When my 3 1/2 year old nephew's momma opened an amazing childrens' & maternity boutique a year after he was born, I knew I was in trouble. I kept asking myself the same question over and over: How am I, a first-time, non-mom Aunt ever to meet the challenge of being awesomesauce (i really just said that. i know.) in the eyes of a little gem when his momma's specialty is providing advice and access to the best ubercool toys/clothes/products out there? After much consideration, yammering, general indecision and blank stares from my husband, I made a decision that from then on I would Make Him Things, that's how.
It first started, this Making of Things, as his first birthday approached in 2007. I wanted to give him something that he could keep, that he would use often and would grow with him. I decided on a kid sized wooden table and chairs. Something he could use in various parts of the house, eat at occasionally, play on, and generally have all to himself and his buddies. I loved my table and chairs as a kid; drawing, lego, puzzles, games, you name it, we used it for it. I still have that table and one of the chairs in my basement that i pull out for our kidlet visitors to play and colour and snack on. One observant sweetpea asked me if it was mine when i was a kid, and when i replied yes she ran her hands over its chipped green edges and faded yellow daisy print top and cooed *i really like it...*. I knew that I wanted to be the one to give that same joy to my little buddy, so I contacted his mom and she agreed, it woud be perfect. i painted a table and two chairs with bright bold colours. It was amazing to see the little man excitedly laugh and smile, sit there and slap his hands on the top, excited to have a place to sit that actually fit his own size. Success!
As other holidays and occassions approached I went with some handmade gifts made by others, as well as some Things Made by me. I embarked on creating an original alphabet painting for Christmas 2008 and an upcycled rocking chair you might remember me yakking about for his 3rd birthday in 2009. With the addition of another sweet little man in late summer of this year, a little brother to the other, I knew I wanted to make them both something special for the holidays. I knew I was maxing out the furniture category; the people only have so much space. I went for something different.
I mean, I made a quilt about 5 years ago that I love, so why not pull out my little Singer and plug away through the fall? Knowing how much my brother and I both LoVEd our blankets as kidlets, I knew it could work. So, its not a big Fun Gift for them now, but something that over the years i hope they grow to appreciate having around.(My husband made sure to include a remote dumptruck that took care of that problem.) So I started in late October. I picked out the colour schemes for the quilts, looked around and found 2 great, free, online patterns for inspiration and technical guidance. I used this post on a Rag Style Quilt and this one about a Flannel Rag Quilt. I really wanted to focus on flannel, a texture with softness for sweet fingers and faces.
Once the patterns were found I went straight to work. I decided on fabric first. I wanted to pick 5 cotton flannels for each quilt (lets call them L and D), with each quilt having a 2-colour theme. With dark, light, pattern, as well as tertiary and background themes considered, I ended up going back twice before deciding on the combos and making a final purchase. With so many choices, I was happy it only took me that long. Here is what i came up with:
Fabric for L: Turquoise, Navy & White.
Fabric for D: Dark Khaki, Light Blue & Light Green.
After that was done, I set to cutting out all my squares using the templates i had cut out from some sturdy scrap cardboard, a self-healing cutting matt, a metal cutting edge and a cutting wheel. Super time saver, that wheel. The templates served as a guideline for me.
It was at this point that I started to remember how little sewing their actually is in making a quilt, in relation to all the OTHER details: cutting, pinning, stacking, sewing, pinning, unpinning, sewing, repinning and trimming. (Turns out streaming old episodes of The Office are the perfect companion for such activites.) A Legend of Fabrics was established on corkboards, one for each quilt. I highly recommend doing so.
I also drew out the quilt on paper in advance, so I had a map of the sequence of the squares. I did it assembly line style, switching from one task to another, back in forth between quilts, fabrics, stages, taking breaks and a couple of long absenses so as to not get too bored and make sure to finish. Once the end of November hit, I knew I had to get to the final push, and finish up the quilts. Having gotten stuck before the final push to completion, I knew it was game time. Off I went, sewing through the night, loving the hum and constant whir of the machine. It was nice. The quilts were done in no time, and soon i was sitting in the basement trimming the fringed edges. Ok, for 3 days straight, in front of the television. I was very happy I had bothered to grab a titanium spring-handled cutting tool for the edges. Its rasor sharp little beak was the key to cutting fringe well. I highly suggest something like this one, which I used.
Before I knew it I was at the final stage: tossing them in the washing machine (one at a time) and then dryer so to create the yummy fringed edges and get that nice quilted effect. I cannot even relay how much fuzz and lint come off those things. I was sure to keep them in the dryer without heat for another hour each, emptying the lint tray every 15 minutes in an attempt to get rid of the all the loose threads bursting out. After a final inspection and securing any loose threads, i was actually finished.
So here they are, the final quilts! Just a couple of shots, showing both sides: one ragged and one smooth. Each is about the size of a twin bed. The parents were excited, I was happy to give the Things Made over to be loved and another tradition has been passed on! Love it.
Thanks for the patience and switching modes, more catching up to come!