An Old Project Returns

A few weeks ago I resumed knitting Aron’s Aran sweater, which I started last year.


By which I mean, I finally decided I definitely WAS making it on needles that were too small, and unraveled it and started again.


The bigger needles are producing a much more supple knit, and I’m borrowing a trick I learned from a sock knitter and making the back and front at the same time, each from its own ball of yarn.

But of course, last week I got bored and decided to start a smaller project as a break from this long-term goal.


This is going to be a chunky cowl for my sister-in-law, who’s very artistic and a little bit goth.  I think she’ll like the color scheme, and the chunkiness.  (The yarn is Schoppel Reggae Ombre, in two colorways.)

Now, what is that red-white-and-black quilty pile in the left-hand corner of my pictures, you might ask?  Unsurprisingly, it’s a quilt, the quilt that this post is really about.


I don’t have a picture of the whole thing right now, but you get the general idea.  I made this quilt for one of my brothers ten years ago, as a gift for his high school graduation.  He was about to start at Texas A&M, and very excited about it, which is what inspired the color scheme.  If memory serves, I picked the double Irish chain pattern because it was interesting, but not over-complicated, and I thought it would work well with the colors.  In the ten years since I gave it to him, my brother’s taken this quilt everywhere: to college, on tours with Drum Corps International, various bachelor pads, and most recently to his billet with the Marine Corps.  There is no higher compliment for a quilt or the person who made it.

So you might be wondering why I have it now, and how it made its way back into my project queue.  We had Christmas at my parents’ house, and my brother asked me if I would take a look at his quilt, because it needed some repairs.  I said sure.  But when he showed it to me, the top edge of it was completely split open (because apparently I made this quilt before I learned how to bind things properly) and the batting (polyester (horrors!)) was separating in a big way.  Not to mention that the borders were coming apart in places, and the backing (flannel) was tearing.

What can I say?  This quilt has lived an active life.

Now, while I am fully of the opinion that it is right and proper for a quilt to be loved to death, I was hoping for a longer lifespan for this one, and the damage was such that I told my brother I would have to take the top and the back apart and completely re-quilt it.  (I also remembered that this was the first quilt I ever machine-quilted, and I did it with just a regular presser foot and not the walking foot, which made the stitching really tight.  Did I mention I was self-taught?)

He was at first reluctant to entertain this plan.  (I don’t think he thought that I would ruin it; he just didn’t want me to take it away (and possibly never give it back…).)

I eventually persuaded him that the quilt would be better once I’d overhauled it (if only because the batting would be cotton instead of polyester), and that if he didn’t let me take it it would only deteriorate faster.  He finally agreed when I offered to get him a replacement blanket to tide him over while I worked on this one.

And after all that, it’s still taken me almost four months to get around to it.  I am the procrastinator par excellence.  😦

My mom visited me in February, and while she was here she completely unpicked the quilting stitches and tossed out the batting and the backing (which were both in tatters). Last week I bought a new backing for the quilt (the exact same JoAnn’s polyester-cotton blend that I used to make it ten years ago), and this last Sunday (after a break in the wake of finishing my Green Deconstruction quilt and a gift table-runner) I finally picked up my brother’s quilt and started mending the borders.

Unfortunately I came to the conclusion that the borders cannot be mended.  They’ve got holes worn in them around the edges in some places, and have gotten very uneven in others from the backing being pulled off.  They also had the A&M logo embroidered into them at the corners, AFTER I’d layered and quilted the quilt, all the way through the quilt sandwich, and those stitching holes are never coming out.  So, I’m cutting new borders, probably out of my stash of black Kona cotton, which is not going to perfectly match the poly-blend black squares that make up the pattern (especially not after ten years’ washing), but I think it’ll be okay.

And I’ve discovered that I pieced this quilt, like my first two quilts, with hand-quilting thread.  Which, if you don’t know, is very thick and meant to be used only for hand-quilting, and should never ever be run through a sewing machine.  How I got my machine to handle it I’ll never know.

So yeah.


I’ve got two of the borders off now; I’ll cut new ones, sew them on, embroider the logo into the corners, and then she’ll be ready for re-quilting.  With the walking foot this time, and cotton batting, and a proper binding, and at long last, a label.

And then, once it’s completely overhauled, back it goes to the Marine Corps!

Tune in next time for my first web tutorial: how to hang a quilt with picture-hanging strips!


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