First of all, let me thank you all so much for your love and sweet comments on my last few posts. It’s probably going to be a little while before I can respond to comments regularly (someone is keeping me busy!), but I treasure each and every one of them. The only thing better than having a tremendous joy in life is having friends to share it with. Thank you so much! Also, if you would like an invitation to Micah’s baby blog, To Love So, please just leave a comment here, or shoot me an email or facebook message or send a carrier pigeon–whatever works best for you. I now realize it was probably too ambitious of me to think that I could cull through thousands of comments and enter everyone’s email addresses into the system between feedings and changings and laundry foldings. Ha! More new mom naïveté. But I don’t want to leave any of you wonderful friends out, so please email/comment/message/carrier pigeon away!
And now: the quilt! I finished it two days before Micah was born, which was most excellent because let me just tell you, if it hadn’t been finished before he was born, I am pretty sure it would be gathering dust for the next few months. I have to say, I love it, and, like labor, I still kind of can’t believe I did it. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to two ladies who went before me in all things quilting, without whose experience I never would have believed I could do it. The first one is my mom, who should really get the Nobel Prize for Awesomeness. Get on it, Stockholm. One of my strongest memories of childhood and adolescence was that my mom was always working on some new colorful project: fabric marbling, stamp carving, knitting and sewing and painting. There was nothing too intimidating for her–she just decided it looked like fun, and she did it. Her quilts are bold and vibrant things of beauty. I have one sitting right next to me, and I shall never give it back. The second lady is Elise Blaha, who is always inspiring me with her creativity and her can-do attitude. She started quilting a few years ago, and she made it look so…possible! I used her tutorial and this book she recommended for this quilt.
Since I have now officially finished a whole quilt, I wanted to reflect a bit on the process. There are a million steps to making a quilt, and some of them I really love. Some of them are rougher for me, but not enough to dissuade me from dreaming of making many more quilts (um, my quilting board on Pinterest is officially out of control). I came late to quilting in part because I didn’t think it was very well suited to someone of my temperament. I am not a person of great precision. Making things for me is about enjoying the process and making a mess, and I have jettisoned all the remaining shreds of my youthful perfectionism (hallelujah!). Nothing I make is perfect, and that’s how I like it. But quilts are things of precision: all those sharp angles and perfectly measured and cut strips. I really did not think I could pull that off perfectly. And I didn’t. There were a few times when I was disappointed, but I have been amazed and heartened to see how forgiving the quilt is, especially for one with such a geometric design. You can for sure find all the little flaws if you look for them, but otherwise they are sort of hidden away in the stitching. I love that.
And so, here is my quilt reckoning. I wanted to list the steps in order from my favorite to my least favorite, just for fun, and because these are the kind of things I think about when I am feeding my baby in the middle of the night. Here goes!
Buying fabric. Is there anything more fun than the very beginning of a project, when you’re still dreaming and envisioning it? Buying fabric was exhilarating, and I expect that it always will be.
Quilting. Even though it’s quite hard to get the whole blanket crammed through the sewing machine on the long middle rows, I absolutely loved seeing the quilt come together as I stitched all three layers together. It started to really look like a blanket, and that was so exciting.
Binding. This was a surprise! I never expected to enjoy this part of it because it calls for precision. But I found that I actually had an easy time sewing in a straight line when I had a guide to work with (the edges of the binding), and I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked as I sewed each side on.
Sewing. While kind of tedious in the beginning, it was fun to see these tiny triangles become squares and then strips and then a whole quilt top. I do love sitting down at the machine (and I *LOVE* my sewing machine) and hearing its gentle whir.
Laying out fabric. Oof, this was hard on my back because I don’t have a table big enough to lay everything out (how do you amazing quilters make such huge ones?). It was initially really cool to get the pattern set up, but it was a lot of bending down and straightening things out for a pregnant lady. I also had trouble getting the layers to lay flat when I was making the quilt sandwich: ahhh! And my least favorite part of all was trying to get the strips to line up evenly: super ahhh! I ended up ripping some seams out and moving them to make things more even, but that is not anyone’s idea of fun, and there are still puh-lenty of uneven spots in the design. However, Elise says in her tutorial to decide how much you want this to bother you and then move on. And so I decided that the answer to this question was “not much” and moved on as directed.
Ironing. Well, does anyone like to iron? The upside is that ironing really makes whatever you’ve sewn look crisp and professional. I am down with that.
Cutting fabric. Argh, this is my least favorite part because, as noted, I am not a master of precision. I am sure I still have lots to learn, but it was frustrating that no matter how hard I tried, I ended up with uneven squares and triangles. In an ideal world, I would just outsource the fabric cutting to my dad, who is so good at things like that. But in the meantime, I just like to get it out of the way and embrace the imperfection that comes with it.
That’s it! There are just a few things I wish I’d done differently on this quilt, but none of them really bother me too much. I sort of wish I had chosen a slightly darker green for the binding, but I do think it looks fantastic with the turquoise backing. I am pretty sure if I’d chosen a darker green, I would’ve wished for a lighter one! The other thing is that the backing wasn’t quiiiite wide enough for the quilt, so I had to trim off about half a square from each side. I think it’s possible to find a wider backing at a quilt store, or I could have just sewn two pieces of fabric together to make a wider backing, but somehow that did not appeal to me. And so I don’t regret it too much.
I sort of ninja-ed my own technique for the corners of the binding, and I am pretty happy with how that turned out. It’s a bit of a hot mess on the back, but I double and triple stitched it to reinforce it, and, in the immortal words of my wise mother, “Who cares?” I find that this is a good attitude to take when dealing with minor imperfections, along with some other immortal words of my wise mother: “It just adds character.” Of course, my quilting stitches aren’t perfectly straight, in part because my strips aren’t perfectly straight, but this bothers me not at all. You can tell it was made by hand, and I love that.
(Don’t worry–we are not using his crib yet and will remove all soft things before we do!) Despite the parts that I didn’t love (ahhh, fabric cutting!), I had SO MUCH FUN making this quilt and would love to make another one. Playing with fabric is awesome, and I love that I am getting more comfortable with my sewing machine and learning new techniques. I am so drawn to interesting patterns, but I think for my next quilt I will try to work just with solids. I love the rainbow look! And I think maybe next time I will try to use the real quilt binding method (although bias tape was just what the doctor ordered for this one). I think I have gone overboard on my use of the word “fun” in this post, but it is seriously just my favorite part of pursuing any craft to try to pick up new techniques with each project I do. I have a whole world left to explore in quilting, and I am pretty excited about it!