East Dakota Quilter


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Palette Restraint

Coming off the successes of my first two projects, I wanted to make something (a) I didn’t have to give away; and (b) with modern color or design that flies in the face of the more cautious approach I use daily as a lawyer. It was also important not to get so excited about fabrics that color would transform into the nasty mess that is my Ugly Quilt. I thought that by limiting myself to a gray palette, I could accomplish all these goals.

The first obstacle was that although I knew what a palette is in theory, I didn’t know what one looked like in an actual project. What became one color too many? A girl I knew from high school posted on facebook about some of her projects, and I somehow found the gumption to contact her, even though I didn’t know her really well. She was sweet. She directed me to some websites and sent some color wheels of her own.

My next step was searching for fabrics (online since my local fabric store is meh) with gray in them. That’s when I really discovered how trendy gray is right now. There were grays and reds, grays and aquas, grays and yellows, grays and tangerine… the combos were endless. Then I had an idea: grays and primaries, variations on a theme. I selected fabrics with reds, aquas, and butter.

The quilt design was inspired by the Purl Bee, a blog my high school classmate helped me find. While I waited for fabrics to arrive over the course of the next few weeks (which felt like a decade!), I created a template on my computer:

One thing I love about people who work with sewing and/or crafts? They’re so darn friendly! Even the fabric I received from online purchases came with cute little cards, thank you notes, ribbon, and in one case even a teeny-tiny origami crane!

As with my first quilt, I got help finishing my quilt. I requested simple, stitch-in-the-ditch (i.e. stitching along the seams instead of big, looping designs) quilting. I didn’t want to detract from the fabrics I had so painstakingly selected. The woman who did the work told me her quilting friends all protested that my quilt was too plain but that she understood what I wanted and was going to deliver. And she did. I kind of like plain. And I love my quilt (photographed in my parents’ house).

Unfortunately, the box I used to ship the quilt to the woman who finished it had grease stains I didn’t notice… until the final product carried telltale signs. Preliminary research (again, google) suggests dry cleaning solution might work without ruining the quilt. Here’s hoping! I’ll post results if it works.

UPDATE: The dry cleaning kit I used worked surprisingly well! I wasn’t too optimistic about getting a grease stain out.


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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!