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Repair a damaged quilt

by Mary Anne
(Tallahassee, FL)

Mary Anne writes...

I need to repair a damaged quilt.

While my quilt was being quilted on a longarm machine the needle broke and the broken needle punched a hole all the way through the top, batting and backing.

In addition, while the machine operator was trying to smooth out a "wrinkle" in the fabric, the batting was stretched thin and actually torn in two areas.

I am heartbroken.

This quilt is a wedding gift for my son & his wife. It's my first quilt.

I've gotten many compliments on the top. It's all batik. I've spent a lot of money, time and emotion in making it. What can I do to repair the hole and the batting?

Thank you so much for any help and guidance you can give me.

Julie replies...

I am heartbroken for you!

First, give yourself permission (if you haven't already) to throw a major-league hissy-fit...I know I would. Get the anger and frustration out of your system so that you can approach the problem calmly and move forward. (I'm still upset about it and it's not even my quilt!)

There really is no one, right solution, but rather what will work best for you. I'm hoping that others who read this page will chime in with their thoughts so that you can see the diversity of opinions.

Does the long arm quilter offer any remedy to repair the damaged quilt?

Has she offered to fix the hole and the torn batting? If so, do you trust her to do the work?

Only you can answer that question. I can assure you that it was never her intention to return a quilt to you with a hole in it. It's bad for you. It's bad for business. It's bad for her reputation.

If you trust her to make it right, then follow your gut instinct. Make sure that you fully understand 'how' she will fix it and what it should look like after the repairs. Personally, I would want the offer in writing with what remedies there will be if you are unhappy.

The simplest solution

Quilters both beginning and experienced have probably dealt a hole in their quilt at one time or another.

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

Ripping out quilting stitches is a dangerous undertaking which a fair number of quilters have done. Every time a seam ripper comes near a quilt sandwich is fraught with the possibility of ripping into the quilt.

To camouflage and repair a tear, quilters have traditionally appliqued 'something' over the offending hole.

Since this quilt is for a wedding present, an 'I love you' heart or something to commemorate the day may work. It really depends on where the hole is.

If the hole is positioned so that the applique repair would look out-of-place, you can either:
  1. Add more than one applique patch—choose an odd number like 3 for the best effect and vary the size, or...
  2. If the quilt is all geometric shapes, applique a patch of equal size and shape over the problem area to both hide and protect the torn edges. Check at your local quilt store for quick help with the applique if you need it.
This is a simple fix because it involves 'adding to' instead of 'taking apart' an already quilted quilt.

Check with your local quilt store

Without being able to see the damage, its hard for me to make an appropriate 'fix' solution. Take it to your local quilt shop to ask for advice.

I expect, again, that there will be diverging opinions, but they will be specific to your situation.

Accept your quilt for what it represents...

You could choose to look at the quilt as a representation of marriage. We all get dinged up at least a bit in this journey called life. But it's our imperfections and how we deal with them that make us wonderful and perfectly imperfect.

Your quilt is made with love and full of happy thoughts for the new couple. A hole doesn't change that. And it doesn't change that this is your first quilt. THAT is something to be celebrated and nurtured.

If you can accept this, then use applique to repair your damaged quilt (either something that shows or something that camouflages and at the same time stabilizes) the hole and batting problems. Give the present with pride and love.

Your son and his new wife will cherish the gift and the thought behind it. The hole won't change that.

And then move on to your next quilt.

What I would do if it were my quilt...

Now I have been quilting for about 20 years and am a perfectionist/procrastinator at heart so that colors my opinion, but here it is for what it's worth.


...looking at the quilt in my kids' new home would continue to upset me, I would re-make the quilt and keep the 'damaged' one for myself.

This is an expensive option for sure in time, money and emotion...emotion because there's a good chance that you'll be thinking about the original at times while you're making the replacement. I absolutely would be mad, and probably for quite awhile. But if I gave the gift and it would continue to cause me angst, I would do what I could to avoid that situation. Life's too short.

Mary Anne, I hope this has given you some ideas. My heartfelt sympathy on the situation with your longarmer...

...and my very best wishes to your son and his new bride!

Readers, please do share your opinions and experiences repairing a damaged quilt by using the 'Comments' link just below. Thank you.


Julie Baird

Comments for Repair a damaged quilt

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Repairing a damaged quilt
by: Anonymous

I am a longarm quilter, and sometimes S..t happens with a machine, If I were you, I would take it back to the quilter (if you can) and together with her find a solution, either to unsew, repair the batting and damaged area and allow her to continue.

