Although my quilt practice started over twenty years ago, I’ve not once entertained the thought of quilt restoration. Friends, family, and sometimes people I don’t even know have asked me to help with many sewing tasks, including (but not limited to) hemming jeans, appliquéing flower patches over stains on a designer skirt, replacing broken zippers on swim trunks, darning socks, and patching holes on knees worn thin. However, it wasn’t until this year that a request came to completely restore a very special quilt.
I live on an island close to Vancouver, BC. As with most small communities, folks here rely on Facebook to connect with fellow islanders able to lend their skills to particular tasks or problem solving. When a resident asked for help to renew a family heirloom, it didn’t take long for the grapevine to suggest that I might be the quilter for the job. I hadn’t been feeling particularly creative over the past two years, and what energy I did have for quilting was given entirely to teaching and lecturing to quilters around the world on Zoom. Perhaps this project would be the spark I needed to ignite my passion again.
About a week after the call went out, I made my way to the other side of the island to meet a man about a quilt. I’d already asked about the size, age, and condition of the quilt, but before I made any decisions about the project it was important that I first take a look to make sure that (1) the quilt was worth saving, and (2) I possessed the skills to do the job.
My first surprise was that it wasn’t actually a quilt; instead, what he pulled from a large plastic bag was just a quilt top made in the “brick road” pattern using five solid colours: yellow, mint, lilac, pink, and periwinkle blue. Each brick, or block of the quilt, featured a person and place name embroidered in black floss. Over the course of an hour, this lovely gentleman shared the story of how the quilt came to his mother sixty-five years ago and his desire to have it fully restored for her as a surprise for an upcoming milestone birthday.
All images courtesy Krista Hennebury