East Dakota Quilter


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Embroidered Onesie: the Collaborative Version

I’m not a stereotypically artsy person. I am not laid-back. I don’t spontaneously have an idea that I have to sketch out without using other art as reference. And I’m not good at laughing at myself. So when my boyfriend started offering unsolicited advice about my most recent project, I was kind of peeved, to say the least. Then EVERY SINGLE ONE of his suggestions improved my project! Now I have to offer an awkward thank you for his help.

My aunt had a baby last week, which means I have a new cousin! I knew I wanted to make her something. The baby blankets/quilts/play mats I’ve been making don’t seem to be terribly useful, so I wanted to try something new. I decided to embroider a onesie after seeing this post by Sew Lovely Embroidery.

Shopping for onesies is hard, by the way. I don’t have kids, so I was really out of my element at Target. The regular clothing racks only had pre-designed onesies. I knew there must be blank ones somewhere, so I kept searching. Eventually, I found some plain onesies between the bibs and the blankets in a regular aisle, not the clothing area. They were mostly white. I know you can dye fabric with Rit, but let’s be honest: I wanted to start right away. (I found a few onesies that I thought were blank and colorful, but they had really hideous bears on the front! Ugh.)

I got the onesies home and realized right away they were too thin for embroidery, that my threads in back would show through. I decided I would just embroider on a separate patch of fabric. Enter boyfriend. “That square looks kind of weird. You’re just going to stick it on there?” Um, yes, that was the plan. “Maybe you can change the shape. You know, make it more organic.” Hmm… He rifled through the contents on my desk (NoNoNo!) for a paper and pen to sketch what he meant. His original sketch looked scary, but when I played around with it, I found a hexagon was actually pretty similar to his suggestion. Definitely better than my plain rectangle, but also not as difficult as a circle.

While the boyfriend read a book, I started stitching. I finished the animal and the baby’s name and got to the hearts in my pattern. “These should be the same color as her name, right?” I asked, turning to him. I thought if I asked a directed question, he would just agree—especially since he was reading and not really paying attention—but noooo. “They should probably be a different color,” he replied. “Red?” I asked suspiciously. “Yeah, red.” He’s going to ruin it, I thought to myself. I continued my project, secretly pleased I could blame him when it didn’t turn out. Only the red was really cute. I decided to do red stitching around the hexagon, too, and voilà:

I bought a few more onesies while I was at it. I think they’ll be good gifts. I mean, even the mom with everything can work a personalized onesie into her baby’s wardrobe. I will also try VERY hard to be more receptive to good advice! For example, I have read on various blogs that some people embroider with 2-3 strands of floss instead of all 6. I might give that a try next time.

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Farmhouse Baby Quilt

I loved having lots of cousins growing up, but, like most families, not all my cousins lived nearby.  My grandma moved to South Dakota from Michigan in 1956, so much of her family is still there (or at least not in South Dakota). My Great Aunt Andrea and Tolerable Uncle Henry, as he calls himself, did an amazing job of road tripping to visit us every few years. It’s for that reason alone that I am at least familiar with my cousins from that side of the family.

It was probably 4-5 years after I moved to Chicago that it dawned on me how easy it would be to visit family in Michigan. Until that point, I was amazed every time I learned some other city was within road trip distance. I decided to make an effort to visit more often. I attended a few weddings, went to the Greenfield Village Halloween event, and recently celebrated the pending births of the new generation of cousins. I stayed with a cousin I didn’t know well but whom I found is living the life I’ve planned for myself in a few years: farmhouse, a few animals, small acreage very near civilization. (In other words, not at all the hardworking farms from back home, but the fun kind.)

The baby shower gifts I gave were a product of work-related travel: gift cards–versus the baby blankets I wanted to make but didn’t have time to begin, much less complete, when I was away from home almost every weekend for several months. Of course, since planning the colors and design is the most fun part of making a project, I had already started gathering supplies. My favorites were for the cousin I stayed with. I’d selected various shades of blue and gray. I didn’t know the gender of the baby and hoped she’d be okay with blue even if she had a girl. Not that it’s a problem when you don’t complete a project. I was disappointed I’d put so much thought into a project that seemed like it would probably never be finished.

