I was quilting during lunch this week and a coworker asked who had taught me.
That’s not a brag; it’s an apology to recipients of my earliest quilts.
When I visited Cincinnati last summer my friend P told me that his kids love the quilt I gave them in 2009. “They snuggle up with it when they watch movies.” At least if they’re watching movies the lights are off, because that quilt is all out of whack. The pastels with blocks of black, the helter-skelter piecing…it’s weird.
I make probably two quilts a year and I’m only half interested in truly improving (otherwise, I’d take a class or something, right?). But just in making more I’ve learned a few tricks and developed a better eye.
In 2012 I made a quilt for my friend’s first baby that was also wonky, but more purposefully so. It had better balance…a nice tension between the movement of the chevrons and the expansive white space.
Last fall I finished a baby quilt for L using the “double trouble” block. It’s easy to make a whole stack of them assembly-line style, and the block itself is an even split between precise (the 90-degree triangle) and improvisational (the off-kilter white strip and tiny triangle). Double-trouble and I are friends. We get along.
My friend announced she’s due for her second baby so I’m turning to the double-trouble block again, this time with oranges and blues.
For the first time I’m trying a thicker thread for the hand-quilting (recommendation courtesy of Bonnie, maker of some truly beautiful quilts). This is #8 Perle cotton in a variegated blue.
I held up the quilt last night and R deemed it my best one yet. “It’s prettier than yours!” he taunted baby L. True. But that just goes to show that the quilt-improvement train is still moving forward!
The little quilt is done! And I love it. The rainy season in Mexico is about over and we can start using the clothesline with more confidence, so here it is drying amongst the bedsheets on our rooftop.
Pattern: Double-trouble block, machine-pieced and hand-quilted
Fabric: cotton scraps and a bedsheet for the back
Batting: Heirloom Cotton
Size: 32.5″ by 35.5″
Recipient: the back of our ugly rental couch
The project started purely as a way to de-stash – there’s a few dresses in there, a previous quilt, and some of my grandma’s fabric. I was making good progress last spring, but then things stalled out and this became a mini-quilt. Made for easier suitcase-packing anyway. It took a few weeks, but I finally figured out how I wanted to arrange the quilting stitches.
While home in Ohio last week the goal was to finish the hand-quilting so that I could use my mom’s machine to attach the edging. I finished quilting around 7pm the night before my early morning flight. Oops. Never one to shy away from a project, my wonderful mother helped me pin, stitch, and press well into the evening. When the sewing machine wouldn’t behave she coaxed a back-up machine to life (it’s one of those inside-the-wooden-table White machines) and off we went.
I again pulled up this tutorial as a reminder on how to finish the edging. Highly recommended. I finished the hand-sewing part of the edge during two airport layovers the next day. And then voila! Now I’ll shift efforts to the knit blanket.
This is what nice ladies on buses have asked me for the past month. When I responded I was knitting a sweater for myself, not the baby, their eager smiles faded a little. Perhaps in disappointment at a missed opportunity to ooh/ahh over itty bitty baby knits? Or disapproval over the decision to spend pregnancy days knitting for me?
Ehh, well, the sweater is all blocked and seamed now. And I LOVE it. No finished pictures yet, but that’s because my intended photography day was ruined by a horrible morning at Immigration. I’d been warned about Mexican bureaucracy, but this has reached new levels. I was only able to eat ice cream and take a nap. Photos of the finished sweater soon.
I will now make inquisitive Mexican ladies much happier with the next two projects: a baby quilt AND a baby blanket.
The quilt is what I started in Boston. I learned about the baby right as I was running out of crafting time to expand on the above, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make something small and stroller-sized. I pinned the layers in Ohio and brought it to Mexico, then stalled over the stitch pattern. After an inspiring craft-themed gchat with an old friend some ideas started rolling, and that night I got out of bed in the wee hours to sketch this:
It’s like a fractal mix of radial and concentric. Kind of art deco?
