When I decided to dig in, put my fears and insecurities about sewing aside and embrace my heritage (my mom’s amazing ability to sew), quilting became a way for me to connect with others.
Most of my projects (now that I’ve a bit more experience) find their way to someone’s home as an opportunity to celebrate, honor or simply bring joy to someone. My baby quilt celebrated a new baby boy for my friend and her husband, and my Dresden plate table runner is off to honor my dear friend and mentor on her 80th birthday. I did keep the hexie table runner for myself as it’s important to always bring a little sunshine and accomplishment into my own life as well.
So, this month, I’ve been thinking about all these students who’ll graduate and move forward into the next phase of their life journey in a very different way. There will be on-line graduation ceremonies and drive-by parties but there won’t be the gatherings that are so typical.
As a school principal, I was always in the center of all the planning and wrote many speeches to celebrate, encourage and inspire graduates. It was exciting to write speeches and talk about the importance of hard work, knowing yourself and seeking out mentorship. Quilting patchwork zipper pouches seemed like a fun way to honor two graduates – one from Grade 8 who’s a bright and thoughtful young lady whose creativity is evident in her beautiful art work – the other – a young woman leaving Grade 12 with a wanderlust for travel and understanding other cultures. I decided that a zipper pouch (with possibly some cash or a gift card) and some inspiring words was just the ticket.
The start of any project is always the fabric. For this project I’m using a Quilting Life Pretty Patchwork Bag Tutorial.
I chose several random fabrics from my scraps to make colorful patches. I decided to alternate plain with printed so that dictated some of the fabrics. I also chose fabric for the lining, batting to put in between and zippers. This project is a real stashbuster! Perfect as the fabric stores are starting to open up – out with the old and in with the new.
I started cutting – as many 2½” squares as I could manage out of my stash pieces. I decided to make my bag 6 squares by 4 squares so I require 48 squares per bag.
I laid them out…trying to be random about colors (not really my thing) but I’ve learned matchy-matchy is not always the best way to make patchwork.
I started sewing the rows of plain/pattern squares together – ¼” seams…pressing open until I had a row of 6. This happens four times and then I sewed them together to make one side of the bag. OK – this is where the fun begins and I start getting too fussy. This is homemade so if the corners aren’t exactly perfect – that’s part of being homemade. I could go buy them something but that is not the point. It’s love, encouragement and inspiration all sewn together into a zipper pouch. It’s a connection – they know I’m someone who is in their corner – a mentor – if they ever need me, I’m there for them. The end result is two sides of a patchwork zipper bag – ready to actually become a pouch.
The following video shows the squares of the pouch being sewn together into rows of six. The rows are then sewn together. When all the rows are together, you see the zipper added. The two sides of the pouch are sewn together (liner outside) – starting with the bottom, then the sides and then the square corners.
Now that I have two sides, I need to get the zipper ready. I’ve learned to add zipper tabs to the ends of my zippers. I learned this at first, from my quilting mentors, because the zippers were too long and so it allowed me to cut them but after awhile I just do it because it looks nicer.
I’ve now cut the batting and the lining for the pouch and once the zipper is sewn on, it will be time to quilt.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to say to encourage these young graduates. I’ve thought about the grace and humility of being vulnerable and putting yourself out there to learn and try something new. There will be disappointment, heartbreak even…but that only comes when we feel something deeply and sometimes disappointment leads us to find our purpose. Courage isn’t letting the fact I can’t do everything keep me from doing something. That’s a lot of insight sewn into a little zipper pouch. Life has taught me that embracing the now…what I can do and building on that is extremely satisfying and my projects just get better and better. From my first zipper pouches, I learned how to cut out the corners to make the bottoms square…this is a definite improvement… making them so much more versatile. Keep reading, researching and learning!!
I machine quilted the pouches with a X on each plain square. I’ve learned continual sewing makes the best machine quilting and so, diagonal lines from corner to corner created my design. How did I learn that? You got it – from mentors. I think the one thing I have done in my life that has solidified my attitude toward mentors is quilting. I only hope I can pass the spirit of mentoring along to these young friends as hope sewn into a magical (or not so magical) zipper pouch.
After the final quilted seam, you must open the zipper before you sew them together to make the pouch. Turn the pouch right sides together (zipper open – VERY IMPORTANT) and sew the bottom closed, then the sides (close enough to catch the end of the zipper). Finally, fold the squared corners together to make your pouch stand up. Trim all your seams and corners and turn everything out. You should have a beautiful patchwork zipper pouch perfect for celebrating long-distance, social-isolation graduation. Life is both brutal and beautiful, find a way to celebrate every day. Seek to add joy to someone else’s story.
This brings me to my next project – another baby quilt. In fact, right now there are 4 new babies either coming soon or just arrived into our circle so I’m trying a new style of quilt (4 ways). For me, quilting as a hobby was meant to be, it allows me to create and give. It’s so important to be who you were meant to be and remember as Maya Angelou said (and I paraphrase) – “Love is the only thing in this world that has been known to solve any problems. Choose love.”