baby quilt – the corners

i’m sort of almost finished with my baby quilt.  at this point i’m starting to reflect on the mistakes i made.  number one is too much bulk.  the damned thing must weigh 20 pounds.  no human baby could use this for a real blanket, it’s going to have to be a play blanket.  or hang on the wall, which means i need to put a sleeve on the back.

you can see below where i’ve been sewing down the baby clothes onto the sandwiched quilt.  in effect, i’m quilting the top by stitching clothes onto it.  but this leaves big gaps where there is no quilting.  and this is important, because when you plan to wash something 50 times, you’re going to have any loose batting bunching up inside your quilt.  not that anybody’s going to be able to tell.  it’s already so lumpy that it’s not funny.

in order to reduce the size of the quilted area, say to something around 3″ between quilting lines, i’ve got to go in and do stealth sewing, so that the top layer of the clothes still comes off the surface and can be played with by little hands.

the yellow pin, above, shows where i’ve got to go in and stealth quilt.  the area is the white onesie underneath the oshkosh b’gosh overalls.  i’m going to put something here, like a heart, but i’ll have to change presser feet first to a quilting foot, so that i can do it free motion.  the big advantage there is that i don’t end up having to turn the fabric around the needle, but can just move the needle in any direction.  i don’t figure it’s a good idea to do this when i’m using zigzag stitch because of the stretch fabrics, but i’m not that expert a sewer, and don’t really know.

one thing you don’t want to do is expect good stitching from me.  it’s all over the place, and i don’t really care, because i’m not sure why.  as long as it  holds together, i don’t mind clumsy stitching, careless sewing.  the more amateur the better, like naive art, especially since it’s the best i can do, anyway.  it’d be different if i could sew and did it this way on purpose so i could look folk.  but i really don’t sew that well, and so i’m a genuinely bad sewer.  another reason i don’t want to be paid for doing these sewing projects i do, because i’d have to have a much higher standard of workmanship than i’m willing to put into it.  and i’m not willing to tear out stitches to please someone else.  it was hard enough doing a quilt for my sister.  now i just do them and present them, and don’t involve the recipient in the design process.  and if i were to be paid for it, i still wouldn’t involve them.  you get what i make.  i don’t have time to do it your way.

here are the quilting lines i went back and put into the bubble suit.  i had to be careful to stitch down the back of the piece of clothing so that the top would still be able to be opened.

once i had done this to all of the large areas, it was time to take care of the corners.  i had left the corners to the end, not sure what to do with them, but had a few weeks ago decided i wanted to put in corners made of heavy denim, and to let them ravel in the wash by top stitching them on rather than right sides together and hidden seams.  i had to measure each corner because the quilt didn’t match at any corner.  i cut out two pieces of heavy denim from some huge vest i got at the thrift store and have been keeping in stash since.  then i carefully pinned them to the quilt, carefully because as usual i cut the smallest possible corner and had to really fit the border ends inside it.  i’m dumb that way, too, as well as the stitching problem.

unfortunately i didn’t get a picture of the corners once i’d sewn them in, but i can tell you that i went around all four sides with a straight stitch, and then a zigzag stitch inside (or in one case outside) the straight stitching.  it looks mildly interesting.  this is the place where you can really notice the stitching, because mainly it’s invisible on the quilt top and going thru all those clothes.

this is what it’s looking like with corners.  as you can see if you’ve got really good eyes, i’ve got all the zippers down and all the bib fronts unhooked, in the middle of sewing down the bits and pieces.  there’s still a little more to do to the middle, little touches here and there, reinforcing seams i know will get ripped at, things like that.  but mainly, it’s done.

except that it’s not.  i made the mistake of using stretch material for the borders.  i should have used heavy material that didn’t stretch, but i used jersey, stretch jersey, light denim, and heavy knit pants.  all different weights, all different stretchiness, all not working together very well as an edge.  you can see it won’t lay straight at all.

so i need an outer border.  another one.  something to tie everything together, something to add stability to the shitty border i put on because i didn’t know what i was doing (which you can say for this entire project).

