Retire or Repair an Old Friend?

My mother taught me to sew when I was seven and we made many of our clothes during the subsequent years. Mom especially liked to make pajamas for us kids, while I enjoyed making the outfits I would be seen in. A few years ago I put together a lecture comparing some of my quilts with garments from my youth (yes! I still have many of them  😀 ). The lecture is called “Gone to the Dark Side”  and you can find information about it at

When I graduated from high school my parents gave me a brand new Sears Kenmore sewing machine.

I was thrilled! I decided my first project should be a quilt for my “hope chest”. I cut a 6″ square from cardboard and dug out all of the scraps from our sewing projects. There were cottons, denims, flannels, crepe d’chine, seersucker and even some wool! I traced around the cardboard on the wrong side of each scrap and cut out all the squares with a scissors. Once the squares were cut I laid them out in 9-patches (I didn’t know that’s what they were called then) and sewed them together.

I assembled these blocks into a top and it ended up being king sized. I couldn’t wait to use some of the fancy stitches on my machine (my mom’s old Singer didn’t have any of those), so I did a line of decorative stitching over the seams of all the blocks.

Once the top was finished I layered it with a sheet, and a sheet blanket for the filling, and sewed all the way around the outside – leaving an opening for turning; only to find out I’d layered it incorrectly (the sheet was on the inside). So I ripped it apart, sewed around, and turned once again. To finish I tied it with knots of 4 ply polyester yarn at the block corners. What a delight for the eyes!

Even though it’s pretty ugly (don’t you love oxymorons?), it’s kept Mike and me warm for 42 years!

But lately it’s showing it’s age. Many of the fabrics are just plain disintegrating.

The green wool from a vest I made shrunk up years ago, but that didn’t keep me from tossing it into the washing machine many, many times.

Yet the fabrics are filled with memories. The pink denim with doves above was used in my favorite pair of hip hugger, bell bottom jeans (just picture that – it was the 70’s). In the following photo the brown floral was a sundress, the light blue flannel was a nightgown of mine, and the purple with flowers was from an apron I made for my German “mother” when I did a class trip to Germany my junior year.

So… do I retire it to the actual cedar chest Mike bought me as an engagement gift (at the foot of the bed)? or ???

While taking these pictures I realized the worn blocks are all around the outer edge. Perhaps I need to remove the last row of squares all the way around, add a binding and use it for another 42 years. What do you think?

26 Opinions

  • Jackie said:

    That is a good idea. Do your children/grandchildren know these stories? Maybe put a label in the back:-)

  • Brenda said:

    Too many memories to throw it away!! Fix the outside and use for the next 42!!

  • Connie said:

    A treasure, do what you can to repair it. Did you save any fabric from the clothes you made for your children and grandchildren?

  • Mary Miller said:

    About 10-12 years ago I patched a hand tied quilt my son-in-law had, that his mother had made I him, with old dresses, and you name it. His mother passed away a number of years ago. A few years after my patching, the quilt was springing new rips, and the edge was pretty bad all the way around. So I decided to make him a new quilt, front and back. I used the quilt his mom gave him as the “guts”. When I gave it to him for his 30th birthday, I told him he would now be wrapped in a quilt from his two mothers, who love him. He loves that quilt. I hand tied it. Don’t give your quilt the heave hoe, it has too many memories.

  • Louise Haddon said:

    I also made quilts like this for my sisters. Some of the patches also shrunk, so I think my one sister threw it away. Don’t know what happened to the other ones. Unfornately I never kept one for myself. It’s a great momento and I deffinatly would not throw it away.

  • Alice said:

    I agree!! It is a “keeper.” Remove the outer, worn areas and add a new border of retro fabrics! Maybe EBay would have some fun things!!

    Over 40 years, ago, my Mom snuck fabric (double knit!!!) down to my Grandparents’ farm. She asked them to make a quilt for my college graduation. Sadly, only a few months later—Mom died suddenly. Two months later, my Papa died from a heart attack. It took awhile for Grammy to return to the quilt—but she did. It was given to me for a wedding gift!! ❤️❤️

  • Kay Franzen said:

    My grandmother made many quilts. My children treasure theirs even tho they are.badly wirn. I have a Dresden Plate that she made that is in very bad shape so I made a duvet cover from sheets and enclosed it inside, stitching around it to hold the quilt in place. I can see the pattern thru the sheet and can still use the quilt. She used thin blankets for her batting and also tied with yarn.

  • Dawn said:

    By the title of this blog, I thought you were talking about throwing away your sewing machine and getting a new one. I was kind of disappointed. But, anyway, I threw out a couple of old quilts that weren’t perfect — had the same issues yours does. Big mistake. I think the stories that go with it are priceless. I plan on making my daughter a quilt with all of the fabrics I used when making her clothes — until she was a teenager. She’d better keep it forever!

