Oh my. It has been a very long time. I mentioned at the end of December that I had a baby quilt to make. I really thought I could finish it by the end of January, but my quilt construction pace was as slow as...well, molasses in January, I guess. But the quilt is done, baby has come, and gift has been given, so I can finally share here. (I did do some other sewing in the meantime, and will share shortly.)
Let's just jump to the end and then we can back up a bit--or a lot.
So, the inspiration for this quilt came from my niece's photo of the nursery--and especially-- the beautiful rug.
She said she was not all that fond of the pink, but that she liked the moodiness of the other colors in the rug. She also expressed a preference for solid fabrics over prints. I loved the idea of solids and moody colors, but I will admit that for several weeks I was stymied. First of all, I was not at all sure of the actual colors in the rug. With a little research, I found it online on a store's website and printed out the photos that became my basis for choosing colors. I was still uncertain, though, because I noticed a strong LED lamp in the baby's room. I have struggled to transition to LED light in my home, and have been highly aware of how the differences in daylight, incandescent, and warm or cool LED light can affect color. I spent
hours days shifting my Kona color chips around along the edges of one of the photos of the rug.
While all of this dithering was going on, I was also trying to figure out a pattern. I wanted it to be kind of simple so that it wouldn't fight with the rug. I tried a lot of ideas--a strong contender was nine-patches with solid squares based on an old Amish quilt, but I just couldn't get the gradations of color to fit my vision. Then I started playing around with the flower block from the free Floret Table Topper tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew. After studying the inspiration rug, I knew that I wanted just a bit more variety of color in the block so I added a little strip in the center of the flower and drafted a paper foundation pattern that would finish at 5 inches. Using my Quiltography app, I laid out a bunch of flower blocks, but the design quickly became too busy for me, so I sprinkled them around and added bars and vertical sashes between. I experimented with a light background, but the colors looked too bright, and I realized that the quilt really needed both black to keep the colors looking moody and pink to lighten it up for a baby. I tried out two designs with my app. In one, the bars were all rectangles and in the other I threw in some triangles, like this:
This design was just a general guide. I knew I did not want regular horizontal sashes, but my app did not allow me to eliminate them. I combined both designs to make the bars as irregular rectangles or blunted triangles (yes, thanks to my math teacher dad I know those aren't the right terms, but you know what I mean). I also reversed the direction of the flower petals from my plan so they would spin forward.
Gradually I narrowed the colors down to ones that I hoped would at least complement the rug. Just before Christmas I ordered a bunch online from a new-to-me store in Ohio because my local stores only have the basic set of Kona colors. Those fabrics came in just a couple of days. Maybe they thought they were a present? Anyway, I'll shop there again.
I had no idea how much fabric I needed, so I bought a bunch of quarter yards, a few half yards, and 2 1/2 yards for the background fabric. The background is Kona Pepper rather than Black to lower the contrast just a smidgen. I could not find a Kona dusty purple that I liked (I don't have the lastest Kona swatches, so I don't know if the color even exists), but I had a couple of scraps of dusty purple tone-on-tone prints that were just the colors I wanted on their back sides, so I added those to the mix. The purple I did order was a Moda, but it was a little too strong, and I didn't use it.
I made the flower blocks first. So much fun! I used freezer paper foundation piecing for the quadrants to make them nice and crisp and accurate. That was the fast part of the quilt, but the whole design turned out to be more complicated than I anticipated. I wanted to sprinkle colors around so I had to be careful of how I used each one. I also decided to foundation piece the bars to keep measurements accurate. I made patterns from graph paper
and planned to piece them no-tear style with freezer paper. I made patterns in three different lengths, that could then be varied by reversing them and/or turning them 180 degrees, I made additional copies of the patterns on freezer paper that I could use as rough templates for less fabric waste as I pieced.
I put the flowers up on the design wall in the approximate placement in my quilt plan. I would plan each strip, press the freezer paper template on, cut out the bars and foundation paper piece them, put the strip on the wall, and plan the next one. Here's how I planned each strip with folded fabric (using black construction paper to stand in for the black fabric since it was easier to use than handling a big piece of fabric). And up on the design wall...All went well at first. Then I started pulling the freezer paper off sections, and a mild disaster happened. There seemed to be too much adhesion (or maybe too loose a weave in the fabric?) and my fabric started to fray. That never happened before. I ended up having to do surgical repairs, replacing several bars that were too frayed to be salvageable. I stopped using the freezer paper and used newsprint for the rest of the quilt, still using the no-tear (and no-tears) method. Sure glad I pulled off those sections before too much of the quilt was made and damaged. One other goof-up happened when I accidentally grabbed a piece of black fabric instead of pepper. More surgery was required. Good grief. But after all of the strips were done and I had inserted black vertical sashes, I was thrilled to see that the quilt was looking like I had envisioned it.
