Monday, December 14, 2009

Labor of Love: In Which a non-Quilter Makes a Quilt Square for a Friend.....

Folks, I am not a seamstress. I have, when forced by circumstance, successfully managed a few sewing projects in my time, but I am not a seamstress.

I've "made" flannel blankets for my boys, by purchasing a yard or yard & a half of flannel, and then hemming up the edges by hand.

I've made curtains for my boys' room once, by doing the same thing but using a Mexican serape blanket. I did get fancy on that and add a strip of cloth to cinch it up so it was more a valance than a curtain. One strip a few inches in from each side, running top to bottom, and sewn in place so that the valance stayed gathered at the bottom...yep, that was it.

On the flip side, I own one tiny sewing kit, the kind you buy at a drugstore in the US for a dollar. I've never owned a sewing machine, and the only time I have ever used one was when I taught (don't laugh) Home Ec at a Christian school one year. The kids and I (the teens I was teaching, that is) read the manual together and figured out how to work the darn things. Then I let them sew projects while I observed and pretended I had some clue about what I was doing. Seriously.

(okay, okay, you can laugh now....)

But a friend of mine, a lady very dear to me, wants seven people to make one block each for a quilt she is making. She posted the photo on her blog, (click that link to see the photo...) and I thought, since she is so dear to me, that it would be pretty cool if I made one and sent it to her.

I looked at the photo and thought it looked pretty easy -- a giant square with a few little squares sewn onto it to form the pattern. Easy! I can cut and sew little squares!

(pause for more laughter)

Then I looked at the directions: "Cut your pieces. For the first row, you will need 3 triangles and a square, these the 2 side triangles onto the square, then add the teeny-tiny triangle on top. For the next row......."

Huh??? I can't just cut one big square of the background color and then cut little squares in the accent color, arrange them in the correct pattern, and sew them on?? I guess that would be appliqué, not quilting, huh? Oh dear. This might be harder than I thought.

I studied the directions and determined I could do this. No problem. A little more time consuming than I thought, but still -- it's just sewing straight lines. I can do that. Really I can!!!

I bought fabric. I asked many questions of the nice lady at the fabric store. I watched with great interest as she measured my selection, with a handheld tape measure, marked a little hash-mark with the scissors, and then ripped the fabric in one smooth motion to get me the correct length. I have bought just enough fabric in the US to know that's not how they usually do it.

I hope I got the right kind of fabric....she said it would be good for what I'm doing, but what do I know. JM, if it's a bad fabric, forgive me! It is 100% cotton -- that's good, right???

I came home and wanted to cut it out immediately, but my internet was down and I hadn't saved the pattern/directions to my computer (I've since remedied that). Then I thought I was probably supposed to pre-wash & dry my fabric; I remember my dear friend saying that once, when she forgot.....something about the individual blocks shrinking and puckering once they are sewn.

As I am determined not to be the lone "obviously made by a beginner" quilt square in her quilt, I want to do this right. Trouble is, I don't know how. But I knew how to find out. I called my aunt Carolyn, quilter extraordinaire.

Well, I had a terrible internet connection, so I called my mom, who understands choppy phone calls from me, and had her call my aunt and report back to me. I read her my questions, and the website for the pattern, and then I waited.

Mom called back with my answers:
"Yes, you need to pre-wash it and dry it, and preferrably press it as well. With the iron."

"Yes, you need a hem allowance of one-quarter inch, on all sides. You may use quarter-inch tape if they have that there....."

"Okay, here's what you do -- put your fabric faces together/right sides together. Sew along the quarter-inch line. Then, go press the seams open. Then you can sew the next piece. Aunt Carolyn says at the verymost you may do one row of pieces and press those seams before you sew it to the next row of pieces. You have to press the seams open. Okay?"

At which point I realized I might have bitten off more than I can chew, but I don't care because I am bound and determined to do this, and do it right. JM is such a dear friend, and though I've never met her in person, I know she's worth all this work. More than worth it. And hopefully before too terribly long, she'll have a true Labor of Love to show her I think so.


  1. You're braver than I am to be trying this! Good luck!

  2. What a brave undertaking, but I know you can do it!

  3. Oh my!! You must really like her!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes, I'm laughing... but this time with tears in my eyes. :) :) :)

    I'm sure you'll do just fine. You got super advice from your aunt & Mom and 100% cotton is perfect!! :) (I'm of the no-prewash camp but this quilt will include all camps. ;) ) {On the SL swap, the "group" fabric was prewashed so I prewashed my fabrics. I must have mentioned that.}

    Much love...

  4. Now THAT is real love.

    Says she who has moved a sewing machine to three different countries and only had it out ONCE.