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Home > Newsletters > December 2004

December 2004

Common Question:

Should I repair an old quilt and how?
I know, here we go talking about quilts again…but I am asked this question all the time when vending at shows.

If you have a vintage or antique quilt that has a hole or split seam or a fabric that is deteriorating you have to ask yourself a few questions first:

1. How is the quilt being used? Will be used?
If it used just for display purposes on a quilt rack or folded on the end of a bed, decoratively…leave it…fold it so the damage is hidden and move on. On the other hand, if this it is a quilt that is displayed completely open on a wall or bed, and that damage is going to drive you crazy…move onto questions 2, 3, and 4.

2. Is it an important, historical, or rare piece? Or simply sentimental?
If the quit has some important genealogy, or history behind it, or if it a rare type of quilt (like an English Medallion in Chintz), leave it…do nothing more that gently stitch a piece of crepoline (tulle like fabric used in conserving damaged textiles) over the damaged area. If it is only sentimental, move onto questions 3 and 4.

3. Is the value to you simply sentimental or are you concerned with its resale value in the future?
If you are concerned with the resale value of the quilt at all…do nothing, but again, maybe conserve the area with crepoline. Some might even venture to replace an old binding if it is worn…but realize ANYTHING you do may decrease the value of the quilt as an investment. If the quilt only has sentimental value, move onto question 4.

4. How extensive is the damage?
Wow, you're persistent, made it to #4 and you are adamant about fixing that quilt!
If the quilt simply has a split seam where some threads have come undone, I see no harm in taking a needle and thread and stitching it with tiny and invisible stitches. If a fabric needs to be replaced, try to replace it with a fabric from the same era and similar in scale and color. Hard? Yes, but not impossible. If you have no care in the world about the value and just want to continue using Grandma's Double Wedding Quilt like you have for the past 10 years, there are plenty or reproduction fabrics available and I guess you can use them, but it is not my preferred resource.

If it is extensive damage: holes, large chunks missing, etc…find a professional. I would be happy to refer you to one in your area.

And always, always label any changes you made with the date and your name on it. When I conserve a quilt (note, I did not say restore), I always take before and after pictures, as well.

Feature Article: "The Secret Language of the Handkerchief"

Handkerchiefs have been around since Ancient Egypt. But they were not commonly used until the Middle Ages, in Europe. Ladies would give their Knights their handkerchiefs to tie behind their helmet. In the 1500s, handkerchiefs were not only used for the sniffles and drying ones tears, but were perfumed…personal hygiene was not as we know it today. But it was also during this time that the handkerchief was being used in communication…between a man and woman. And later in Shakespearean plays such as Othello. During the 1600s, handkerchiefs were made of silk, linen, satin and were embellished with lace, embroidery, jewels, and even painted.

In early America, handkerchiefs did not become popular until the cotton industry was established. They were mass produced and often carried political messages.

The development of the tissue and increased public fear of germs slowed the market in the 1920s to the 1930s. Until World War II. Handkerchiefs came back into fashion, they were fun, pretty, and the must have accessory. During the 1950s, souvenir handkerchiefs became very popular…America was taking to the road and had the hankies to prove it. In the 1960s, women became, dare I say, more practical, in a handkerchief sense. They were no longer considered part of fashion and the basic white delicate handkerchief became popular again, often with embroidery or drawnwork.

This is an interesting reference in the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union
February 10, 1871

"Handkerchief Flirtations"
The following code of signals may be used on the street,
in the car or stage, as well as the theatre, opera or concert:

Drawing across the lips--Desirous of an acquaintance
Drawing across the eyes--I am sorry
Taking by the centre--You are too willing
Dropping--We will be friends
Twirling in both hands--Indifference
Drawing across the cheek--I love you
Drawing through the hands--I hate you
Letting it rest on the right cheek--Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek--No
Twirling it in the left hand--I wish to be rid of you
Twirling it in right hand--I love another
Folding it--I wish to speak with you
Over the shoulder--Follow me
Opposite corners in both hands--Wait for me
Drawing across forehead--We are watched
Placing on right ear--You have changed
Placing on left ear--I have a message for you
Letting it remain on the eyes--You are cruel
Winding around forefinger--I am engaged
Winding around third finger--I am married
Putting it in the pocket--No more at present

Material Pleasures has over 100 vintage handkerchiefs listed on its website:
Boxed Sets, Hand Embroidered, Machine Embroidered, Men's Handkerchiefs, Linen, Cotton, Lace, and Printed.

Grab a cup of coffee and you can view all my handkerchiefs:




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