How to Repair an Old Quilt – 5 Options


Time ages everything – including your quilts. Whether you have a love for antique quilts or you have a favorite piece you can’t let go of, it helps to know some tried-and-true repair techniques to keep your quilts in use for years (or decades) to come.

There are many ways to repair old quilts, and there’s no right or wrong method. Just pick a technique that works with your quilting style and get right to work. Repairs are often long and tedious projects, but it’s worth it in the end to keep the quilt in use.

Just a quick note here: these are not techniques you want to perform on family heirlooms. Take these treasured items to a professional who specializes in quilt repair.

For all those other items that need repairing, here are some tips:

Patch It

The simplest way to repair an old quilt with a big hole is to patch it. There are two ways to do this:

  • Quick and easy
  • Neat and tidy

The quick and easy method is one of my favorites, but it’s also one of the hardest. Why? Because you have to let go of good design practices.

If you can let go of needing to line things up and finding just the right fabric, this method will work well for you. Here’s how it works:

  • Pick a swatch of fabric that you like from your stash.
  • Sew it onto your quilt to patch up the hole.

I prefer to use a zig-zag stitch to keep my patches in place. I also don’t worry about matching thread colors.

If you’re not comfortable with going this route, you can patch your quilt a little more systematically.

  • Use scrap paper to create a template of the patch.
  • Cut a piece of fabric that’s slightly bigger than the patch.
  • Using your hot quilting iron, press the edge of the fabric around the paper to create a crisp edge.
  • Remove the paper, and pin the fabric.
  • Sew the patch using a tight zig-zag stitch.

Patches are great for fixing big holes, and can add a fresh look to your quilt.

Stitch Away

With smaller holes and rips, simple stitches can be used to mend the fabric. I like to experiment with some of the other stitches I rarely use to create a fun design.

The great thing about this technique is that you can make it a part of the quilt’s design rather than trying to hide it. I’ll sometimes use contrasting thread colors to really make the stitches stand out.

But if you’d rather not draw attention to the repair, you can use thread that’s the same color as the fabric to allow it t blend right in.

Deconstruct and Start Again

If you really love a quilt and you know you can’t easily make repairs, you may consider deconstructing it and starting again.

This can be a painstaking process, but it’s one that may be worthwhile if the quilt still has some meaning for you and is beyond conventional repair.

If you go this route, you’ll need to start out by trimming away all of the usable fabric. Using this fabric, you can start creating new pieces and rebuilding your quilt from the ground up.

I’ve seen some quilters transform old big quilts into smaller baby quilts, which is a nice way to keep the sentimental value of the old quilt alive.

I wouldn’t recommend going this far with quilts you don’t have attachment to because the process can be long and tedious.

Applique Patches

Applique patches are a fun way to repair holes, rips and stains in your quilts. Rather than adding another piece of square fabric, you can add a fun design that adds new life to the quilt.

You can purchase a pre-made applique, or you can make your own with a swatch of fabric cut into the design of your choice.

If you’re making your own applique:

  • Cut the design out from paper-backed fusible webbing. Make sure the design is the mirror image.
  • Iron the design onto the back side of the fabric.
  • Cut the shape.
  • Peel off the paper.
  • Sew onto the quilt.

Make sure that the patch is large enough to cover the entire damaged area.

I like to choose shapes that go along with the theme of the quilt. When sewing the applique, use a tight zig-zag stitch all the way around the shape.

If you’re repairing a child’s quilt, be prepared for a lot of excitement when he or she sees the new patch. I once did this for my nephew, and he was over the moon about his new fireman patch.

Recreate Your Old Quilt

I’ll admit that this method can be tricky to pull off. It’s not always easy to find the same or similar fabric. But if you can manage to find similar fabric, you can recreate an old quilt. It may not have the same sentimental value, but this is a great option if just love the design of the old quilt.

Some would call this method cheating, but if you have a quilt that’s beyond repair, it’s worth trying to create a new version.

This method is also an option if you want to create a larger version of the old quilt. If your child or grandchild, for example, outgrows a baby quilt, you can re-create a larger version that can be cherished and used well into adulthood.

17 thoughts on “How to Repair an Old Quilt – 5 Options”

  1. I have an antique quilt that someone cut out entire blocks from middle and sides?
    How should I join the pieces since when they cut it out, they took backing and batting too.

  2. I would repeat the block with a small seam allowance to turn under, if able slip the seam allowance under the adjoining quilt blocks and hand stitch it by hand. If the blocks were machine stitched do that. I an a fan of garage sales, thrift stores and first place I look is craft area. I just repaired a couple for a friend, some the thread was problem. It has rotted, I simply re appliquéd sun bonnet sues with new embroidery thread , if dresses or bonnets were worn and holes , I searched my stash , replaced and am now unable to tell which dresses and or bonnets I replaced. Binding to do and I am going to make my own and stitch it on as I do on new quilts. These quilts have stains and the one I washed , the white fabric is white. I washed in my machine, warm water, added hydrogen peroxide about 1/2 cup, 1/4 c cascade dishwashing powder, and 2 to three tbs. of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Washed the quilt on gental cycle, and dried in dryer, warm. The quilt is Snow White, no blocks came undone and I am excited for owner to see it. It is very old as I am 73+ and these quilts were hand quilted by my Grandmother and her friend. my Grandmother passed in the 1960’s. I was in high school graduated in 1962.

