Crafting & Art
A few years ago I chronicled how my not-nearly-a-seamstress buns were
compelled possessed to make a quilt for the bean.
And here I am a few years later (after a tornado of thread and a surprisingly successful sewing machine date) with another homemade quilt – this time for our baby boy on the way.
I don’t think I would have been so into making him a quilt if Clara hadn’t grown so attached to hers. She not only has slept with it pretty much every night since I finished it…
… but she brings it in the car for road trips, and even drags it downstairs to to the sofa for lazy Saturday snuggling.
The sweetest thing about it is that John has told her a few times that mommy sewed it just for her, so every once in a while when she hugs me or kisses me goodnight she leans in and whispers “thank you for my beautiful quilt.” Yup, just typing that made me tear up. She’s the best.
So I wanted to make something for my little man to hopefully love just as much, but I thought it might be fun to try a different method this time. I hedged for a while, not really sure where to begin, and then I saw this awesome hand-stitched quilt and knew it was just the inspiration I was looking for (it’s by Citta Design, but sadly no longer for sale).
I love how charming that sweetly imperfect hand-done stitching is. Each line is irregular enough to clearly not be machine-made, and it feels so full of love thanks to those slightly varied dashes. So I decided to give it a try…
Here’s a list of my materials:
- one square yard of white diamond-quilt fabric from JoAnn (the kind with a quilted cotton front and back with some thin batting sandwiched in the middle), which came to $4 after using a 40% off coupon that I googled for on my phone
- 17 little packs of embroidery floss in a variety of colors from Michaels – like chartreuse, kelly green, pale green, teal, navy, and lime (I actually bought 5 of each of those colors for a total of 30 packs, but ended up returning 13 of them, so at 27 cents each, the 17 that I used rang in at $4.59)
- a leftover pack of embroidery needles, which just look like giant sewing needles and can be threaded with embroidery floss instead of string (they were originally 99 cents at JoAnn when I bought them for a book project a few years back)
- my sewing machine (I already had Oh Brother all loaded up with white thread)
All told, I spent under $10 to make this quilt (and about ten million love-filled man-hours spaced across a weeks’ worth of evenings, but we’ll get to that in a second). While I was pre-washing my quilt fabric (I thought it was best to let it shrink up before I embroidered it), my first step was just to decide what type of stitched pattern I liked best. I debated everything from evenly spaced lines like the ones in the inspiration image to some sort of diagonal or crosshatched design, but in the end, the idea of some simple stripes in varying tones of blue and green won out.
I just started from the left side of the quilt and hand stitched four different lines of embroidery floss – each one in a different color.
I made sure not to double up my thread (I kept it single like the inspiration quilt, which meant threading the needle like this with a little excess, but not looping it all the way down and knotting it like I do when I sew a button with regular thread).
After completing my first “stripe” (which was comprised of four different stitched lines that went from top to bottom) I used the diamonds on the quilted fabric to roughly space the next stripe about two diamonds away. That way I could keep the spacing somewhat even, although I did some of the stripes 4-stitched-lines wide and some of them 3-wide, just for variety. I really do love how the inspiration quilt is unmistakably done by hand – and it doesn’t hurt that I couldn’t make something look perfectly spaced if I tried.
The diamonds in the embroidery fabric also helped me keep my lines somewhat straight from top to bottom. For example, if I started one hand-stitched line at the peak of a diamond, as I stitched from the bottom of my fabric to the top, I made sure to connect each diamond peak as I went. This kept me from veering off too far to the right or left.
Now let’s talk about the time factor. You know I like to keep it real with you guys, and I’d never say “fast and easy” if something takes forever. Well, the good news is that this quilt is mad cute. The bad news is that it takes forever. I don’t know if I’m slow or just easily distracted by Housewives drama (I did it every night across about a week while sitting on the sofa watching TV), but my average was about 3-4 stripes (made up of either three or four colors) a night, which took about 2 hours.
So all told, this 16-stripe one-yard quilt (well technically there are 57 stripes, but they’re spaced to look like 16 thicker ones) took me around 11 hours in total (including one more hour spent hemming the outside seams with a sewing machine, which actually wasn’t too bad).
Even though it took a while, it wasn’t one of those torturous projects that makes you want to poke your own eyeballs out (that’s painting blue trim or peeling wallpaper, FYI). It’s more like one of those relaxing repetitive motions you can do at night from the sofa, where your butt might be parked anyway. But instead of taking quizzes on Buzzfeed or scrolling around on Instagram, you get to be stitching something while snuggled under a blanket with your chihuahua and feeling pretty dang quaint about it.
