Work in April was mostly centered around the rescue of a family heirloom that had seen better days. A baby’s crib-sized comforter came to the studio, entirely missing its back and edges, leaving its wool and polyester batt just in its sacking cover. A few remnants of the top perimeter edging remained, faded from light purple to pale pink.
Only five of the 12 flower motifs, which had been assembled using “English” paper piecing from small hexagons, were intact.
Others had lost 10-60% of their fabric, and many had lost some or all of the black buttonhole stitch embroidery on their borders. There were a number of brown and yellow stains, particularly on the white panel supporting the flower motifs. After discussion with the client, the decision was made to separate the motifs from the front panel, allowing them to be treated separately. Stains were reduced on both, using a variety of conservation and spot-cleaning methods, and the majority of disfiguring stains were removed or greatly reduced. To further improve the appearance and strength of the front panel, it was reversed and supported with a layer of ivory cotton batiste.
I made templates to match the individual hexagons used in pieced motifs, and hunted down appropriate restoration fabrics (largely 1930’s reproduction prints). Custom dyeing was used to age some of the new fabrics, to better match the originals. Hand paper piecing was then used to recreate missing and damaged sections, and to incorporate them into restored motifs. Additional hand stitching was used to consolidate and reinforce some areas of original fabric and some piecing seams; weak fabrics were consolidated to additional backing layers of cotton fabric.
The completed motifs were attached in their original positions by hidden stitching to the supported top panel, stitching through both the panel and the batiste layer to further strengthen the assembly.(My dining table was pressed into use for this…)The buttonhole stitch embroidery was then reinstated, using three strands of black cotton embroidery floss, and reusing the holes left by the original embroidery threads.
The thick batt was gently wet-cleaned and rapidly air-dried on perforated supports. This worked well, removing a lot of dusty soiling that had accumulated while the comforter was stored away.
A light purple 100% cotton fabric was sourced, pre-shrunk, and used to recreate the top borders and comforter back. Six strands of matching embroidery floss were used to replace the original worn yarn ties passing through all layers, at the center of each of the 12 motifs. Eight additional tie points were added along the edges of the top panel to reduce shifting over time.
The comforter went home clean, stable, and ready for a new life.