Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Quilt

Sleeping Beauty in the tutu her Oma made her
            From the moment my sister told me she was pregnant with my future niece-or-nephew, my heart was filled with joy and my eyes with happy tears.  And I thought of all the fun I would have with this little person, and of all the things I would make for him/her!  When we found out that he-or-she was definitely a she I was thrilled at the possibilities of little girlie dresses, nail polish parties, and sleepovers with “Auntie Rach.”  I made a few trinkets, a stuffed fabric cube with bells inside, a stuffed lion (whose embroidered face turned out so sloppy I haven’t had the heart to either start over or actually gift it) and bought a few irresistibly cute outfits. But the BIG project, the thing I promised my sister, was a crib quilt.
            Deciding the pattern was easy.  I was envisioning a simple block quilt, maybe a thick border, potentially a soft backing made out of that fun minky fabric.  Emily, who has always been very creative, described her vision: a sky blue background fabric with branches appearing out of the sides and cute little silhouettes of birds sprinkled throughout.  I loved the idea… but I was daunted.  I drew a little sketch that she loved.  But all I had was a concept!
Picking out the fabric was easy. It was a very happy afternoon spent at Joann’s fabrics.  We picked up about 1 & ½ yards of a pretty sky blue fabric with chocolate brown mini dots, a nice grassy green for the border, and a whimsical pale green with grass green whirlies for the background.  We labored over the decision of which fabric samples to get for the birds.  We ended up with around 16 smaller fabrics that were going to be sweet little birds on this quilt.  I was so inspired after buying that gorgeous fabric! And 2 months later, it was still sitting in its plastic bag in my sewing room.
 The gorgeous array of fabrics

Emily was very patient with me. Time passed, and I threw her a(n awesome) baby shower.  The fabric remained untouched.  Friends asked what my big present was going to be for the little one.  I answered, somewhat embarrassed, that I was working on a quilt, but was still in the beginning stages.  With 2 months til the due date, I enlisted the help of my domestic-goddess mother-in-law.  She made baby quilts for her 3 boys, I figured she could help me!
Tessa was a lifesaver.  We spent 4 or 5 long Saturdays together out at her farm.  The first week we washed and dried all the fabrics, so that we would ensure the quilt would be washable. (Kind of a must when it’s designed for a baby!) Then we determined the measurements we would use for the quilt. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m sorry, this is not a tutorial! I’m lucky I figured anything out at all.)  We made the first cuts into the sky blue fabric.  Then I sketched out bird silhouettes until I was satisfied.  I don’t get much cell phone reception at the farm, and I wanted to text pictures to Emily for approval, but I did alright on my own!  I pretty much adore the sweet little bird silhouette that I ended up with.  Emily and I had pinned different bird images back and forth, and had found our favorite, but I was doubtful of my artistic abilities.  Then we traced and cut the bird silhouettes out of each fabric.  With 2 woman who love sewing, we somehow ended up with only one pair of fabric scissors.  Now, I think that you can never have too many pairs of fabric scissors, and you should always bring one with you when you’re planning a day of sewing. (Hindsight is 20/20!)
Tessa told me that we were going to appliqué the branches and birds onto the blue fabric, then sew on the green border, cut out the batting and the backing, sew it all together, and quilt it by hand.  She said this all very calmly and with a straight face.  I was nervous, but I trusted her.  I had never done appliqué before, but she promised me that once I got the hang of it, it would be easy enough.  We had 2 options – machine appliqué or hand appliqué.  She showed me how to hand appliqué using some scrap fabric.  I felt kind of clumsy, but after a while I got the hang of it and was able to get nearly invisible stitches.  What a feeling of accomplishment!  But how time consuming.  I turned to the sewing machine.  There were tons of different kinds of fancy stitches I could use to appliqué by machine.  I tried out a few, but none felt right.  The invisible stitch appealed so much more than a chunky machine stitch.  And that is how I spent the next 5 weeks of my life!
Every evening after supper, my grandma (who I live with and take care of at the moment) and I would retire to the den to watch TV, usually westerns (gag) sometimes The Big Bang Theory (hooray!) and later, season 1 of NCIS (intriguing and sometimes creepy).  I was slow… There were 6 branches and they took me about 2 weeks.  Tessa got the urge to appliqué, and invited me over for a day of group appliqué (kind of like a really, really small quilting bee) and we knocked out the last 2 branches.  She figured out the secret to sewing those partially curvy, partially pointy birds on.  And that was the next 3 weeks of my life!
The birds laying out on the fabric, branches sketched on
My favorite bird family; I loved the vivid fuschia 
Though this is not a tutorial, I will attempt to describe how I go about appliquéing.  Some people do the fusible interfacing (never used it, didn’t want to) to fuse their 2 fabrics together.  I used good old fashion pins.  I’m sure at least 10 are lost around the carpet in the den, waiting to be stepped out.  We left about ¼ inch – ½ inch border around the drawn out silhouette of the birds when we cut them.  That border was tucked under and sewn, bit by bit, onto the main fabric.  I cut little slits every so often to make it easier to tuck the fabric under.  Around the inside curves, I cut out little v-shaped sections.  I tried a few without cutting slits, and it was much harder. 

