Earlier this month I mentioned that I recently had some time to spend behind the sewing machine. The time has been rewarding and my most recently completed project is something that I, particularly, had a blast working on. In an effort to not mislead you though, I should note that there definitely was some upper lip pursing as I sewed my way through some first-time techniques!
In the time I’ve spent crafting, I have come to know that a major contributor to the “fun” that I have largely depends on the project’s benefactor. In this case, I was making a baby gift for my friends’ (H and M – awesome initials right?!), baby boy, O (hereinafter referred to as O Baby). I know this accounts for 99% of the fun I had cutting and sewing. The other 1% comes from the fact that the project turned out rather well!
What leads making something for H, M, and O Baby so much fun? Well, it starts with the amazing fact that my friendship with H and M has continued despite the fact that we met through a former boyfriend. H and M both hail from the Midwest too. I attribute their sincerity, friendliness, and overall wonderfulness to this. Finally, H is the awesome gal who referred me to Lotta Jansdotter‘s patterns after a discussion regarding our desire to sew more. Simply put, I absolutely adore H, M, and O Baby and knew that it only seemed fitting to create a special gift out of Lotta’s Simple Sewing for Baby (more info on the Resources page).
I could lie and tell you that it took hours of review and deliberation to come up with the perfect project for O Baby. That’s no fun though. I knew from the moment that I learned H was pregnant that I was going to make the Play Quilt with Pocket (the “quilt”). The only glitch? H and M were keeping the baby’s gender a surprise so I was on hold until the baby’s birth.
December brought the wonderful news that H and M gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I took the opportunity for H and M’s extensive use of Facebook updates to get to know O Baby until a mutually agreeable date came for me to come over and meet him. In anticipation of our upcoming introduction, I started to get serious about O Baby’s gift!
Before moving forward, there are a couple of things I think you should know about the quilt:
*It doesn’t require a pattern. Instead, various lengths of 8 inch wide rectangles (finished) are sewn to create four panels.
*It can easily be completed over a weekend. Just don’t expect to catch up on Parks and Recreation episodes while you sew because it will require 100% of your undivided attention.
*You will spend equal time prepping your fabric as you will sewing the project (at least it seemed that way to me).
*If you’re new to sewing, this is a great project for you to take on! By the time you get to the “quilting” portion of the project, you’ll be more than comfortable with sewing straight lines.
For purposes of sharing my progress (and, of course, the results) of this project, I’ve elected to split this post into two installments so you can see all that goes into making the quilt. Both posts, however, have project notes for you to keep in mind should you elect to be playful and make a quilt for a baby bear in your life.
One of the most enjoyable (but stressful) parts of creating the quilt was selecting the various fabrics. The sample in Simple Sewing…, sets the bar high featuring a darling quilt of grays, blacks, and yellow. Knowing that H has impeccable taste led me to IKEA where I fell in love with the two heavy cotton fabrics featured above. I was relying on the shared use of orange in both fabrics to tie them together.
Since this was my first quilt, I found myself in the batting (ie: padding) section of Joann‘s for the first time ever. If I’m being honest, it made my head spin. There are a lot of options out there and the range in prices can be astounding. There were two driving forces which led me to my selection of the variety I used for O Baby’s quilt (Fairfield’s Nature-Fil Organic Cotton and Bamboo Batting) :
1) If you read the fine print, the batting package will tell you what “quilting” the respective batting is suitable for. In layman’s terms, I understand quilting to be the finishing step where all of the layers comprising the quilt are stitched together. It’s both a decorative and technical element. Since I was planning on merely quilting among the panels’ seams which were 8 inches wide, I needed batting that would accommodate that much space. The Nature-Fil was the only type I could find that allowed quilting up to 8 inches.
2) In making the play quilt for O Baby, I knew (even selfishly) that I wanted it to be his go-to play quilt that would accompany him on his future trips to the park, on playdates, and all of the other fun places where he would lovingly be plopped down for tummy time. As such, it was my expectation that the quilt would be washed many times over. I kept this in mind as I picked fabric and it was just as important when I considered the batting. The fact that the fabric cotton/bamboo blend was sustainable and natural only helped my decision.
As I mentioned above, the quilt consists of 4 large panels that are 8 inches wide (finished) and consist of different lengths of fabric. You would read this and think it wouldn’t take long to measure out the fabric. I thought so. For some reason, however, I spent a lot of time measuring and cutting the appropriate width strips.
One of things that is an essential during this portion of the job is a large table. Depending on the amount of length of fabric you have cut at the fabric store (or IKEA), you’ll need some room to lay out fabric, smooth it, and then measure. While it sounds trite, it’s always great to subscribe to the ever-popular sewing adage of: Measure twice, cut once.
Helpful Hint: “Cutting” Woven Fabrics
When working with fabrics which have a grain, it’s my experience that you’ll actually get a straighter “cut” by snipping the fabric and then ripping it. The ripping causes the fabric to align itself to the nearest grain line and will follow this line as you tear.
Due to the fact that fabric stores are cutting fabric rather than tearing it, it’s very likely that the fabric you purchased was not cut straight. As such, I recommend making a snip two to three inches away from the cut made by the fabric store and then ripping it. Your fabric will now have a true straight edge which you can make all future cuts from. Just snip and rip.
After I cut and ironed all of the fabric strips (there were 8 of them), it was time to get to one of the other fun parts of quilt production and plan the design. I honestly found this part to be most intimidating. Thus, the CPA in me opted to use Excel to plan out the finished strips which would measure 34 by 8 inches when finished.
In order to use Excel, I took an inventory of my fabrics (5 blue patterns and 3 orange ones) and assigned a cell fill to each one. I then used rows and columns to lay out my quilt. As you can see from the pic above, each row represents 2 inches.
Here, I just tinkered around until I came up with a pattern that seemed to fit well. I then printed it off so I could have it to cut the pieces.
By this time, I was ~3 hours into the project.
With my reliable Excel pattern printed out, I set off making what would be the last few cuts for the quilt. It’s here though where I committed a blunder which I want to point out to you so you can learn from my error.
Are you ready?
As you move onto this step and use your Excel schedule or drawing, it’s so important for you to remember that the measurements above are the finished dimensions. THEY DO NOT INCLUDE THE ADDITIONAL LENGTH OF FABRIC NEEDED FOR THE INSEAMS.
What does this mean? You need to add 1 inch to each fabric piece because Lotta’s instructions assume a 1/2 inseam (two inseams per strip). I was a very silly goose and made my first few cuts using the measurements on my pattern. How did I recover? I either cut one more very small rectangle or I extended other pieces by a mathematically correct amount.
Please learn from my mistake though and avoid the heartache. Just add one inch when cutting your fabric.
After all of the measuring, pressing, and cutting, I was more than ready for a favorite snack. I would recommend one for you too as the next steps (and HBH post) require the use of “heavy” machinery! You won’t want to be combating low blood sugar during Part 2!
*As you noticed above, a lot of the work relates to cutting your fabric into strips. If you want to save yourself some time, however, you can just make sure you purchase 1/4 yard of each of your fabrics. If you do this, the fabric store will cut them nine inches wide (the magic width with the 1/2 seam allowances)!
*While you may not be able to tell from the pictures, the fabrics in O Baby’s quilt varied in weight. The fabric from IKEA was heavyweight whereas the others were more traditional quilting fabrics.
*You may or may not recall that my confidence with sewing really picked up in college when I took a ‘introduction to fashion production’ class (see post here). One of the snobby sewing things I picked up? Gütermann Thread is the best.