As for how I knotted each stripe, I just tied off the top of each one with the thread still on the needle on the top edge of the back of the quilt. And then on the bottom edge I cut the embroidery floss off with about 7″ to spare so I could slip my needle back onto that end and knot it there as well. That left me with a seam full of knots like this along each edge (top and bottom) on the backside of the quilt.
Once I got about a third of the way done with my stripes (working from left to right), I started on the right side and worked from right to left to get about a third of the way done with that side. Then I bounced back and forth doing every other stripe on each side, as I got closer and closer to the middle of the quilt, which allowed me to space everything so it was somewhat symmetrical. It probably would have been just as easy to work from left to right and use that two-diamond spacing, but I might have had to trim off a few inches of the quilt at the end if everything didn’t line up perfectly, and I liked the idea of a square quilt.
Allow me to share this creepy low-lit iPhone pic to demonstrate how I sort of worked in towards the middle.
To hem the edges I broke out the ol’ sewing machine and said a few prayers to the sewing machine gods. I’m paraphrasing, but they were something like “please let me make it through this attempt without throwing this thing out the window or revealing my evil sailor-mouthed alter ego to my sweet husband in the next room.” Then I just folded each edge over in the back, took three deep cleansing breaths, and stitched them in that folded position.
This hid the knots on the top and bottom but there was still not a finished edge along the back hem, so I folded each of them over again and did one more stitch-session with each side for a nice finished look from the back and front. This is the front:
And here’s what it looks like from the back:
Lo and behold, I only broke two needles (that’s not a joke, I really managed to break two needles) but I think it came out really sweet.
Can’t wait to meet this little bun and wrap him up with all sorts of love and quilt-y snuggles.
Right now it’s just chilling in the nursery, waiting for the big arrival.
Is anyone else sewing anything for their kiddos? Friends or relatives? Four-legged babies? Have you ever tried hand-stitching or embroidery? It’s oddly restful. Sort of like hand hypnosis.
Wanna see a pregnant lady in a crib? Boom, there it is.
Yes, this is a story all about how
my life got twist turned upside down I made our little man a mobile. It’s kinda rustic (it’s made from a manzanita branch) and kinda modern (there are fun circles in a bunch of colors and sizes that hang down at different lengths) and most of all it makes me smile. Is it weird that hanging this actually made me feel more ready to have the little guy in my arms? Like “OK, the mobile’s up – now the baby party can start.”
Much like the mobile I made for Clara’s room (that one was comprised of little floral orbs made from wire, faux flowers, and glue)…
… this one was pretty simple to put together. Clara even helped!
First I dragged my decorative manzanita branch out of the storage room (what? everyone doesn’t have a decorative manzanita branch standing by? well, that needs to be remedied). It was sold by West Elm a few years ago, so it has been bleached and debarked and it’s nice and solid – so there’s no worry of anything flaking off like old bark and falling into the crib. I thought leaving it this raw color would be a nice counterpart to the colorful round disks I wanted to add. As for the dangly strands, I had two paper banners from Target that I picked up for $2.18 on clearance a few months ago without any earthly idea of what I’d eventually use them for.
Once the mobile idea popped into my head, well, they seemed perfect. Except of course they were colors/patterns that didn’t really fit into the nursery scheme thus far. But it wasn’t anything a little craft paint couldn’t solve. So I laid them out on a few old cereal boxes from our recycling bin and Clara had fun helping me paint them. They needed two coats to cover those patterns underneath, but it was pretty easy to get done – even with a wiggly three year old assistant. Mostly it was one of those we-both-hold-the-brush-so-we-don’t-get-paint-all-over-the-strings projects, but she has a lot of pride over the mobile she made for “her baby” and it was a fun thing to do with her.
While those freshly painted circles were drying, I realized they probably wouldn’t be enough to fill out the entire branch (even if I snipped them into smaller 25″ strands). So I broke out some white embroidery floss and decorative paper. Using a few round items around the house I traced multiple versions of three similarly sized circles to the ones in the pre-made banners onto craft paper in similar colors to the paint I used. For the smallest circles I used the base of the craft paint that was still out on the table, the middle ones were from tracing the bottom of another slightly larger bottle I had, and the biggest circles were from the base of a small cup. Then I just cut them out, making sure I had an even number of each.
