Thank you so much to those who took the time to fill in the survey. It is much appreciated and Lena is thinking about posting the results so those who are interested can take a look.
In craft news, I am still working slowly on the secret present project which is turning out to be much trickier than I originally thought. Paul and Lara – if you are reading this and want to keep this a surprise, please stop reading now. Here’s a little picture for you both to look at instead: click!

The present is a small baby quilt for Alice’s little brother or sister who will be arriving some time this month. I got the idea and the general direction from Caroline Zoob’s book Childhood Treasures: Handmade Gifts for Babies and Children. This is a book I borrowed from the library and after my initial hesitation about it (thinking it wasn’t quite my style), it has turned out to be a really great source of inspiration combined with tips and tricks. I have just ordered it from amazon to have permanently sitting on my shelf as I have referred to it so much in the past six weeks. Anyway… the patchworking of the quilt went very well. I did it all on the machine and made a very simple checkerboard pattern. It only took me an afternoon to get it all together. The small amount of patchwork I have done before has been done by hand has taken forever. Little did I realise that this was the very easy bit.

On this quilt I decided that I would teach myself how to machine appliqué which was probably a mistake – I really should have taught myself how to machine appliqué on some scraps or something not terribly important like a hanky or a pillowslip, but as is my want I leapt in feet first and started attaching shapes of various kinds to the actual quilt. The idea is to decorate the quilt in various animals and objects that will probably make up some of the baby’s first words (words like bird, cup, duck etc).

** Side note: have a look at the “Talking Quilts” exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum – interesting stuff along a similar idea. I particularly like the “Teaching Quilt” by Elizabeth Hamilton. Imagine the work in that!**

I used some very cool iron on adhesive stuff which made my little shapes stick fast to the fabric but then the machine stitching around each shape left a lot to be desired. Some worked out ok like the heart at the centre of the quilt:

But other shapes like the moon:

look pretty (really) awful. The key seems to be to keep the machine moving at an even speed and try not to deviate too much from a smooth and consistent line. Easier said than done. It was then my idea to go back and embroider some details in (below) and add new shapes in some of the empty squares as well as words and messages for the small new child to read and discover as it gets older. This is going to be the time consuming bit and might be limited by the arrival of the recipient.

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41 Responses

  1. Very special and cute as quilt. What a great baby present.I wish I could make something like that for my boyfriends sister new bub.

  2. says:

    Very cute! The baby will learn to love it more as they grow.

  3. How lovely! I’ve always wanted my very own handmade quilt. It’s the mistakes that matter in such things I think. This child will be tracing those shapes with his/her finger for years to come.

  4. says:

    A really simple, relativly quick method of sewing around fusible web applique shapes is blanket stitch with 2 strands of embroidery thread(hand sewing, but fast), either in a similar colour, or one that offers some contrast. It is often used with country style quilts but different colours change the feel.
    have a look here for the effect

    I like to applique this way as I have 2 small kids and need a method I can pick up and put down every 2 minutes as motherhood demands 🙂

  5. I think it looks wonderful! What a special gift..lucky bub.The moon doesn’t look wrong at all to me. In fact I like it because it reminds me of some 1950’s children’s quilts my mother owns. They have quilling (cording and raised decoration..animals, flowers, etc.). I also think it adds great character, like in the handmade dolls. I’d actually prefer to have a handmade quilt looking handmade, than one that is so perfect you can’t really tell.

  6. says:

    Claire,You might find that putting some sort of stabiliser under the quilt fabric helps machine applique too. Especially if you have a thin base fabric, a close machine zigzag (which is what it looks like you are edging the applique with) will tend to ‘pull up’ the background fabric and cause fluting of the edge. Try using a stabiliser of some sort, probably one that you can then cut away close to the design afterwards.

    Cute quilt! I’m about to make two of something similar, courtesy of two good friends that are both about to have babies.

  7. Thanks folks! That’s a good idea Claire Gee – I was wondering about doing it by hand but the book I have been using said that hand applique doesn’t stand up to washing machine abuse etc. I want this quilt to be used and loved (hopefully!), not just looked at. Can you tell me if the hand blanket stitch stands up to much loving?

  8. says:

    it’s gorgeous, claire. i think the moon looks OK! my mum just finished making a quilt for the new baby of a friend of hers. they live on a yatch, so it was boat/water animals themed. just gorgeous.

  9. says:

    It’s my own experience that we’re too uber-critic with our own works; what looks silly or not good to us is really loved by the recipients. Because mostly, they are aware of the time dedicated and know to appreciate it, while we don’t have this distance to our works. I think it will be loved, don’t worry.

  10. How wonderful! It is so cute!
    FYI: Hand-applique doesn’t hold up, especially if the child loves the blanket. Trust me, I know. 🙂 My granny made my daughter a butterfly quilt, appliqued by hand. So far she has had to re-applique the butterflies 3 times (because dd has carried the blanket with her EVERYWHERE).

  11. from a total novice here, so this is probably a stupid idea, but is it possible to machine sew the applique and then use the blanket stitch on top of that to get the desired look?
    like i said total novice comment

  12. I think you did a nice job. Don’t worry about everything being perfect. It truly is the thought that counts when it comes to handmade gifts. The baby is going to love it no matter what.

  13. Wow…that quilt is fantastic!You are a gem!
    Thank you for the link to that great show about quilts aswell.

  14. says:

    Have you used stabilizer? It’s a heavy paper-like product which goes under your work while you sew. When I started doing machine applique it was the key to a smoother and unpuckered stitch line. When you are done sewing, you just rip it off the back.
    Some machines will do the blanket stitch mentioned above. A narrow zig zag with matching thread works too.

