One of my best friends and former college roommate is expecting her first child in June. When I heard the news I knew I was going to make a baby blanket. and when I searched ravelry for patterns I just couldn’t find anything I loved. I started thinking about Christina and what she likes and I came up with a book theme, but I couldn’t figure a good way to knit or crochet books. Then it hit me…quilting! I thought a book quilt would be perfect. There was just one problem…the last quilt I made was in 2nd grade with girl scouts.
I drew up a rough sketch and asked my mom, who does have quilting experience, if I was nuts to attempt this. She said no, so I ordered The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker by Elizabeth Hartman on Amazon. She suggests making baby blankets 32″ – 44″ on each side. Using that as a guide I worked up a better sketch of what I wanted to make.
I ordered most of my fabric on Etsy after a disappointing trip to a local quilting shop. For the books I ordered a fat quarter bundle featuring the fabric Bermuda Owls by Ann Kelle from Sisters and Quilters. I loved the owls and the gender neutral palette. I also wanted a wood grain fabric for the shelves and after a fair bit of searching I found Joel Dewberry’s Aviary Woodgrain. I ordered that in Light Yellow from FabSewFab. I also purchased white quilters cotton and a 6″ x 24″ ruler from Joann’s.
I put a lot of thought into the most efficient way to sew the books. The method I used was to sew a 6″ wide piece of white fabric onto an 8″ piece of the “book” fabric. Before this I had also figured out that in my original design the books would be too big, so I reworked it with 4 shelves instead of 3. I took each book block and sliced it into 1.5″ to 3″ books.
The most challenging part of piecing was making this tilted book, which I think gives the quilt a little more visual interest than having all perfectly standing books.
Next I trimmed each shelf to be 8.5″ tall (8″ + 1/2″ seam allowance) and 28.5″ wide.
From there it was a matter of adding 2″ wood grain shelves between each book set and a 3″ bookcase border. I wanted to make the blanket really special and personal, so I asked Christina’s mother and sister if they could remember some of her favorite childhood books. I took their list and threw in a couple of my favorites to make 8 book labels. I printed the labels on opaque inkjet transfer, so it was just one step to iron them on!
At this point, the quilt was coming together exactly as I had envisioned. But the next part made me a bit nervous. I was trying to conserve the wood grain fabric to use for the binding, so I cut the backing to be the exact size of the front. When I read the chapter on making the quilt sandwich in Practical Guide to Patchwork, I realized that was wrong but my mom and I agreed if we were careful with our basting it would be ok.
The part that really scared me was the free motion quilting. I had done a lot of practicing, but I tended to get a lot of “eyelashes” on my curves. If the quilting came out bad then I worried the whole quilt would look awful. After more practicing I had gotten my eyelashes minimized, but what really did it was different thread. My mom picked up some 100% cotton machine quilting thread for me. It made a huge difference! Then the only issue became breaking my machine needles, but I had bought a lot of extras so it wasn’t as much of a worry. I was also using a darning/hopping foot which worked much better than just the open toed free motion foot I started with.
My kitten Magi assisted with the quilting. On a side note, I found Leah Day’s youtube videos on free motion quilting to be really helpful.
It took me a couple of hours to do the quilting. I did have slight messups here and there but I’m probably the only one who will see them. Overall I was extremely happy (and relieved!) with how the quilting turned out. I managed to work my initials (LV) somewhere into the quilt, and I’ve challenged Christina to find them. We’ll see how long it takes.
Now all that was left was to trim the batting and do the binding. I wasn’t totally sure if I had enough fabric to cut the binding, but I managed to eek out the 2.5″ wide strips I needed for the binding with a very small piece of fabric left to spare! From there I machine sewed the binding to the front of the quilt. Then we flipped it to the back and used hair clips to hold it in place as we hand stitched it to the back. My mom and I did the hand sewing together so it went twice as fast. I put the final stitches in around 11pm on Friday night.
The shower was Saturday afternoon…nothing like finishing a project at the last minute, right? Christina loved the quilt, and many of the other guests complimented my work as well. I am really pleased and proud with how my first quilt came out, and I hope the new baby will enjoy it as well.
There are lots more photos of the quilt and quiltmaking process in my flickr album – http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaiamrge/sets/72157629873968241/.
A big thanks to my mom for her help and guidance in making the quilt. I don’t think it would have come out nearly a good with out her assistance and mentoring.