Thursday, 4 July 2013

Wool baby blanket

For this post I'm not going to show you a 'finished' picture till the end because this quilt was a pig of a quilt to make and you all have to see my pain before I show you the end result! So here's this quilt's journey from start to finish...

I wanted to make a present for a baby boy due in a few weeks and after being so careful with my piecing for yesterday's quilt, sticking to a very simple but rigid pattern,  I really wanted to make something much more free and easy. I decided I'd go with wool again and got together a lovely selection of blues and greens.

It's all recycled wool - mainly blankets and jumpers but the green and blue 'blend' that you might just be able to make out in the middle (hopefully it might be clearer in later pictures) was a really bizarre skirt that I picked up at a recycling centre, I should have taken a photo of it but I found it way before I thought about writing a blog. It was quite long and straight but really thick wool, more like the kind of thing a big, bulky sweater might be made of, and you couldn't have imagined anyone wanting to wear it - so it just goes to show that even the most unwearable clothes can be cut up and given a whole new lease of life.

I'd seen a beautiful quilt on Boo Dilly's blog that I thought I'd use as my inspiration - She has a huge number of incredible and really individual quilts so have a good browse, I love her work. I've also long admired the 'Kantha' style stiching that she had used and have wanted to do something with this kind of feel to it.
(There are a couple of examples on my Pinterest here,

So, this seemed like the perfect time to try.

It sort of started OK, I pieced the top, in a very fast and free way as my antidote to the Chemo quilt! I loved the colours still but was a bit worried that my fast and freeness had given me a quilt that didn't have crisp enough lines.  But I thought I'd perservere, backing it with a lovely, bright green flannel (stretching the wool here and there as I did to try and improve the lines!) and then I started some hand stitching in red wool, kantha style, and, boy, was that slow going, but again I perservered and, after quite a few hours work, I got to this point:

And I really didn't like it! It was just too curvy when it shouldn't have been curvy, crisp wonkyness might have been OK here but I just felt that this wasn't and that I couldn't give it as a present. I was on the point of starting something completely different from scratch, but the more I looked at it the more I wondered what on earth I'd do with what I'd made so far - I couldn't see me using it myself, I couldn't give it as a present to anyone and I certainly couldn't try and sell it. Yet I still loved the colours, I'd put hours of work into it and I didn't want to waste it.
So, I decided I'd try to recycle my own work - and I sliced into it! The first cut was a bit scary but then I got into it and quite enjoyed slicing it up into pieces! This is what it looked like at that point:

Aaaghhh! The worst thing was that I'd now lost my backing fabric too.
And then I began putting it back together again ...

...No more straight lines down, much more higgledy piggledy. And I'd made sure my slicing and piecing reduced the curvy bits. It wasn't quite big enough anymore and I decided I wanted something a bit different in there so I added some red stripes...

The red fabric is a beautiful soft cashmere wool that started life on a full length, very dated 80s coat.
 ...Now I was starting to feel a bit happier with it, but I still felt it needed something else, so I added some wool 'pennies' ...
(circles of wool, layered and blanket stitched on, they're called 'pennies' because in days gone by people would cut round pennies to make them - thereby using even the tiniest scraps, and making some beautiful 'penny rugs' in the process. More on 'pennies' and penny rugs in the future, I love them!)
...and I added a new lime green, flannel backing, then did just 2 quick lines of machine quilting in red down the edge of both red stripes (being careful to avoid my 'pennies'), and lastly (as I thought) used some lovely soft, very fine red cord for binding it, slip stitched on the back.

Ta da, here was my quilt, finally finished (I thought), and I was finally happy with it...

Are my photos getting better? Or is it just that this quilt pops out much more anyway?! Either way the farm down the road from us was a good photo shoot location!

