A patchwork repair for a friend.

A patchwork repair for a friend.

Thankfully, the before and after experience of the abdominal surgery I had in July was not as bad as I thought it would be. But, there were some surprises with the things that we all take for granted, for example, it can be a big surprise to discover that sneezing, coughing, laughing, or even the thought of these things, will remind you to hold onto your belly for dear life, for fear of it splitting open. Similarly, turning over in bed, or getting in and out of bed will have you puzzling about the safest position to do these manoeuvres without your belly once again splitting open. Now, several weeks later, the anxiety of a split belly following a sneeze has gone thank goodness, and only the odd twinge remains to remind me.

 I needed some stitching to keep my mind occupied while recovering, and I had some simple meditative stitching to keep worries at bay. My friend helped me a lot with the usual distractions. She also had a bed coverlet – given to her by ?, but now forgotten relative – and it needed to be repaired. It was a handmade hexagon top stitched onto a background fabric, that was folded over (top, bottom and sides), to the front and the corners mitred. There was no wadding or batting in the middle. She thought this would be a good project to keep me occupied, no time scale, just to do something if I could.

I laid the coverlet on the  floor, there were quite a few missing hexagons, and some torn fragile ones. I was most struck by the variety of fabrics used to make the hexagons, how small they were, and what on earth had I agreed to do anyway? It is difficult to see any missing hexies from this photo above, you just have to believe me. I have placed a 50p coin to show the size of the hexagons.


I separated the hexagon top from the background fabric and set about replacing to torn, missing and damaged hexagons. I found one complete ‘paper’ and that measured 3/4 inch, measured against one of my 1 inch hexies. I replaced about 30 hexagons, and probably restitched that many again where the stitching had come undone. The hexagon top measured 84 inches x 45 inches, and the whole coverlet measured 104 inches x 65 inches when back together; it covers a single bed easily. The green background fabric is 2 pieces joined in the middle, and I think the width of each length is about ?40 inches.

Photos of some of the damaged areas, and fabrics in the coverlet.



When I finished the repair, the coverlet needed stabilising somehow, otherwise it was at risk of further damage. I decided to stitch the hexagon top to a piece of cotton – actually, part of an old duvet cover. This worked well, and then I stitched the top back onto the background fabric, this was probably the most difficult part of the job, trying to keep it straight, and prevent any tucks happening on the back. I wanted to do a sympathetic repair, the fabrics I chose from my bag of scraps fitted in very well, and I really had to look very closely to spot them when I had finished.

I used a few stitches to secure the top to the back in random areas. The above photo – on the right – is from my friend showing the coverlet on the bed in her spare room. I am really pleased with my efforts. I think this must have been started in the 50s or 60s, or even earlier? Maybe some of you can recognise some of the fabrics. I dread to think how long it took to stitch, but I am full of admiration for whoever did spend the time making this beautiful item. I am calling it a ‘coverlet’ because there is no middle layer, as there is with a quilt. However, if any of you know differently do let me know, I would love to have a definitive answer.


18 thoughts on “A patchwork repair for a friend.

  1. You’ve done a wonderful repair job on the coverlet – it’s beautiful and it needed to be saved. It was a good idea to stabilise it as you did and that will ensure it can be enjoyed for a long time.

    I would call it a bedspread – it will be interesting to hear other names.

    Abdominal surgery does make you re-evalute how much you take for granted even the simplest of daily activities – glad you’re recovering well.

  2. What amazing work you’ve done, and I agree with Lyn, that this piece of art needed to be saved. It’s fascinating to see all the different fabrics. Everything had a purpose to the very end. Does it look like there was a progression of added fabric or was this undertaken all at once?

    1. Thank you so much. I think there must have been a progression of fabrics as they became available I guess. It was such a lovely item, I had never seen anything like it before.

  3. I admire your diligence, and that of the original maker.
    I can remember in the long lost days when I was a young newlywed; I decided that I would make a patchwork quilt using hexagons. I think I managed about 24 hexies before I gave it up as a bad job. I didn’t have the patience for it. It’s a bit like the time I started to knit a matinee jacket for a friend’s “on the way” baby. I managed a front and a sleeve I think before I gave that up (the baby is a mother herself now, and possibly even a grandmother) and I think that that was the last time I tried knitting.
    I hope that crawling around trying to find the hexies that needed replacing and/or restitching didn’t mean that the stitches in your stomach took longer to heal.

    1. Thank you Ann.
      It is surprising how many hexie projects become abandoned and end up in charity shops. I think this is why I was so taken by this bedspread or coverlet that my friend had, and that it was completed although with some missing/damaged. I worked mostly sitting at the ironing board, and that was really comfortable. I learned to knit when I was young – Aran patterns, but I have not done any for a long time.

  4. What a wonderful job you’ve done to this heirloom piece. I admire your dedication & that of the original maker.
    The bedspread/coverlet is a wonderful example of using up every last piece of precious fabric and I’m sure each fabric design would have had incredible memories attached – sadly now lost to time.

    Your friend did you a favour, albeit the work was quite demanding, by giving you something to concentrate on during your recovery.

    Cushions & pillows were my salvation….cuddling them very tight for coughs, sneezes, laughing & also travelling in car! So pleased you are well & truly on the mend.

    1. Thank you Antje, yes indeed never far from a cushion to grab! Thank you for your kind comments too, I am so pleased that I accepted the challenge.

  5. Glad to hear you made it through your recovery period, Marie. This coverlet was definitely a challenge but well worth your effort. It’s nice to see the different fabric used and think about where those pieces might have come from.

    1. Thank you so much Ruth, and for the good wishes too. I was constantly thinking about the maker and her fabric choices and where she got them from. I did enjoy the challenge.

  6. I love this type of slow repair – it keeps one grounded, there is no option to speed through it mindlessly, and I’ll bet if you looked at some of the hexagons you repaired, you’d remember exactly what you were thinking about when your attention was on them.

    It also warms my heart to know that someone else’s hard work is being loved and cared for by sympathetic hands. Gives me hope for handmade heirlooms around the world!

    Glad you recovered well, Marie. It’s amazing how much movement we put into small gestures and only notice them when we’re hurting…

    1. Thank you Leonor, I agree, work like this keeps you grounded, and almost as if the original maker is giving permission to keep her story going on.

  7. You have done an incredible job repairing this beautiful piece Marie. Your friend must be delighted with the result and no doubt recognises the labour of love such restoration work is. The hexagons are so small, you must have great eyesight to work with it. I agree with Lyn’s term ‘bed spread’ although I think now that it has been repaired it should be on show rather than ‘on bed’!

    I am glad to hear that you are well on the road to recovery. Take care of yourself.

    1. Thank you Helene.I think I may have written my ‘thank you’ to you in the wrong place! Should be below this one!

  8. Thank you Helene. I think the most worrying part was detaching the hexie top from the green material. The stitching was incredibly small, and apart from the 2 green fabric lengths sewn together, this was the only machine stitching that was on show. A stitch unpicker was of no use whatever – but a scalpel was the business!!
    I worked mostly with my specs more off than on, seems to work for me sometimes!
    Thanks for your good wishes too.

  9. I’d say that this project pretty well sits within the first part of the 4th Quarter’s Challenge – finishing a UFO? It may not have been Mari’s own UFO but finishing someone else’s is even more praise worthy don’t you think?

  10. Wow what a lot of work someone did. I have seen stacks of those hexes over the years and my husbands grandmothers and in his mothers stash. I have never seen a complete piece. Coverlet or blanket, probably I would just call it a quilt as that is what it looks like.
    Glad to hear you are will on your way to being back to normal. It is amazing what we use our tummy muscles for.

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