No, the baby isn’t the emergency: the quilt is. Six week ago, my son came by to tell me a friend’s wife was having a baby the next month, and would I please make a quilt for it. Sure, no problem. So, I did other things, like clean house, work on another quilt I was making, play computer games — you know the drill, thinking that I had lots of time. And, of course, the baby decided to arrive three weeks early. Lesson #1: babies have their own timetable and will be early or late depending on what is most inconvenient for everyone concerned. Start the quilt immediately on receipt of such information. This also applies to any other gift quilt that you decide to make.
Early? No problem, I told my son, and asked if it was a girl or boy. He only knew that the dad had rushed to the hospital earlier that day. I foolishly told him I’ll have a nice baby quilt in a week or so. I failed to emphasize repeatedly that the information about the baby’s sex would be useful in selecting the color for the quilt. Anyway, I could get started on it. After all, I had to pick a pattern and could cut some of the pieces while awaiting the pink or blue info.
A nine-patch quilt is an easy out. Each nine-patch block has three rows of three smaller squares. The finished block has colored squares on the 4 corners and in the middle, and a different color (white in this case) for the middle squares on each side. For speed, I decided to use a 3″ finished square to piece the block. So I cut enough 3-1/2″ white squares to make the crib size. (The extra half inch disappears in the seams.) Lesson #2: Murphy’s Law is bound to be a factor. My son didn’t get around to telling me that it was a boy for three days. Lesson #3: don’t rely on a man for critical information in a reasonable length of time if it is not about a matter of interest to him.
Now, I could have avoided the girl/boy issue by taking the easy way out and using yellow, but my stash (a quilter’s fabric collection) of yellow fabric just wasn’t up to the task. And, with about 6,000 yards of fabric piled up in my sewing room (most quilters are fabriholics), I forbade myself to rush out gleefully to buy more for a kid whose parents I didn’t even know. OK, it was a boy. So I dug into my stash to look for 15 different coordinating blue fabrics. For 3″ squares, one shouldn’t use a fabric with a pattern that is too big. I didn’t want fabric with flowers or with a lot of other colors in it. I wanted a dark, medium, and light mix of blues. Hum. I could only find 10 that I liked for this project. Eureka! I can only make a receiving blanket! That should be quick to make because receiving blankets are fairly small – about 36 – 40″ square when finished.
I then cut out nine different 3-1/2″ sets of 5 squares from blue fabric and matched them to the white squares. I sewed them together. Now I must confess that I am mathematically challenged. To my horror, the nine-patch blocks were only 9-1/2″. I stopped and actually worked out the fact that the finished quilt would only be 27″ square, which would not even wrap a very small baby. Hell, my two kids were 8-1/2 lbs. and 11-1/2 lbs., respectively, so 27″ would have barely diapered my son. What to do, what to do, I’m running out of time. I could put 2 – 3 borders on it to stretch it to about 36″, I could strip it (strips of fabric are added between each square), or I could make seven more nine-patch squares. Lesson #4: do the math ahead of time. Lesson # 5: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This meant I had to go to the fabric store for 7 more fabrics. (What a shame – I have to buy MORE fabric. LOL! OF COURSE I decided to go to the fabric store.)
At the quilt shop, the fabric is $9.98 and up per yard of a really good quality cotton fabric. I mean, I could go to Walmart or some similar store and buy fabric for $3.00 -$4.00 a yard, but that offended my senses. Well, I could use the 10th fabric from my stash and make 2 solid blue blocks. But to make that work, I would have to do something with them to make them more interesting. Calmly adjusting my thinking cap, I went to the pattern section, where I found no inspiration. I wandered over to the book selection, where I noticed a Noah’s ark book with really simple appliqué designs. Well, the book was a paperback and only $14.99 and can be used for other baby quilts. I told myself it was a good deal because I only would have to buy five more fabrics and save $5.00 in the process. (No, my fabriholism wouldn’t let me buy quarter, third, or half yards of the fabric. After all, every quilter truly believes that she who dies with the most fabric wins.) Lesson #6: leave your credit card at home. Take just enough cash to buy what you absolutely need or be prepared for peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese at the end of the month.
Back home, I cut out and sewed the 5 extra blocks and cut out the 2 solid blue large squares. I traced the patterns for Noah and for the ark. I found a deep red fabric for Noah’s garb, and scraps of a dark brown fabric for his shoes, a pinkish solid color fabric for his face and hands, and white for his head covering. For the ark, I actually found a fabric that looked like boards and some streaky dark yellow for a thatched roof. Deciding machine appliqué would look shoddy, I took nearly two days to hand appliqué the two squares.
I sewed all of the blocks together. I looked at the quilt. Lesson #7: be sure your thinking cap is on straight when you are in the fabric store because Noah and his ark look kind of dumb without a bunch of animals.
Back to the book, I traced the patterns for an elephant, a giraffe, a horse, a camel, a swan, and an alligator. It took several hours of frantic digging in my scrap box and my stash to find appropriate fabrics for them: a tan print with small leaves for the camel, a black and tan polka dot for the elephant, a deep yellow with red polka dots for the giraffe, a grayish-green snakeskin pattern for the alligator, white (of course) for the swan, a gray fabric for the kangaroo, and I still haven’t found anything I like for the horse. Each one took a day to appliqué.
The kid is about two weeks old by now, and I still have to find fabric to appliqué the horse. I still have to layer the top, batting, and quilt backing together, then baste and quilt it. No time to hand quilt it – machine quilting will have to do. Then I have to bind it, and I probably will machine stitch the entire binding to save time. The kid is going to be three weeks old before I finish this sucker. My son probably won’t want to give it to the kid after that much time, and I’m going to kill him if he doesn’t. Lesson #8: sell or throw away your gun and all of your knives before you start this project.