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.


baby quilt preliminary thoughts

i’m trying to come up with a design.  i just got my quilter’s sateen from dharma trading, and it’s a beautiful fabric.  i have enough to do the back and some of the details on the front with sateen, which of course i am going to dye something beautiful, probably using scrunch dyeing.

i sat around for awhile and played with the scraps i’d already cut up.  because i got a wild hair when i was collecting materials, i ended up cutting about a dozen baby clothes into strips – one strip went right across the top of the outfit from one sleeve to the other, and the other strip was a leg.  i messed around, pinning one sleeve to another with all the tops facing one way, so that the cut edge would theoretically be even when i sewed them together.  it looks funky.

then i put the legs together and pinned them into a long strip of leg and feet.  it also looks funky.

but both of these ideas would work as borders.

then i’ve got three baby blankets of different fabrics.  i can cut these into strips also and sew them together for a bargello kind of effect.

what i’m getting at is that i have two candidates for the face of the quilt – the arms and legs, and the baby blankets.  i’m not certain i won’t end up using both kinds of fabrics for a highly textured background.

it’s going to be a sew-as-you-go strip patchwork.  if i cut and strip it enough times, it will have small squares that blend together at a distance.  and then i can sew the whole baby clothing onto it as applique.  i guess i’ll start by cutting and stripping the baby blankets.  then before i go too far in cutting and stripping, maybe i’ll see if i can use the arms and legs into the mix, or will it look better if it goes on as a border.  maybe even elegantized by judicious use (since when am i judicious?) of the sateen.

the thing will be riddled with snaps.  i cut out many of the rows of snaps when i dismembered the clothes, and i can easily strip them either separately or in with the background stripping.  for the mental wellbeing of the mother to be, i will not be using any buttons or anything else that can come off.  but i will be playing games with pockets and snaps, because i can.  if the quilt is used as the kid gets older, they’ll have great fun snapping and unsnapping various parts of the quilt.

but at this point i have no idea, still, what the design will be.  will i try to use all four of the kid pajamas and make them interact, or will i just use one?  i thought of making it look like an adams family baby outfit, but decided that would freak mom out too much.  i thought of appliqueing an outfit right below where it would come when actually tucked around a baby, but i thought that might be a bit creepy.  if it wasn’t creepy, i might consider putting four outfits down so that no matter which way you turned the quilt it would still look like a kid cutout.  but we’ll see.

mom’s quilt 2

i’m up at 4:30 in the morning.  i’m up because there are a bunch of college kids renting the house opposite, and as long as the weather lasts they’ll be damned if they’re not out drinking on the porch at 4 in the morning.  the porch echoes.  they hoot and howl.  i called the police on them and am now sleepless, waiting for them to be chased inside by the cops.  maybe they’re vampires and i’m doing everyone a favor.  not that anyone else is up at this time.

anyway.  today i took my tape measure and marked out 112 by 97 on the floor in bits of masking tape, including a central piece where i sorta kinda measured the middle of the quilt.  it’s not going to be that important where the exact middle is, unlike the quilt i did for my sister.  this quilt is going to be a riot to begin with, so precision isn’t necessary in designing it.

i took all the cute stuff out of the stack of moldy clothes from my mom’s basement.  i had a wee baby dress of red velvet, including a pair of old fashioned diaper pants (matching plastic diaper covers).  there were two little dresses for toddlers, and two dresses for older kids, maybe 4 years old.  there was a set of toddler overalls – short pants, a set of 4 year old overalls – long pants, and a pair of jeans for maybe a 6 year old.  i also got out a stripy velour shirt i used to love, a toddler shirt with buttons, and a plaid shirt that i think i sewed a pocket on (hating things without pockets, i must have done one of my first sewing projects on it.  unless it was my sister.  but my sister would have gotten mom to buy her a different shirt, and she wasn’t the type to get creative with fabric.)