i think i’ll use denim.  i took out everything in my denim stash drawer and put it on the work table in our bedroom.  i can get by with a one inch border, but even so i’m already working larger than 45×60, and that’s 210 union inches.  that’s over 17 feet.  so i’d better be able to get by with a one inch (that means two inches and a half).  i’m not sure i have that much denim, and i know i’m not going to be able to use a uniform weight.

so i’m going to end up with different weights of denim in the border.  and this is pretty much the problem i had with the knits as border material – different weights.  at least it’s not a stretch fabric, and i’ll be damned sure none of the denim is any kind of elasticated.  i need a substantial frame.  perhaps i should reinforce the denim with a liner fabric that won’t show but will stiffen the border.

anyway, that all waits for tomorrow.  in the meantime, i’m trying to figure out if i can fit the thing in a large priority mail box so i can ship it for a flat rate.  it’s very heavy, and very bulky, but if i put it in plastic and removed all the air…?

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baby quilt – the end of applique

okay, this is a lot of photos for a little bit of progress.  this marks the finishing up of all this applique quilting of clothing onto the top of the sandwiched, three-layer quilt.  instead of showing the monotonous slug progress of sewing on item after item, i decided to document the last several bits of clothing so you can see how i did it.

the oshkosh b’gosh overalls i got from my mom that might have been my little brother’s.  the onesie has been cut off halfway to reduce bulk (you wouldn’t believe how heavy this thing is now), and i’ve pinned it in.  when you do layered clothing like this, you need to plan carefully.  i cut away the back of the overalls to save on bulk, and saved only the shoulder straps.  i’ve sewn them onto the quilt halfway up their length, leaving the ends free so i can fasten the whole thing when it’s done.

you can see the bit of the back side of the pants on the lower right.  i cut a bit of the back side out so i would have more of a turn in the pants when i sewed them in, so i had to cut the back some of the way up, and now i’ve pinned the edge of the onesie right along the edge of the cut back, so it looks like it wraps around.  i’m going to have to go right into the inside of the coveralls in order to stitch down the sides of the onesie.  i’ll be stitching thru the onesie and the denim on the inside, and then will go at it from the foot and sew the rest of the pants seam down (below).

this is the quilt all rolled to fit neatly in the hole in the sewing machine.  my machine is particularly compact, so it’s a real bitch getting the thing in the space so i can sew.  that’s when i start dreaming about a quilting machine, about as long as it takes to look up the going price.  i’m going to go down the right side of the onesie/jeans, tugging on the back of the fabric, wedging the roll thru the throat of the machine, plumping the fabric in front of the needle so it doesn’t drag.  it’s going to be a real struggle, a physical struggle, partly because the machine is so lightweight and isn’t anchored to anything.  it’s just sitting on a board on top of my old cabinet sewing machine.

this shows the other end of the overalls and onesie we’ve been looking at above.  you can see on the lower right how i’m continuing the seam on the inside of the pants.  you can see the bottom end of the onesie under the folded-up leg in the middle – it’s crooked where i cut it but i don’t really care.  you can see where i’ve pinned in the snaps that will hold the legs in place.

see, i’m making the whole thing, at this point, as a play blanket.  it’s designed for older babies and toddlers to mess with.  they can unsnap and unzip everything, they can stick their little hands and feet into the hands and feet opening, and i was even considering leaving some clothes that an enterprising toddler might be able to zip him- or herself into.

moving on to the only girl item of clothing.  i debated about this.  but i didn’t have any girl things.  and the first dress i tried, a nice pink seersucker dress, didn’t work out when i cut it in half to save bulk.  so i went back to the thrift store and got this nice ruched thing with pants.  a very basic dress, really, but i had no trouble fitting it into the space i had for something there.

i sewed down the top edges of the dress, around the arms and shoulders, and came down the sides of the skirt, and then lifted the skirt and sewed the back of the skirt down.  since i wanted a lot of movement in my clothes, i made a few pleats, tugging the skirt down on the right side.  i just sewed the edge down as a precaution, even tho it would have been enough to sew the pants down on top of it.  with the pants, i did what i’ve been doing with most openings, and sewing down the bottom edge of the legs and the waist, leaving the top edge loose.