  3. I have one that the other side (the solid side) has rips but the fabric is soooo thin what should I Do? it has so many rips 🙁

  4. It depends on what meaning the quilt has for you. From your description, it sounds like it is in really bad condition, and would require a labor of love to correct. I What follows is an example of how an old quilt damaged beyond repair can be utilized. I had a shred of a quilt my grandmother made, It was so beyond repair that fixing it in any fashion was impossible. I could not bear to give it up because of the sentimental value. It was raggier than a rag, but it meant the world to me. I ended up making an art piece out of it. Many enjoyable delightful hours were spent incorporating crystal beads, pearl beads, applique flowers, and a big lace doily in the middle of the block (double wedding ring). In each hole of the detailed doily, I sewed a crystal bead. These were in consecutive circles. In the middle, I placed a tiny mirror. Each stitch I placed was like being in a quilting bee with my deceased grandmother. It was a very personal piece. Unfortunately, the piece was lost in the California wildfire, and my heart was broken. However the process still remains, even if the material aspect of the piece was lost.

  5. Adrienne -How heartbreaking that you lost that quilt! It sounds beautiful. I have an old quilt that my grandmother made and my mother used for years – so it is also basically a rag. When my mom passed last year I told my step dad that the only thing I wanted was that quilt. I know he thinks I am crazy because it is so ragged, but I have always loved it and I believe I get my love of quilting from my grandmother. She was a poor, southern woman that mostly made very utilitarian quilts (I have a couple of those). This particular quilt is one of few she made with a design. It is a lone star, so I am hoping it will be easy to patch, but even the back and binding is pretty ragged. Your comment gave me hope that I can do it justice, even if I need to resort to unconventional methods. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  6. These ideas give me hope that I can repair an old quilt top that is many, many years old and has been packed in a box for lack of knowledge of how to could repair and quilt it.
    Thanks so much for all your knowledge and ideas.

  7. I have never quilted. I do know how to sew. I inherited 3 quilts that need to be finished and some repair work done. The best I can gauge they date back to prior to 1930. 2 are stitched by hand. I want to clean and finish them and give one to each patriarch of the family tree to pass on for generations. Any insight I can gleam on cleaning and how to add batting etc.. would be greatly appreciated.

  8. I’m wondering if the use of a stabilizer, maybe an iron on which I use frequently for certain quilting projects, would help reinforce fabric that has thinned due to age. I’m attempting to restore a quilt that has seen better days, lots of small holes due to the fabric thinning and while I think portions will have to be replaced, do you think stabilizer is an option for pieces still holding on?

  9. I have an old quilt, made of 4″ blocks, that was given to me by someone just because I’m a quilter. There’s absolutely no emotional attachment. I hated it. Tied with some kind of thin cord-like material and every seam sewn with same in a decorative stitch, and the stuffing is all bunched. Judging by the fabrics, I think it’s from the 70’s. I put it in a bag and now, three years later, I decided to see what I could do with it or even toss it out. I had to go through four layers of stitching to finally get one 4″ block separated. I realized it was supposed to be puff blocks but they had flattened. (I thought). I opened the square and removed the stuffing…an old nylon stocking! No wonder it was “bunchy”. But now knowing that I can re-do this quilt into the original style which is one I’ve always wanted, I’m loving it. I’m eager to work on. I’m grateful for this article because I was told not to touch it or it would be ruined. Instead, it’s going to become useful and loved.

  10. Thank you! I am repairing a very old quilt and I just tried machine patching with a zig zag stitch, as you suggest. It works great! I’m not great at hand stitching, so I really appreciate your suggestion!

  11. I repaired a quilt for a friend a few years ago putting a large patch with zigzag stitching….
    But somehow I only sewed on obe side/thru only one layer.
    Hes asked me to repair another spot the same way – I can’t for the life of me figure out how I machine sewed thru only the top layer all the way around the patch.
    Can you tell me how?

  12. I have a double wedding ring quilt top that was hand stitched by my grandmother when she was expecting my mother in 1934. She never actually quilted it. Some of the scalloped edge pieces have unraveled or frayed too much to be quilted and need to be replaced. Should I deconstruct those pieces and replace them or hand appliqué over the damaged ones before quilting, of course?

  13. does anyone just quilt right over the old one? I have two quilts that have been used to the point that they are fairly shredded. I was thinking of just leaving them as is and going over them with new fabric. they will definitely not look like the old ones, but the old ones will still be inside, so that would make me happy to know….

  14. Dose anyone know someone to fix quilts? I have one that is just coming undone faster then I can repair it. The problem with it it’s the seams coming undone due to the age of it.


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