 The end result was suddenly very "me", I felt. And, in hindsight, I think this may have been the main problem half way through the making when I wasn't happy with it. Looking back on the early photo of the quilt, before I chopped it, was it so bad after all? Maybe I hated it more because it was becoming a poor imitation of Boo Dilly's beautiful quilt (especially as the colours are so similar), rather than my own original work. And if I was comparing it to Boo Dilly's quilt it certainly wasn't very good. It's like when, on something like the X-Factor (yes, sorry, I do watch it - but only with some sewing on my knee so that doesn't really count, does it?) one of the contestants sings a Whitney Houston song and gets slated because she doesn't compare with the original. Boo Dilly is obviously the Whitney of the quilting world! I just needed to do my own thing more.

Anyway, I thought I'd finally got there BUT, I put it in the washing machine, on a wool cycle and with a colour catcher thingy in the drum, and my backing changed from this:

Fresh, clean looking lime, with 2 simple red quilting lines down it.

 to this:

The bright, red cashmere stripe on the front had bled through on to my quilting seams at the back (despite being pre-washed and despite my colour catcher thingy). I was a little bit gutted! I should have backed these strips when I pieced the top, that would have been so easy, it was stupid and lazy not to, but it was too late now. After putting so much work into it already, I had to come up with a solution. Gently scrubbing the bad areas and washing it again didn't help. I couldn't face unpicking all my binding and redoing the backing and I didn't want to add any more layers or any more quilting lines on the front anyway. So I decided to add 2 more red stripes on the back, from the same fabric I'd used to bind it. I folded a narrow hem over either side of my 2 red strips and machine sewed these down, then I slip stitched both short ends to the quilt, joining up with the binding, like this:

And then I handstitched all the way down all 4 long sides in blue wool, carefully making sure I didn't go through to the front.

And it seems to have all worked, the bad areas are covered up and I like the back better this way too!

It's in the washing machine again as we speak, and if it comes out with anything wrong I'll probably cry!

I'm still not completely happy with the quilt as a present, I'm worried it's a bit too thick to be much use as a baby blanket, it might be best just used with a pram or buggy -  but then at 85cm X 100cm maybe it's a bit big for that? But it's not getting changed in any way now! Especially as it's got to be delivered on Saturday morning.

One last, quick extra thing - I made a very speedy bag to put it in (I like doing fabric bags for gifts if I can - for one thing they're useful storage and for another I'm rubbish at wrapping!). I made it out of an old curtain I bought very cheaply in - wait for it - a charity shop.

Because it was a ready made curtain, rather than just a piece of fabric, it was all neatly hemmed for me already. So all I did was chop it down to the right size, iron over a narrow hem at the top and then iron a wider band to make room for a draw string. I sewed these both together in one line.

Then with it folded over, with right sides together, I just had to sew down the 2 remaining sides, turn it back the right way and, voila - a very easy drawstring bag for the quilt:

If you don't count the time I took (ages) to turn my red tube (the drawstring itself) the right way out after sewing it (why didn't I just use a ribbon???), then it probably took less than 10 mins to make. Just finishes the present off nicely I think. Hope she likes it.

Have you had any makes that just gave you trouble from start to finish?

Back again tomorrow with a much shorter post! Sally


  1. What a wonderfully inspiring post. First off, you have really touched me with your kind words and my "Thank you" is utterly and completely heart felt.

    Secondly, please know I go through the very same process that you go through! Excitement, disappointment, confusion, self doubt, wanting to just scrap the whole damn thing, preserving... Making a quilt that really comes from deep inside you can be extremely challenging and full of ups and downs. It can be exhausting at times! I applaud you for staying with it and not being afraid to risk!

    And last but not least, you have a major success here... I adore how you met each challenge, took those risks, dug deeper and most importantly stayed true to your own voice and vision. You came up with something truly joyful and special and one of a kind. Bravo and well done!!! xo

    1. You're my first ever comment and I couldn't ask for a lovelier one, especially when I admire your work so much. This blogging idea is scarier than I expected so thank you so very much for taking the time to comment X.

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