Matching solid fabrics
When it comes to restoring quilts, one of the hardest things to do is to find solid replacement fabric in sufficient quantities that exactly match the pieces you are replacing. Although the fabric wheel goes around and comes back around, the fabric needed to match never seems to be “in vogue” when it’s needed. There are several solutions to this problem-buy a yard of all solid fabrics every year and build a stash so you got it when you need it, use the back side of the fabric for a slightly duller look, throw the fabric in the washer and wash it give-or-take seven times for every decade you want to age it or try setting it in a sunny spot and fade it “just so”.
Before hunting for that perfect solid fabric, carefully examine the quilt. Are all the solid fabrics the same color? Sometimes grandma ran out of one shade of pink and switched to whatever else she had on hand. If the quilt was used on the bed, the side pieces closer to windows may have received more sun which faded those portions of the quilt more than the rest of it. If not all of the pinks now not exactly the same, choose a replacement fabric to blend between the lightest and the darkest shade. Aim for the fabric closest to the most predominate shade in the quilt.
Recently I purchased a yard of gold replacement fabric for a 1940s quilt. The fabric was too bright and didn’t blend as well as I had hoped. The clerk saw my dilemma and suggested I tea dye it to darken it up a bit and lose its golden glow.
I went on-line and found directions, it seemed simple enough. I buy 100 tea bags for $1.88 at Kroger’s. Back home I cut a strip of the fabric and a swatch from the quilt. I boil water and pour it into a large bowl. I dip in a tea bag, wait and watch the color begin to darken. The strip of cloth and swatch are thoroughly soaked in water, then the strip is submerged and constantly stirred in the tea bath. After a few minutes, I remove it and compare it to the wet swatch. Not close. Undaunted I add another tea bag and then a third. Soon the fabric is noticeably darker and more closely matches the wet swatch. It is removed and run through cold water until the water runs clear. Next the entire piece is carefully unfolded to make certain the creases and folds get wet so they don’t dye darker than the rest of the fabric. The fabric is submerged, swirled and compared to the wet swatch. The water isn’t as hot as it was so I compensate by keeping it in the tea bath longer. Finally satisfied with the result, I remove the fabric, rinse it in cold water until the water runs clear, than put it in the dryer. Is it a perfect match? No, but it is a good blend and it’s lost its golden glow.
A word of caution, do not wash tea-dyed fabrics with detergent that has “anti-stain removal powers”. The detergent may attack the tea dye and will work to remove it.
Upcoming quilt events: March 27-28, String-A-Long Quilt Guild’s Spring Show-Valparaiso, April 9-10 Harlan United Methodist Church Quilt Show, I am the guest speaker. Event happens noon to 2pm on April 10—“Ten things to consider before starting a quilt restoration project”. Appleseed Quilt Guild, August 12-14, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. For more information on these shows, visit the “event” link at www.bornagainquilts.com.
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