Wednesday, 15 February 2017

On the needles: "the best thing ever!"

The idea to make Jimmy a quilt had been in the back on my for some time – possibly four years by the time I decided it was time to actually make it. Winter was over, but the nights were still cool. Our doona's were too warm but we still needed blankets during the night, and when there are blankets on my bed my personal preference is to have something smooth over them, so that during the day my bed is still nice enough to lay on and not spikey (the blankets in the house are all wool, beautiful, long-lived things, but spikey nonetheless).

When he was still in my belly, I was buying fabric for clothes, PJ’s and even a quilt. Not much, just a few metres here and there. I have been collecting quilting flats for a while too – nothing in particular; just whatever I liked, especially if was on sale. Plus, for a while I was buying at least one metre more of whatever fabric I was buying, especially if it had a cute or fun print and was cotton (ok, so I basically avoid any fabric that isn’t cotton, linen, silk, wool, or a blend of those four).

Suffice it to say, I had a sizable collection of fabric to choose from, even after sorting for fabric type and size. It was a nice collection of colours and prints, including some Peter Rabbit, Cuddlepie & Snugglepot, and an orange fox on flannelette. Naturally, I washed everything before ironing it and deciding what to use. Unfortunately, a red fabric and a green fabric ran a little, staining some of the cottons – soaking these in oxi-action didn’t help, in fact it made some worse because I was soaking some muddy clothes in the same water...

I was a little bummed by the stains, but it was also liberating because it freed me from being too precious about the quilt, both during the making and its life one in Jimmy’s possession – Jimmy is really good with his things, so this feeling actually has more to do with me and my ability to let go of this thing I have made and being happy for him to take this quilt on adventures, whatever they are.

My inspiration for the 'pattern' of this quilt came from Soule Mama and this lovely looking quilt she made. I found 'instructions' of one kind or another here and in books and in people. As this is my first quilt, and possibly my last (nah!) and given our state of employment (none) I was only going to spend the minimum on this quilt and was not going to buy cutting boards and sharp rolling cutter etc. So, without ‘proper’ quilting equipment or pattern, this quilt was never going to be ‘perfect’, but the little stains freed me up and I enjoyed and embraced the perfectly imperfect nature of the whole process.

I cut squares, sorted them, sewed them together, cut them again, measured Jimmy's bed so I knew how wide I wanted the quilt and cut some more, sorted them a final time with help from Michael and Jimmy, and sewed strip after strip together until I was happy with the length. Slow going perhaps, but totally worth it because Jimmy announced that it was the best thing ever! even before I had sewn the long strips together. The result is a riot of colour and patterns and a slightly unconventionally sized quilt (it's very long, given how wide it is, and yes, given my time again, I would make it wider and perhaps a little shorter), but it's all good because the quilt covers Jimmy's bed, including his pillow, which is what I was going for.

There are a few quilting shops in Warwick, and they all stock cotton batting, so it was easy enough to get 100% cotton batting for the quilt (I bought it from Glenrose. They don't have the cotton batting on their website, but if you're in the area, I highly recommend visiting the shop as it's really lovely). My mum has a reasonable stash of fabric and she had some 100% cotton fabric that was perfect (the yellow and white stripes worked perfectly). And then there was a hot few days and nothing happened quilt-wise. Nothing.

Once the first "heatwave" of summer was over, I was able to get the three layers together, pin them, and then tied the layers together (tieing involves hand sewing the layers together with little loops of thread knotted together). My intention all along had been to have the quilt finished by Christmas (I had started in September, so I was being very generous with myself), and I had most of the binding pinned Christmas Eve and it was all sewn by Boxing Day. It was well received and is proving to be excellent for hiding under and covering Jimmy's bed.


The quilt is a success and I'm already starting to think about the next one (one for Michael and myself), as our current quilt is nearly 30 years old and in need of repairs – but I'll do the repairs because the quilt was made by a much loved great-aunt of mine and she did most of it without a sewing machine. I like sewing machines, but I think Jimmy likes his quilt more – it is the "best thing ever" afterall.

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