It is very upsetting to the quilter when things go wrong too, but you had faith in her to begin with, so allowing her to complete the job for you is a win-win situation.

From the Editor: Thank you for sharing thoughts from the Long-armer's point of view.

It helps to have a better understanding.


Julie Baird

backing terrible on finished quilt
by: sharon

I made a beautiful baby quilt spending a lot of time on it, but being a newbie I didn't notice how awful the backing was and that it would show up every stitch and show the coarseness of the cotton that I had dyed pink. It didn't seem coarse when it was white.

Very careless, but somehow I thought it would come out all right

I am so sad. Is there anyone out there that could help me. I will not take the whole quilt apart even if I could. The receiver of this gift will have to bear it if they must.


From the Editor: Please go easy on yourself. The stitching of this quilt was done with love and so full of good wishes and dreams for a new child.

I can tell you that baby quilts get used...a lot. Which means a lot of washing. I suspect that there'll be some shrinkage in the fabric and batting during those washes. It'll end up with a crinkly look that just speaks, 'Love'.

Momma will know that, too.

Congratulations on sticking with it and finishing. You grow so much as a quilter when you do. I celebrate your work and achievement!


Julie Baird

Quilt Repair
by: Jacqueline

Roberta,. I love your idea of a ladybug to cover a hole in a quilt. I have just finished a quilt for my granddaughter to take to Uni and snipped a small hole in the fabric when cutting a thread. I came into this site for repair ideas and your ladybug will be just perfect.

Thank you so much.

longarm quilter
by: Anonymous

I have been quilting for 10 years. Love quilts and treat every one as an heirloom.

But crap happens, I don't wish it, but like life it happens.

I like thread painting which covers the hole (after adding Heat'n Bond) Then I can sell that I am an artist as well.

Of course discuss with your customer.

repairing batting
by: Connie Wilson


I don't know what batting you are using, but I splice mine frequently. Someone mentioned using the batting tape, along with cutting the pieces together to fit properly. That is the best way if your using something other than a cotton such as Warm and Natural.

Depending on how close you are quilting, the stitches may play a big part in holding your batting in place. As far as repair to the holes I have worked wonders patching if I still have fabric that I can match the print to.

Try to cut a matching patch, make it large enough to turn the edges under and press before you place the patch. Use a dab of basting spray on the back of the patch to hold in place. Then do a blind stitch (by hand) to sew the edges. If possible guilt over the patch when you have it quilted.

You will never know it's there if you quilt over it.

Good Luck!

by: Donna

Would I replace the printed fabric on the back of a antique quilt with many holes and would I use a muslin or another print?

Repair damaged quilt
by: Claudia

Sad, sad situation...almost enough to discourage quilting efforts for a while. :(

This is probably an older discussion thread however I offer the following:

Before fiddling with the fabric edges, apply Fray Block or Fray Check to edges to stabilize the fabric! Fraying & bias edges will magnify your problem. I'd probably try needle-turn applique.

Then, before attempting to fix the torn fabric problem, open your quilt sandwich and use 'batting tape' (there may be other brands but Marti Michell is what I'm aware of).

You need to remove the damaged batting. Trying to blend or supplement on the surface will bunch or be lumpy. Lay the replacement over the damage and using scissors (carefully!) or slip a small cutting mat between batting & bottom fabric, use a rotary cutter, cut both (damage & new) in a curvy line. Using the curved lines you can match up the two sections without empty space or lump. Apply batting tape over the splice & fuse. (You might have success with a strip of Wonder Under, using a Teflon pressing sheet on top.)

I'd be praying before attempting anything!

God bless!

Repairing a quilt
by: Anonymous

I repaired a quilt where the dog chewed a sizable hole in the quilt. I repaired it from the back. I took the pieces that were damaged out replaced them, and replaced the batting and put a patch on the back. The quilting stitches were taken out with a small crochet hook,and then I re quilted the lines.

The only place you were able to tell somewhat on the back if you looked for it.

My quilt was a french braid.

4 options
by: quiltdj

Sorry to hear about the quilt accident! I know it hurts. Been there, too.

How I fixed "the flaw in the fabric": I had made a wallhanging, had every block together and heavily embroidered when I found a flaw in one of the background pieces. First, I panicked. Then came up with a solution. I figured out which yellow batik belonged to that piece with the hole. Along the long edge of the fabric I pulled off long strands of fabric thread. I used that to satin stitch the hole shut. It is approx a quarter inch long. It worked very well. If you don't know there was a hole sewn shut, you don't see it. I even have a hard time finding it. It hangs in the living room now.

