As I get ready to embark on a new quilting project next weekend, I thought I would share the last quilting project I did. It was a farm-inspired quilt for my grandson, Logan. His father, Gabe, is a farmer, and tractors and cows and other farm themes are part of this kid’s life, as well as the theme for his bedroom. You can see Logan with the quilt in the picture to the right of this paragraph.
I had photos of the fabric (which I admit I had collected before Logan was even born). The John Deere fabrics were a no-brainer. Since my daughter, Kate, had collected many different cow-themed items during her teens, it seemed only fitting to get a print with lots of cows on it.In fact, for her baby shower, I sent Kate a quilt IOU along with a photo of the John Deere (and cow) fabrics that would be featured in the quilt.
My original plan had been to get it to him the summer after he was born. Except he was born in January of 2011, just a couple of weeks after I had knee replacement surgery. I moved to my new apartment shortly after that, so quilting just wasn’t happening at that time. It would be another year before I would piece his quilt top during the semester break of 2012, at which time Logan would turn a year old. I finished the piecing during break, and then took the quilt top to the US on my summer visit, where I did the quilting and gave the finished quilt to Logan.
I don’t have many pictures of the quilt-making process, but I have pictures that illustrate the things that held me back from starting. Because, truth be told, I had a very hard time actually starting this quilt. I was plagued by indecision, doubt, and a fear that it won’t turn out the way I planned. Anyway, I got stuck. Yet, I knew as Logan’s first birthday approached that I needed to get a move on, or the crib size quilt would be a relic before he even got it. But there were a few problems beyond the practicalities, ones that I created in my own mind. Here are four:
1. CHOOSING FABRICS
I guess if the truth be told, I don’t trust myself in choosing fabrics that go together. It’s not just about color, it’s about the way the fabrics work (or don’t work) together. My fascination with quilt shows, quilting books, and any artistic use of color is how wonderfully it all seems to fit together. And while I’m happy with the fabrics that finally ended up in Logan’s quilt, it took me a long time to find the other pieces I wanted to include with these basic fabrics. I second and third guessed myself and asked my husband’s opinion every step of the way. In the end, I finally selected from the stash and hoped for the best.
2. DECIDING ON A PATTERN
For Logan’s quilt, it was difficult to imagine how to do traditional style blocks with the variety of scale that the John Deere fabrics had. In a ways, this was a much bigger problem for me than becoming comfortable with the fabric. Finding a pattern I felt I could manage and that would accommodate the fabrics was a decision I wasn’t sure I could do.I look at patterns on several sites on the internet. One site sends a series of patterns periodically, with links to instructions. Even though I have very few Japanese prints in my fabric stash, this Japanese Afternoon quilt really caught my attention. Using the fabrics I had, the end result would be much more abstract, but it freed me from trying to figure out how to do a series of traditional blocks with fabrics I wasn’t initially sure about. I knew that I wanted to incorporate a barn and some trees into the quilt, which meant finding a block that would have those items, a task that wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. But I adapted a barn from a house block I found and then found some trees, and made a custom block that worked into one of the various block sizes in the pattern.
3. PATTERN ADJUSTMENTS
This part of the process was fun, because I could decide where to put the barn and the trees, where to position cows throughout the quilt, and then take each lettered section and use a single fabric or piece something together. The more I experimented with the placement of the fabrics, the more the quilt began to take shape. I was able to stay pretty true to the original measurements of each section, but it was also possible to adjust things as needed. I liked the structured flexibility of this pattern. No one looking at the two quilts would initially see that their patterns are related, but to me, that’s part of the fun of it. There weren’t many of them, but it still made things interesting. During the piecing process, I would often stop and look at the calculations again to make sure I was on track. But overall, the pattern was quite forgiving as long as the overall measurements for each section lined up with the others..
4. Accuracy and Paranoia
From the first cut to the final seam, I often have trouble just enjoying the process. Although I’m not a perfectionist, I have this feeling that I should be more accurate and precise than I seem able to be. I’m not sure where this stuff comes from because the reality is that when I’m working, I’m very good at working out solutions to any kind of inaccuracy that shows up. In a quilt like the one I made for Logan, there is lots of room for error and correction, but not to the point where I want to become careless and sloppy. However, it is clear that when I adjusted the pattern for the barn, I didn’t get all the calculations quite right and I had to keep adjusting, trimming, and doing other attempts at making it look right. It’s not perfect, but Mr. Logan* is an appreciative audience in spite of my miscalculations.
On Friday, I will start the coffee mug wall hanging. I put that out there kind of publicly so that I won’t chicken out. I won’t get paranoid about not “getting it right.” I have the pattern, I have the fabrics. I just have to start the process. I also intend to document this process, as I’ve never really done that with any of my projects before. I have put David on call for a few photos along the way.
The most important thing about thinking about Logan’s quilt is that by being aware of what got me tangled up along the way, I am now able to think differently about this next project and the projects to follow. I can beat my quilt inertia now that I know what could be behind it.
There are so many things that I think about differently now, and because of it, my life is getting more and more satisfying, even when things don’t go as planned. Adding quilting to the list of things I think differently about makes this next quilt particularly enticing.
*Mr. Logan is a nickname that Logan’s parents, particularly his father, started when Logan was still a small baby.