Monday, 9 January 2017

Quilts for Growing Children

I've called this 'Quilts for growing children'. When the babies were all in cribs and small cots, I made each of them a quilt. You can see them here and here. Now, as two out of three had graduated to toddler beds, they needed bigger sizes, and the next one will soon graduate as well.  Fleur loved her first quilt, which helped her transition from cot to bed. It was made with 10 by 7  quilting squares of 4", with a wide border, so allowing for seams, its total measurements were probably c 42"  by 31 1/2". For Christmas, the plan was for her to have a new quilt. An obvious way to increase the size of the quilts is to use 6" (15cm) squares rather than the 4" (10cm) ones I used before.  I didn't find ready-cut quilting packs that I liked though, so it was down to buying fabric and cutting my own. Here's the end result.

Although all our grandchildren to date are girls, both they and their parents are less than keen on the girly pink floral style, especially now they are now longer babies. Most of the ready cut quilt pieces I found come in pink florals or possibly blue - but often the blues are floral as well. So I started searching for more 'unisex' fabrics - which I realised I would have to cut.

Read more about making quilts for children after the jump.

First, the choice of fabrics. Here's a collection of what I consider to be gender neutral designs.

 And another set which I'd call the 'brights' collection.

(The odd flower, I'll grant you, but I don't mind flowers per se in moderation.)

Thus, it's clearly possible to get fabrics that will do for boys, and for girls who are not into 'princessy' mode. Why, then, don't the 'ready-cut' quilting squares suppliers use some of these more interesting fabrics? Why only pinks and blues? And why only florals? I searched for animals, abstracts, balls, balloons, birds, cars, trains, planes, sweets (candies), bears, spots, stripes, nautical designs, geometeric patterns, space, alphabets, dinosaurs, farmyard scenes - almost anything that wasn't for a pink frilly princess. (One of my grand-daughters was gifted a pink, frilly, lacy dress, with bows, and a message ' I'm a little princess' on the front. My daughter simply could not bring herself to use it. Any one of these might have been okay on its own  - except the message - but all together, it was just too much.)

I started with an idea of using a completely different colour shceme. In fact the colour scheme, which I love, takes as a starting point the two fabrics I had used for Jane's dungarees when she was little. (Though the next quilt was to be for Fleur.)

Aren't these gorgeous? (And isn't she?)

So my fabric search had me collecting turquoises, yellows, oranges, greens, and violet-y blues, avoiding 'girly' patterns as far as possible. Because I'd planned originally to make a quilt 11 squares by 9 squares (i.e. 99 squares), with the idea that I would have no more than 5 squares of one design, I needed 20 different fabrics. They are nearly all here, the missing one being the stripey one of the dungarees, above. I also eventually replaced the bright orange used in the dungaree facings, and in the photo below, with a softer apricot.

Next, I needed to cut out (lots of) squares. Ideally, you'd do this by means of a cutting wheel, but I've never managed to master this ( maybe because I'm left-handed, but more likely, because I'm incompetent). So I was very glad of my new, extra sharp, left-handed scissors. These not only had the handles made comfortable for a lefty, but also had the blades reversed - I've found this makes so much difference.

However you do the cutting, it's very important to mark carefully. Sometimes these cheap quilting fabrics are not square, or are fabrics that shift their squareness as you work with them. I used my metre long ruler, and a square, and another ruler, and marked with fabric marking pencil. (It washes off easily.)


Here you can see some of the pencil markings.

Once I'd marked up squares on each fabric, I cut them all out, and stacked them in colours and patterns.

I then did a first layout, trying to ensure a good mix throughout - of colours and patterns. My original plan was 11 6" squares by 9.

I was pretty happy with this layout, and proceeded to make up the quilt. (You can find out a lot more about the process of making quilts here.) I should say here that I don't have a fancy machine, mine is a very ordinary basic machine.

First I sewed the squares in rows. These are chained together by sewing along a whole row of pairs without taking them off the sewing machine.

Next, I joined the columns. As you can see, I did this in pieces, making it a bit easier to manipulate on the machine.

One important thing is to keep checking everything is square. In the picture below, the top three columns are pinned to each other, and are shown wrong side up, on top of another set of columns. I'm just in the process of pinning the right hand seam in the picture, but you can also see that I've matched the horizontal ines carefully as well.

Once the rows and columns were joined, I clipped the 'chaining' that results from sewing the rows of pairs continuously.....
.... so that I could press all the seams flat.
I then made a wide border of some pale green fabric (yes, I'm afraid it does have tiny 
flowers, but they ARE very tiny - and it's not pink!!) and then layered the quilted face with batting and a lining of more of the green fabric. Here it is layered ready to sew. I put a pin in each square, and several round the border layer, and start sewing from the middle.

I then rounded the corners. I like the look of this, but it also makes it easier to sew the bias binding round neatly.

Bias binding pinned on the top layer ready to sew. After pressing, I then turn the double fold bias binding back in half and 'stitch in the ditch'. (You have to be quite careful with pressing, as the batting can eaily melt under a hot iron.)

Finally, I put Fleur's initial on it. (Well, obviously, the name she is known by isn't Fleur.)

And here's the splendid result. 

But wait - there's a problem.  I had completely over-estimated the size it would need to be. I used 6" squares AND increased the number of squares to make the quilt 11 squares by 9. When we looked at it, it was almost double the size it needed to be. Luckily, this wasn't a complete disaster. Fleur was to have her quilt for Christmas - but her younger sister's birthday was soon afterwards.

So I remade it as two quilts. I more or less chopped it down the middle with a stitch ripper, so I had two quilted pieces, one 6 squares by 9, and the other 5 squares by nine. I then added another row of 9 squares to the smaller one, and added extra borders where I had separated the two quilted pieces. 

Although it was a bit fiddly to remake one quilt into two in this way, (lots of unpicking needed), adding the two new borders could be done quite neatly. The only bit that required an extra slightly odd seam was the back, where I'd also had to add extra material. For the most part, I managed to conceal the seam in the quilting lines. These two quilts, each 6 squares by 9 squares, ended up at about 56" by 40" with the addition of the border. So not only Fleur, but her younger sister Rose, both got new quilts, almost identical except for the appliqued initial letters. Hoorah!

So that got us through January, and then the third grand-daughter, Jane, has her birthday in February. I was thinking in terms of a similar unisex colour scheme for the second granddaughter.  However, in the meantime, her parents had just moved into a new flat, and Jane acquired new second-hand curtains. Unfortunately that colour scheme wasn't going to work. The curtains were definitely a bit more towards pastels (including some pinks). I did use a lot of the same fabrics but took out the bright oranges and bright greens, and replaced them with more pinks  and turquoises (oh dear - but at least it's not all pink, and it's not all floral!)
As you can see, I started this one also with an 11 x 9 layout, until I realised that was too big.


So this one was also reduced to 9 x 6 squares - the rest will wait for another project.

And finally, she had her initial on, too.

Since I made these, we're soon going to need even larger quilts. But I think we may have to move towards quilted duvet covers. I'm so glad the girls love their quilts! 

My earlier posts on quilts give a lot more information about making quilts and finishing them, so if you want to know more, do look at them.

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