How I am going to fix the "second quilt with a hole ate thru it": I have a lovely black with tulip applique from hand dyed fabric wallhanging on my bathroom wall. It goes perfect with the decor. Well, my housekeeper leaned the mop handle against it. By the time I found it the fabric had bleached. I washed it out but apparently the damage was too great. It ate a hole thru the front layer and you can see the white batting. I tried just using a heavy archival ink pen to dye it, but unsuccessful. So I let it be so I could think of a solution. I came up with the spot applique at first. Just a penny sized patch. Then I came up with the idea I am going to use. When I was in home-ec, the teacher talked about repairing a suit by using a frayed patch and pulling threads to the back. I still have the black fabric in my stash. I want to get a 7" square, pull threads on all 4 sides to fray it. Leaving an inch square in the center. lay it out onto the fabric centered over the hole. Then pull each strand thru to the back until only the patch covers the hole in the front. I will tie the strands on the back. Then take my hot pink backing from the stash and applique a round "bandaid" to cover the threads. I may even do a fancy patch. Looks like I will have to "top fill" in 2-3 quilt stitches on the front if I cover it with the small patch.

A third option would be to take the piece of fabric from your stash to blend in. Use fusible web to attach it. You would probably have to sew some over the edges.

A fourth option: Sounds like your quilter didn't get too far into the project. Can you pick back the quilting enough to uncover the hole? Replace by hand the piece that is damaged. On the backing, just use a round applique patch. I have done that before when the whole quilt was finished when a small block bled into the next block. It is possible to do just a small section. But it takes some manipulation. I got many blue ribbons for this quilt and after 10 years it is still my favorite quilt. And no one but myself knows what happened.


My fix-up
by: Roberta

My "trademark" is a 3-D ladybug. When something doesn't quite come right, in spite of all efforts, I make a small ladybug to cover the goof. Receiving a quilt from me with this trademark is special!

To make her, I take a circle of a complimentary color (twice the diameter of the finished bug), Stuff it with a little batting ... gather the edges to close it ... embroider a couple of dots, a stripe down her back and a head ... applique her over the damaged spot.

SO FAR ... I've only had to use this device a few times. ...

PS ... I hope the person who damaged your quilt isn't charging you for the job!

From the Editor: Excellent choice, Roberta! I just did a quick Google search for what ladybugs symbolize, and it's 'good luck'. A perfect meaning for a gift of a quilt!


Reply from Mary Anne
by: Mary Anne

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.

The hole is only about 1/4” – 3/8” in size so it’s not that big (except to me). I too had thought about putting a heart-shaped patch over the area because as you’ve said the quilt was made with love and its part of the story of this quilt.

The long-arm quilter stopped the machine shortly after the needle broke and took the quilt off the machine.

When the needle broke something happened to the machine and the computer was damaged. The quilt was only about 1/4 of the way quilted. I’m trying to decide whether to return the quilt for finishing. I love the template being used and know the quilter felt very badly, too.

A big concern is the stretched and torn batting. I feel like this has made a very weak area and may affect the use and life of the quilt. This is a large area in the batting, 2-3 ft. in places where it’s thin and about 6"–8” where it’s torn. Because the quilt is only partially done, I can open up the sandwich and do something to the batting.

Any suggestions?

Thank you all again for your encouragement!

Mary Ann's Quilt
by: Elaine DeFoor

Oh Mary Ann my heart aches for you. I am in the process of free-motion quilting a quilt for my oldest grandson and his soon-to-be wife. I probably have almost 200 hours on it and just for the money spent. I don't go there or I would have a heart attack.

But back to your problem. First, like Julie said I would approach the quilter. Wait until you can be calm and logical. If she does not want to repair it she might return some of your money and give you a hint on how to repair it.

I repaired a beautiful old crib quilt for my daughter. She forgot and put it in the dryer just when it decided to act up and put burned places on the quilt. I was able to repair that with some carefully place patches and re-handquilted it following the size of stitches as good as I could to and this was before I got into quilting.

But I did accidentally cut into the back of a quilt I had just finished. After calming down, I did like Julie said, I appliqued a heart over it but added two more so it looked planned. My son and his wife have never said anything and it is still on their bed.

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