Tag Archives: quilt squares

Saving Grandma’s 9 Patch Utility Lap Quilt

Saving Grandma’s 9 Patch Utility Lap Quilt

I know I’ve talked on here before of how my grandmother made quilts.  Big comfy quilts that have lasted through all kinds of treatment. She also made all of us what we called lap quilts, which we took with us in cars in case we all got stranded in a snow storm. This, of course, was before cell phones, and AAA. My mom asked me to look at this one to see if anything could be done with it.

Well, this poor thing had definitely seen better days.  Grandma’s quilts have always been utility quilts, meant to clearly receive everyday use. Lots of washings, and plenty of sun damage had turned the fabric brittle. Some squares had gaping holes where entire chunks of fabric were missing, and a lot of the fabric would actually rip, just by handling. I knew I had a job ahead of me, but I wanted to use as much of Grandma’s squares that I could while trying to keep a true representation of what it originally was.  This is what I started with. Utility quilt in rough shape

And a couple of close-ups. Top and bottom photos of utility quilt

I started by doing a LOT of seam ripping and taking out the squares that didn’t seem viable at all. Most of the squares that I removed had five colored squares, and four white squares in the 9 patches. I did use five squares of the red fabric to incorporate into a new block. Old fabric removed from utility quilt

And this is what I was left with. I thought I would be able to use the three brown squares, but as I was ripping the seams for those, the fabric started tearing. I decided to not use those.  That did leave me with six viable 9 patch blocks that I did use.Remaining square in okay shape

That meant that I had to make 15 blocks to replace the old ones. Because I used the red fabric from the old squares, I measured those to find the size, and started cutting 4″ squares out of scraps that I have. The pink floral fabric were from my curtains in my room when I was growing up, and the brown floral fabric was from a quilt made by Grandma when I was a young girl. 4 inch square fabric

Here is one new block that is along two old blocks. Quite an improvement already. New quilt block vs. old quilt blocks

In this picture I have 13 completed, with two more to go.  I did try to find colors to complement each other, and I focused on having more red, since the original blocks had quite a bit.Two more 9 patch blocks to go

I laid the blocks out a couple of different ways until I settled on a color combination I felt was pleasing to the eye. Finally I was able to start piecing the quilt top together. Also, I decided to put the blocks that I was able to save of Grandma’s on each end of the quilt, so Mom would always know who did what. Rows in process of being sewn together

Now… we get to the part that we all lovingly call “the extender strip” in my family.  I thought about this the whole time I was working on this quilt, and I still don’t have an answer for why Grandma put these in her quilts.  But a lot of our quilts from her definitely have these.  I wish she was around so I could ask.

I have come up with a theory that since she was raised in the Depression, and was super thrifty, she probably made the quilt top around the size of the backing she already had. Or maybe she made the quilt top, then found a piece for the backing, and it was bigger, so she just filled the space in with additional fabric?  I don’t know, but since I had resolved to try to match the original quilt as much as I could, I begrudgingly sewed it back along the side, right where it had been. I’m glad Mom isn’t allergic to cats, because Shadow definitely was my supervisor for most of this.Extender strip

Finally I was able to start pinning the top to the backing. Previously the quilt had just been tied, but I wanted to quilt it at least a little bit.  I did a simple stitch-in-the-ditch to reinforce the seams.Pinned and ready to be quilted stitch-in-the-ditch

And I did tie it, in the center of each 9 patch.Tied 9 patch quilt block

Finally the last step was to close up the binding for each side. Thankfully, the quilt top turned out the be really close to the same size as the one that was in there originally.Binding sewn together

And here is a picture of the back.  I have no idea where Grandma got her fabrics, but I’m sure that it was items that had been given to her, or that people wore. As you can tell, there were two different fabrics used for this, and there were some tears in the yellow part.  I just went ahead and patched them using some fabric that I had in my scrap pile.  The color is similar, which is what I was hoping for.Backing saved with fabric patches

And because I am always amazed at how items turn out when things go right, here is a before and after.  It’s a night and day difference!Before and after

And one more picture of the finished quilt. I am glad I was able to save it from the state it was in, although I do wish I could have saved more of Grandma’s blocks than I did.  Nothing on it is perfect, and it isn’t going to win Best in Show, but we can look at it and treasure the memories we have of Grandma. Now it can be used by Mom on a daily basis, and hopefully will have many years of life left in it!Picture of completed 9 patch utility quilt

Thanks for looking!


