Reworking a Quilt of Valor

Sometimes our local chapter of Quilts of Valor receives a quilt from someone outside the organization that just doesn’t meet the standard for our veterans. This one was such a dilemma, as it had some gorgeous blocks, but it had significant issues. We loved the quilt idea, the workmanship of the embroidery and the effort of the quilter, but it couldn’t be awarded as it was. Our veterans deserve only our very best.

The embroidery was beautiful, just look at the eagle block. But it has significant excess fabric around the motif, and no quilting.

The pretty dove with the ribbon is stitched on a plaid.

This little dog with a flag is so cute, but it is stitched without adequate stabilizer so lots of puckers around the motif. Plus the white embroidered piece is sewn onto the stripe with just a raw edge and a decorative stitch, so it was already raveling.

Other blocks had embroidery, or were pieced traditional blocks, none had quilting.

The only quilting done on the quilt was a loop type of design in only the sashing. There was no quilting on any of the blocks or the border. The backing has much too much fabric between the sashings as it wasn’t flat before the quilting was done.

In a number of places, the backing was puckered or pleated. As much as we appreciated the effort, we could not give this to a veteran without some additional work.

When the leader contacted me about the quilt, she asked if I could add quilting to an already finished quilt. I said that I had done that before, so she gave me the quilt. When I saw the excess fabric on the back, I tried to steam out the wrinkles, but there was just too much. I told her adding more quilting as it was would just make a greater mess. So, we decided I would give it back to the group, and they would remove the stitching already done, then we would quilt it as usual to a new backing. But then, I showed it to My Sweet Babboo so he could admire the embroidery work, and he had a brilliant idea. He said to just quilt it to a new backing as it was. Sometimes the man is a genius. The leader agreed, so I began with removing the binding. Did you know that the little red ball is to separate the fabrics so the blade only hits the thread?

It took less than 5 minutes to zip off the binding.

I used my rotary cutter to cut off just a smidgen to eliminate the stay-stitching around the edge.

Then I cut out the excess fabric between the sashing to reduce the bulk as we would add another layer of batting so the quilt wouldn’t have lumps on the back.

I loaded a new backing and a thin layer of additional batting to get started with quilting. Yes, this quilt will be a bit heavier than usual, but the quilting will look nice. I know lots of quilters who use both cotton and wool in the same quilt for just that purpose. I started auditioning threads and decided that this quilt needed to be done with custom detail. I want to do more freehand custom quilting, and this would be a wonderful way to bring this quilt to life. Even if it isn’t perfect, and it won’t be, it will still be special and honor the veteran who receives it. I’ll use the grey in the red and blue, and the white in the white areas. The back will have the lighter silver.

One of the hard parts is deciding where to begin each block, so that the most amount of quilting can be done without tying off and starting again. I began the stitch in the ditch part on a blue triangle point so I could then go inside the block without tying off. I’ll come back to this block later and do the corners in white.

Next block got wavy lines in the red, and the same point-to-point triangles in the blue. Every block will have stitch-in-the-ditch around the block. On this block, I started on the edge of the block at a blue point, stitched one side of the triangle, went all the way around the red, then back to the beginning point to finish the edge of the triangle. Then I put the curved lines inside the triangle, then went around the edge to the next triangle. I got most of the stitching done this way, then did a tie off, and went back to get the edges of the red and the inside center edge all in one go with minimal overstitching.

I’ll come back to this block later too, to reinforce the edges of the raw-edge applique with both more stitching, but also a fray block.

I put the same motifs in this block as well. Later, I’ll come back with a medallion for the center.

Deciding on what to do in each block slows the process, but careful consideration is a good thing. It took more than a week to get to this point. Then last week I was able to find time here and there to do more of the blocks. Next was this one that I put medallion style motifs in the corners.

In the center, I put a feathered spiral.

In the next block, I quilted the blue corners and triangles as one unit, with a feather frond. Later I’ll go back and do the white on this one too.

On the dove, I quilted rays out from the bird, then put curved lines inside like feathers.

The flag got wavy lines like it is fluttering in the wind. There is also stitch in the ditch around every stripe. When I come back later with the white thread, I’ll add waves in the light stripes.

The blue star field got a large quilted star. I marked this with chalk using a ruler first so I wouldn’t mess up the lines.

On this one, I put a continuous feather line all the way around the red. I did point to point curved line triangles in the blue with stitch in the ditch around the pinwheels. The white triangles will get some attention later.

Considering how long it has been since I did feathers in all four directions, I was pretty pleased with the way these turned out. These are touch and go feathers, easier to do.

So, two weeks in, and I have more than half yet to go. It has been great practice for my freehand quilting. It helps that the committee doesn’t need this quilt right away, so I have time to do some custom work. Now I just need some time in the sewing room. I’ll show you more later when I get more of the blocks done.

49 thoughts on “Reworking a Quilt of Valor

  1. Rheanna

    Thank you so much for sharing this project. I love your husbands idea. I also appreciate how you are improving upon the original quilters ideas. I am sure they had the best intentions, but it just wasn’t quite executed to the standards we want for our veterans. I hope the second half goes as well as the first.

  2. Linda B

    What a great fix! I love it when other people see things differently and share them with us! We need each other so much! AND, thank you for the seam ripper tip…I just put a hole in a skirt trying to remove the waistband…I will turn it over!

