My first-grader has been blessed with the most amazing teacher this year. She is one of the hardest-working, most loving people I know. Charged with teaching the Talent Development (formally identified "gifted" students) and top-achieving first graders who were grouped together for the first time this school year, Melissa has risen to the challenge of devising and delivering an enriched curriculum to these kids that made every school day challenging, fun, and thoroughly worthwhile. What's more, Melissa has had the patience of a saint in dealing with my son's ADHD difficulties in a creative, loving way that emphasized his gifts and acknowledged his special needs, yet still held him accountable. When your little boy goes off to school and spends more waking hours with his teacher than he does with his mother, it is such an enormous relief, such a gift, to know that his teacher makes him feel so loved and cherished in the classroom.
So naturally, as soon as I heard that this teacher was expecting her first child, I knew I wanted to make something special for her baby. At first I thought I'd buy a nice baby blanket and do a machine embroidered monogram, something like this one that I did for a favorite client's first grandbaby:
I realized after I got home with my fabric haul that I wasn't going to be able to keep this blanky quilt as small and Linus-style drag-around-the-house as I wanted if I tried to use all of the coordinates I bought, so I settled on the large illustration panel in the center, flanked by the wide border print of the caterpillar eating holes through all the food on each side. I felt like I needed something else between those two fabrics, though, and I was delighted to discover that the striped fabric leftover from Anders' and James's quilts would be a perfect transition between the two fabrics. I am also going to use the stripe for an outer border around all four sides of this quilt. I'm planning to finish the edges with multicolored 2" satin binding in Jewel, so the outer border will be sized with an extra 2" to be covered by the satin binding -- no ruffles for Gage!
I've found several projects for baby blankets online that advocate skipping the batting altogether when using Minky as a backing, but I don't think a pieced cotton quilt top would "marry well" with the slippery Minky backing. Yet quilting through the Minky dot fabric would ruin the Minky texture on the back of the quilt. I also want to do some machine-embroidered personalization on the quilt top, and batting might help the thin quilting fabrics to support embroidery stitches (hopefully with less bear-wrestling and swearing than was necessary to get James's quilt embroidered without a zillion puckers!). I like how the Petunia quilt felt more balanced with the batting, but I don't want to tie this quilt. I'm planning to use a thin quilt batting that can be quilted far apart because, not only do I lack sufficient time and talent to pull off dense machine quilting under the gun, but I also don't want the quilt to get too stiff. So I'm planning to use adhesive basting spray to affix my batting to the quilt top only, then secure the batting to the quilt top by stitching in the ditch along the border seams and -- are you ready for this -- if I can get up the courage, I'm going to use the BSR feature on my Bernina Artista machine to do some free-motion outline quilting around the caterpillar, the butterfly, and the leaf. With a little practice, some deep breathing exercises leftover from natural childbirth classes, and the power of positive thinking, I know I can do this!
Once I've got the quilt top/batting combo embroidered and lightly quilted, I'm going to sandwich it wrong-sides-together with my Minky backing and serge it around the edges on my other sewbaby. Except that I didn't know how this quilt was going to come together when I was fabric shopping, and I didn't buy enough of the orange Minky dot backing fabric for the size this blanky will finish. Of course not! Because, as my husband will tell anyone who will listen, every project that involves me has to be complicated! So, I'm going to cut the Minky backing up into squares and piece it together with Dalmatian spotted Minky fabric leftover from when my mother made a beanbag chair cover for this same teacher's story corner in her classroom (she's big into Dalmatians). So yet another fabric scrap from a previous project, suffused with warm fuzzy associations and special meaning, sneaks into the Hungry Caterpillar Quilt! I love it!
Okay, so when all of that is done, then the last step will be to pin the satin binding on with mitered corners and stitch that down on the regular sewing machine with a nice zigzag stitch. That is the plan! And I am going to finish it within the next week or two, even though I will be traveling for business most of next week! Join me with positive thoughts and pray that God will send me a couple of 36-hour days...
Froggy quilt to be my first BSR-assisted machine quilted project, but I spent SO many hours piecing those flying geese units (and ripping many of them apart to restitch them until every triangle point was perfect) that I couldn't bear to diminish my hard work with anything less than perfect machine quilting. And I was trying to finish that quilt quickly to meet a birthday deadline, so I didn't have time to do a lot of BSR practice, and hand quilting was out of the question. So the Froggy quilt was quilted along the block seam lines with my walking foot, and I used a design from one of the Keryn Emmerson embroidery design collections for Bernina (either Quilting Expressions or Quilting Inspirations) to get the look of flawless free-motion quilting on the large frog center squares with the ease of my sewing machine's embroidery module. I think this quilt could use more quilting on the flying geese as well as on the four square sections, so maybe after I finish the Hungry Caterpillar project I will go back to the Froggy Quilt and add more quilting in those areas. Just because the quilt has been on the bed for 3 1/2 years and in and out of the wash machine doesn't mean it's finished!
Back to the project at hand: Here's how that green batik looks pieced between the striped outer border strips. I love the way I got those slivers of red and green on either side of my green batik scrap, so I'm going to try to replicate that on all four borders. Pay no attention to the ugly water stain on my ironing board cover:
FW banding was applied, so I figured 3" plus two 1/4" seam allowances, forgetting that there wasn't going to be a seam allowance on the outside edge of the quilt. It is SO much better to accidentally cut borders too wide instead of too narrow, especially since I only have a tiny little strip of this fabric left to return to my scrap bin!
Well, I've spent the last couple of hours writing this post off-and-on between cleaning the house, baking cookies, and moving laundry along. I'm such a domestic diva today! Now that everyone in my family has an abundance of clean underwear once more, it looks like I can sneak up to my studio until dinner is ready and spend 30 minutes or so working on this project instead of just writing about it. Did I mention that my wonderful, amazing, handy, good-looking husband also cooks? I snagged a good one!