Introduction: Heirloom Century Quilt Years in the Making

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

My grandmother (granny) made a tulip quilt top after she got married and it was probably one of her first to tackle, looking at her work. She also made the quilt on the bench and the work is much nicer even though it has been used and loved for many years. It takes a lot of practice to make beautifully crafted quilts. I remember when my handiwork looked just like granny's tulip quilt. Perhaps that was the reason she did not finish it. After she passed away my mom received it and stored it for many years, and after she passed away my sister stored it for twenty years. About five years ago she gave me granny's quilt (the one the bench) and the tulip quilt top and I had to store them because I did not have the room to work on them at that time.

We finally finished my sewing room and I had everything in order to start working on my granny's and mom's quilt tops. Unfortunately I was sick for a quite a while and then . . . last year my husband started working on the roof and other home repairs, so I had to store most of the things we were not using, in the shop. I am so happy I set aside a few quilt projects to work on, when I had a little extra time to do so.

Several of my family members have passed away this year and my sister just a couple of months ago. It made me realize I better get motivated and finish these beautiful heirloom quilts because I was the last of our family members who enjoyed quilting projects and knew the history behind the quilts. Then instructables posted the challenge to finish a project we have put on the back burner and that pushed me over and got me started!

The quilts I made in this instructable were started by my granddaughter's great great grandmother, and her her grandmother. I made her a picture album that included the history of the quilts, who started them, and how I finished them. I also included journal entries from my grandmother and pictures and records.

My son and daughter-in-law have requested my husband and I to write letters to our grand-daughter once a month to save for her until she turns 18. I am sure when she gets old like me, she will spend many days in her rocker with the quilts made with love, reading the letters we wrote her.

Do you know anyone who has a handmade quilt made by their grandmother and great grandmother and great great grandmother?

Step 1: Washing Old Neglected Fabric Caution

A special caution, old fabric can be tricky to work with, depending on the type of environment it has been exposed to over the years. I recommend gentle soap and hand washing and air drying for all old fabrics. If it is a specialty fabric, google search how to wash and clean it. Sometimes ironing will destroy old fabrics also.

Step 2: Planning Ahead

I Planned a time when I would begin the project and let my husband know that I would not be available to help with home repairs during that time and mentioned I was definite with my plans. I allowed myself 4-5 days to finish at least two of the projects to completion, which included publishing to instructables. Date was set for May 28-June 1, 2020.

I decided to make the sailboat quilt top my mom started and the tulip quilt top granny started.The week before May 28, I collected all the materials, supplies, pictures, and everything that I thought I could use for the project so there would be no last minute problems. It was a bit of a job because all of my sewing stuff was out in the shop and I had to go through boxes to find it. I was glad I did because I had a difficult time trying to find my batting and had to buy some. I found 1 queen size quilt batting available although it was not 80% cotton ( which is what quilters prefer) I decided to use it anyhow. I needed 2 or 3 but I was Ok with the one, at least I knew I could make one quilt.

I washed and ironed all the fabric I thought I might use and trimmed all the loose threads making sure they would not show through the top of the quilt. I trimmed and trimmed and ironed more than I have in years! It is a constant job when quilting to ensure a beautifully crafted quilt.

I charged my camera battery and took pictures of the things I could do in advance and edited as many pictures as I could and added text to some, before May 28.

I prepared meals in advance for my husband because he is on a very restricted diet and going out to eat is not an option.

I knew that creating a work space suitable for quilting would be a problem because I did not have a quilting table and we have a small work area available with tools my husband is using daily. When we had carpet I used the carpet for a table and it worked great~ We have hard wood floors now, so I had to vacuum and dust more than usual, because my husband was replacing several windows and had to use a sander which created a lot of dust~ I tried to vacuum when he was sanding, which did help.

Lighting is always a problem for me when I am taking pictures inside, even though I have some bright lights. I often go outside to take pictures but . . . this time I had to hope for the best because of all the lumber, tools and dirt around our house from home repairs.

