert, I could use some heinous fabrics I know I wouldn’t miss.
Besides being the best option for my wallet and the environment, giving old fabric new life felt true to the original quilt.
After cutting and sewing the insert to the correct specifications, it was time to patch the quilt. I used beautiful red and brown plaid remnant fabric to complement the original army green. I reinforced patches with a thin interfacing and slowly rebuilt the quilt. After sliding the insert into the quilt, it was time to knot!
The final product was a reinvigorated heirloom quilt, built to last for decades to come.
© 2021 Emma Westfall