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Kentucky Crossroads Finished Quilt

Kentucky Crossroads Finished Quilt

Double D told me one time that I like to save things. I’ve decided that he is right, and that most of my blog is devoted to items that have seen better days.  This quilt is included in that because when we stumbled across the blocks at the antique store, I wasn’t even sure what was there. All I knew is that I liked all the blue colors, and that someone else had taken the time to create 88 blocks for me to work with. I didn’t know it at the time, but I did some research, and this pattern is evidently called Kentucky Crossroads.  It’s pretty special, because my dad was born and raised in Kentucky.

This is what I started with.  There were a lot of blue plaids, which looked to me to be men’s work shirts.  Also, there were blocks that seemed to be 1930s feed sack fabric.  Some were lovely orange and green 1970s fabric, and others that appeared to be newer.  A couple of the blocks had two different fabrics for the four triangles, so I had to decide how those were going to work.Blocks separated into different colors

Also, the squared seemed to be different sizes.  I made a template out of cardboard, and used that to square the blocks to the same size.Template to square up blocks

I sorted the blocks by color, and numbered how many were in each stack. Based on that number, I decided to have the same like colored blocks laid out diagonally. Any of the blocks that had the two different colored triangles, I tried to put along the side of the quilt. I just kept rearranging them until I felt it was the best look.blocks laid out in a pattern

From there I was able to start piecing the blocks together, row by row, until I had a finished quilt top. Interestingly, I noticed that some of the blocks were hand pieced, and others were machine stitched. Because some of the fabrics were older, and others were newer, this makes sense.  I wish I knew the history of it.difference in sewing technique

Once the blocks were put together, I started on adding some borders, to make the quilt a bit larger. Finding some fabric to complement the different colors was a bit daunting, but I found a green design that kind of goes with the green 1970s fabric.  Who would have thought I would have gone with that one:)borders added

The last border was the blue to bring out the blue crossroads. I used the same fabric for the backing, as well.blue borders

Finally, I was able to do some simple stitching-in-the-ditch for quilting.  I love how the blue stands out against the other colors.Kentucky Crossroads

And here she is, finished. It’s pretty striking, and I love how I was able to save it, and have it have a special meaning to me.Finished Kentucky Crossroads quilt

Thanks for looking!


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Operation Save: Grandma’s Improvisational Strip Block Lap Quilt

Operation Save: Grandma’s Improvisational Strip Block Lap Quilt

My mom has had this lap quilt for a long time, just waiting for someone to come along and help the poor thing out.  The thing is, I didn’t know exactly how to help it out until I worked on my brother’s quilt that was missing whole blocks.  It turns out that it really isn’t all that hard, just time consuming. This lap quilt was made by my grandmother, so it is part of my family’s textile history.  I know some think it is better for value to keep quilts as is, but these quilts are utility quilts.  They get used every day, and are well loved.  They won’t be going to a museum any time soon:) Therefore, it had to be fixed so it could be used again.

This is what I started with. There didn’t seem to be a pattern of any sort, with random strips pieced together to form the top. The quilt had 14 blocks that had fabric shredded, although some of them were all in the same area so that I could just replace it with one large block. The ones that were ruined were a satin material, and I only replaced those. The other undamaged satin material I left there, although I can work on it again if they shred too. Don’t mind our kitten, Kaleesi.  She is very curious:)

shredded fabric on lap quilt

Below are some close up pictures of the damaged fabric.

Damage to fabric

Damage to shredded fabric

To start, I got out my seam ripper, and just used that to take apart the blocks of fabric.  The material appeared to have been from a bedspread or something because the batting was attached to the fabric itself. I was left with holes that now needed to be filled.

Old fabric ripped out

I began by cutting thin batting to place behind the material.

Adding batting

Then I cut pieces of fabric out a little larger than what was necessary, and pinned the existing fabric over that. The fabric were scraps that I had on hand, and patterns that I felt went well with the existing fabric.

New fabric ready to be sewn

Next, I was ready to machine sew the new square in place to finish it off, kind of like a reverse applique, I guess. Yay!  Only 8 more to go.

New square for quilt

Finally I was done with all of the blocks.  The last item I wanted to work on was some wording that was on a block.  The block technically had nothing wrong with it, so I couldn’t justify replacing it, but the wording was bothering me.  It just didn’t do the quilt any favors, so I decided to cover it up with a piece of ribbon sewn on.  After I saw the outcome, I was really happy I decided to do it.  Much better.

Covered wording

The final act was washing it. The poor thing was filthy. Some people carry quilts in the car in the winter, just in case we are stranded on a dirt road in a 3 foot snow drift for hours, and I wonder if this was used in that function.  Anyway, after running it through the wash, the cream colored fabric turned out nice and bright.  So much prettier, and no more shredded fabric! She’s going back to my mom, hopefully to be put back into use.

Lap Quilt finished

Thanks for looking!


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