While I was doing all the sewing, I kept wondering what I was going to do for a backing. Long before I started planning this quilt, I had seen a wideback fabric at my local store. In fact, I liked it so much I had almost purchased it. When I started sewing the quilt I realized that the backing colors were sort of like it. I kept visiting the backing, and finally decided to buy it even though I wasn't sure if it would work. Then, whenever I was working on the quilt, I'd lay it out with my copy of the rug photo on the ironing board, trying to picture how it would all look together. Silly, no? I was still worried about how the quilt would look in all the different kinds of light. But, as you know, in the end I chose that backing.
Finally the top was done, and it was time to figure out the quilting. I really liked how the top looked and although I tried drawing all sorts of quilting plans and laid thread out in different ways, I just couldn't figure out what to do. Meanwhile, the baby's due date was getting closer and closer. Finally, I decided to just quilt in-the-ditch (-ish) everywhere and let the quilt pattern be the pattern.
That might be my one minor regret. If I were to do it again, I think I'd stipple it. There were LOTS of threads to tie off and bury. I also dithered about thread color. I didn't trust my machine to quilt with a darker thread on the front and lighter thread on the back (I didn't want light threads "poking through" like little specks of dust). So I choose an olive green thread for most of the lines and blue for the lines on the flowers. They didn't look that different from each other, but allowed me to not play thread chicken with one of the colors. They showed like a dark gray the back, but I don't mind. They make their own pattern over the flowers. Here's how that looks:
And, can I say I'm really proud of how straight I got that backing? My vertical thread lines are almost spot on with the floral pattern.
When I finished the quilting, I was pleased to see that I had enough fabric bits left to make a pieced binding. Here it is all laid out to make sure the seams wouldn't fall at the corners. (How about that sunshine?!)
Pattern: Flower Blocks are inspired by Cluck Cluck Sew as noted above. The rest of the pattern is my own design.
Fabrics: Kona solids in Amber, Ballerina, Ballet Slipper, Bison, Bluejay, Cloud, Curry, Denim, Desert Green, Dill, OD Green, Pearl Pink, Pepper, Sable, Sky, Smoke and Violet (there might be a couple of these that didn't make the final cut as I was sewing), plus two old scraps of who-knows-what from my collection. Hillside Meadow wideback from Art Gallery Fabrics.
Batting: Fairfield 80/20.
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Mettler Silk Finish Cotton 50 wt. in Smoky Blue and Burnt Olive for quilting; Superior Treasure in Antique for hand sewing the binding.
Size: Pieced: 54 1/2 by 54 1/2 inches
After quilting: 54 by 54 1/4 inches
Washed: 51 by 51 1/4 inches
A bit windy after washing
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for walking foot quilting and for machine work on the binding.
It felt so good to finish the quilt. I sent it out along with a little present for baby's big brother as soon as we received word that baby had arrived. It made it to Chicago in one day and was almost at its destination when my tracking notifications indicated an error and then completely disappeared for a day. The next message indicated that it was at the wrong postal facility not far from where it needed to go, and there it sat for several days with no word at all. It seemed it was no longer "Priority." I was really sweating it out, picturing it in a pile in a forgotten bin or worse in a corner somewhere with rats gnawing on it. After five days, the package was declared officially late, so I opened a complaint case to get it moving again. (Sometimes I think the post office needs to hire special "Moms" to look for lost things when technology fails.) Fortunately, things got back underway, and the package finally arrived. Whew!
The gift received:
I will admit to a few challenges when I made this quilt, and at one time I wondered if it meant that this little girl would be a feisty little soul. But she's adorable and chill. And all those challenges gave me more time to meditate on her and her family before she was born. I hope there is a baby somewhere in your life that you can gift with a quilt. It's really a satisfying project.
I'll be back next week with another finish that's been waiting for a post.
(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)