the last thing i had to do was the pair of kids standing on each other’s shoulders.  it’s the middle of the quilt, and it’s the only two pieces of clothing going the same way (every one is upside down to the next one).  so i figured i’d do something fun with it, and made them start to lose their balance.  i raised the right knee and tilted him over to the right.  this meant having to tuck the fabric at the knee and hip, and you can see the yellow-headed pins holding these areas down.  the trouble with these union suits is that the zipper runs from neck to foot and is plastic, and so won’t stay down.  it naturally buckles unless it’s under tension.  so it’s always going to look lumpy.  in the photo above, you’ll notice that i’m  not going to sew down the arms and shoulders yet, until i’ve figured out the guy balancing on top of him.

here you can see what i’m doing with the guy on top.  he’s even moreso lost his balance, and is reaching for the hand of the little girl in the pink dress, and over the shoulder of the guy to his right.  at this point i’ve just pinned everything down, i think, including the arms and hands of the guy holding him up.

this was tricky.  i’ve got to sew down the guy on the left first, except where he overlaps the guy on the right.  then i’ve got to come in and sew down the guy on the right, including where he overlaps the guy on the left.  and then i have to come back in and sew down the wrist of the guy on the left.  all this on top of a three-layer quilt plus whatever other appliqued clothing lays beneath it.

this looks like i have loads of room, but the throat of the machine, off camera to the right, is jammed with rolled-up quilt.  here i’m sewing down the arm of the guy on the left, and i’m going to come all the way down the right side and underneath the overlapping foot, which i’ll come back to finish sewing down once i’ve finished the layer underneath.  at some points i figure i’m sewing thru nine different layers, and sometimes that’d be nine different layers of seamed edges.  that’s very thick for a little ballpoint needle and a machine that cost around a hundred bucks.

i’ve re-rolled the quilt so i can sew the left side of the two kids.  i’ve got to put the left arm down over his side and over the pink sleeve, and then i’ve got to come down to the overlapping wrist of the guy on the bottom, and sew down the right side of his sleeve until i get to the foot of the guy standing on his shoulders.  does this all make sense?

but finally i’m done with that part.  i even got around to clipping all the loose threads on both sides and sewing down any edges i missed the first time around.

it’s hard to see the details at this distance, but i’ve got – starting from the top middle – a boy in brown standing on his brother’s shoulders, then a girl in a yellow striped top and jean shorts, turned upside down from the boy in the brown jumpsuit.  then there’s a baby bubble suit in white with green trim facing opposite to the kid in the jeans, and it’s heading to the right in the middle of the right side.  beneath that is a kid, facing the opposite way to the bubble shit.  this kid has dinosaur overalls.  next comes the brother holding up the kid on his shoulders, in the bottom middle of the quilt.  and next to him, and opposite, is a kid in green pants and a pink flowered top.  next to her is a kid in a onesie and overalls, in the middle of the left side of the quilt.  and finally there’s the little girl in her flouncy pink dress.  every kid depends and upsets the balance of the next kid, all the way around the circle.

of course, it’s hard to see the details at this distance.

what’s next?  well, turning the quilt over shows that there are areas which have not been quilted yet, and this will make a difference after 50 times thru the wash.  i need to devise corners for the thing after that, and then wash it 50 times.  stay tuned, i’m not finished yet.  but at least all the hard work is done.

baby quilt – now we’re talking

i love it when things drop into place.  with the discovery of a pair of overalls of my little brother’s (the one who’s pregnant now), the design for the applique top is suddenly obvious.

you can see the pants in the middle right.  suddenly i had a bunch of clothes to arrange on top, so i made it six on top.  now i was working with a star of david instead of a pentagram, and that’s okay because 6-pointed  stars are equal, whereas there’s always a head of a 5-pointed star.  so i put the dark clothes in a triangle, all facing outward, and then i took the lighter three sets of clothes in a triangle facing inward.  this left that same hole in the middle, so i adjusted everything outward, toward the border.  in some cases i’m making the clothes go right up to the border.  this left a gaping middle, so i fetched the sleepers i was going to use on the back, and laid them out facing the same way.  obviously one’s standing on the other’s shoulders, so i adjusted the arms to show the support.

i was careful to avoid putting clothes down on top of the cool features of the underlying work – like the fronts that unsnap and unzip.  and in doing this i had to get a little off center.  so first i  made the guy standing on his brother’s shoulders just a little off balance.  and i had him lean on the kid next to him, who then went off balance and had to lean on the next kid.  so i went around the circle, bending and reaching all the little arms and legs until i had everyone relying on and unbalanced by everyone else.  nice and dynamic.  with no up and no down, really.

