Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Quilting, or Trying To

It's that time of the school year again. The one where the lesson plan has run out, and where Julia and Ben have about finished the year's work (Rachel doesn't have this problem, being older--she has much more work and so doesn't finish early any more...) and yet it is too early to say hello to summer vacation. So my plans become a bit more haphazard, and I have to get creative. One of the subjects I ran out of plan on was art. We had been doing fabric arts for the past quarter--finger knitting and embroidery, mostly. Julia, however, really enjoys sewing, and she made a couple of tiny stuffed animals for projects. So that got me thinking about sewing, and that led me to quilting.

Quilting is something I have wanted to do for years. I love the idea of choosing fabrics and making them into a pattern. I love the idea of having a handmade quilt on the bed. I love the idea of it so much that I have tried a couple of times to learn how to quilt, but it has always ended in me throwing up my hands. I am simply not a patient person. I don't like fussy little tasks (such as measuring and precisely cutting tiny squares of fabric) and I am quite simply awful at following written directions on patterns. I learned the basics of crochet this winter, but I had to do it by watching You Tube videos again and again so I could get the hang of what I was being taught. The directions are so much gibberish in my mind; they simply don't make sense to me. Throw in having three children in the space of four and a half years--and the idea of quilting was shelved for a long time!

Then I was reading one of the blogs that I enjoy, and the author, who could sew anything you asked for in about four minutes, had posted photos of some patchwork quilts she had recently finished. They were stunningly beautiful, just really nicer than anything you could ever buy in a store, and it got me thinking again. For years I have had it in mind that I would love to use old baby clothes to make a memory quilt--imagine seeing the patterns of the clothes your kids have loved and that you loved seeing them wear, all together on a beautiful handmade quilt. I have been enamoured of this idea for a long time but have never quite done it. This was helped along by the fact that I have given away our baby clothes, so there are many, many special items that would have gone into this quilt that I will never see again, which makes me sad. I did, however, have a few things, including the dress Emma wore on her 1st birthday, a few shirts that all three of my girls wore, and a pair of capri pants Julia and Emma both loved. (Emma was decidedly unhappy seeing me cut these clothes up, even as I reassured her that they no longer fit, and wouldn't it be lovely to have them be part of a quilt? Because, after all, then she can see them every day, which she wouldn't if we gave them away or kept them stored in the attic....that soothed her somewhat, enough to watch me cut them up!)

So yesterday I took the items of clothing I wanted to use and spent a couple of hours patiently (!) cutting them up into 5x5 squares. Julia helped by ironing each square nice and smooth....she combined this activity with a game where she, Ben and Emma were working for a terrible boss who only paid them $10 a month, they were poor as mice but they worked with heart, etc. etc. etc. (I think I should be insulted here, but I was too busy cutting!) When we were finished we had 60 squares, a feat I thought was wonderful-- until I calculated that we would need approximately 420 squares to make a quilt that would fit our queen sized bed! Despair almost took over at the thought of cutting out so many more squares, but I am reassuring myself with the thought that we can sew the ones we have now into rows and THEN find more fabric to cut. By the time we are done with that amount of sewing, it should be time to change over to spring clothes. When I do that, I can find items that Emma and Ben (I want to be sure to have something of his in the quilt! How I long for those sweet baby rompers and onesies he used to have...) won't be able to wear again, and items of Rachel's and Julia's that I don't feel the need to pass on to younger girls.

Patchwork is definitely the way to go because all we have to do is sew squares. Julia can easily sew together squares with me, as can Rachel. Tis will make the work go faster so that my impatience is kept to a minimum. Right now we are working in a palette of pinks, purples, and chambray blue, mostly. Other rows may end up being brighter, but I intend it to be fairly light overall. Depending on how many items of clothing I find during the wardrobe switchover, I might cheat and reduce the number of squares we'll need by buying a nice coordinating fabric (which I would also use as the backing) and use it to make "stripes" between the squares. This would also tie it together into a cohesive whole, I feel.

The part that worries me most is the actual quilting. I feel reasonably certain that the girls and I can sew a top pretty well. I'm not really sure how to machine quilt, and I'm not really very interested in hand quilting! I will probably ask my sister-in-law, Donna, for advice because she has made quilts before, and completely by hand too. I wish she lived closer so that I could beg for her help in person, but unfortunately we are 3+ hours apart and only get to see one another a few times a year. If anyone had good advice for machine quilting, let it rip! (I don't have a fancy sewing machine, and furthermore, I am not talented with it. So it really has to be the simplest, easiest advice. Or, if you think hand quilting would somehow be easier, let me know that, too!)

All in all, if the project comes out at all well, I think that it is definitely worthy of art for the rest of the year. And I would definitely enjoy using a quilt of my babies' clothes. Sigh.


1 comment:

GeekSoccerMom said...

If you venture in to the office, I could put you in touch with Dorothy in my group, who quilts.