This poor blog is going to keel over, gasping from all the unaccustomed exercise! What’s a girl to do while waiting for a baby but tie up loose ends? I’ve taken that phrase literally, producing my first tied quilt for a most beloved neighbor’s birthday present.
It was all monkey see, monkey do with this quilt. The moment I glimpsed this fabric by Holly Ward Bimba in a similar project over at Soulemama, I knew it had to be mine — or, rather, Barb’s. I hotfooted it over to Spoonflower (fair warning if you haven’t visited before: that place is a slippery rimmed abyss of delights from which you and your pocketbook may never emerge!) to see the whole gollybard Woodland collection and was finally able to limit myself six favorite prints. I chose the cotton poplin, a new fabric for me, in the interest of keeping the quilt light in weight and because Holly’s watercolors look so darn beautiful on that crisp surface.
I sketched the world’s simplest design, alternating panels half the width of the quilt with groups of three blocks, and pieced it in no time. I chose a pale blue striped cotton (rather loosely woven but beautifully silky to the touch) for the back and found the perfect grey-brown binding fabric with white flecks (by Cori Dantini) to coordinate with the Woodland palette. I was imagining my friend spreading this quilt on the grass for a picnic, and I knew I wanted to tie it to give it that casual, not-too-fancy-for-real-use air, so I wanted a lofty batting. Bolt had a lovely woolen one, practically weightless but sturdy. (You just can’t beat real wool!) And I went to the yarn stash for more wool to tie it with — I had some Cascade 220 superwash in white.
Here’s where I fell off the turnip truck. I had blithely imagined tying a 6′ by 6′ quilt like this one would be the work of an evening. I’d just thread my yarn along every six inches at the seams and in the middles of the blocks, snippy-snap with the scissors, tie the ends and trim them. How tough could that be? I found a sturdy needle that’s too sharp for weaving ends in knitting but has a large enough eye to take a worsted-weight yarn if you cajole it properly.
Turns out forcing a large needle through two layers of cotton poplin every time you hit a seam allowance is mighty unpleasant on the fingers. And hovering over the quilt sandwich (you haven’t bothered to baste or pin it together because there seems to be just enough friction between the wool and the cotton that they aren’t really going anywhere and you can smooth out wrinkles as necessary) on the floor when you’re nearly nine months pregnant is not such happy camping, either. I found I could make one garland of ties across the width of the quilt before my fingers were throbbing and my back was demanding we do something else. Once I had a couple of central rows in place I felt confident that I could move the whole operation to the bed and sit cross-legged with the work in my lap, which improved my performance to two rows of ties in a sitting. And here I discovered, during a string of unusually warm evenings, that wool batting makes a quilt very cozy indeed. Our neighbors heat their house with a wood stove, so this really means the quilt will have an even more useful life than I’d imagined, but now I was a sore-fingered and sweaty pregnant woman stripping down to her underthings in order to labor away at a process that was supposed to be so much faster than machine quilting and the whole endeavor was starting to seem a little mad. I persevered, though, having the bit between my teeth as only the enormously gravid can.
And then it was done, and my fingers had grown tougher so that the binding went smoothly and more and more rapidly as I settled into the dipping motion of the needle. And this afternoon I gave the ties a haircut and then shot some quick pictures while Ada pointed happily at the different fabrics and squealed, “Buhds?! Bees?! Fwowuhs?!” And we delivered the gift.
Only a week late.
Now where’s the binding fabric for that baby quilt? I’m on a tear. And I have gorgeous leftovers of all these prints to make Ada her own smaller version, or perhaps a collection of little summer tunics…