Back to babies and my quilting life

I started my quilting journey with a baby quilt and so, when my husband mentioned that three of his colleagues were having babies in the next few months, I thought it was the perfect time to  ‘return to my roots’. I love the idea of celebrating the special moments in the lives of those around me as I did with my first baby quilt, my patchwork zipper pouches and my Dresden plate table runner. With social-distance quilting being a thing, I’m inspired to try new projects, together – and apart – with my group. I’m currently researching my next very big project – a heritage quilt for our bed – and I look forward to sharing that journey through blogging in the future. But, for now, I’ll practice some machine quilting with some baby quilts.

Four babies, four quilts

Everything hinges on finding a pattern that works and fabric that’s fun. I luckily found both – mostly from my stash – a little bit of shopping for some turtle and polka dot fabric but, I found enough fabric to put together four different baby quilts.

Fabric for four baby quilts

I came across a simple baby quilt pattern in my newly created binder of quilting patterns (no link, just a random paper??). I created the binder because my mentor has one and she encouraged me to organize and keep track of my projects this way. I now have a binder for knitting patterns and quilting patterns. They are in plastic sleeves and always ready to be pondered, shared, and created into something amazing.

I decided to cut the fabric for all 4 quilts before sewing. This was done partially at our first social-distancing quilting adventure…showing our projects from afar but, at least being together where we could work on projects again while sharing our ideas. Bring your own coffee, share your favorite stories, and solve problems. So much of all this re-entering has been about really knowing and trusting the people you spend time with. My quilting mentors are trusted friends…we share our lives…sewing together does that for you.

Measure and cut

Ready to sew

I have been celebrating my own learning lately. Just over a year ago, I would have never thought that I could tackle 4 baby quilts without being mentored through every step. Now, here I go…with the voices of my mentors echoing, giving me confidence. Is the purpose of mentoring not seeing the mentee become confident and independent – always knowing that strength and advice is just around the corner?? If so, then I have been blessed with two very incredible quilting mentors. When I was struggling with attaching the sashing in between the blocks, a little advice and coaching was there for me. So, on I sew, building beautiful quilts for babies.

I sew the 2 small blocks together, add the medium block and then sew on the large block – this makes one complete block. I create 6 of these. In order to make the columns of the quilt (three in total), I sew two blocks together to make a row – add the strips in between (which are three strips sewn together) and, in the end, I have 3 rows of 2 blocks each with strips in between.

Quilt blocks sewn together

Quilt blocks create a stunning quilt

Part of the reason that I love mentors is because of the accountability factor. I always know that they’re waiting each week to see what I have accomplished. Quilting is a happy, hopeful and optimistic hobby. You set goals, try new things, you trust your instincts (and this happens more and more) …and it fits perfectly into my personal vision. I get up every morning with the goal of making everyday life better for people in my circle and beyond.

Quilting allows you to do something simple, keep learning and enjoy spending time with friends and mentors who are expectation free. On top of that, you get to find peace, challenge yourself and create beauty while caring about the people in your life and making a difference. That’s my truth about quilting – both self-care and giving to others through fabric, batting and stitches.

A rainy day provided the perfect opportunity to put together all the quilts…backing, batting, fronts and pins. I always spend time squaring my quilts before I put the backing on, and it’s always worth it. It felt like a lot of pins but, they’re all ready to be stitched-in-the-ditch.

Quilt pinned to backing and squared

I took pictures of the bunnies, elephants, turtles and giraffes to make into patterns to be traced onto the big squares for quilting. The beauty of handmade gifts – working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress, working hard for something you love is called passion.  When I retired from teaching, I was still very passionate about my students, I always wondered whether I would ever find anything that I cared as much about, outside of my family and friends. Quilting has brought me this passion for making something beautiful and unique and using it to connect with people that I care about.

Turtle pattern for machine quilting

Stitch-in-the-ditch is complete – I was reflecting to my first baby quilt and my first experience with stitch-in-the-ditch. I can’t believe how I moved forward in my confidence. I truly believe this is because I have listened to my mentors and kept myself motivated to keep trying and working on my skills. If you had told me two years ago, that I would love quilting, I would have literally said, “You are crazy! I’m not able to do that!” …and yet, here I am… loving it and part of a group that supports and encourages each other in many ways that are beyond the quilt.

My thoughts were to hand-stitch on the largest blocks. A baby elephant on two quilts, a rabbit in the blocks of another, and turtles to finish the final one. I started hand stitching and realized it was terrible. So, I did an experiment with the bunny – I used the walking foot and machine quilted a beautiful bunny. Problem solved – again, mentorship matters because, without my mentors, I would not have had the confidence to solve this little issue…I don’t even know if I would have realized how bad the hand stitching was and how it did not suit this project at all.   One of my mentors recently ripped out an entire quilt – the sashing wasn’t appropriate – it became the untidy focal point of the quilt. Quilting is both fulfilling and humbling – humility comes from the inside out. Humility is when your friends gather round and support you because you’re doing the thing that is right for you. Life can be hard and friends need to be safe and honest places for each other.

Animal machine quilting

All the machine quilting is complete. I’m working on adding the borders. I tried the two styles of borders that I know. The first is making and adding it from scratch and the second is to extend the backing 2” all the way around and then fold it in half twice and then fold it over and blind stitch it.  I prefer the “extra backing” method but, this time, I did not have enough backing to do that for all the quilts so, I had to make some binding.

Blind stitching borders

I’m amazed I completed four quilts in four weeks. Summer isn’t a heavy-duty quilting time and had it not been for Covid, we would have gone on a proposed trip to Scotland but, life is always about making the best of things so, here I am, making some little babies happy and some moms and dads, too.

Four awesome quilts

My quilting journey continues and I’m so thankful I joined Margaret and Heather, my quilting mentors, because, without them, I would not have completed my first baby quilt, which has led to these four beautiful baby quilts. My next project is a back to school bag for my friend (mom of Mason of the Fat Quarter Baby Quilt). She returns to school after her maternity leave. It’s not easy and I want to do something for her to ease her transition, other than offering to babysit, cook meals and anything else that might help.

I celebrated the 80th birthday of my friend, Helen on July 17th. We had a social distancing party (with 59 candles on the cake – which is where she stopped counting). Her words to me, after she read my blog post about her and the Dresden plate table runner, that she did not realize that I felt this way about her …my dear friend, it took a journey into quilting to allow me to express the feelings that I should have shared a long time ago. Life is short – write that note you have been meaning to write, make that phone call, and maybe even quilt that table runner.

My Dresden plate table runner finds a home with my dear friend, Helen.

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