I was ready to start May 28th. The project went well as I worked on the project and took pictures of the process. I did have trouble with the lighting even though there are no window coverings and I had bright lights. I had to check and recheck the quality of pictures and had to retake many of them.

Step 3: Set Up Work Station for Re-purposed Quilt

Suggested Sewing tools and notations I used for the tulip quilt top:


Sewing machine, long yard stick and or measuring tape, scissors,Straight edge for marking, Weights, iron and ironing board.


Quilt tops, sheet, fabric if needed, 80% cotton 20% polyester batting the size you need if you can find it,patterns if needed, marking pen, thread, sewing needles for hand stitching, sewing pins,and a seam ripper is handy to have.

Step 4: Tulip Quilt Top Re-purposed

This step describes briefly what I did to re-purpose granny's quilt, so my granddaughter can enjoy her great grandmothers old tattered quilt made long ago. The quilt top appears to be made out of flour sacks and even though it has quite a lot of wear, the fabric looks like it will hold up for several more years. Usually when you wash and iron old fabric it will show signs of deterioration right away.

You can see from the pictures that this quilt was entirely hand stitched. I used my sewing machine for the outside seam and hand stitched the repairs and the opening.

I was hoping to salvage this quilt top for a real quilt but after giving it some consideration, I decided not to make a quilt from granny's quilt top but rather make something that can be used for several purposes: a table cloth, dresser scarf, or a bed coverlet. Frequent washing could destroy the fibers of the quilt,and instead it can be used occasionally and still enjoyed and remembered.I have seen some quilt tops framed with some type of hard plastic suitable for old fabric or using a portion of the quilt for smaller picture frames.

It was of course pre-washed, threads trimmed, and seams pressed.

I mended areas where the seam came apart.

I used a gently used cotton sheet to make the lining and cut it the same size as the quilt top.

I put right sides together and sewed all around the quilt using 1/4 inch seam allowance and leaving about a 10 inch opening to turn the quilt right side out.

I pressed it again and stitched the opening together by hand and pressed and folded it.

I placed the quilt into the acid free bag along with a history of the quilt album I made and ordered online with pictures of the quilt and granny and myself, and put the bag in the acid free storage box for safe keeping.

The bag and box will prevent the fabric from fading while not in use.

Another option you might consider for a very warn quilt is to dampen the fabric so you can finger press and flatten it out. Check out this company and take some great pictures of the quilt top and have them print out the fabric for you. Then you can make a replica quilt. I will be discussing making a quilt album later in this instructable to go with the quilt so the history will not be lost or forgotten.

Step 5: Designing an Heirloom Century Quilt

While I was going through all the quilt blocks and pieces I realized I could make an heirloom quilt that would be remembered for generations and loved for years. The blocks already had years behind them so I decided to take advantage of the years and the history and create an album filled with pictures of making the quilt . . . giving as many details as I could remember. I used the grandparents old journals with personal information about the grandparents and added my story to it. I copied the pages and edited the images in pixlr and lunapic to create the journal and had several books printed to have extra copies, just in case something might happen to them. They have been shipped. I plan to order fabric through spoonflower using the same images and make journals and quilts for each of my children using the pictures that tell the story of their grandparents and the quilts. I had previously ordered a couple of these books because I made my grandson two quilts using blocks from great grandmother Lois and myself. Hand written recipes are really nice to have and hand written letters. I have one my dad wrote when he was in the service. He passed away when I was very young so it means a lot to me.

I have copies of legal documents dating back to the 1800's on both sides of the family and grandmother's journal and great grandmother's journals with pictures, and will add them to the the fabric design.

I will make my daughter a quilt using the embroidered bird quilt blocks and when I go see her we will find the lace fabric she loves and work on the quilt together~ By then more ideas will come to mind and naturally the second time you make projects they are always better than the first~

During the depression couples sold their heirloom belongings in order to survive so in difficult times a quilt like this could be a valuable asset.

Step 6: Gather Sewing Notions and Supplies for Heirloom Quilt

Suggested Sewing tools and notations I used for the sailboats quilt blocks:


Sewing machine, long yard stick and or measuring tape, scissors,Straight edge for marking, Weights, iron and ironing board.


