Previously we talked about seams pressed to one side vs. seams pressed open. We saw that both seams break if stressed too much. I’ve had customers ask how to repair seams that you can no longer get to from the back side. This is exactly what we have in quilts with broken seams.
Here are some possible ways to do the repair:
To make the repair invisible we will sew by hand. I prefer to use a milliner’s needle because they are long and thin. I use only one strand of 50 wt. thread though you can use two if you prefer. For seams pressed open, we will use a ladder stitch and for seams pressed to one side we will use an applique stitch. Begin and end both of these stitches using a quilter’s knot, burying the knots into the quilt. If using two threads, make the quilter knot with only one or two wraps of the needle.
For the ladder stitch, have the needle come out at one fold where you want to start the stitch, and then insert the needle directly opposite that point and take about an eighth inch stitch coming out the second fold. Insert the needle back in the first fold and take an eighth inch stitch. Repeat until the seam is repaired. Watch the video here.
For the applique stitch, bring the needle up through the bottom layer and catch a thread at the folded edge of the top layer. Directly below this needle come up an eighth inch along the seam through the bottom layer and back through the fold of the top layer. Watch our other video here.
For a more functional repair, we can use decorative machine stitches. Select one that is not too dense. Too many stitches can take a lot of time and cause waviness in the quilt. Also, you may need to tighten the top thread tension to get a nice stitch without loops on the back. Here is a photo of my son’s quilt that I repaired with a large zigzag stitch. We had tied the quilt rather than quilting it. The tug and pull that a 6 year old exerts on his quilt was more than these bias seams could handle. So the zigzag became the quilting which made it a much more sturdy quilt. The quilt is more than 15 years old and still in use.
I hope these ideas help you mend broken seams. Enjoy your quilting even when it means repairs.