I have a challenge which is rebinding an old quilt for a friend.  My first thought was to just go over the original binding, or I have the choice of cutting it off at the seam.  Have any of you done this before and if so, how did you do it?  The current binding has shredded because the daughter used to pull at it when she was going to sleep.  This would be a totally new experience for me and I have only been quilting for 1 1/2 years.  Maybe it should be done professionally - just don't know.  Marcia

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I had to rebind an old quilt. It had a rather large border so I just cut it off and rebound the quilt.  I was able to find fabric that matched the colors in the quilt since I had inherited my aunts stash.

Thanks Cheri - I though cutting it off would be the thing to do.  Now the mother has decided to replace the backing and border - so will be a big job.

I have a similar project ahead, but involving more than a binding. I have an 'antique' quilt from the 1890s that has fallen apart. I have to remove the back (there is no batting and so no quilting stitches) which means taking off the binding (which is the same cotton fabric as the back, but a separate piece.) I told the local quilt museum worker, where I had taken to have it assessed for age and quality, that I might have to cut the old binding off to get started with the repairs, and she was aghast at the thought ... so I will be 'froggin' (rip it rip it rip it) to remove the stitches holding the binding on. I might hold a quilting bee and ask friends to help me remove the binding stitch by stitch!  How is your old binding attached, and can you remove it?

Ladies, with all due respect, when I read this blog, I cringed.  How could you possibly think of cutting off a binding and that part of the quilt it is attached to? First of all,  I do only hand work.  When I was younger and living in upstate NY, i used to do quilt repairs on quilts antique dealers had in their galleries and I had to try to make sure that the dealer couldn't find the repair. My work often involved hand binding. When you chop off a binding, you are changing the design of the quilt, or you could be cutting through a block.  That will NOT look good, I can assure you.  You folks can do what you want, but if you want to do it the CORRECT way, you have to get your old fashioned seam ripper and pick every stitch out by hand, and carefully, if the quilt is very old, because old textiles are very delicate and tear easily.  Then, depending on the age of the quilt, what it is made of, and condition, you should find a fabric that will match either the old binding or a fabric you think will work well with the colors and patterns in the quilt.  I personally would not use a machine to put a new binding on a hand made quilt.  But please don't just chop it off, for heaven's sakes.  That's my advice. 

Hello Betsy,

Are you the person I spoke to at the Lowell Quilt Museum in Massachusetts? She told me almost exactly what you'd said, and her reaction alone convinced me that cutting the binding off would be sacrilege!  The 1890 quilt that I have has a binding made of the same cotton print as the backing ... and looks to be in better condition than the quilt itself (at present.) So  yes, i will sit (perhaps with friends who enjoy fabric) and rip it, rip it. The entire quilt is machine sewn, so I will replace it with machine stitches as well. But oh, my, those original stitches are so very tiny in size!

I wonder if it was sewn on an old treadle.  I use to have one.  It was a singer.  But my dh talked me into selling it at a yard sale because I did not sew at that time (1983).  Now I could kick myself as I only got $75 for it.

I have an old Singer treadle, dated by the company as 1910, in its original wooden five-drawer cabinet, never electrified.  They said there were thousands made and probably hundreds still in use somewhere, and so said that the hundred dollars I paid for it (twenty years ago) sounded about right. I think it is worth more today, but don't really know that for a fact. I'm astonished that the Singer zig-zag machine I bought for a hundred dollars still sells for that price today (with much cheaper dollars!)  So you may find such a machine in an antique shop or yard sale yet, and buy it back for less than you'd sold it!

i am not a quilt historian, nor do i have the knowledge i would like to have in the area of restoring repairing antique quilts. but, i would still like to add a note to this seam ripper thing. i do not use one. not ever. not in my own work or when trying to repair a treasure which has come into my posession. seam rippers lose their sharpness rapidly. then they pull...they distort the threads of the fabric around the stiches being removed. i use a small, very sharp pair of thread snips and snip the threads and pull gently. another thing i would like to note here is about the thread used in quilts from the late 1800's or so. the thread is very heavy. not only the quilting thread used, but the thread used to stitch the blocks together. i have a set of blocks rescued from pile of "vintage textiles" in a antique store. rows of blocks...look like civil war or later. beautiful. except for the holes chewed by rodents. so...decided to disassemble blocks, clean (gently by hand) &reassemble. have ceased this endeavor because of the heavy thread..not because i have had to switch to fine embroidery scissors to snip the stitches, but because i now feel that the thread has as much historical value in these blocks as the fabrics. all set aside while i mull over what course to take. i would love to assemble and hang, protected, to enjoy the beauty of these simple double 4patch blocks. so, in my ususal meandering fashion i would like to suggest that you all consider these things when working on antique quilts

- thread snips instead of possibly dull and fabric damaging stitch ripper - ugh the name of the tool is enough to make me shy away from it's use.

- look at the thread...even if to only note the size, we use 50 wt now, they didn't and of course the stitching .. hand or machine. machine..probabaly treadle. i know that treadles can make a beautiful stich. but most of the old and antique quilts/quilt tops i own, including my grandmothers that i know for a certainty were stitched on the singer treadle she taught me to sew on, have very short tight stitch..difficult to remove. ergo the snip, carefully between layers of fabric.

Wow - Thank you for the heads up about the seam ripper's potentially damaging dullness. I have replaced my seam ripper once or twice over thirty-five years of sewing ... hardly frequent enough! I will look for thread snips ... I've seen them on quilt videos, but have never looked for them in a quilt shop or fabric shop. You've given me another thing for my 'wish list!'

i buy mine from clotildes - now amy's - but the last pair seemed too lt wt, so i bought my latest from nancy's notions. little more expensive, but better quality & more like my old one's fr clotildes. i have several pair, they are so handy! while down w friend at thanksgiving, she watched me taking some blocks apart that we decided we weren't happy with. she had never seen snips, never seen stitches taken out the way i do. so, she has a pair on the way as soon as i can get the xmas stuff cleared and do some orders (i sooooooo need more thread! lollol). i do miniature and small...when taking apart blocks made from 1 1/4" patches..i don't need the stretching, fraying of my little pieces like one gets from using a stitch ripper.

Hi Betsy - I am sorry to have made you cringe and the experience you have working on antique quilts would be invaulable and very rewarding.  The quilt I am going to repair is maximum 41 years old, because that is the age of the girl it was made for.  It was hand tied, and it will be re-hand tied.  The binding fabric is shredded because the girl picked at it constantly and is shredded in many areas down to the stitching (machine).  I can see no other way to remove it than using a ruler and rotary cutter.  I should be able to remove the border by snipping threads - thank you Rogue for your info regarding that procedure.  The design of the quilt will not be compromised in any way.  But a few pieces of fabric have separated - almost as though they were slit with something.  Betsy, or anyone else, any ideas as to how those could be repaired ? I think there are only 3 areas where this exists.  Thank you for your information in advance.  My Quilt Place is so awesome.  Marcia

i can't say for sure,but...the areas where it looks as if the fabric has been slit/split may be due to longterm folding. cotons can become brittle so to speak, w age and use, and "crack" along the fold lines. as far as cutting off ... of course this is your desicion. i am a conservative person, always have been. even as a child when i would want to repair a treasured toy or doll whatever, i focused on as little incidental damage as possible, and always worked to make my repairs as invisible as possible. lol... tho this tendency to "you can't see where i repaired it" thing worked against me when my toddler was discovered one morning concentrating hard on finding where i had done the latest repair on a toy of his. then, when he found it, he proceeded to work & work at it till it was broken again. then the offending toy was brought back to me with a grin and a "fix it mommy!"

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