Pinned on, with slits cut around yellow piece

Sewn on tight - stitch is invisible

Once all the birds were sewn on, I felt like I was practically finished! Believe me when I say I was not.  I went to Tessa’s farmhouse the weekend before Emily was to be induced.  We measured, cut, and sewed on the green border.  The technique is called mitered edges.  Then we cut out the whirly backing and the batting – extra fluffy batting makes a happy baby!  We pinned the 3 layers together, and then ran a basting stitch all through out it, so that we could later remove the pins.  It was nice finally not having to mess with pins and get stuck constantly.  I felt like I was truly almost done at that point. I. Was. Not.
I spent part of that evening and the entire next day hand-quilting the baby quilt.  Experienced quilters tend to take their quilts to the quilters shop to be professionally quilted.  (I know you were wondering how many times I could use a variation of the world ‘quilt’ in one sentence.)  Tessa told me that quilts that are sold are valued by how many stitches are in them.  In that respect, professional quilting is the way to go.  However, you will spend at least $100 paying for that service.  It makes the quilt very flat, not like a fluffy comforter, but has a lovely quilting stitch all over.  I didn’t want to spend the money, and Tessa was confident that hand quilting was the way to go. 
just love those swirls
We bought special quilting thread, which is thicker than all-purpose thread.  I imagine it is in between all-purpose thread and fishing line.  It was very easy to thread, so I liked that aspect!  You need to start with one small knot.  You want to bring the needle through all 3 layers, but just pop the knot through the first layer, leaving it stuck in between with the batting.  I didn’t quite do the stitching quite the way Tessa taught me, which was to use a quilting thimble and kind of rock the needle back and forth through the layers to create a uniform line.  I had a difficult time doing that, so I just painstakingly went up then down then up then down to make sure I was getting through all the layers.           

Whimsical quilting stitch
                 I drew the most fun swirls and loops around each little ‘bird family.’  I had the best time on the quilting.  I felt really relaxed – it was truly the easy part.  But I felt a little rushed, knowing that baby Shiloh’s arrival was imminent!  I was still quilting we sat in the hospital, anxiously awaiting the baby.  I was still quilting after the baby was born! I actually took a little break knowing I hadn’t quite made it to that day.  But finally, when little Shiloh was 6 days old, I finished the quilt.  Since the responsible parents wouldn’t want to risk SIDS, we are making the quilt a wall hanging until Shiloh turns 1.  The front of the quilt has a border, and the layers came together with the assistance of some matching green bias tape. Love! So helpful.  I used a thick bias tape on the back to serve as a long loop so that the quilt can be hung on the wall either with a dowel rod or a curtain rod. 
Hungry little birdies!

When everything was stitched on good, I washed it to give it a good cleanse from my anxious, hard-working sweaty hands, and to get rid of pencil lines.  I was worried about it unraveling (as if!) and washed it on delicate.  That did not get rid of pencil lines.  My ever-helpful MIL advised me to dilute some detergent with water, and rub it over the pencil lines with a toothbrush.  She also told me that the next cycle up from delicate would be just fine, my solid quilt would not unravel. She was correct on both accounts!  All fluffy and fresh, I grabbed my quilt and delivered it to the cutest possible recipient alive.  And if you are still reading up to this point, even if you skimmed just for photos and caught this sentence, you deserve a medal! 
Backing, bias tape, border, and front

I loved making this quilt.  I have found that I really, truly enjoy sewing by hand.  I’m starting to get into embroidery, for the wonderful designs, the array of colors in the threads, and the calming handwork it provides.  I’ve taken a short break from any major projects, but I did sneak in this sweet little birdie embroidery piece! (Am I destined to sew only birds for the rest of my life?)
lovely pattern from Pinterest (Needlework board)

My one attempt at artistic photography
Stay tuned for more fun, and likely shorter, posts… but don’t hold your breath!

1 comment:

  1. Tessa Chenoa OwnbeyAugust 28, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    I don't know which I like best - your beautiful quilting, beautiful, funny writing, or beautiful, sweet did a great job on this project, sweet daughter-in-love!!!