baby animals quilt

The baby quilt is finished!  It is adorable and the kids were thrilled!  My girlfriends gave them a baby shower a few weeks ago and when it was opened, I confess to getting teary eyed.  I was so happy to see my son and his darling wife be so thrilled with the gift, knowing they were part of a 16 year old tradition.  My book club friends (of over 40 years) started making group baby quilts for our first grandchild of each of our children.  So far we have made 14 baby quilts and it's possible we may make one or two more!  Over the years my son has seen me be part of this quilt making process and it was fantastic to see a 34 year old man get excited about the idea that his baby was going to be part of this tradition. Sigh. I simply love this time in my life. The quilt is now hanging on the side of the crib, waiting for the little guy to be born!

A group baby quilt is not that difficult and can be made by women with all skill levels.  You may need one expert in the group to guide you, but not everyone needs to be good at sewing, just enthusiastic!  We like to give ourselves at least 3-4 months to make a quilt. Below are the general directions to make a 40" x 52" (approximate size) 12 block baby quilt. 

Just for ease of making, we make all our baby quilts exactly the same. This consistency and familiarity makes participation easier for the less experienced sewers.  Each baby quilt is made up of 12 embroidered squares connected with lattice strips and connecting blocks. However, they all look completely different because of their color choices and embroidery design choices. We've never made one that hasn't been adorable. To start, the new grandma-to-be and the new mom-to-be pick out a simple embroidery pattern from Aunt Martha's Transfers.  Usually the fabric store carries them, but if not, they are available online. Tessa chose baby animals in cross-stitch.  

Go shopping: Next, with pattern in hand, head to the fabric store and pick out 3-4 fabrics: white for the blocks, a color for the lattice strips and another for the small connecting blocks, then finally the backing fabric. Use only highest quality 100% cotton suitable for quilting. The lady at the shop can help you figure out how much yardage you need, but for this size, we get 2 yds. white for the squares, 2 yds. fabric for the backing, ½ yd. for the connecting blocks and 1 yd. for the lattice strips. Also, get a dozen or so DMC Six-Strand Embroidery Floss in at least 6 favorite colors.  Make sure you get black and red for the eyes and mouth if you are making animals.  You'll also need 3 packages of Wrights Bias Tape Wide Single Fold (do not get anything else, not even the quilt binding, trust me, the Wide Single Fold is best), thin baby quilt sized poly batting, and a spool of matching thread for piecing plus one spool of white or off-white hand quilting thread. Also, everyone needs an embroidery hoop, several embroidery needles, several quilting needles, a threader, and a thimble.

The mother-to-be won't see the baby quilt again until it's finished!

Cut the Fabric: Machine wash and tumble dry all fabric. Iron if necessary. Cut off selvage edges and throw out. Cut out the white squares large enough to fit the design, making sure to add plenty of extra room around each design.  Using the package directions, carefully iron on the transfer designs. With the corresponding colors, cut lattice strips and connecting blocks, also adding a ¼" seam all around.  These are the sizes we cut:
→12 white blocks, 9 ½" x 9 ½"
    You can cut them larger to help with embroidery; the final trimmed size is 9 ½" square.
→31 lattice strips, 9 ½" x 3 ½"
→20 connecting squares, 3 ½" x 3 ½"

(A rotary cutter and self-healing mat are helpful for cutting!)

Embroidery: We are 6 women and always make a 12 block quilt, giving each of us 2 designs to embroider, then later, to quilt.  Invite your friends over, hand them each 2 squares and enough embroidery floss for each design, plus needles and other supplies.  Give a little embroidery lesson if necessary.  Stem stitch, outline stitch, lazy daisy stitch and French knots are the most common embroidery stitches. Directions can be found online. Give them a finish date, usually two weeks is sufficient.  

Assemble the Quilt: Gather the finished squares from your friends and if necessary, trim to their final size of 9½".  Machine or hand stitch your pieces together, see photo below.  When your quilt-top is pieced together it is time to make your "quilt sandwich".  Lay your backing fabric on the ground, wrong-side up.  Lay the poly batting on top and smooth it out.  Lay quilt top over and smooth again. Baste your quilt sandwich together with large basting stitches or basting pins. Trim the backing and batting to within 1 inch of the top.  

Quilting: Set up a quilting schedule.  Each friend will choose a week in which she will hand-quilt two blocks and the surrounding squares and lattice strips.  Give a little hand-quilting lesson if necessary or send them to a you-tube lesson.  You may want to trace a quilting design lightly in pencil.  For this quilt, we quilted along ¼" of every seam, and "free-handed" around each animal (see the close up of the ducky above.) The quilt is now gone for 5 weeks!  When one girl is finished, she takes it to the next girl and she works on it for a week, then passes it on, and so forth.

Binding: After all the quilting is finished the binding goes on.  Follow the directions on the package, and machine sew the binding to the edge.  Trim off extra fabric and with a tiny blind stitch, hand sew the binding edge to the back.  Removed basting stitches or pins. Machine wash and tumble dry quilt. It's done!   Quilts are very sturdy and meant to be used daily and washed often!

