Another t-shirt quilt completed: Lessons Learned

It was a frenzied finish, of unaligned needles and slipped stitches, but I was able to complete the quilt before my self-imposed deadline.  Why MAIL a quilt to Medford, when the happy recipient would be in Portland after all?

There are a few lessons I’ve learned in this process:

1.  Measure thrice, cut once.  My dad said this to me when I very young.  I think he was working on building a bluebird house.  Back in our Oklahoma days, he took on the plight of the bluebirds who apparently were being pushed out of their habitat by larger, greedy birds.  He took to making birdhouses that would fit only the bluebird.  He’d make several and then place them on various people’s country property – I assume he had permission since he skipped the barbwire and the “no-trespass” signs.

In an effort to speed up the process, I measured once, and well, then I was stuck, especially with t-shirts. There’s no going back!  I narrowly missed Miss M’s name on one of the t-shirts when I was squaring the block!  The block was square, but there wasn’t enough room for the seam allowance without lopping off part of the name.  Fortunately it was not Miss M’s name specifically, but I look at it and it still bothers me.  Measure thrice, cut once. sigh.

2.  Silky t-shirts require interfacing.  I had planned on the interfacing to make the shirts stiffer and more reliably uniform.  I mis-judged when I was ironing (see #1) and the silky fabric of one of the jerseys did not get the interface along one of the edges.  I must have tried sewing that 3 times before I gave up and took to hand-stitching.  I could have saved so much time…

3.  Interfacing sews “funny.”  I also learned that when the interfacing is face down along the feed dogs it constantly skips stitches.  I bet I could adjust the tension or switch the needle but after throwing up my hands and walking away — then walking back — I just repinned everything so that I could swap the fabric and have the interfacing face up with the sashing fabric against the feed dogs.  Good enough.  I came across this problem AGAIN when I was trying to applique some patches on the top.  Because I needed the applique pieces facing up, the interfacing at the back of the t-shirt blocks was unavoidably facing the feed dogs.  I hand stitched those too.  Twice. FIRST without properly pinning (see below) and SECOND with somewhat sufficient pinning (see below).

4.  Use a LOT of pins.  I opted out of handsewing the binding because of time constraints.  Instead, I sewing the fleece to the quilt top inside out, pulled it through and then stitched up the whole.  What I failed to do was thoroughly — and I do mean thoroughly — pin the quilt top + fleece sandwich together.  I threw a few pins in each square and thought that would be sufficient. Sigh.  It was not.  I ripped stitches along the way and did my best to encourage the fabric to fix itself.  So not perfect.

5.  Just be glad when you’re done and don’t point out the errors!  Chances are, the recipients will be happy regardless!

Cutting Corners Quilt (Big Boy Quilt)

Last Christmas, little E figured out how to climb out of his crib.  (Yes, merry Christmas to us!)   Therefore, it was time to move little E into a big boy bed, and time for me to make him a big boy quilt!

I planned the quilt around a cute fabric I found, an Alexander Henry print called “Traffic Jam”.  As I have lamented before, it’s not so easy to get “boy”- appropriate quilting prints, so this was a great find.  The print has a rather large repeat so I didn’t want to make a quilt that would require cutting it up into too many small pieces.

With this in mind, I decided that the “Cutting Corners” quilt from Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts was the perfect pattern to showcase this fabric.  Not only does it make the most of the design,  it’s simple to put together (though in my case “Last Minute” means start in January, finish in July).  The construction is as follows:  one large rectangular panel in the center, bordered by a selection of other fabrics.   (I had a lot of the traffic jam print, so I repeated it for one of the borders).  To finish, you quilt the blanket together by sewing a series of rectangles–each successive rectangle nestled inside a larger one.

I have just enough fabric left over to make a matching pillowcase, so…watch this space!

Amy Butler Play Quilt

Finally finished! 

The quilt is from Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones, the fabric is from Timeless Treasures’ Apple line by Alice Kennedy.  I started it last fall, and have been alternately picking it up and setting it aside.  I’m a little surprised at how long it took given that I got the cutting done a while ago, but I guess I’ve had too many other sewing projects competing with it.  Ultimately, this play quilt got done before its recipient arrived (still waiting, if you hadn’t guessed), so it got done “in time.”

