Babies Everywhere

Last week, we went out with friends to celebrate their pregnancy. Before we even got a chance to order, they got a phone call to announce the birth of their newest niece, so it was a double celebration from then on. It seems like everybody is having babies right now. My facebook feed is full up of maternity photos, bump pics, pink-faced newborns or frazzled women asking the best place to buy maternity jeans. There is a silver lining—I get to make quilts. And it’s a nice baby step for me (ha) because big quilts with complicated patterns are very intimidating for a beginner quilter. Itty bitty baby quilts sewn on fleece backing are a nice, easy way of trying out new things or honing my skills without the commitment of a bigger quilt.

However, this one is going to be tricky. Without knowing the sex of the baby, I have to walk a tightrope in fabric choices. It has to be gender neutral, not too many florals, nothing that screams ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. In the past, I’ve often worked from charm packs, simply because I know that all the colours are going to go together. This time, I might have to go with solids, which is something I’ve never done before.

Luckily, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas. Even if I can’t get exactly the same fabric, or don’t follow their pattern exactly, it’s still great to get me thinking about ways of approaching this little quilt.

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Credit: Susan Weinroth. Click for link.

This quilt by Susan Weinroth was labelled as a ‘boy’ quilt, but the colours are so gorgeous is could be perfect for a girl too. The pattern is so simple, definitely something I could manage. Half square triangles are so easy that I feel like I keep overlooking them, until I see something like this.

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Credit: Maniacal Material Girls. Click for link.
 I would never think to pair yellow and mint, but the grey ties them together perfectly, especially with the juxtaposition of solids with small and larger scale patterns. I love the look of the herringbone design, but I’m not sure about it in practice—it looks harder than anything I’ve done yet, and I’m wondering if I would need to buy a special ruler for it.

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Credit: Sew Kate Sew. Click for link.

 

This is one of my favourite pinned baby quilts—I love the colours. Obviously I’d have to mix it up to be more gender neutral, I have no idea how to cut out an isosceles triangle, and I think I would miss working with patterns, so maybe this one isn’t the one. But it’s a nice idea.

Whatever I choose, I have three other works-in-progress to get through first, but that’s okay – my deadline for this quilt is still many months away.

 

appreciation

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I’m knitting a blanket. I can’t show the whole thing until after Christmas (it’s a gift), but it’s rather daunting/exhilarating to be knitting the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted. Even if it is almost entirely garter or stockinette stitch, the whole way. But the novelty yarns make it exciting. I have a cycle going, where I will start a new ball, get bored and try to race to the end so I can start a new type of yarn, which I get bored of in about five minutes. I’ve knitted about twenty-three balls so far out of about thirty-two, so I am panicking a bit about whether I’ll get it done in time. I leave for Japan in two and a half weeks, and get home with only a few days to spare before Christmas. Time is not on my side!

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I just hope it will be well received. Some people get handmade things, some people just don’t. I recently had the experience of making a quilt for somebody and not even receiving a thank you. It would have been one thing if I had just gone to the shops and bought something—maybe I wouldn’t have cared so much—but this was hours and hours of work to make something unique and special for someone, not to mention the cost of materials. No thanks, or even acknowledgment. At first I was upset, then angry, then I just shrugged and made a mental note to never make anything for them ever again. It was definitely an eye-opener, and made me realize that I will be much more selective in the future about the people I make things for – only people who will appreciate it.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say as a crafty type, but handmade presents always mean more to me, to give and receive. I remember reading something a while ago where people recounted ‘moments we realized we were poor’ growing up, and one of the things mentioned was that their mother made all of their clothes. My mum made a lot of my clothes when I was little, but not for any reasons of poverty, but because it was fun. I loved choosing colours for jumpers and skirts, or having cute little floral appliques on my clothes. I have always loved wearing dresses, so Mum made me one of my favourite dresses of all time – red, made out of fleecy jumper fabric, with embroidered flowers near the neckline. It was warm and practical, but still a dress, so I loved it. Out of the scores of dresses I had over the course of my childhood, this one stands out in my memory, not because it was expensive or a fancy brand, but because it was handmade with love, especially for me.

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One of the things I’m looking forward to most about (one day) possibly having kids is the chance to make things for them, special things that I know they will appreciate as much as I appreciated everything Mum made for me. Plus it’s always cuter to make clothes in miniature!

 

three little posies

In another lifetime, I used to make and sell felt flower bouquets to brides over the internet. I loved it, but I ultimately had to give it up – each order took hours and hours of finicky hand embroidering, but in order to charge a reasonable price, my hourly rate was peanuts. It just wasn’t sustainable. But I came out of ‘retirement’ these last few weeks for my sister, who needed something extra special to give as gifts to her teachers. So we made three mini bouquets together.

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All of the flowers, petals and leaves are cut from wool felt, embroidered, and then topped with vintage buttons. These are only mini bouquets, so there are thirteen flowers in each – seven embroidered, five of the fluffier style ones. All of the wire stems are gathered together into a bunch and wrapped with navy blue ribbon. One day when I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I will write up a big tutorial on how to make these. Ambitious because it’s a long and complicated process. Definitely not something you can knock over in an afternoon.

Even though I’ve made bouquets for brides on the other side of the world. and now these teachers who I have never even met, I’ve never made a bouquet for me. I guess I’ll just have to get married so I’ll have an excuse to make one!

beloved creatures

I hate it when people say “it’s just a dog”, to justify being cruel or neglectful, or to make themselves feel superior to something. People with children seem especially affronted by the idea that I love (I mean, really really really love) my dogs, as though they have to prove a hierarchy of love or something. There is no set amount of love that a dog deserves, there is no rule that it must be less than a child-sized amount, or a husband-sized portion. Love grows and shrinks according to how big and open you let your heart become. And if I really, really, really love my dogs, it’s certainly not taking any love away from anybody else. I promise I’ll write an essay on it one day, but for now, on to the beloved creatures.

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This year, I set myself the ambitious task of making three little quilts for the furry children in our families. Every dog (and cat) should have something special, something lovely that was made just for them. I made Rupert a special quilt when he was in intensive care, and now I want all of our animals to have one, as a little token to make sure they that know how beloved they are. It was a massive race to get them done in time for Christmas though, and there were more than a few teary moments of frantically trying to defluff my sewing machine so that the bobbin would stop tangling, but I got there in the end!

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This one was for my sister’s dog Decima (who was, of course, born on 10/10/10). Deci is a completely black Cocker Spaniel, so she looks great with really bright colours.

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This one was for my other sister’s little fatty cat Minou (aka Mr Kitty). He’s a ginger cat and a boy, so I wanted to find a balance between being pretty but not too girly. The only guideline I got from my sister Caitlin was that “his favourite colour is orange”.

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This one was for Nathan’s parents’ dog Gizmo (also called Gizimozo). Gizmo is the oldest of the bunch, so I went for an autumnal, grown-up palette.

Despite the photos, they all turned out perfectly square (the wind was blowing when we took the shots). All three of them were just a simple disappearing nine-patch (the only pattern I know) made from two packs of charm squares per quilt. So, so easy, and looks more complicated than it actually is. The only reason they took me a long time to make is that I’m not particularly confident about techniques like chain piecing yet. To make them snuggly and easily washable, I quilted directly onto polar fleece and machine stitched the bound edges to save time. As gifts, they were a hit!