now i think the background will function as a background instead of a distraction, and the border will be less nastily varied because it’s going to be much interrupted.

i’m liking it again.  now i just have to figure out how to get all these pieces cut up and sewn on.  that’s going to take weeks.  good thing we’re only halfway thru being pregnant.  good thing i’m not doing more than one.

baby quilt – the top pieces

i went back to the thrift store and got several sets of clothes for 6-9 month kids.  and here’s how the top looks with them splayed out in a circle around the center.  except that it’s not the center; because of the lengths of the legs, the ‘center’ of the kids stuff on top is actually about 6″ to one side.  but i’ve already had to adjust the length (and thus the center) when i added the legs and feet to both ends.  on the left side i only have one row of legs, and on the right there are two.

to my eye, it looks like a mess, and nothing redeeming about it.  there are too many contrasting blues in all the wrong places, and the border just looks silly.  this may be something there’s no recovering from.

this is what it looks like close up.  i’m having trouble deciding how to put the arms.  should i make them all hold hands?  to get them sewn on, i’m going to have to cut each piece of clothing into front and back, and only sew on the front.  of course, i’m going to have to retain all the opening snaps and zippers so the kids can play with them.  the shirts will have to be cut in half and sewn down first, of course, and the tops over them.  and i’m still not sure if i’m putting anything on the back.  we’ll see.

baby quilt – decision time

both jim and i liked the dynamics of the running, playing kids’ clothes, but it just wouldn’t show up well against all the detail on the front, so we decided i should try it on the back.  so here it is.  i can make them all active on the back.  i could put in a ball in the middle for them all to play with.  i could sew on buttons for eyes and make them all heads and faces, except that you don’t sew on buttons for a baby quilt, for obvious reasons.

i might end up with these fellows on the back, and the couple or three little outfits that i can still put on the front.  either way, it helps to quilt the whole thing.  the technical issue is how do i actually sew it down like this?  i’ve had to fold the little suits in half sideways, so that they’ll appear in profile.  and then i had to really move and poke the fabric of the legs to get them to look sort of realistic.  i’m only ever going to get an approximate (mannered, stylized) figure out of these rather shapeless things.  and they look awfully strange close up.  am i going to have to sew down the edges and then trim inside, or should i cut the suits in half so that i only have one edge to worry about?  should i pad the insides of the suits so that they puff out into the finished space?

like i said, back to the painting.  fewer problems, altho i never thought i’d admit that.

i’m probably going to sit with this for a few days.  it’s the most important part of the quilt, simply because it’s the final layer of surface design, and so i don’t totally screw it up i’m going to wait and maybe go to the thrift store for more clothing options.

baby quilt (over on channel two)

i’ve picked back up on my baby quilt project.  it took me ages to get more ballpoint needles after i broke the last one, but i’m back, and it’s getting close to finished.

i’m still going down to the studio when jim comes up to make dinner, but i’ve spent a lot of the last two days finishing the edges of the quilt.

when i left it (let me look back) in early march, i was putting on the border.  i ran out of needles most of the way thru closing the binding on the third side, so i finished up the closing yesterday.  then i turned it over and saw how badly i’d caught all the layers in the binding in how many places (lots of gaps, lots of places to tear out stitches and start again), and corrected all that.  and then i sewed down the edges of all the tops  (i took baby clothes top halves and stuck the clothing down at the edges), leaving the zipper or snap and neck closure free to be fiddled with by some baby’s hands.

that was the end of the pre-quilting part.  and, actually, in sewing down the edges of the tops, i actually was quilting.  but the real quilting begins with the next step.

i’m not willing at this stage to put the whole thing in the washer, because the batting isn’t fastened by quilting stitches yet.  but it’s filthy.  the cats have made a cozy home out of the quilt on the sewing machine as it sat there for a couple of weeks until i went out and got needles.  so it’s black with black cat hair in places.  it’ll all come out in the wash, of course, but i’m going to clean the surface with a damp rag and then continue with the quilting steps.

