Trains for Alex – a Quilt Story

Once upon a time, there was a Grandma who had many grandchildren. And she thought to herself, “What could I make for my grandchildren that would show them every day how much I love and care for them?” She thought, and thought, and thought some more until she hit upon the idea of making each grandchild a quilt of his or her very own.

Grandma B’s skills and supplies were not fancy or advanced, but her love was great. When Alex was born, she decided to make a train quilt for him, because every little boy is certainly captivated by trains. She purchased two twin sized sheets for the front and back of the quilt and found drawings of various trains she could sketch or copy for the applique shapes. She cut the shapes out of double knit fabric, stuffed a bit of cotton batting behind each one, and machine zig-zagged them to the front of the quilt. Grandma thought about Alex as she sewed, hoping he would love the red caboose as much as she did.

After appliqueing the shapes, Grandma B layered the top with cotton batting and the sheet backing. Then she painstakingly tied the quilt with royal blue yarn in a 4″ grid. As you can imagine, Alex loved his train quilt. It graduated with him from crib, to big boy bed, through grade school, high school and college. And Grandma B was happy and satisfied that her gift was so appreciated.

But that is not the end of the story of Alex’s train quilt. Because of many adventures and many washings, the front of the quilt grew soft with age, and the back of the quilt obtained tears and rips. But Alex still treasured his train quilt, and when he married, he brought it to his new home. Alex’s wife wondered if the quilt could be rescued and preserved for further enjoyment. I agreed to re-quilt the quilt if she would remove the damaged backing. She, bless her heart, carefully cut the backing away around the ties since they are integral to the quilt’s history.

We chose a light blue print for a new back and binding, and I used light blue thread to freehand quilt Es and 3s all over the quilt. The quilting design resembles clouds or steam from an old steam engine train. I avoided quilting through the appliques and most of the yard ties, although the ties are soft and my needle pierced them without issue.

Won’t Alex be surprised to see his childhood train quilt now, with a new lease on life?

6 thoughts on “Trains for Alex – a Quilt Story

  1. What a nice memory for him and it looks great.

    I have a quilt made by both my paternal grandparents…Grandma pieced it and she and Grandpa tied it after the farm work was done. I’ve had it for 60 years and it’s really coming apart and patches are worn thin but I don’t know how to preserve it.

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