    Good luck–it looks wonderful! And the baby and his/her mom will love it.

  15. That is so so sweet. My little sister is 26 and STILL has a baby blanket a friend made for her when she was a newborn. Of course it’s pretty nasty now….but my point is: what a beautiful comfort object you’ve created.

  16. It’s absolutely gorgeous! I really like the appliques …

  17. Both my children slept under my husband’s baby blanket, AND in his crib. The blanket was knitted though, but still lovely. The crib still had all the embroidery my mother in law had done.

  18. Oh~So sweet Claire. What a wonderful gift! I love the idea of the hand embroidered details. And I love the red. Wish I was going to NYC to see the quilt show. WOW.

  19. It’s really sweet Claire! I’ve embroidered everything from baby blankets to my cords to denim bags and had the work stand up to repeated launderings…I’m pretty confident in the blanket stitch idea-stitched with 1-2 full strands of floss (unseperated-kwim?)Good Work.

  20. Forgot to tell you that I LOVE those birds.

  21. Crap! I don’t sew or stitch so I can’t comment on anything! But I do have to say that the quilt looks fantastic. I’d buy that for my little one immediately! Beautiful.

  22. How cute that quilt is! And I’d totally be interested in seeing the results of the survey, if it matters. (I took it.)
    Just a little MT hint – if you want to keep the suprise off the main page, you can put that part of the entry in the extended entry so it doesn’t show up. It’s a lot less tempting to click “read more” than it is to scroll down, especially when you’re telling someone specific not to look! I know I don’t have the willpower not to look if someone told me that there was a suprise for me 🙂

  23. The quilt looks fabulous Claire. Whoever said we are uber-critics of our own work is right. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything for anyone that hasn’t had at least one major mistake in it somewhere, and none of them have noticed. I’ve done heaps of cross stitch on t-shirts that gets machine washed repeatedly and has stood up to it. Youv’e just got to make sure you use a firm stitch and tie good knots in the back.

  24. says:

    Claire, they’re going to love it anyway, but I too know the agony of wanting to give a gift that you feel is perfect! And it is agony! I do have a few tips – not sure if you tried these… Definately use tearaway behind the design while youre sewing. Also, zigzag once around the shape quite closely and then set the zigzag slightly wider and slightly closer and go around again. You get a great padded satiny effect and it looks really neat, covers all your mistakes!

  25. being unable to sew as much as a button, I’ve no advice to offer. But that fabric you chose is so, so lovely! And the little bird is just darling! They’ll LOVE it, guaranteed!

  26. I think the quilt is just gorgeous. what a lovely surprise. A family hairloom for sure. I am like you in that I often excitedly jump in feet first witout practicing…sometimes the result is less than perfect, but it always adds a fun story and memory to the piece, which adds to its loveability!

  27. says:

    loobylu…. that is incredibly beautiful! i love it and i’m sure the new baby coming and the family will love it as well!

  28. says:

    claire, I am in the process of doing the same thing. My machine is flash and does a blanket stitch for applique. it’s fantastic. definately use tearaway or washaway stabiliser. and go slow and steady. sometimes you have to do just one stitch before lifting the foot and turning slightly (and always keep the needle down when you do). Good job tho’ – it’s lovely.

  29. says:

    Claire – what a gorgeous quilt. I have used this great applique stuff from Spotlight. You lightly iron onto one side, cut out what you want, peel off and iron on – and the bond is extremely strong and firm?
    Anyhow, I have used it heaps of times when I make kids PJs – PJ bottoms with a TShirt top them applique a motif from the flanelette onto the TShirt.

    I find that (like someone above) usining embroidery floss, double strand, then blanket or even just overstitching around the perimiter is sufficient to provide a strong and lasting finish.

    I was the kids PJs daily and the ones from two years ago are still holding up.

  30. I love the bird and the heart!What a lovely gift!

  31. wow! you have inspired me to try again with my pathwork quilting..
    i love that quilt! its just divine!!!

  32. Hey, that looks really good! I’m absolutely hopeless at sewing…

  33. really wonderful, claire. i love it – and i really love the fabric you chose.i have to weigh in on the hand-appliqueing discussion here. i have had some dodgy experiences with hand-appliqueing quilts that will be used heavily and even machine washed. i use the fusible stuff to attach the applique, then i stitch over it for both looks and also further anchoring. after doing the hand blanket stitch (2 strands of embroidery floss) on 2 projects and seeing the raggedy results after a few washings, i now machine stitch. my experience is that hand stitching is just less sturdy and machine washing can be hard on embroidery.
    good luck! i would love to see photos of the finished result!

  34. It looks wonderful, oopsies and all!

  35. It’s absolutely beautiful. x

  36. The quilt looks cool.
    I still have a quilt I had when I was little.

  37. Hi Clare,I can’t offer any advice on the applique as I haven’t done much and am just going to do my first embroidery on knitted fabric but I would LOVE to know which library you borrowed the childhood treasures book from? Would LOVE to see the knitting illustration you did in full too, when is it coming out? Sending blessings and hope to see you again at an S & B sometime soon

  38. Happy Mother’s Day!!

  39. i cannot see it properly of course, but it seems to me as though the machine made a very uneven stitch & needs to be adjusted.nonetheless, it looks very nice!

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