Zoo Baby Quilt
December 14, 2002
Yesterday I finished another baby quilt, and now I am all caught up with the offspring born to my coworkers this year. Even though this is one of the simplest quilts I’ve made, with only ten fabrics and one basic block design, it took me about two months to make. If I had worked on it steadily, I’m sure I would have finished a lot sooner, though. Still, the boy is only five months old, so that’s not too bad. Other babies have gotten their quilts on their first birthdays.
The quilt was designed around a fabric with wide stripes showing all sorts of animals as well as numbers and letters. Originally I was going to use the stripes on the front and make a quilt with bars going across the width, but I decided that was too similar to a quilt I’d made for a different coworker a few years ago, also based on an animal stripe. I browsed through the books in my quilting library and found inspiration in Quilts for Baby and More Quilts for Baby, both by Ursula Reikes. One of her quilts used Chevron Log Cabin blocks, and I thought those would work well with my striped fabric, since I could fussy cut the big squares to highlight different animals.
I used my quilt design software, Electric Quilt, to do a basic layout. I knew how big I wanted the quilt (36 by 48 inches) and measured the motifs in my focus fabric to see what size patches would look best. The stripe with the trees demanded a 3-inch finished size, and the ones with the best animals wanted to be 4-inches finished; happily both those could be easily worked into 6-inch blocks, just with some having more logs in them than others. I decided on the colors for the blocks by picking out the more “manly” hues in the main print—blue and green and brown. A quilt building on the pink and yellow and grey would have been nice, too, but I wasn’t sure the parents would appreciate it for their little boy (some people are funny that way). It wasn’t too long before I had a layout I liked enough to print out.
The next step was going to the fabric closet and pulling out a lot of greens and browns and blues that went with the main stripe. Because the focus fabric was mostly light values, I picked mediums and darks for the other fabrics so there’d be ample contrast. I had fun choosing ones that looked like grass and vines and tiger stripes to reinforce the nature theme. Loaded down with stacks of fabric, I moved on to cutting. I knew from my layout how many squares in which sizes I needed from the main fabric, but as usual I cut extras to give me more options in designing. I cut only a few strips of the most likely blue, green, brown candidates to start with and played with them until I was happy with the balance of values. Once I’d decided on which fabrics to use, I cut the rest of the logs, and found I didn’t have quite enough of the darkest blue. Now, if I’d been really short, I would have just found a different fabric and used it for some of the blocks, but I was very, very close to having enough and decided to do like my foremothers and piece one the last log I needed from scraps. I felt so thrifty!
Laying out all the blocks on the felt wall took a fair bit of time. It was easier than a lot of my quilts because the colors and fabrics repeated in a regular pattern, but I fussed and fussed with the distribution of the animals. I didn’t want lions next to lions and so on. I wasn’t happy with the layout until I hit on the idea of assigning each animal to a color. Once I had the koalas and parrots in the green squares and the lions, cheetahs, and toucans in the brown ones, I was ready to sew. Putting the blocks together probably went faster than most of my quilts because I didn’t have to keep as close track of the individual pieces; one blue block was interchangeable with another and so on. When I got to the quilting, I made it harder on myself than it had to be because I didn’t work out where I wanted to stitch beforehand. I just started in and made decisions as I went along and realized later on if I’d planned it all out I could have achieved the same results with fewer stops and starts and changes of direction. Ah, well, maybe I’ll remember that next time.
After the quilting was done, the poor quilt just hung untouched for weeks when I got busy with work and travel. Once I got back to it after we returned from Colorado, the binding and the label went on pretty quickly. I still need to work on joining that last seam in the continuous binding—it took me three tries this time before it looked good—but I’m getting a lot better at mitering the corners. Binding was one of the weaknesses the judges noted about my work the first time I entered in the NQA show, but I’m hoping it won’t be the next time.
So, one more quilt done toward my goal of seven this year. The next one is going to be for me, a big wall piece I started in summer of 2000. It’s about time I get back to it!