  3. Paula

    I am very impressed. Your quilting looks lovely and I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on how to “fix” the quilts. I really enjoy your blog and patterns.

  4. Cathy Walker

    That is looking so nice. I sometimes do blocks of embroidery on Project Linus blankets and go around the design with a frame-like decorative stitch for the quilting. These are some great designs you are doing. Keep up the good work!

  5. this is looking so good. I’m sure the intention was good but I have heard/or read so many say things like “it’s for charity, its for donation” etc it is good enough. Not understanding that it might be for charity or for a donation to an organization that honors someone, that it is still to be your best work.

  6. Julie

    Spectacular save going on there! Although it’s slower than using a panto, quilting block by block adds so much more personality to an already unique quilt.
    That suggestion from your husband saved time overall compared to how long it would have taken removing the decorative stitches already in place. The quilting distance listed on packaged batting can be deceiving. Just because you can quilt 10″ apart doesn’t mean you should.

  7. This is fascinating, Carole. I don’t know enough about anything you’re doing to have anything more than admiration for what you are creating. The embroideries are sweet and I hope they can be rescued, as the dove was. The quilting is beautiful and I love the touches, like the ripples on the flag.

  8. jseccurrtwcnyrrcom

    My mind went exactly where yours did with the unpicking strategy. Always good to get ideas from others and the reback thought was brilliant! Your custom quilting and attention to detail e.g. fray blocking the raw edges will make this quilt a treasure! Looking forward to the next post on this.

  9. margaret nelson

    I’m impressed with the detail. I probably would have thought to just re-back it but i wouldn’t have thought to cut out the extra fabric, brilliant!
    It is nice to have the time to really concentrate on how you want to quilt it instead of rushing thought for a deadline.

  10. Marjolein

    Hello Carole,

    Admiration for your work. You are a real excellent quilter to finish this quilt the way you are doing. It;s a nice quilt and the embroidery also.
    I have to admit that sometimes I need my dictionaty to understand all the special words. Baboo for instance I cannot find in my Englisch Nederlands.
    Thank you for this blog and the information about the red ball. Never heard what is the use of it ( I am nearly 74 and sewing since I was 5 years old….. Never to old to learn, my mother would say.
    Have I nice evening.

  11. Linda Jackson

    So very encouraging to hear you say that our military deserve the best – love how you phrased this – Your quilting is amazing and inspiring – Thank you, Linda

  12. That sound you heard was my jaw dropping! Such great love and dedication going into this quilt from you. Sometimes I think it’s easier to just start over – but the original sewer put a lot of love into this as well. Thanks for honoring her and the Veteran.

  13. lois92346

    The original quilter’s heart was certainly in the right place. I love the piece work of the individual blocks. Bless you for all the time and effort you’re putting into making this a top worthy of presenting to an honored veteran.

  14. Shirley

    Hi Carole, Thank you for your work on this lovely quilt. Yes, original quilter did very good on the top but apparently needs some more help with how batting and quilting work. With you going over how you are redoing the quilting is good for all to see. Many people do not get what the quilting can do for a quilt, it can make or break a good quilt. Thank you again for the wonderful quilting.

  15. Teri

    I can’t believe the amount of work, time and thought that went into this lovely volunteer project . You are going to make a hero so happy!
    Thank you for your dedication!

  16. I would never have thought of the solution to add another backing, certainly beats unpicking existing quilting lines. Slowly, slowly, it is getting completed. The embroidered blocks are quite special, aren’t they.

  17. Marilyn

    Your quilting will make this QOV. I am a group leader in north Florida and I totally agree with you, that was not up to the standards we expect for our veterans. We’ve had a few that came in and took months to get up to the standards we expect for our veterans. Thank you for taking the extra time to make this a beautiful QOV worthy to be awarded.

  18. Beautiful job and great idea for the backing. I have a story similar to this. I was asked to quilt a top a friend purchased at an auction. It was so poorly put together that I was going to rework the blocks. When I mentioned this online to a quilt group I belong to, they shamed me and said no one should ever rework someone else’s work. I ended up quilting the top to the best of my ability, quilting in the puckers and waves. My friend seemed happy with it but I know I could have saved it in a much nicer way if I hadn’t been intimidated by the bullies on the quilt site. I have since left the group and I make my own decisions.

  19. Lynetta Martin

    I wondered if anyone sent you pictures of your jacket etc. entered in the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. There were MANY entries. Big show.

  20. manasotavacation

    Once again, you have proved you are MAGIC!!!! What a rescue for this quilt …. cannot wait to see the finished product! Thank you for sharing this beautiful and cteative SAVE!!!!

  21. Melanie

    Your DH is genius, Carole, and so are you! Such beautiful work you do. God bless you for all the generous and wonderful work you do to honor veterans and provide for others in need. I am nearly ready to mail Safelight sets. My DH has been in the hospital a couple times recently so I’m behind and limited in what I have and ran out of velcro in the midst. I’m catching up, but slowly. Enjoying your tutorials very much. Sending hugs, m

  22. Cathie J

    I think it is wonderful that your guild is so particular with the quilts that you give to our veterans. I am glad you can salvage this quilt. Your quilting is beautiful.

  23. Jan Thrift

    I’ve never seen a more beautiful quilt!!! You do wonderful & beautiful work!!! God has blessed you with a great talent and a big heart!! ♥️🙏♥️

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