The blanket is the Purl Bee Fluffy Brioche blanket, knit up in 10.5 with some chunky light gray cotton/wool that I bought in bulk at a WEBS sale. After the fussy cables and smaller needles of the cardigan, it’s so fun to breeze along on a big chunky knit project.
But lest the Mexican ladies get too excited, when I went online to find the blanket pattern I couldn’t help but notice Purl Bee’s new City Cape pattern. Hmm…very tempting.
I’m back from my travels. I got to see so much beautiful art and architecture, drink Italian coffee, eat sausages and sauerkraut in Austria, hang out with friends and family in Ohio, and after all of it Read and I still like each other. Success on all fronts. I’ll post some trip highlights later.
For now, a question from Bethany’s sister Kat (contributor and photographer for the Weber family etsy site). She wrote in the comments section of Freehand Baby Quilt, and I realized in trying to craft a response that I wanted to share the links with everybody. So Kat – hope you don’t mind that I turned your question into a post.
For a beginning quilt collect fabric scraps from family and friends. Buying fabric can get expensive. With scraps you can play around and if it looks horrendous, you can scrap and start over without feeling guilty.
If you haven’t quilted before I think it’s helpful to buy a little booklet on quilting basics at the fabric store. Or you could research the basics online (Sew Mama Sew has a nice tutorial). I made my first quilt without researching anything, only to find out later that there are a bunch of little tricks and techniques that really help.
As for freehand vs. pattern, I think that the only necessity is a plan. Doesn’t matter whether that’s your own sketch and some templates cut from cereal boxes, or a pattern you buy at Joann Fabrics. There are so many clever, fresh quilt ideas online…here are a few I thought you might like:
Wee Wonderfuls makes beautiful yet simple quilts. It’d be easy to frame a bunch of scraps in white for a quilt like this.
Artists and friend Bonnie Hull from On the Way used men’s shirts from goodwill to make a quilt. Excellent thrift-store-hunting inspiration.
Orange flower: sketchbook just posted yesterday about hosting a piece-along for a zig-zag quilt (a project partly inspired by this quilt from Purl Bee). It got me thinking about making one…
image from The Purl Bee
Hope that helps Kat! Please send me pictures of your quilting process.
My college friend Phil and his wife welcomed a new baby into the world last month. Phil’s only my second close friend to have a baby. After five or six friends have kids I might tire of planning baby presents, but for now it’s still a new and exciting venture. A coworker once suggested that blankets make good presents because the family can keep using them after babyhood (Bethany: take note of this possible future market for your circle blankets). The practicality of that suggestion stuck with me, so for Sarah I started planning a quilt.
I explained on this blog that quilting is a little too precise for me. The right angles and straight lines, the meticulous measuring…try as I might things never matched up. And then you’re sitting there at the machine, trying to figure out how EVERY SINGLE seam on this long strip of squares could somehow not align with the seams on this other long strip of squares (insert image of a ten-year old Katie scrapping her doll quilt project in disgust).
So I gave up on the meticulous stuff. No set pattern. No preset size. Only freehand machine quilting. The trick is getting the quilts to read “off-kilter-on-purpose” but not “novice 4-H project” (depending on the day, it’s a fine line). In the end I like them imperfect and I seem to be in good company. Craftzine advertised a class for “imperfect quilters” taught by artist Andrea Zuill. Blogger Artsy-Craftsy Babe writes about quilting and the beauty of imperfection. But my favorite quote is from Joe Cunningham at Threads magazine, who writes that in a world of high-tech quilting tools and perfect symmetry, there’s something to be said for inexactitude: “…the appeal of freehand quilting is that it prolongs the fun part—designing and figuring out what you’re going to do next.”
Welcome to the world baby Sarah!
I put this quirky bird fabric at the center of each of the four crazy sqaures
Each crazy square is quilted in a freehand radial pattern
The backing is a starry-night-inspired black flannel
through the middle and along the top/bottom is some checkerboard stuff...