We've done this 16 times and I like to think we are old pros! Our children and grandchildren call the quilts, the book club quilts, or the grandmother quilts. Making, giving, and receiving them is a sweet tradition that we all treasure. It's a fun and very sweet project, and I hope you'll consider making this one of your new traditions! 

The embroidered squares are back and ready to be trimmed to size.

The piecing is in process.

The quilt sandwich is assembled and basted with pins.  You can also baste with basting thread.

You can see the hand quilting has begun at the top of the quilt.

The binding is finished.

Washed and dried and ready for baby!
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watermelon cardi

My, this was quick! Less than 24 hours from idea to blog post!  I saw this pattern on Ravelry yesterday morning, printed it out, gathered my yarn, cast on that evening at the start of the baseball game, and before the ninth inning I had woven in the ends and sewn on the buttons!  As my needles were clicking and the sweater was unfolding before me,  my thought bubble was, "Oh, where have you been all my life, darling little watermelon sweater?" I love it so much and decided that I'll make this for every little summer-born baby girl in my circle.  The pattern is sized for newborn only and is free from Stichylinda Designs, takes just a smidgen of yarn and knits up in a few short hours. And it's completely adorable. On Monday it's being mailed off to Washington, DC.

I used two popular summer yarns, Tahki's Cotton Classic in Bright Spearmint and Rowan's Summerlite DK in Fuchsia and compared them side by side.  I consider them both excellent yarns from luxury brands, but there were some differences.  My conclusion is Rowan's Summerlite DK has the edge due to it's softer fabric, zero splitting issues, and better value for the dollar.

The Links:

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the winners announced and a new favorite summer dessert

Lately, the weather has been so warm in the evenings that we've been invited to several pop-up barbeques where I've been asked to bring dessert. If I've ever made ice cream sandwiches before I don't remember, and I don't know why I decided to make them this time, but man, were they ever good. Really good. Big-smiles-all-around good.

I keep Cowboy Cookie dough frozen in logs in the freezer.  For 24 sandwiches I baked 48 cookies and filled them with a half gallon plus another quart of chocolate chip ice cream--my favorite flavor from Baskin Robbins.  I wrapped them quickly in freezer paper and popped them in a plastic freezer bag. They were best when frozen for a few hours before eating.

As for last week's giveaway, thank you to all who entered.  It certainly got a lot of attention and I was so happy to offer it because I love both the Gleener and Eucalan so much.  It's really an honor for me to share things I love with you on this blog and I want to thank you again for reading and for taking the time to comment.  

One winner was chosen from the Facebook comments: Teresa Wright from the UK--and one reader from the blog comments: gabyj from Canada.  I've contacted you both and as soon as you send me your mailing addresses I'll ship them out.  Congratulations!


Designer Spotlight: Kari-Helene Rane

Hello!  Today kicks off a new series where I'll highlight some terrific (and perhaps unknown to you) independent freelance knitwear designers.  I came across Kari-Helene by accident, and when I looked through her beautiful design portfolio I was astonished that I hadn't knit any of her designs nor did I really know anything about her.  That had to be remedied as she has so many gorgeous designs that I want to knit--now.  I know you'll agree with me!

Kari-Helene Rane is originally from Norway, now living in Brighton, UK.  She and her sisters learned to knit at their Norwegian mum's and grandmother's knees, who both produced traditional jumpers at a scary speed throughout their childhoods. They were never cold!  Kari-Helene went on to study fashion design at Kingston University where lucky for us, she decided to focus on designing for hand knitters.  Inspiration comes from relaxing with Frank, her Spanish Water Dog, and the creativity of her favorite designers, Dries Van Noten, noting the ethnic influence on his designs, and Sandra Backlund for her 3D knitwear.  

Please enjoy a sampling of a few of my favorite designs below.  Kari-Helene has generously offered to give my readers a 30% discount off her entire portfolio of instant download patterns available through Ravelry using the code: knitionary17. This offer is good for one week and will expire on June 23, 2017.  Look through her entire portfolio of artfully produced designs and stock up!  I did!

I adore the Masika Skirt!

  The Niobe Jumper uses interesting stitches to create texture.

Gorgeous fitted jacket: Isis Tailcoat.

I'm completely mad for this dress and think I must knit it: The Lily Dress.

The Bolly Waistcoat for him and her.

The Honesty Cardigan is a classic garment with a contemporary twist. With a traditional V neck, Honesty gets an instant update by using the wrong sides of the stripes on the main body and the right side on the sleeves. Clever!

Zig-zag details and stockinette and reverse stockinette add beautiful texture to the Lorelle Jumper.

Kari-Helene designs accessories and children's garments too.
Love this little model and her pretty Beauty Cardigan.

You can find Kari-Helen's entire design portfolio here.
Enjoy 30% off her instant download patterns available through Ravelry using the code: knitionary17. This offer is good for one week and will expire on June 23, 2017

What are your favorites?

Leave a comment here.

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