East Dakota Quilter


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Mardi Gras Quiet Book

In a recent post, I mentioned I was working on a project with a palette too specific to share without giving away the intended recipient. Today is the big reveal!

mardi gras quiet book cover by EastDakotaQuilter

A dear friend of mine moved to Illinois from New Orleans several years ago to be nearer her husband’s family. She enjoys visiting her hometown several times per year but sometimes receives negative comments related to Mardi Gras. I’m not sure Midwesterners (which I am) tend to understand that Mardi Gras can be so much more than just the Girls Gone Wild fodder of Bourbon Street. The last two years, she has posted this article about the fun things she’ll be doing with family. I wanted to help her celebrate her hometown and teach others about the nicer traditions by making her kids a Quiet Book with a Mardi Gras theme.

This is my “design wall” to show how the fabrics coordinate (definitely a cohesive palette!). My design wall was created by sticking fabric to the wall with washi tape–hardly high-tech.

design wall for mardigrasbook by EastDakotaQuilter

Below are photos/descriptions of my quiet book pages.

history of mardi gras by EastDakotaQuilter

I wanted to start the book with the history of Mardi Gras. Even though my friend’s not Catholic, religious influences played a big part in forming the holiday.

hold_hands by EastDakotaQuilter

The objective of this page is to have the boy hold his mother’s hand and move to the sidewalk.

club nola

 

This page represents the musical influence of New Orleans. It was intended to look like one of New Orleans’ distinctive buildings with large, shuttered windows, plantation-style white doors, and European details. I decided to skip the shutters and doors at the last minute because they would have hidden the band members. I decided I liked the balcony appearance without them.

jazz band finger puppets

The band members are also finger puppets!

make king cake by EastDakotaQuilter

The pages above relate to baking a king cake. The spoon and whisk pull out of an elastic holder and are connected with a strand of embroidery floss. The refrigerator doors and cupboards on the opposite page open to reveal the ingredients for king cake. The refrigerator has detachable magnets with photos of the kids and their parents(redacted to protect their identity).

I wasn’t sure whether I could make the magnets stick to fabric or felt, so I had to find a way to sew them on. I repurposed a piece of plastic packaging to achieve this. I heated a pin until it was red-hot and pushed it through the squares of plastic I had cut and marked. I melted a set of holes in each corner. Then I attached once piece of plastic to each magnet, two per photo (one for the fridge, one for the photo itself), by sewing it to the fabric/felt. It worked pretty well!

mardi gras quiet book by EastDakotaQuilter

Once the king cake is mixed on the previous pages, it’s time to bake and serve the cake. The oven comes with an oven mitt. (See the discussion about my Pinterest board below for sources.) The finished cake is a puzzle, and there is a detachable knife and felt numbers to count the pieces.

mardi gras masks by EastDakotaQuilter

On this page, the kids can select a mask for the little girl.

fright night image by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night boy by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night girl by EastDakotaQuilter

Some suburbs celebrate “Fright Night,” which is very similar to Halloween in that kids dress up in costumes. For this set of pages, there are several costume options for the boy and girl.

mardi gras parade by EastDakotaQuilter

mardi gras parade loot by EastDakotaQuilter

Toys from the page on the left can be detached and put into the bag on the right, which mirrors the catching of “loot” during the many parades of Mardi Gras. I also embroidered a ladder, which is how young children are able to see the parade over the heads of adults. My friend pointed out that if she has trouble keeping track of any of the pieces, she can put them into the bag on this page – it’s huge!

mardi gras krewe by EastDakotaQuilter

There are numerous “krewes” at Mardi Gras, including the Mardi Gras Indians and Bacchus. On these pages, the kids are asked to look at the characters on the left to determine which of them belongs to the krewe on the right.

mail a letter by EastDakotaQuilter

felt mail by EastDakotaQuilter

On these pages, the kids can select one of the polaroid photos I took of them (and their favorite stuffed animals) this weekend, put them into a buttoned envelope, and mail them home to friends to share the Mardi Gras experience.

Processes:

I used the thickest Pellon interfacing I could find to stiffen my pages (interior design strength!). I thought it would be easier than quilting each page with batting in the middle and mostly liked the result. Unfortunately, the Pellon was not like the sticky-on-both-sides interfacing I’ve used before, so I wonder if I shouldn’t have sewn pages together in the middle in addition to the sides.

I elected not to use metal clips to hold the book together because I feared it would turn into a Noisy Book! I also opted against sewing the thick pages into a binder-type binding because I was lazy and it sounded hard. In the end, I used a hybrid of the most common forms of quiet book binding to make my binding with eyelets and ribbon.

I pinned lots of inspirational photos/graphics of Mardi Gras and New Orleans to a Pinterest board. It was secret so my friend wouldn’t know about my project, but I have since made it public. You can check it out here.

I made my book 8 1/2 x 11″ so I could use a standard-sized sheet of paper when designing and sizing my images. It also made it easy for me to test out different options in MS Word.

Making a book for kids when you can’t remember the skill levels at each age is kind of difficult, but I had fun using different claps, closures, and notions. I didn’t really think this would become as time-consuming as it did. I somehow thought I could do the whole book in just a few hours after I did the planning. HA! I can only laugh at myself in hindsight. I could probably have made a whole quilt in the time it took me to complete this project. You might be able to tell which pages I worked on at the beginning versus which ones I had to rush to be done before I went to visit my friend this weekend! But I’m not complaining about the time spent; it was mostly relaxing (when I wasn’t sewing pages together backward).


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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!