This was a relatively simple quilt to make.  The blocks were just strips of fabric, assembled together into blocks which are later sewn into the quilt top.  I learned to be a bit more careful in assembling my blocks–I had some upside down which required ripping (though not too much).  I’m not so thrilled with the fabric in the end.  It’s a little too “1970” for me all put together (though I did like the 1970 aspect when I ordered it) but on the other hand when have you not seen loud colors on kids’ things?  It’s not a quilt for our bed, after all.  I also got concerned about this fabric when I ironed it–the green used for the backing and the binding seemed to discolor under heat (and even under a press cloth–not that, in my opinion, you should even have to do that for quilting fabric!)  It seems to have returned to its intended color upon cooling (green rather than rust-green) but it was a bit disconcerting to watch as I ironed.

Just a few photos from the process…

Cut fabric

Assembled quilt top

Assembled quilt, binding strips cut

Finished quilt (iPhone photos here, unfortunately).

Amy Butler’s Nappy Bag: Progress Report

Before E was born, I decided to make the Amy Butler Nappy Bag.  This was going to be my third big sewing project (having taken a class at the Boston Center for Adult Education in the fall).  I picked out some Amy Butler fabrics at the Cambridge Quilt Shop  last January and figured I could get it done in the month and a half before E’s ETA.  The physics of cutting out the pattern pieces during my last month of pregnancy didn’t really work out, and because I am such a sewing novice the mental effort required to work on this bag also made it too daunting for me to think about.  After allowing it to languish for well, a year, I started working on it again over the long New Year’s weekend.

The pattern includes a diaper bag, a changing pad, and a changing pad case.  The first wrinkle was when I had assembled the changing pad and the instructions asked me to quilt the pad to finish it up, it turned out to be too thick for my machine.  I tried using a walking foot as well but no luck.  I don’t know if it’s just my machine (though it’s billed as being able to do quilting and upholstery, and I did do a quilt before on it), I even checked the web to see if other people had had this problem but it appears to just be me.  I think the terry cloth is just too thick.  I can always try this by hand but the real reason I’m annoyed is I’m not into expending that much effort on a changing pad which, you can imagine, is probably not going to stay all that nice for all that long.  I wish I had chosen flannel rather than terrycloth now, I think that would have worked out fine as far as thickness goes.  The pad has two layers of batting, maybe I could try taking one of them out as well, though if it’s the terrycloth that’s the problem I’d just be creating extra work for no reason.  I’ll have to mull this over.

So I put that aside and also worked on the changing pad case (it will be interesting to see if the pad actually fits in the case as mine is evidently super-thick).  I had a hard time attaching the circular base.  The idea is you notch the cylindrical part of the case to ease it over the circular base.  Or in my case you notch both the base and the tube by not reading the instructions carefully.  I didn’t get it to match up very well, but the second time worked well enough I decided.  I really pinned the heck out of it.  The seam allowance it decidedly not 1/2″ all the way around so hopefully it will hold up but really, if I get the bag itself to work out nicely I’m not going to be too upset about the diaper pad and carrying case not turning out quite as well.

For the second try I pinned this like crazy to get it (at least close to) right.

For the second try I pinned this like crazy to get it (at least close to) right. Note the notches on the base--oops.

Sewing on the circular base and crossing my fingers

Sewing on the circular base and crossing my fingers

Finally I started the bag itelf.  So far this is going well, though I would note that I did not have enough lining fabric for the interior pockets so be careful in your fabric layouts.  Luckily since I use the same fabric for the lining as for the changing pad case I had enough left over–but that was pure luck.  (Of course you could always use different fabrics for the pocket lining and it would turn out fine, but it was nice that I could just keep going without searching for more fabric).  So far I’ve only gotten the first few steps completed but the bag seems to be going OK.  When all the layers are put together I hope my machine is not overwhelmed, but only time will tell.

The interesting thing about this all is it feels very intense to me and my perception is that it’s taking a lot of time.  But really, I could, if all goes well, finish this in about a week, and have a huge bag, and a changing pad and case.  When could I ever do a knitting project that quickly?  I guess it’s all because I still have a bit of a learning curve with the sewing.   I think the sheer number of great fabrics out there is sufficiently motivating to help me overcome it.