Thursday, September 8, 2016

Girl Quilts!

I have been waiting patiently for weeks to show these off to you!  Out of my plan to make 5 girl quilts, I have finished 3 in the last 2 1/2 months, and all three have gone to their new forever homes.  So I can finally brag about them and show off all the colourful details!
 I started this journey by making 4 boy quilts.  I started them in the fall of 2011, and I have since given 2 away.
 I'm keeping this black camouflage one for myself (don't worry, the borders are complete now!), and I still have one more to finish, whose recipient is yet to be determined.
 Ever since I started the boy quilts, I was dreaming of making girl quilts.  I knew I had scads of funky girly coloured fabric that would just be so totally awesome.  So, after acquiring a few more funky girly fat quarters to supplement my stash, I started making girl squares in Februrary 2015.  
 I kinda overshot my estimation of how many squares I would need, and I made exactly twice as many girl squares as I made boy squares.  160 vs. 80.  So, I exhausted myself by spending an entire quilting retreat weekend assembling said squares.  
 But, many months after the fact, I am happy to have that many squares to play with.  I have enough for 3 baby quilts, 1 lap size, and 1 twin size.  This is the first one I finished: the lap size.  I was saving this funky flowered border fabric for just the right person, and it looks awesome.  I found this while I was shopping for the girly fat quarters.  The border fabric and the matching sashing went together, and they were both on sale.  Score!
 The second one was a baby size, and I made it as funky as I could.  I love how the lime green striped sashing pops, and I love the railroaded effect I got from carefully placing the rainbows on this animal print flannelette.  
 And I was fascinated that the top edge of the bigger quilt was the same size as the side edge of the baby quilt (5 squares across).  And I love how different they look beside each other, even though the squares in the middle are pretty much the same.
 The lap size is quite big.  Its finished measurements are 59" x 77".  And I managed to make them a couple inches bigger by using 1" sashing.  By the way, these are all Yellow Brick Road quilts.
 Even the baby size is decent.  They are 50" x 59".
 And now I get to introduce you to the newest leg of my sewing journey!  Longarm Quilting!  Right around the time I was ready to finish these quilts, my local quilting store announced that a longarm quilting studio was moving in upstairs.  You take a certification class to learn how to use these amazing machines, then you rent time and finish your quilts!
 After I did my certification class, I decided to quilt the baby size first, as it's always  easier to practice on something small.  I used the basic meandering pantograph pattern that they recommend for your first quilt.  It's pretty cool.  You follow the pantograph at the back of the machine with a little red laser, and the machine follows the design and stitches onto your quilt.
 I was very comfortable with the fiddly details, like marking the edges of the quilt, measuring, balancing the design, etc.  I feel like my upholstery skills come in handy with this kind of stuff.  Not to mention that the machine itself is a big industrial sewing machine on casters.  No problem.
 I was, however, a little too ambitious on my first day, and I decided to quilt both of my quilts in the same session.  It took me 5 1/2 hours, and I was exhausted!  Running this machine is pretty physical, and I would have been wise to do one at a time.  But I had given myself a deadline, as I do, and I had to power through.
 It actually boosted my confidence when I showed myself that I am a professional seamstress, and the technical details that always come with things like this don't even phase me.  That's just part of the process.  
 For my second quilt, the lap size, I graduated immediately to a fancy design.  I chose leaves with swirls.  And I used wool batting on this quilt, because I want to try a few and then decide what my favourite batting is.  It was a bit more challenging than the cotton/poly 80/20 that I chose for the baby quilt. (The 80/20 has already become my favourite.  That was an easy decision!)  The wool was much thicker, which makes the quilting stand out more, but I had to make extra adjustments as I went along to compensate for the shrinkage.  See what I mean about technical details?  Upholstery plays a big part here, too, because it involves batting and quilting.
I am very pleased with how well the leaf pantograph turned out.  I was a little leery while I was trying to follow the lines with my little red laser.  I felt a little jerky sometimes, but the sewing machine is a bit smoother than it feels, and it turned out quite lovely.
