What a fun and colorful project I have to share today! Today is National Quilting Day, and this year many people are making baby blankets for the first babies born in their local hospitals. Meanwhile, some of my Congolese friends from church are expecting a new baby, and I decided to quilt a baby blanket for them! Their baby shower is not for a few weeks, but I'm posting the quilting details today!
I have in my stash some splendid African wax printed fabric, which I bought at the Grand Marché in Lomé, Togo five years ago. It's a crazy yellow and black print with intersecting swirling lines that look like a magic eye picture. Every time one line crosses another, the intersection switches to the reverse color. The repeating motif is abstract; I don't know if it represents something, but it's cool. Since the fabric is from Africa and the idea of a quilted baby blanket is from European/American culture, I think this'll be a sweet, cross-cultural gift!
I cut about a yard of the fabric, and a yard of green flannel that coordinated well with the yellow (a nice springy combination), and washed/dried them both to shrink them. The wax print fabric didn't run, which was a relief, since it would be sad if the yellow ran and stained the white. I know that the wax-resist dyeing technique involves several washes, so I guess the dye is pretty well mordanted by the time it's done!
Then I asked my housemate Rosanne to help me with the process of making a quilt, since I've never done one before. She donated some cotton batting and showed me how to make the sandwich for an envelope style quilt.
"Envelope style" refers to the way that you sandwich the batting between the other layers: by sewing an envelope with the batting on top, then turning the whole thing right-side-out, which puts the batting inside and finishes all the edges:
I have little experience with quilting by machine (the Russian Ice hat was an exception), and I've never done free-motion quilting with the specialized foot. So I needed Rosanne's help to equip Boudica for battle. She showed me how to put on the free-motion foot, how to lower the presser foot to the half-way position (I didn't know that was a thing! I thought it was a design flaw that Boudica's presser foot sometimes got caught on something half-way down!), and how to start and stop. Then she advised me to practice on a scrap sandwich until I felt confident.
Well, that didn't last long! I'm not patient with practicing! After not-nearly-enough practice, clumsy but determined, I started on the quilt. I decided to follow the lines of the print, since it was such a busy pattern I didn't want to compete. I loaded Boudica with white thread top and bottom, and picked the design lines that offered the most continuous path through the black and white motifs.
My sewing machine developed a cricket-like squeak as I worked. It was not in the bobbin area (which I oil regularly) but in the top part of the machine, which doesn't open, so I knew it was time to send Boudica for maintenance (which I did, as soon as the quilt was done).
Working with the free motion foot is a wacky experience for a beginner. At first, it felt like driving a car with a super-sensitive steering mechanism, the kind where you twitch your finger and the vehicle swerves into another lane. I couldn't make a straight line, or a nicely curving one. I now have much more respect for the perfectly quilted scallops and designs that I see other people do! After a while I got the hang of it, and it felt more like walking a wayward dog: you kinda know which way he wants to veer and how to direct him while working with him. My quilting won't be winning any prizes: the stitches vary in length and the path wanders off the pattern! But I'm having fun with it all the same... it's meditative.
Two solid nights of work finished out the black and white portions of the quilt, so I changed out the top thread for yellow, and set in on the yellow motifs. Another day of intermittent work finished them. Done in time for the baby shower!
ROSANNE'S QUILTING RULES
Since I'm a quilting neophyte, Rosanne has taken me under her wing. She has shared her quilting rules.
Rule 1: It's a quilt, not a plan for world nuclear disarmament.
Rule 2: Can you see it from the back of a galloping horse? No? Then don't worry about it.
Rule 3: The Quilt Police don't live here.
There are also some Quilting Truths, such as "Done is Beautiful" and "Cats are the designated Quilt Inspectors":
Since quilts often get names, I shall call this one the Cricket in the Congo quilt. The "cricket" is the squeaky noise my machine has been making for the entire project (and the pattern looks a little insect-like, doesn't it?). Crickets are good luck in a house, just ask Charles Dickens, so that'll make an appropriate gift. And the Congo because it's African fabric for a Congolese family!
The last thing to do was to wash the quilt before giving it away. I don't want to expose a newborn to cat allergens. Plus, as Rosanne told me, the quilt texture changed dramatically. I think it looks even nicer now, all soft and ripply, but I wouldn't want the family to witness the before and after and think they spoiled it! I'll do the washing and give it to them all broken in.
PRIDE, HOPE, AND GRATITUDE
I am proud of myself for making my first quilt ever! (I started a denim quilt top years back, but my mom finished it, so I don't think it counts.) I hope it serves its new owners well. And I'm so grateful to Rosanne for teaching me a little bit of her craft! Happy Quilting Day!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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