for the quiltling part, i’m using the addition of yet another layer as the excuse for the quilting pattern.  i’ve reserved a bunch of clothes to arrange on the face of the quilt top and then sew them thru the three layers of the quilt using applique.

the issue is how to arrange the clothes.  i have two feety pajamas and two newborn bubble suits, another bubble suit and two pants and shirt sets.

i thought to have a crowd, but not to arrange them in rows.  so first i put them lengthwise and crosswise, but that was boring.  next i tried them catty-corner on the top, and that was more interesting.  but i’m not sure i like them just laying there in a cross pattern.  it looks good from a distance, however.

so then i tried them running around in a circle, and this is much more dynamic, but it’s not easy to make it look good.  especially from a distance.

so – anybody have any suggestions?

baby quilt – border

at last it can be told.  i hinted to my daughter for weeks – i’m making a quilt.  i’m making a baby quilt.  but i wasn’t allowed to tell.  it’s a superstition thing, one that i believe in – we didn’t get nursery furniture for our daughter until she was almost there.

anyway, the last sibling was told, and i was told i could announce it – my littlest brother mike and his wife shan are going to have kids.  and that’s just wonderful.  and to welcome babies, i’m making a quilt of used kids’ clothing.  hand me downs.  we don’t do handmedowns anymore, but with the big families we used to have, we all used to wear out each others’ clothing.  in fact, clothes i have collected from my mom’s basement are things several of us wore in turn, and so they have extra memories for my mom, for whom i have yet to turn these clothes into a quilt.

i’m just practicing for it with mike and shan’s.

so i had all these dark colored clothes, and spent several days picking them apart with a seam ripper.  until my seam ripper walked off on me and i had to use the emergency 2.5 inch one, that’s all rusty and snaggy.  it took several days to pick all the seams.  then i cut them into 10″ wide lengths, squared off.  ten inches was about how wide the kids pants legs and shirt tops were, so i evened them all up.

then i arranged them pleasingly, doing a kind of musical chairs thing with the fabric, and then i sewed each ten inch strip to the next one, right sides together, except for the two shirts, which i layered over the cloth beneath and sewed the edge down with my handy dandy zigzag stitch, which i have used exclusively for this project.

so i had a loop of 10″ fabric.  so i cut it in three lengthwise, that’s 3″ thick strips, well, loops.  then i sewed one to the next, moving the second loop by one patch.  then i sewed the other one on, moving one patch along.  now i have one loop again.

and so i tried it on around my 45×60 backing cloth, and lo and behold it fit almost exactly, so i have to stop now. 

in the meantime, i have to dye the backing cloth, which is a lovely quilter’s sateen from dharma trading.   i’m going to make it pink and blue, very pastel (if i mix the dyes right), and then i’m going to discharge little baby feet with bleach.  no babies will be harmed during this – i’m not going to dip my 2.5 year old grandson’s feet in bleach.  no.  i’m going to use the side of my fist and 5 fingerprints to make baby feet.  the kid would only smear it if i tried to get him to do it.

so you can see what i’ve done.  the instructions say to crumple the dry fabric up and put it into a tight place so that it stays bunched up.  the plastic tub you see was just too big, so i got out a gallon ziplock and stuffed it into that.  then i put a half teaspoon of turquoise into a cup measure and added a teaspoon of salt and a cup of cold water, and mixed it thoroughly (tho evidently not enough to dissolve all the little particles)  and poured it in.  then i mixed up half a teaspoon of magenta (we’re talking dharma fiber reactive dye powder) into a cup of water with salt, and poured it in after.  then two cups of clear water, and now i’ve sealed up the ziplock and sucked all the air out of it so that the fabric is completely covered in dye, and now i’m going to let it sit for about an hour, then open it back up and pour that cup of water and soda ash into it, and seal it back up to cure in the unlit oven for the morning.  and we’ll see what it looks like when it’s done.

at this point, i can’t do anything else.  i’ve got to get the backing ready, because the next step after that is to sandwich the quilt.  and then the fun starts, where i get to put all sorts of embellishment on it – like whole clothing. 

we’ll see how it works out. (later) and it worked, but not like i expected.  it never turns out like i expect, but it’s always beautiful.  so here it is.  looks lit from behind, doesn’t it?  but it’s on the floor.  there’s my dog at the bottom.