Quilt tops, sheet, fabric if needed, 80% cotton 20% polyester batting the size you need if you can find it, patterns if needed, marking pen, thread, sewing needles for hand stitching, sewing pins,crochet thread for hand tying with a large eyed needle, and a seam ripper is handy to have.

Step 7: Fabric Preparations

Wash and press all fabrics and cut necessary blocks for the quilts design. I used the entire queen size sheet for the backing of my quilt and removed all the seams and threads and pressed with vinegar water to remove the wrinkles. Quilting requires a lot of pressing and removing the threads to ensure a beautiful finished quilt.

After I ironed everything, I cut out all the blocks I needed for the sail boats and the strips for the length and width of the quilt and sewed them together matching all the seams.

Step 8: Adding the Long Strips to the Edges of the Quilt Top

After the quilt blocks are sewn together and pressed and threads removed, I sewed the white strips together at the narrow width to extend the length of the quilt top as needed and then I added the white strip around the edge of the quilt top. I wanted to break up the blue fabric along the edges of the quilt top so I cut a narrow 2 inch strip of fabric from the white sheet to separate the colors and sewed it to the outside edges of the quilt top, trimmed threads and ironed the seams. Then I cut a 4 inch strip from the blue fabric the length and width of the quilt top after the white strip was added. I pinned the long blue strips to the white strip around the quilt top and sewed the seams using 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edges and trimmed the threads and pressed the seams.The last picture is something that might help you get a visual how it will look after adding all the strips.

I am sorry I don't have a picture of that. Feel free to add a comment if you are confused and I will try to explain it better.

Step 9: Pinning the Batting

Next you center the white sheet on a large table with the wrong side facing you. If you have carpet in a large room it is easier to pin and view. Remove as many wrinkles as you can in the fabric and smooth it out. Measure and mark the very center of the sheet as a guide to center the batting and quilt top.Next with the help of a family member; if you have one, very carefully open the batting and very carefully center it over the white sheet and smooth it out. Next you mark center of the quilt top and lay the quilt top with the right side facing you over the batting and sheet (at the center point and line up the edges) removing wrinkles as you go. Make sure everything is square and even and make necessary adjustments to the layers. Smooth out the best you can and smooth out and secure the middle layers with pins leaving a good portion of the edges of the quilt open so you can cut down the batting later and fold and pin the hem.

Step 10: Hand Tying the Quilt

Read the instructions on the batting bag about how far to hand tie the layers to secure all the layers. Mine says about 4 inches apart. I hand tied the surface of the quilt using crochet thread and a double knot except about a foot from the outside edges to allow enough room to fold in the hem and straighten the layers in-between before sewing the hem. You can see the hand tying in the picture.

After the quilt top has been hand tied, trim the batting to fit inside the hem without bunching up and turn under 1/4 inch hem on the white fabric and then fold over the white sheet to extend over the edges of the quilt top about 1/4 inch and pin in the hem as shown.

Hand sew, using a blind stitch and secure the hemline. Remove the pins as you go. Stitch all four corners of the quilt top.

Double check at this point and see if you missed any areas to hand tie the quilt.

Once you finish the quilt, I would never iron it because it will flatten the batting. Instead throw it in the dryer for a couple of minutes to remove the wrinkles.

Step 11: Sunshiines Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this project and and happy instructables posted the get r done contest that motivated meto do exactly that~ I have the start that I needed and am excited once again to make more quilts for my family! I will be using this quilt for my bed until my son request that I mail it to him. They will be moving but do not know where until a job offer is accepted. So grandma will break in the quilt for my sweet granddaughter Zoi. I added a whale to the top section of the quilt for Zoi, she loves the whale story~ I thought it would be a memory jogger when she gets older.

It will be nice to sleep under through the summer because it will be a cool quilt for that purpose.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope this inspires you to make a century quilt for your loved ones to cherish over time! Have a happy summer~


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