26 June 2014

Fox Quilt (or, My Biggest Nesting Impulse)

At some point, I decided I wanted to make a quilt for Silas. Call it nesting (Isaac sure does), call it creative drive, call it familial obligation -- my grandmother, my mom's mom, was, after all, a master quilt-maker. In any case, I knew I wanted to make a quilt, I knew I wanted it to be a fox (keeping with our accidental theme), I knew I wanted it to be about the size of a throw blanket (bigger than the standard baby blanket and therefore more versatile) and I knew I wanted to design and sew it by hand.

My first step was something my grandmother never would have imagined: I designed the quilt on my computer. I didn't think I wanted to do a pieced quilt, but rather one large pattern. So I looked at hundreds thousands of fox pictures for inspiration (using sources like Pinterest and Etsy and even Google Images) and started designing, taking my favorite parts of the different designs I had seen.

Here are my first four attempts.

None were awful (ok, maybe that bottom right one was pretty awful), but none were quite what I was going for. I ended up setting it aside for a few days. When I came back to it, this was my next attempt.

That's what I was going for! It's not perfect (be prepared to read that a lot), but it was what I was looking for. So I used the unfortunately-named-but-awesome-and-free!-service Rasterbator to blow up my design and print out across multiple sheets of paper.

Then I traced it onto posterboard.

And finally cut out my pattern.

Then I cut each piece out of my material. Marbles "helped".

Then I started sewing together the fox.

While there are many, many things I would do differently (not perfect, remember?), my first major mistake was the nose, shown below. It's rather crooked. Whoops. I fixed it, kind of, but it never ended up looking great.

Below is the completed fox. There are more than a few crooked seams and lines that don't quite line up. Still, I was happy with how it was coming together.

The next step was to put it into the blue fabric. My mom helped me with this step; we pinned the fox onto the fabric where I wanted it.

Then I flipped the whole thing over and traced the outline we created and cut a fox-shaped hole out so I could stitch it in. I debated doing an applique of the fox, but I didn't want to for two reasons: one, I didn't want visible stitches, and two, I had never done applique before.

Below is the completed quilt top, including border. You can tell it doesn't lay flat -- again, it is far, far from perfect. And the border was my second big mistake; I added the border without taking into account that the backing I bought (you can see it on the chair on the left below) wouldn't be big enough to accommodate the border. The resulting quilt doesn't have much of a border left, since I had to fit the quilt top to the size of the backing.

At this point, I was so in the zone that I stopped taking pictures. This is a picture-heavy post already, though, so I'm sure you don't mind.

In order to make sure that the backing covered it, I then sewed the top, batting and back together. Imagine it like a big pillow case; I sewed all three layers together almost all the way around, leaving about a foot at one corner that I then used to turn right side out. I then did a ... slip stitch? I don't remember what it's called ... to close up the hole.

My mother pointed out that doing things in this order was bass-ackwards; that you are supposed to first quilt and then finish. Did I mention this project wasn't perfect?

Finally came the decision on how I was to quilt it. Despite what the lack of perfection here might suggest, I have a fair amount of hand sewing experience, but quilting? None. Zilch. I've never even seen it done, by hand or by a machine. I watched several YouTube video tutorials, and while it didn't look too complicated, it still seemed out of my reach. In my research, though, I found a few people who said that large, visible stitches could actually be an aesthetic choice and not a sign of an amateur. And since this quilt wasn't pieced and therefore had a lot of "empty" space, I thought it might actually look ok.

So "aesthetic choice" is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I decided on a series of diagonal lines. I taped them off with painter's tape (I think they make fabric tape for this kind of thing, but the painter's tape was what I had on hand and it worked just fine) and followed along with my thread, attempting to keep my medium-sized stitches even.

Are you ready for the finished product? No? Ok, I'll keep blabbering on, then.

Kidding. Here it is!

Is it perfect? (Do you need me to answer that?) No. Obviously, it's not smooth by any stretch of the imagination; the quilting makes all the flaws quite obvious, as I figured it would.

Am I proud of it anyway? Yes. And I look forward to it getting a lot of use.

Oh, and today is my due date. Whenever you're ready, Silas! There are a lot of people who can't wait to meet you.

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