  • Donna said:

    I say repair what you can, too many memories. I also got a Sears Kenmore similar to yours in the late 60’s, I think for 8th grade graduation. Made lots of clothes on that machine, including my prom dress. Had those cams that you put in the top of the machine for all those decorative stitches. I had so much fun playing with those, changing stitch widths and lengths to get different looks. Gave it to my daughter a few years back when her cheap machine started acting up.

    • clkquilt admin

      I loved the cams! I think I’d still be sewing on the machine if I hadn’t burned out the motor free motion quilting.

  • Renee Watry said:

    I wish I would have kept my first quilt,like yours the fabric was tearing – shredding, So since I had more that I made, out it went. I also wish I would
    have kept a picture record of all the quilts I made and put the pictures in a folder, but since I did not, maybe someone will read my note and think hey, those are some good ideas.

  • donna said:

    I have a similar quilt that my mother made for me. It is of apple-core blocks sewn by hand. And it is one of the ugliest quilts I have ever seen. I retired it to a quilt rack in the bedroom. I can still see it and no further harm will come to it from laundering..

  • Cheryl Parker said:

    Do what repairs you can on it. It’s worth it. Besides, cedar isn’t good on fabrics. It would rot worse in there.

  • Betsy said:

    For my 2 cents, I would fix it up and maybe even cut it up for your grandkids so each will have a piece of you. I would also document where each of the fabrics came from (if possible) so the past will not be lost. The parts and pieces will then become a living memorial to you and your love as it passes through generations and captures your family history. I would then create a new masterpiece to show how far you have come in your quilting expertise and use that to keep you and Mike warm. Relive some of your memories together in another quilt that can then be passed to future generations as “the rest of the story.”

  • Betty Price said:

    Yes! Fix the outer row, bind it and enjoy until you pass it on to one lucky person!

  • Miriam said:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful history. Yes, either take the outer ones off or make it into smaller ones for the grandkids. The question is, do you want to keep using it or do you want others to use it?

  • Sandy said:

    Keep it! Repair it. How do I say I had a very similar item but mine covered pillows that were very large. Used sat on them till we found a couch. Those lasted years. I wish I had saved some now (43 years later).

  • Del said:

    What a sweet story of the memories each of these fabrics has for you. Isn’t it amazing how we can remember such vivid life details in relation to a fabric and garment. Most days it is a challenge to know what I did with my glasses.
    Sounds like the quilt still evokes good feelings. Fix it and continue to admire and enjoy!

  • Barbara Wittnebel said:

    I agree with the other quilters fix There were some good ideas I like the one to use pieces of it for you kids or grandkids and make a new master piece to show how far you have come because you are so talented and can make a master piece repair

  • Tomi Fay said:

    My neighbor had a similar situation. Her now-deceased mother made her a quilt, and it was showing its age. I cut it smaller because the outer-most blocks were worn. I put on a new backing. I also machine-quilted it (it has been a tied quilt) with a zig-zag stitch over every seam to help it last many more years.
    Along the same lines, after my mother-in-law died I found a box of quilted squares she had hand-sewn back in the 1970s. I washed and ironed them. My daughter-in-law helped me sort them by color and helped me design them into a baby quilt for grandson #2. The leftover blocks I used to make throw pillows for family members. It is a treasure for all of them to have the quilt blocks. In that case, I backed each block with a muslin and again, stitched a decorative stitch over each seam to catch both sides of the fabric and help it last.

  • Jill Draves said:

    Take off the outer blocks that are most worn, could make small table mats for relatives or mug rugs from usable outer blocks. If fabric is worn in the middle portion, could always sew a block on top over the worn areas. I am running into the same problem with my favorite bed quilt – whole cloth cotton on one side and flannel back (purchased for a flannel nightgown back when I was a kid). Tied with arylic yarn. The cotton is wearing out on edges and flannel is just fine yet – used for probably 20+ years. Mom made it. I wash it all the time, since the cat sleeps on it, and I use it year around and just turn it over and over. Can’t bear to part with it just yet. Thought I would sew a binding around edges to strenghtened it. My quilt doesn’t even look nice. Yours looks great – repair and continue to use!

  • Joanne howe said:

    Memories are so important to us! You must keep it for that reason. I have a friend who puts quilts over the top of her doors. Keep it out and enjoy it repaired or as is for another 40 years!

  • Debbie W said:

    I also would keep it! If I had a quilt with fabric from the smiley face sundress my mom made me, I would cherish it forever!
    It seems as though you have many happy memories each time you think about where the fabrics have come from. I wouldn’t be able to toss it away!

  • Renee admin

    Good article, wish I would have saved my first quilt. It looked similar to yours. Another thing
    I wish I had taken pictures of all the quilts.


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