Then I stayed in her guest room, which was converted into a nursery shortly after I left. It’s blue. And the hourglass pattern I selected seemed to fit the beautifully renovated farmhouse perfectly. So I decided to finish the baby blanket as a hostess gift. You can find the sites that inspired me here (Purl Bee) and here (Diary of a Quilter). My project:

A word on pressing: I found the layers started getting thick, which resulted in my thread breaking repeatedly. A friend told me it’s a good idea to press the edges to one side instead of pressing seams open because it strengthens the quilt and makes it last longer. I continued to press edges to one side, but I pressed the edges for each piece to a different side:

And a word on binding: I followed the Purl Bee’s tutorial for the most part. However, I find that corners can be a little difficult. I have a tough time sewing to ¼ inch, even if I use a marker to show where I should stop sewing. I’ve been marking the spot instead with a pin, sewing right up to it and then reversing the machine, and that works well for me.

And here is the finished product:

By the way, it’s a girl!


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How I Started Sewing

When I found out a former roommate was going to have a baby, I was excited. I had known her since before she had met her husband, so I had the unique privilege of watching her family story unfold. I wanted to gift her with something special—something that would show I still considered her a good friend, even though we no longer live in the same city. Since she grew up overseas, I reasoned that people would be more likely to send cash or other items easily sent via mail. I thought it a tragedy that her baby wouldn’t have anything homemade. Having grown up on a farm with many homemaker moms as aunts and a seamstress grandmother, plus countless crafty distant relatives, I had crocheted AND knit baby blankets, lots of clothes, bibs, etc. So I made it my personal objective to make something for the baby.

Never mind that I hadn’t really sewn anything before. My grandma taught me how to use a sewing machine when I was little. She is probably also how I learned to knit and crochet, although I barely remember how and never learned to start the first row. The extent of my sewing skills was basically holding fabric scraps against Barbie dolls, hand stitching an outfit inside out, and learning through osmosis when my mom was going through one of her crafty phases. Still, how hard could it be?

I had a moment of brilliance when I started. I decided to make a “practice quilt” before starting on the baby’s project so I wouldn’t totally screw hers up. That practice quilt is now known affectionately as the Ugly Quilt and still isn’t finished. My first square—which I quickly learned from google is called a “block”—wouldn’t lay flat. I had to google a whole new set of block options that weren’t so involved. Only later did I find out that even professional quilters use tricks (like breaking parallelograms into triangles) to sew their blocks more easily. Tell me which version below looks easier:

quilting blog 1 by EastDakotaQuilter

 

(In case it’s not obvious, I tried version 2 with the Ugly Quilt.) This is the difference between the way version 2 bubbled versus the comparatively little bubbling after I adapted:

bubble comparison by EastDakotaQuilter

Once I settled on an easier pattern for the baby quilt, things went much more smoothly. I used simple squares:

easy block by EastDakotaQuilter

Since my old roommate and her husband use nicknames for each other (in Gujarati) that are birds, I selected a variety of bird-related prints. One of the birds I incorporated was an owl because she remembered I wore owl socks to the bar exam the year we lived together; it was a way for me to be part of the baby’s life! Considering how little experience I had (AND HOW LITTLE MEASURING I DID!), I was excited by the result.

full length bird quilt top by EastDakotaQuilter

2011 bird quilt by EastDakotaQuilter

binding on bird quilt top by EastDakotaQuilter

Here’s the back:

backing by EastDakotaQuilter

And finally, a progress shot:

progress by EastDakotaQuilter

I have been an avid Pinterest stalker and google searcher ever since, always looking for inspiration either to copy with my own fabrics or to incorporate into an otherwise original idea. I hope my skill improves with each project. I’m impatient, so improvement may prove a little slow!