Have you ever had that crafty goal that you really wanted to accomplish, but just kept putting off? Well that was me and quilting. I had always wanted to make a quilt, but with my working full time and being a mom something always got in the way. However, during the government furlough of 2013 I unexpectedly had some free time so I decided to finally start working on the quilt I wanted to make for my daughter.
I had the idea for awhile to make her a quilt with characters from the television shows I grew up loving. I had already introduced the old shows to her and she LOVED them. I think she watched Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer on repeat for a couple months when I first showed it to her. The characters I wanted on her quilt were Rainbow Brite, My Little Ponies, Care Bears, and Strawberry Shortcake. I started searching everywhere for material that would have the characters I wanted. (I wanted the older 80s and 90s characters, not the new ones from the revamped shows.) Well that feat turned harder than I expected. So I started thinking of alternative things that I could make quilting scraps from, such as old bed sheets and t-shirts. Once I broadened what I was looking for I had a LOT more success. I ended up finding a little older fabric through sellers on Etsy.com and sheet sets through eBay.com. It was lucky I had the whim to make the quilt months before I actually started, so there was plenty of time for it to ship and arrive on Okinawa. (Things can take a LONG time to get here.)
For the quilt I decided to theme each block with a different series. There were the Rainbow Brite blocks (for the fabric I found T-shirts at Wal-Mart.com and bed sheets on eBay), Care Bear blocks (this was the easiest fabric to find – I even had a friend back stateside send me some she found in a surprise care package), Strawberry Shortcake blocks (this is the older fabric I found in a shop on Etsy), and finally My Little Pony blocks (it was difficult to locate the older ponies – I ended up using one fabric I found and bed sheets I ordered on eBay). I started by making each block about 12 x 12 inches since I was planning to make a twin size quilt that would last for awhile. The quilt size measurements I used were roughly 39 x 80 inches.
Once each of the blocks were done I laid them all out to determine where I wanted each block on the quilt.
Then I started combining the blocks with a dark purple material. Since I have a sewing machine that can also embroider I decided I wanted to personalize the quilt with my daughter’s Name and a quote. I ended up adding “Made with love for Tegan. Never Stop Dreaming.”
Combining all the sections took me awhile, but once I had the whole front together I was ready to start the back.
For the back I opted to go with a giraffe pattern, because my daughter loves giraffes and I wanted this to be HER quilt. I even took her with me to a local Japanese fabric store called “House of 66” to pick out the fabric and to purchase the quilt batting. The back material was a little more durable and heavy duty than normal quilting material, but I liked that idea since it would be used, hopefully, for years to come and it was going to be used in a 3 year olds bedroom to start. Buying the fabric and batting locally here on Okinawa ran me a little over $100 for enough of both to make a twin size, but I decided that it was worth the cost since I had the time and motivation now to do it and I didn’t want to have to wait weeks if not months if I ordered some online.
After getting my material and batting home, I cut and combined the back to match the size of the front with a 2-3 inch extra backing material around the edges. According to several of the quilting videos I saw and how to guides I read, this would be needed for the batting and to wrap around to the front.
I then started layering and pinning the material. I laid out the back with the non-pattern side up, then the layer of batting cut to match the size of the top, then the top. I pinned all three layers together with very large safety pins. (This was a tip I saw on one of the video tutorials and I think it was GENIOUS – no worrying about poking myself while moving the material around.) Once all the material was together I was ready to start quilting.
I opted for the free-hand machine quilting method, which had me lowering the material catcher (sorry I don’t know the official term – but it is was grabs and moves the material while you are sewing with a machine), putting on the quilting foot, and start moving. The free-hand method does not require exact measurements or crisscross patterns, but instead lets you just move the material around in whatever direction you want to sew the pieces together. Now using this method did take awhile, because you are basically covering the entire quilt with patterns. It took me almost 2 full days (8-9 hours each day) of sitting at the machine to quilt my daughter’s twin size quilt.
When it came to the machine quilting and getting to the middle part I followed the “bunch and squish” method recommended by one of the videos I watched on YouTube and it worked great for me. To do it you just bunch and squish the material up into the machine to be able to reach the harder middle sections. I will say that making the twin size quilt was pushing the limits of my Brother Sewing machine. I don’t have a fancy quilting machine with the extended arm to allow for larger quilts, but since this is not something I plan to do all the time, I think I will stick to twin size quilts and using my machine. Something else to keep in mind if you opt for the free-hand quilting is to have a LOT of extra thread. I went threw 6 spools of white thread for this quilt.
After I finished quilting the whole top, I then grabbed the backing that hung over the edges and pinned them down as a type of framing for the front and sewed them down. It took me almost the entire shutdown to make this quilt from start to finish (I only worked on it during the day while my daughter was at daycare), but I was and am so happy with the results. My daughter LOVES it, and she has it on her bed as I type this.
I know this is something that she will be able to have forever and it helped me finally realize that quilting is not as scary or difficult as I once thought it was. Yes, it is time consuming, but I have recently started working on a quilt for myself. (I will leave that theme as a surprise for another blog once I finish it.)