Quilter uses computer to replicate antiques

Quilter uses computer to replicate antiques Preserving antique quilts and computer technology may seem worlds apart, but Vermillion quilter Mary Waller has discovered a way to bring those two worlds together.

At the recent Quilt Restoration Conference in Omaha, Waller taught two workshops on replicating antique quilts to quilt restorers and textile historians from around the country. Waller taught conference participants how she draft patterns based on antique quilts using the Electric Quilt Computer-Assisted Drawing (CAD) program.

Waller says computer technology allows modern-day quilters to make historically accurate copies of old quilts or adapt the designs in new interpretations.

One way quilters can preserve the design and spirit of fragile or damaged quilts is to reproduce them using modern fabrics and techniques. Replicating the original provides a quilt that can be used and displayed, when the original is in poor condition or has historical significance, according to Waller.

Although modern quiltmakers may start out to make an exact copy, Waller points out that antique quilts often lack the accuracy in construction expected by today's quilters. Drawing on a computer screen allows quilters to adapt designs and work out solutions that compensate for the inaccuracies in "geometrically challenged" antique quilts.

Waller says a modern renaissance in quilting began around the time of America's Bicentennial. Interest in the history of quilting, quiltmakers and antique quilts continues to grow, with more books, patterns and reproduction fabrics becoming available.

Waller speaks about quilting and teaches classes on quiltmaking and creative sewing in South Dakota and the surrounding area. She designs and writes instructional patterns for her classes and has written articles published in national quilt magazines.

Waller also judges quilts, does quilt appraisals and participated in the South Dakota quilt documentation project as a technical expert. She especially enjoys speaking to groups whose members bring quilts made by family members and share the family and quilt's history.

"The quilt owners tell some amazing personal stories about their families and the quilts, and I can tell them things about the quilt, its pattern and fabrics that they're not aware of," says Waller. "Many times, the only surviving item of a woman's life is the quilt or quilts she's made."

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