There is nothing I enjoy more than creating something gorgeous for someone special in my life. It just makes me so happy to see my family member or friend open the gift with delight. I love knowing that they will love and appreciate the customized item and the hard work I have put in, just for them. My latest creations were one such project.
My close friends Mrs S and Mr C were expecting their second child; their first Miss E is such a beautiful happy little princess and is one of my very favourite little people. I just knew that Miss Es little brother or sister would be too.
Mrs S is one of the most self controlled people I have ever met. Despite the fact that she is a sonographer she was adamant that she wasn’t going to find out the gender of the baby; for either pregnancy. Day in, day out she would be working with sonography equipment, telling people the gender of their babies and not once peaked at her own belly. Not even just a little bit. How on earth does she do that? I can’t even begin to imagine! I love the idea of keeping the gender of the baby a surprise until the birth, but as a crafter I find this exceptionally frustrating. There are so many gorgeous girl and boy fabrics and supplies available and I’m not much of a fan of gender neutral colours. More accurately put; I am vehemently against them, particularly yellow and green, for a very ridiculous reason that actually has nothing to do with the colours themselves. That was until I finished this project! I am now a gender neutral convert! Not quite to the point where I would be able to keep the gender of my own baby a surprise; let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
When creating a gift bundle for a new baby, I like to design it around a specific motif. This can be inspired by an existing nursery theme if they already have one; if not then I like to base the design on something meaningful to the parents. The theme for this bundle was absolutely going to be giraffes as they are Mrs S’s favourite animal and let’s face it, just so cute. I had pretty much made this decision as soon as I found out they were expecting their second child.
I had 6 months to design, shop for and create a baby bundle worthy of Mrs S and Mr C and their little baby. Plenty of time you may think; an easy task! Well not quite so, given my aversion to gender neutral colours and Mrs S unbelievable self control when it comes to not finding out the gender of her baby. I managed to procrastinate for a serious amount of time. I knew that I wanted to make a cot quilt and a few smaller and simpler items but that was as far as I got for quite a while.
I browsed craft stores and online for the perfect giraffe fabric. There were a surprising number of them to choose from and after quite a lot of deliberation I finally decided on the Riley Blake Designs, Giraffe Crossing. It was just so cute and from what I could see online; it would be a cute gender neutral fabric collection.
The style of quilt that I wanted to do is called a strip quilt. From what I saw on YouTube and from reading online tutorials it looked fairly easy. Having said that; I am mostly a self taught sewer (apart from a compulsory sewing class in early high school and a few things my mother taught me) and this was my first real attempt at quilting.
The Strip Quilt
The strip quilt is made using strips of fabric; hence the name. Jelly rolls are perfect for this quilting method, as the fabric is already cut into strips and is already coordinated. I ordered a jelly roll of the Riley Blake Designs, Giraffe Crossing and eagerly awaited it’s arrival. It is a beautiful collection of fabrics and perfect for a child’s quilt, however when all the strips of fabric were laid out, the overall look was perhaps a bit too masculine if the baby turns out to be a little girl. My solution to this? Why buy more fabric of course, what quilter/sewer/crafter can have too much fabric? Back to the shops and computer I went looking for some giraffe fabric that would coordinate with the Riley Blake Designs, Giraffe Crossing fabrics. I came across a giraffe print fabric in the Savanna Bop collection by Thomas Knauer online and I ordered it in the aqua. I hoped that I would be able to make it all work well together.
I must have been rather tired or maybe even a little tipsy when I purchased the ¬Thomas Knauer fabric, as when it arrived it was very cute but wasn’t as coordinating with the Riley Blake Designs fabric as I recalled thinking it was, or really at all. I had quite a bit of work ahead of me to make it all work well together. My solution to this? Yes you got it, buy more fabric! I decided to use only the giraffe print fabrics from the Riley Blake Designs fabric and therefore needed quite a bit more fabric to complete the quilt to the size I wanted it to be. This time I bundled up the fabric I had intended to use and headed off to my local fabric store. I am usually able to lose myself in craft/fabric stores for hours on end and this trip was no exception! I only got five different prints and only 2 meters of fabric in total but I am certain I looked at each bolt of fabric in the entire store at least once.
So now after five and a half months of procrastinating, shopping and designing, I was ready to start the hard part, the sewing. Strange thing was though, it turns out that it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. If you have never quilted before and you want to give it a try then this method is just the one for you.
I used a method called “quilt as you go” and there is an amazing YouTube tutorial on how to do this by the Missouri Star Quilt Co and it was really as easy as she makes it look. All you need to worry about is to sew straight lines. As a newbie to quilting I was expecting it to take me a while to put the quilt together and although it took me a lot longer than the afternoon the tutorial instructor said, I was impressed that it only took me a couple of days. With practice I know that I would get even quicker than that and an even better result. There were a few things that I learnt along the way that would make things much easier for me next time. As good as the tutorial is there is a few bits of assumed knowledge and these tips would help the beginner quilter.
The fabrics most suitable for this project are quilting cottons. The fabric ideally would be prewashed prior to cutting, prewashing shrinks all the different fabrics down to their tightest weave which means that when the quilt gets washed it will keep its shape. If you do not prewash the fabrics, all the different fabrics will shrink by different amounts; this will cause the quilt to go all out of shape after washing.
Quilting cottons tend to have a bit of give; a small amount of stretch, in one direction. This give is on the cross grain of the fabric, the cross grain is the width of the fabric, salvage to salvage. I noticed that this give can be a bit of a pain if you aren’t careful, if all the strips of fabric aren’t cut the same either across the grain or with the grain the quilt may not hold the shape that you want it to. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t stretch the fabric too much whilst sewing the strips if they are all cut across the grain as you may sew the fabric in an over stretched state and the quality of the quilt will be compromised.
Something I learnt not just by noticing a potential issue but by actually making the mistake was that the three different components of the quilt; the backing the batting and the quilt top strips all shift a little and stretch a little and all in different directions. The amounts weren’t particularly bad but as they were all doing it in different ways and by different amounts it was enough that the final size of the quilt, once all the sides were evenly cut, was smaller than the intended size. So if you need the quilt to be a certain size, cut all the pieces to be larger then you need and cut the final quilt down to the right size.
It took me a while to cut all the strips; as I don’t have a large cutting mat or a long straight ruler. I have a straight ruler and a long ruler but not a long straight ruler. As I was sewing the quilt together I realized that straight cut strips of fabric would have made the job a lot better; as it would have been easier to sew straight.
Normally when quilting the three layers together you would baste the quilt, using; basting pins, basting stitches or basting spray. However because you are quilting as you piece together the quilt top it is actually better not to baste it, this does cause the issue of movement outlined about but I actually tried to baste the backing and the batting and it was not worth the trouble, I had to undo the basting as it was making it worse.
This is always an important part of sewing or quilting and this quilting method is no exception. Pressing makes the project easier and gives it a much more professional look.
I was surprised and very pleased with how well it turned out. This will definitely be a quilt I would be making again, and again and again.