Retrospective: 1992 Double Irish Chain

Welcome to the third in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives. I apologise for the quality of the photos — they are scans of old film prints. [And thereby hangs a tale — I had to find the laptop that has the software to run the scanner, then charge it (because I haven’t used that particular laptop in months), then I had to connect the power and USB cords to the scanner, which took much huffing and puffing and scrabbling under the desk, and then after I scanned the prints and edited the scans I found that all my huffing and puffing had managed to dislodge the power cord for the router … cue more huffing and puffing and trying to work out which cord is the router (they are all labelled, but the ink had faded on some of them — time for a re-do) and then waiting for the internet connection to re-establish. Phew!!]

1992 Irish Chain quilt
1992 Irish Chain quilt

Size: 30″ x 80″ (approximate)
Design: traditional Double Irish Chain
Fabric: all cotton
Batting: low-loft polyester (I think)
Pieced: by machine December 1991 (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: by hand, early 1992
Bound: July 1992

Just before Christmas 1991 I bought the brand new Janome MemoryCraft 8000 sewing machine — it was the first domestic sewing machine with embroidery function and I was completely in love with it. I made several Christmas-themed napkins for the family and decorated some T-shirts and pillow cases. I also started a machine embroidery/appliqué quilt that never got further than a few blocks, but that’s a story for another day.

I was in the RAN at the time, with another long overseas deployment coming up. I wanted a hand-sewing project to keep myself occupied as well as a bunk-size quilt to brighten up my cabin. I found black, pink and grey fabrics that coordinated, and I sewed the top together without any issues (quarter-inch seams are easy with an adjustable needle position!). I bought backing, batting and a tapestry frame that was wide enough for the quilt and took it all back to the ship with me.

It didn’t take me long to quilt it — a few weeks at most. I did basic diagonal lines through the grey squares and border, and a simple eight-petal flower in the pink squares. I used a blue pencil to mark the flowers which was hard to see at times and one of the petals ended up being a lot larger than its fellows (I can’t find it in the photo so it probably wasn’t as glaring an error as I thought it was).

1992 Irish Chain quilt (detail)
1992 Irish Chain quilt (detail)

I can’t remember if I bound it prior to or after the quilting, but I’m fairly certain I attached the binding by machine and stitched it down by hand, and I have a note that says it was completed in July 1992. Of course, shortly thereafter I was posted to a different ship where the bunks were wider and the quilt barely covered the mattress, but I still appreciated having something colourful in the cabin. On leaving that ship in December 1992 I decided that it wasn’t worth taking it home (it was much too narrow for a normal single bed) so I sold it for $25 to one of the stewards who had often admired it — my one and only quilt sale. I hope it had a long and useful life.

Now that I make quilts for other service people it amuses me to fake an old woman’s quavering voice and say “In my young day I had to make my own bunk quilt!”

Lessons learned:
1. Use a quilting marker that will remain visible until washed.
2. A tapestry frame makes a perfectly adequate quilting frame for a narrow quilt (or portion thereof).

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