I’ve enjoyed quilting as a creative outlet for nearly three decades. My mom’s mom was a quilter and a crafter. I was always inspired by her creativity and industriousness. Grandma Ruth and I spent a lot of time together in my youth, which motivated me to try different handicrafts.
I remember as a young wife and mother in my early 20s, I wanted to try quilting so I bought some fabric and made a bunch of little 12-14″ quilts. I took a (literal) stab at hand-quilting them—without much success. The fronts looked okay, but the backs were a mess. Grandma Ruth gave me some pointers on hand quilting, showing me how to rock the needle back and forth using a thimble to push several stitches through at a time.
I realized too late that I should have sought her advice before I quilted them all on my own. (This was about 10 years before Google was available to the public. How much easier it is today when a quick internet search brings up dozens of helpful websites and videos!) But Grandma Ruth came to my rescue, and I’m thankful for her helpful advice.
Fast forward to 2020. I retired from my work with the statewide homeschool organization this spring, and I’m thrilled to finally have time for creative endeavors like quilting.
Inspiration for my first quilt of the year
Now that I have some time and space to create, I’m ready to jump back into quilt-making. Inspiration for my first quilt struck a week and a half ago.
My dear friend Heather recently had a baby, and I learned she was going to be in town for a few days. Ahh! What a fun opportunity to get in some craft therapy and bless my friend and her new baby girl, too!
Day 1: Shopping for fabric
On Thursday, I went to Hobby Lobby to browse the fabric selection. I found this gorgeous floral print in coral pinks along with pink polka dot fabric, which seemed destined to be paired with it. I carried those two bolts around the entire fabric section looking for a couple more selections to include, but nothing else seemed to fit. So, off I went to JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts. (Two fabric stores in one day? Yes, please!)
I found the light peach and white-on-white fabric at JoAnn’s, selected two spools of a blush-colored thread for the quilting, made my purchases, and headed home. I washed all of the fabric that evening so I could get started in the morning.
Day 2: Getting started on the quilt
The first step Friday morning was to press all of the freshly laundered material. I was able to catch a few episodes of ER as I worked the wrinkles out. I then moved the ironing board and fabric to my sewing area in our loft.
When my daughters were young, I met several women at our church in Minnesota. While serving together in the children’s ministry, we connected as homeschool moms, discovered we shared a love of quilting, and quickly became friends. I have many happy memories of time spent with these sweet ladies—quilting, chatting about a variety of topics, encouraging one another, and sharing recipes and homeschool ideas. I learned a lot from each of them about life, motherhood, marriage, faith, and quilting, too!
Chain piecing: a quilting timesaver
Years ago, my friend Buzzy taught me chain piecing, an efficient assembly-line method of sewing pieces and blocks together. Rather than sewing two pieces together, snipping the threads, going to the ironing board, and pressing them open one at a time, chain piecing is a real timesaver! It reduces thread waste, too.
I cut the fabric pieces and strips using my rotary cutter and mat, lined up groups of pieces next to my sewing machine, and started feeding them through one after another. I continued chain piecing until all of the rows were complete. Then, I sewed the rows together and add a border to create the finished quilt top.
It was fun to discover that so many of the great tips and shortcuts I’d learned so long ago came right back to me as I worked on this baby quilt—just like riding a bike! Sweet memories also came to mind as I worked. I’m so thankful for the precious friendships I enjoyed with that group of quilting, homeschool mamas nearly three decades ago.
Day 3: Machine quilting
Saturday morning, I gave the quilt top and the backing a quick press and moved on to making the “quilt sandwich.” This baby quilt ended up being 40″x50″ and fit perfectly on my work tables.
With the backing fabric face down, then batting, and the quilt top face up, I pinned the three layers together with safety pins about 4″ apart. I checked the back to make sure there weren’t any puckers or distortions. Then it was time to for machine quilting.
I have a faithful little Singer sewing machine I’ve used since my early days of quilting. I was really happy with how well it performed in spite of not being used for a few years. The tension held nicely and I didn’t have any issues at all.
A love of quilting shared with previous generations
In addition to sharing a love of quilts with my Grandma Ruth, my mom and I spent lots of time quilting together after she came to live with us in 2006. Oh how she and I loved fabric shopping together! I sure miss both of these dear women and all the fun we had.
When it comes to free-motion machine quilting, I have become pretty good at one pattern: stippling —which my mom and I affectionately referred to as amoebas. While listening to worship music, I spent the next several hours quilting a curvy path across the entire quilt. The rhythmic hum of the sewing machine is incredibly relaxing and provides the perfect opportunity to reflect and to pray, too.
Binding the quilt
After taking a quick dinner break, I cut strips of the floral fabric and sewed them together to create one long piece of binding to finish the edge of the quilt. I folded and pressed the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Using my sewing machine, I attached the binding to the front of the quilt, raw edges together.
The final step was to flip the folded edge of the binding to the back of the quilt and hand stitch it in place. For that handwork, I took the quilt, needle, and thread, and moved to a comfy chair and watched a movie while finishing the binding by hand.
A final wash and dry
Since I use cottons, I always pre-wash my fabric before cutting or sewing. This removes any sizing and takes care of any shrinkage that might occur.
If it’s a quilt that will be used as a blanket, I also wash the finished quilt. I use a dye-free, scent-free detergent and give it a quick machine wash and tumble in the dryer to make sure it looks just as good after it’s washed and dried.
The finished quilt
I’m so happy with how this quilt turned out. And it was a joy to deliver it to my friend and get to meet her sweet baby girl. Now to decide what my next project will be … so many possibilities!