After a couple hours of binding and attaching my label, it was done!  I used the same fabric as the border, so the binding essentially disappears on this quilt.  And as far as the wool batting goes, I would like to try one that I intend to keep for myself, so I can see how it wears with time.  It felt a little stiff and thick to me, but I imagine it will relax and get softer as time goes on.
The little one was a dream to quilt.  The 80/20 batting is popular, and I can see why.  I love it.  It's thinner, but still has some loft, and it's incredibly easy to work with.  I had no issues with it at all.
I actually bound this one and gave it away last, but I'm trying to follow some semblance of order here and not confuse you.  It sat folded in my sewing room until after I finished the third quilt, and I had so much success with the binding on that one, that I dove right in and finished this one the next day.  
 I love using up scraps for the backing.  I did buy some flannelette in the bargain centre at Fabricland right around the same time I bought all my batting for these quilts.  But after I made the backing for the lap size quit, I had strange sizes of leftovers, so I supplemented with strips of scrap flannel.  The teal green print is actually from this baby's mom's jammy pants that I gave her last Christmas.  I love being able to incorporate personal details like that.  Makes it special.  
 The simple meandering quilting pattern on this one is actually the most appropriate for these busy quilts.  They are so bright and crazy, that this design just complements them.  But, I also know that these are excellent canvases for me to practice on, so I like to try out the complicated designs so I can become a better quilter.  
 Here is girl quilt #3.  I got creative with my borders on this one.  I wanted to do it all in blue, but I didn't have enough.  After letting it sit and percolate for about a week, I came up with this simple idea of using both colours, each in an L shape.  It helps that they are a similar value in colour.  I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!
 Again, I am fascinated with how different they look!  One is very bold and dynamic, and the other is very soft and girly.  I love them all in their different ways.
I chose a very ambitious pantograph pattern for this one.  It's even more advanced than the leaf pattern I used for the lap quilt.  But, I knew one baby size quilt wouldn't take that long to quilt, even if I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  
 This quilt took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to quilt, and I estimated 2 hours, so it took a bit longer, but I was really happy with the design.
 The stitching is quite dense, so it takes a bit longer.  I really felt like I was pushing myself, and I loved the challenge.  I also challenge myself to be fast, to make the most of the time I'm paying for.  This is a strange concept for me, because I'm not a particularly fast sewer.  But it felt good to push harder and go faster.
 I also challenged myself with the binding.  I decided to cut my binding at 2 1/4" instead of 2 1/2", as the binding on the lap quilt was a bit big, and I wanted to cinch it in.  And then I remembered that my mom used to hand baste her binding.  Since I had to pin at least every 2", I thought I'd give it a try.  It took a bit longer, but the results are astonishing.  It is well worth the extra time.
 I had enough room to stitch in the ditch without running over my basting thread, and I loved how I could get those corners just right by hand stitching them nicely first.
 I love how it turned out.  And, as I mentioned above, I bound the other baby quilt right after this one, because I was so chuffed with how well the binding turned out.  
And I used up more scraps on the back of this quilt.  I love how you can make a big dent in your stash when you dig up stuff for backing, borders, and binding.  The watermelon binding was a stash buster, and I'm glad I found something that worked so well.  I tried out probably 5 different colours, and had to let it sit for a while before I finally thought to dig through a few more fabrics and found the watermelons.

And here you can see the quilting pattern.  It's really pretty.  It's almost too much for this little quilt, but nobody is going to notice the artistic value of this but me, and I love being able to practice on these little quilts.  
I have learned so much in making these 3 quilts, and I am so proud of myself!  I feel like I stretched quite a bit making these, and I have gained a lot of confidence in myself.
The icing on the cake is the love I feel when I get to give gifts as precious as these.  I actually prefer making gifts for people instead of doing paying sewing jobs.  The feeling is incomparable.  Gift sewing is full of love and generosity, and paying sewing is quite a chore, at least for me.  This is the best way to fulfill that feeling!

Thanks for reading!

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