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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Book Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD
A review of the DVD set
Featuring NANCY KIRK

Do you know that in the Mid-West twill fabric 
in a quilt is called "farmer's satin"?

Do you know that covering a deteriorating section of silk 
with crepeline will not stop the deterioration from progressing 
and therefore is not a conservation measure?

Do you know the purpose/mission of 
a quilt restorationist vs. a conservationist?

Do you know what a "tide mark" on a quilt is and how to prevent it?

These and many other relevant topics are addressed in Nancy Kirk's 
Quilt Restoration DVDS. There are four DVDs, and each 
is approximately 90 minutes long.

These sessions with Nancy are shot while she is giving a restoration workshop to a group of students in Nebraska in September 2002. It is as if we are in the class too, hearing her lectures, seeing quilts or blocks, and watching her sew on occasion. The goal of this workshop is to teach the basics of restorations work on quilts and tops for the owner or as a beginning class for someone who wants to do this professionally. I fall into the former group and found it both useful and informative.

What I found most useful is when Nancy discuss various ways an owner might go about resurrecting a quilt or top and the reasoning behind the various ways. This provided an education you can't get just by observing a restoration finished or by learning the technical aspects. There are always choices one has before beginning any aspect of restoration, from washing to sewing to re-constructing it with new fabric. The running joke in the workshop is the common answer "it just depends." So when you watch this video- even if everything isn't new to you or agreeable to you, you do get the gift of hearing the reasoning behind the decisions to be made.

The distinctions between conservation and restoration methods are on going through the DVDS, because their goals and purpose are essentially opposites of each other, although there are overlaps in some ways. Restoration includes washing, repairing the quilt so that it doesn't look damaged or repaired, and keeping it's visual integrity in tact- meaning that you would chose fabrics, threads, and methods that are as close to the original IN APPEARANCE as possible. A conservationist sees washing as also washing away historic evidence and information, therefore washing and cleaning the quilt is avoided if at all possible, and when not, all information that can be taken from the textiles is, and recorded and studied and photographed. The quilt owner at home would also perform the latter two, to keep in her files and to have a reference as she progresses in the restoration work. But a conservationist's main goal is to preserve the textiles structural integrity in the most conservative manner, and in the least intrusive way.

This means leaving all elements on the piece in tack, as much as possible; all fibers, fabrics, binding and threads, hiding them under a stabilizing material rather than cutting them off. They are not concerned with it looking repaired, but instead their aim is to stabilize it in a manner that is reversible; should a better dating test or conservation method come along in the future. Conservationists work on a 150 year into the future timetable.

Nancy also discusses setting up a restoration business, setting fees and guidelines with clients in mind. She refers to her own experiences in this end of her business.

Nancy demonstrates a few types of appliqué stitches that are frequently used in restoration, but that's about it for sewing. Matching fabrics and all that can entail is categorized under "Creating Fabrics." Using crepeline, archival fusible (when and when not to), templates, and when not to restore are other areas she covers in some depth. I like learning how to find ways of "robbing Peter to pay Paul", meaning finding sources of old fabric ON the quilt to take from and use in more visible areas of the quilt that need repairs, even though this can, in some cases, mean cutting it down or removing a border. Again, options before making choices that will affect the quilt or top forever.

Disk 2 is a discussion about possible restoration methods on the quilts that were brought in by the students. There were at least 10 to 12 quilts and tops dating from before the Civil War through the mid-twentieth century. This was very helpful to watch and listen in on and Nancy's real talents shown here. The dating fabrics and quilts disk used some of the same quilts and also blocks and tops. It was here that I wish I could have directed the camera people myself. There are some great close-ups; I just wanted more of them and for longer periods of time per shot. Nancy puts a disclaimer at the end of the last disk, explaining that new information and research is coming to us all the time in this relatively new field of study in quilts, fabrics and their history. I couldn't agree more. So, listen to the dating fabrics section with some caution, checking out that which you think may have been supplanted with newer findings. Also, Nancy discusses aspects of dating with her focus on an individual fabric's print characteristics to help set them in time. Regional differences, quilt styles, block patterns, that kind of overall focus that is also used when dating a quilt, is seldom considered in the dating DVD.

The last disk concentrates on storing, washing, cleaning, hanging and caring for your quilts with archival applications. It's her that she talks about "tide marks," a term I have not heard before. The minerals in water will vary from state to state and town to town, so tide marks are part of life for some washed quilts and other textiles. Her advice for avoiding these watermarks is to lay cotton gauze, as in cheesecloth, across the top of the quilt as it dries, so that it can collect the minerals as the water wicks upward while drying. Nancy sells the products she has used and therefore recommends to others, on her website www.quiltcare.com. I recommend you sign up for her 8-part quilt care newsletter. It is free and informative. Good care towards your quilts now, will help deflect the onset of aging that could eventually lead to the need for restoration work.

Nancy made my smile when she talked about the reasons to buy "cutter" quilts, or the well-loved type- the ratty ones is what I mean. These quilts can be "harvested" for small bits of fabric, white or colored or prints, to use in a quilt you are restoring. I had realized that with blocks and yardage, but hadn't used that as an excuse to buy a cutter. Thank you Nancy for another reason to shop more.

If you can attend Nancy's restoration workshop in Omaha, by all means, do it. However, if you can't spend the time or money, this is a great alternative and it can be played over and over again. I took notes while watching, just like in a class, but you wouldn't have too if you own the disks. You can order them from Nancy's website www.quiltcare.com.

See also: A review of the DVD set "Restoring Crazy Quilts:  The Advanced Quilt Restoration Workshop"

Book publishers and authors: if you would like your book reviewed on this Website, and it falls within the scope of topics, please contact me


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© 2005 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

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