In what I believe is a new record for lateness for me, these are baby quilts for twins who are already 18 months old; my old record was sixteen months, set with Cordelia’s Quilt. The design process for these started, as my quilts so often do, with picking a focus fabric. In this case, it was a jungle cats print on a cream background, selected because a) the cartoony look felt right for a kid’s quilt and b) I had enough yardage for blocks and backing for two baby-sized quilts. Then I pulled a bunch of other prints from my stash to go with the cats: golds and greens and browns with a variety of motifs. I was especially pleased to find giraffes and safari huts and zebra stripes in the right colors.
I picked out a pattern that I thought would be fun and fast: Tic Tac Toe by Pam Rocco, which I saw in the April/May 2009 issue of Quilters Newsletter. It’s a modified nine-patch with improvisational strip piecing in four of the sections, so no templates and not a lot of seam matching. But my subconscious must have known it wasn’t going to be as easy as it looked, because I did something I almost never do: a test block. I also tried to follow the written directions (modified for the size blocks I’d decided on, of course, because even when I’m following the directions I have to make changes). I did not like following the directions, mostly because they seemed to result in blocks that didn’t quite match the pictured quilt, imposing more order on the improvisational sections and adding more intersections that needed matching. Maybe that was done to simplify the piecing or minimize fabric waste, but I would have liked a note somewhere that that was the case. I was frustrated enough by the process to go looking for another pattern. I might make this one someday, but if I do, I’ll make up my own directions.
The pattern I ended up using is Fiesta, designed by Amy Walsh of Blue Underground Studios (lots of good stuff over there—I’m going back to browse more after I finish writing this up) from the October, 2008 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. The original was larger than a baby quilt, so I adapted it by making fewer blocks (I could have made the same number of blocks and reduced the size of each, but that would have slowed me down and like I said, these babies are almost toddlers so slow wasn’t good). I started by cutting the big squares from mostly the larger scale prints I’d chosen and arranged them on the wall until I was pleased with the value and color arrangement–diagonals of the light focus fabric to keep the eye moving, each block of a print not too close to the other blocks of that same print, no big clumps of one color. Both quilts have the focus fabric in the same positions, but the other prints vary. Next I strip pieced to make the sections of smaller squares and put them up. To be able to follow my self-imposed rule for the small squares that no print could be adjacent to itself, including the binding, I had to make a few strips from squares as well, but even so both tops went together pretty quickly.
For the actual quilting part, I first stitched in the ditch between the big blocks to stabilize everything, then did some directional meandering with variegated green cotton thread—mostly horizontal on one quilt and mostly vertical on the other. It had been so long since I used my BSR foot that I had to re-read both the manual and the notes I took in class before I felt comfortable with it again. I bound one quilt in green and the other in brown. Because a couple of the fabrics had gotten stiffer than the rest when I fused the layers (I’ve been on a fusible batting kick for a couple years now) , I went ahead and washed the quilts before I put the labels on to soften them up. I don’t usually launder quilts before giving them away, but they’re meant to be washed so I figured I might as well, and they came out soft and fine. I did my usual photo labels on Printed Treasures inkjet fabric; fortunately I had a photo where each baby was sitting in front of a banner with his name on it, so I could easily match baby to name on the labels. I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise—put both babies in the picture but only one name on each label, probably.
The next thing on my quilting radar is the tv cover I first mentioned last August. I have what I think is a good idea for that one; unfortunately I haven’t yet found the particular focus fabrics I want to use, which I am sure I have in my stash but which didn’t turn up in the first likely place I looked over the weekend. If I have to go through every stack to find them, I will, since it’s not like it’s a hardship to play with the fabric. I might even discover a better idea in the process.
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