The even number was important since I used them to sandwich my white embroidery string with some Aleen’s Tacky Glue. Just pressing them together over the string after dabbing them with some glue dots seemed to do the trick, and I spaced them by eye, using the spacing of the Target banners as my guide (those were around two inches apart).
I made each strand around 25″ long, just like the pre-made banners that I had snipped apart to make sections of that length. When everything was dry, it was time to tie them firmly onto the branch at different increments for a nice dangly effect. I hung the branch over the back of two chairs so there was room for my strands to dangle while I tied them on, and I just randomly spaced them so they were all slightly different widths from each other.
At this point Clara was over the project and happily putting stickers on the window nearby (that’s a really nice look from the curb, by the way), but Burger did mosey on over for a peek as I went.
On the topic of hanging things over a crib, we’re definitely paranoid with a side of neurotic. For example, in Clara’s nursery we hung a mirror over her crib, but we actually drilled directly through the frame in multiple places to secure that thing to the wall so tightly that even John couldn’t yank it off the wall – even though it was out of Clara’s actual reach.
So although this mobile weighs a fraction of a pound, we relied on three heavy duty brass plated plant hooks (they each support 10+ lbs and have extra long screws so we could be sure they were either hitting a ceiling beam – two of them did – or a heavy duty anchor that we added) along with extra strong fishing wire that’s almost invisible, so it looks like it’s floating. We just knotted the fishing wire to the branch in three spots that needed some support (both ends and the triangular middle branch area) and connected them to the plant hooks that we secured to the ceiling, directly above those points. And that’s how this pregnant lady found herself chilling in a crib.
I really loved this way of hanging it since it’ll always be out of baby’s reach (this method makes it really easy raise if we ever think it’s within grabbing distance – although once the baby is more mobile we’ll drop the mattress so it’ll be even further away).
It’s amazing how much sweeter the crib feels now. Like it’s saying “bring on the baby!”
Once we got it hanging there was a split second where I wished it was a little bigger, just to fill up that wall more, but it’s almost three feet wide and around 16″ deep and 25″ long, so if it was any bigger the function of it might hinder us since it’s a real-life 3-D object that’s hanging there (we feared we’d hit our heads on it every time we leaned into the crib if it were much bigger). So after staring at it for a while I’ve come to peace with its size.
John actually ordered two samples of Spoonflower wallpaper that he thinks could be fun to further fill out that wall between the built-ins (a complete surprise to me!) so maybe we’ll end up layering in some sort of interesting color or backdrop behind the mobile. It takes 12 business days to arrive, so I can’t wait to get it. Might be a total “nope that would look crazy” moment, or something that we’re both enamored with, so we’ll keep you posted. We’ve also talked about some sort of accent color with paint, just between those two built-ins, so we’re definitely open to seeing where this thing goes.
Either way, it’s pretty cool to see a room that used to look like this…
… looking more like this these days.
As for what’s left on the list in here, there are just a few outstanding items.
- possibly tweak the wall behind the crib with wallpaper or some sort of accent color
- add an overhead light on a dimmer (nothing’s there at all right now)
- redo the closet for little clothes (paint it, add a second hanging bar or some cubby storage, etc)
- finishing touches (some other small art/accessories, etc)
- just add baby
It’s nice to be in the home stretch! Both for this pregnancy (I’m still having morning sickness at 33 weeks) and for the room. Most of all we’re just excited to meet the little guy who’s doing the macarena in my tummy right now. I think he’s a very good dancer.
Oh and since a few readers have passed along an awesome tip about making sure to look at a mobile from below to check that it’s interesting from that point of view, here’s what the bun will see when he glances up. Little spinning slices of color and a nice branchy background. Although I don’t think his eyes will focus that high up for a little while…
I contemplated adding something facing him to the bottom of each strand (ex: a small animal-shaped piece of paper that would look flat from the side, but read easily from his in-the-crib perspective) but since his bedding has elephants marching all over it, I wondered if it might be more soothing to just see some dancing disks. We’re definitely open to evolving this little creation as he grows though. So if he’s really into some sort of creature (remember how much Clara got into worms and dragons?) I can work those in later. Just don’t want to stimulate him too much since it’s a spot for sleep.
And just because it might be more fun to see a grown man lying in a crib than a pregnant lady standing in one, there’s this:
Is anyone else making mobiles? Or putting the last few touches on a different room that you’ve been working on? What about hanging out in cribs? I’m telling you, it’s kind of a good time.