there are two pieces of tapestry in the collection.  i’m pretty sure mom is going to have a fit about those, but they never got turned into footstool cushions, they’re just embroidery on linen.  one is flowers on black, the other is flowers on blue.  the big one is 2 feet across, the small one 18 inches.  so they’re substantial chunks of landscape.  i know what to do with the large one, but what can i do with the small one?  maybe put it on the under side?  i can’t cut it, because there go all the embroidery stitches, so i have to use it whole.  and the design i’m working with at the moment isn’t very happy with that.

i started out with the large black flower tapestry in the middle.  then i arranged the dresses around them, necks to center.  then i arranged the pants around them, waists to center.  then i put the shirts around them, their necks pointing to the edges.  and suddenly i was out of room.


i’ve got twice as much fabric that i haven’t placed onto the floor.  pants, shirts, t-shirts, a wool jacket, a table runner, a scarf.  the t-shirts and the jacket have textures unlike the rest of the fabrics.  what i need is a way to use all those fabrics as part of the background of the quilt.  and i’ve got to find a way of doing it that doesn’t involve a lot of visual confusion, the way layering a shirt on a pair of pants with part of a jacket sleeve cutting thru would be confusing.  it’s an option i might take with some other quilt, like the jeans quilt of my dreams.  but i think for this one i want the clothes on top to be the main elements, and need the background to homogenize underneath.

so i figure i could strip all the rest of the fabrics together.  that is, cut the clothes into a bunch of strips and sew them together length to length, until i have sewn a piece of fabric.  then i can cut this into strips, and sew it back up another way.  and so on.  if i do it long enough, i will have a lot of very small jewel-like pieces sewn together, and this will effectively spread out the color over the background.  i think it will work nicely.  it’ll mean a lot of cutting and sewing, and that’s where straight lines will be important.  i’m not that good at using the rotary cutter to make absolutely straight lines, but i’m going to fudge it during the quilting process.  anything that isn’t lying well at that point will simply be hammered down with sewing needles. (an added benefit is that anything too weak to hold up on its own (remember, 30 years or more of being moldy does not make for great fiber strength.  even the tapestries are useless for their original intention at this point.)   i’m thinking i should use all the fabric to strip quilt the background except for the scarf and the table runner that i’ll need for the border.  or maybe i will use that blackout material the musicians across the street (not the college students) just threw out.  it’s velvet.

the great thing about these quilts, about everything i make, really, is that you can go ahead and toss the thing in the washer.  it’ll bleed, sure.  it was designed to bleed.   it was meant so that every piece interacts with every other piece, and what better way to do that than to share colors?

i’d be wise to wait a few days before i start cutting up fabric.  you never know, i could easily change my mind about the design.  originally i thought i would use the clothes in a sort of tableau of children’s activities.  but i lack a lot more clothes for that, or specifically, toddler and kid shirts to go with the pants, and socks and underwear and things like that.

but one thing i can go ahead and do is rip a few seams in the clothes that are going to stay whole.  or stay half, anyway.  i get a front and a back half out of all these clothes.  that’s a dozen or more pieces of clothing, and i’m going to turn it into twice that.  so what will happen to my design then?  i’m not sure i can fit backs and fronts into the design.  but i might be able to use parts of the clothes, like a sleeve or a pants leg, which would add to the starburst effect.

or i could put them on the underside and end up with a double sided but lumpy quilt.  i can’t imagine it would NOT be lumpy, with so many different weights of fabric, and things like buttons and hooks and zippers and pockets sewn in.  it would make the quiltling process a bit more difficult if i were to make a double sided quilt, because i would risk trying to run the needle thru a zipper, say.  i had some problems with breaking needles the last project i did that included obstacles.  that was that corset, which i gave up as a bad idea.  the thought of me going into production on something as complex as a corset just floors me now, when before it seemed like a great money making idea.  what a fool i am sometimes.

i’ll save this, because the photograph is downstairs still in the camera, and publish it tomorrow when i’ve had a chance to attach the picture.  perhaps the boys have gone to bed at this point.  i don’t know.  last week there was a 24 hour bike race, and the musicians were on their front porch all night cheering them on.  i called the cops on them, but it did no good at all.   i think i wrote a blog entry then, too.

bow i have to go to dharmatrading and get flannel for the middle, and wide cotton for the backing.

for mom’s quilt 1 see here.