Shelby Had a Little Blanket
June 3, 2008
I am in a whirl of Fifth Grade Graduation preps (such festivities–you’d think they were getting their MD/PhD joint degrees, or maybe the Nobel Prize) combined with non-knitting fiber arts. After a long forced absence from the sweet hunk of plastic known as my sewing machine, I have finally made good on a do-over of the binding of baby Shelby’s baby quilt.
This was my first quilt. It is a diary of my progress as a beginning handquilter. The center is quilted in large folk-art sized stitches, but by the time I got to the green top and bottom borders, I was quilting like a native of Lancaster County (well, a bit slower). I was also deciding that handquilting, while enjoyable, would eat up all my knitting time. Now that I have found an excellent machine-quilter for my tops, handquilting is a rare thing for me.
When I made the quilt, I wanted to finish it but didn’t really understand the differences between the various modes of binding a quilt. I read about an old-fashioned method where you make the backing a bit larger than the quilt top, turn it up, fold it over, and sew it down. By machine. I hunkered down and did it, and it seemed good enough at the time. It was Just Fine.
Later, I learned that People Who Know These Things are big believers in the hand-sewn binding. I tried it on my next quilt, and got such a beautiful finish (plus many enjoyable hours of blindstitching–I heart blindstitching!) that I vowed never to sew down a binding by machine again.
Shelby’s little quilt, with its second-rate binding, started to haunt me. I asked for a do-over so that I could do a double-fold binding and sew it down by hand.
I used my rotary cutter to cut off the old binding. As I did this, it occurred to me that now the quilt was smaller, and that if it ever needed a new binding (because of all the LOVE it is getting), it would get smaller still.
Which reminded me of this favorite from our collection of Books About People, Animals or Objects Named Joseph. If you have a toddler who enjoys a good interactive read about fiber arts, this is a great choice. Joseph’s overcoat keeps getting smaller–but I don’t want to spoil it for you. There are die-cut holes in the pages to stick fingers into. Great fun.
Searching out Joseph Had a Little Overcoat sent me to the Fiber Arts section of our picture book library, and to The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. I re-read it for the umpteenth time, got weepy on the same page for the umpteenth time, admired the appliqued animals on the quilt for the umpteenth time. Then I thought about how I would never make such a quilt, since I am a piecer, not an applique-er. I like a good, solid geometric shape, preferably involving lots of small strips sewn together. I put the book away.
Over the weekend I was looking for inspiration for a quilt I need to make for somebody’s 21st birthday. I wanted to make a Chinese Coins type of quilt–long, straight columns of strips. I couldn’t find the right one. I went through all my old Rowan patchwork books. In Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Road, I stopped when I saw this:
And now I’m going to be away for awhile. I’m blindstitching shapes onto a little quilt. It’s a different quilt for a different person, who is not even close to a 21st birthday. (One thing I’ve learned: I can only make the quilt I want to make, right now.) I cannot overstate how worried I am that I am going to create something cute, Hallmarky, twee. Janet Bolton is not twee, but then she’s Janet Bolton. The applique-ing of shapes of birds and flowers poses a grave risk of cuteness that you basically have to be Janet Bolton to avoid. Yet I can’t help trying. Perhaps Janet herself started out all cutesy-wootsy, and evolved to her elegant, spare style. Maybe at first she couldn’t resist print fabrics and bright colors, either. Maybe cuteness is just a phase I have to work through, or maybe cuteness will always be with me.
(In case you think I was kidding about the cute.)
(I’m totally not kidding. Blowing all cute circuits. Mary Engelbreit is going to sue me for cute infringement.)
See you later. I’m blindstitching.
PS The only knitting I’m doing is not knitting, either: I’m sewing the squares together for the second Oliver blanket. Halfway there. If I can keep away from the quilt.