Monday, October 3, 2011

The Making of an Alex Quilt...

I made my son Alex his first quilt when he was four years old. It was a simple pattern (which was all I could manage) featuring oddly leaning pine trees on a cream background. He loved it (small children have low standards) but decades of washing have reduced it to a mere shredded ghost of its previous misaligned glory.

So last month, after several minutes of protesting, Alex finally agreed to let the pine tree quilt go to that special quilt shop in the sky...after exacting my promise to replace it with a new one.

But there were rules:

Rule #1: No flowered fabrics could be used (that rule narrows the choices at any given quilt shop by 85%).

Rule #2: Earth tones were required (that 15% just narrowed to 5%).

Rule #3: The backing had to be soft but not overly warm so the quilt could be used in summer (I searched high and low for brushed cotton - and had to settle for a light flannel).

Soft and the swirly lines hide any quilting whoopsies...
I was up for the challenge having just signed up for a "Rhinestone Cowboy" quilt class at the local quilt shop.

So I sent Alex a snapshot of the quilt pattern made up into a lap quilt at the store...

My quilting teacher made this lap quilt for her cowboy themed TV room.
And he responded with...

Rule #4: "No cowboy themed fabrics either" (So I was down to 3% of the available fabrics assuming I excluded Christmas prints).

Pretty much I bought a "fat quarter" of every fabric they had that met Alex's criteria.

I was super excited to take the class.

I would have the chance to learn new things, meet new friends and use my new sewing machine...

Of course the night before class my excitement turned into back-to-school jitters. I was a bundle of nerves - Would they like me? Would I make a complete fool of myself since I barely knew how my new machine worked? Would there be snacks?

Luckily for me there were only two other students (and they had met a few weeks before at a beginning quilters class so they were friendly and understanding). The teacher was very knowledgeable and patient.

And best of all - they had COOKIES!

I had cut all my squares at home so was ready to start sewing in class.
We started by sewing the main blocks together which doesn't sound like a big deal but you have to try and get all the corners to line up...which is a big deal because it's hugely hard for me.

Quilters call this "nesting seams" because they aren't supposed to use the real words which are more like, "#%&*ing seams".

These are my first two blocks...with the "nested seams" and they only took 4 hours to sew.
By the time I had sewn all the blocks together - (a week later at home after tremendous profanity and few adult beverages) I no longer called it a "Rhinestone Cowboy" quilt - it became the "Nesting Nightmare" pattern.

Since Alex wanted a double bed sized quilt I had to use the floor as my design wall.
Of course I had some help with the layout...

Huckleberry loves Alex's new quilt...
But not as much as Golly does!
Actually I did have a lot of help with this quilt in the form of long-distance phone support from my sister Caroline who is a math/science teacher and expert quilter (she's super good at calculation and all the geometry quilts require). With her advice I was able to put my new sewing machine and its fancy stitches to good use.
I love these embroidered corners!

And I thought the wave pattern looked pretty cool too.
After the quilt top was assembled, I had to "slapplique" the stars on top. The idea is to "slap" them down without sewing the edges under. This allows their raw edges to become ragged in the wash and gives a rustic texture to the quilt top.

The stars were my favorite part of the pattern!
A month later I'd sewn all the "stars upon thars" and was nearing the home stretch. Of course, that was after a LOT of unpicking or "reverse sewing" as quilters say (they're just full of cute sayings) during this project.

In fact, I had to "re-sew" the entire binding by hand...with some help from Golly as usual. 

Golly just LOVES Alex's Not so least not until my bruised fingers heal up.

The real question of course is, "Will Alex like it?"

He likes it!!!

1 comment:

  1. Yay! It turned out awesome :) Glad he likes it. I am giving mum the huge task with my help of course of making a super giant quilt for my new king sized bed. Which will be quite a challenge. I will send you pics of the guest book I am making when it is finished which will hopefully be some time before the end of the week. So what is the next project?