Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Really Easy Baby Quilt

Many years ago, when my son was born, my friend sent me a baby quilt she had made.  I was impressed by the shape and even more by the construction -- it was not complicated, to put it mildly.  If you can baste (aka running stitch) and tie knots, you can make one, too. 

This is the original quilt.

I decided to make one, using the original as my pattern.  I discovered that it was easier to do it all "by hand," given that quilt batting tends to get stuck on the presser foot. 

I also realized it could also be made in a rectangle, too.  That way, all the cutting necessary is trimming seams and thread.

Here's what you need to make this simple baby quilt. 

1 yard or meter of printed fabric - I use polyester/cotton or 100 % cotton

1 yard or meter of plain fabric for backing.  (Use the same kind as printed fabric)
NOTE:  I always pre-wash and dry all fabrics.

1 yard or meter of quilt batting  (NOTE:  I've only ever used polyester batting, so I don't know how this would work with other kinds)

Scissors for cutting batting, smaller ones for trimming threads.

Thread to match.  (If using polyester/cotton blend  fabrics, make sure you get polyester thread.)

2 or more skeins of embroidery floss, depending on # of colors used

marking pencil or fabric marker that will wash out

pins, needles for sewing and embroidery

Here's what you do:

Pin the pieces of fabric right sides together.  (The "right side" will be the brighter side.  If you can't tell, it doesn't matter which side you use.)

Pin quilt batting to fabric. 

Mark seams on fabric.  I do a wide seam, usually 3/4 inch. 

Using sewing thread, baste three layers together, leaving opening (4 - 6 inches) to turn inside out.  Remove pins. (I'm assuming non-sewers may be trying this.)

Trim seams to about 1/2 inch.  Trim batting a bit more.  Trim across corners (so you'll have a little triangle of fabric cut off) and even closer to seams for about an inch near corners.  

Turn inside out through opening.  I find it easier if I reach inside the opening to the fabric at the corner farthest from the opening, hold that and slowly pull back through opening.  This can be tricky, as the batting is thick, so take your time if you're new to this sort of thing.) 

Slip stitch opening. If you can't do a slip stitch (or hemming stitch), fold sides of opening to inside to match seam and pin, as it will be sewn closed when basting around sides with embroidery thread.)

Press.  This will make the next step much easier. 

Laying quilt flat, pin around edges and through all 3 layers within quilt to hold fabric together while working.

Mark along 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch from outer edge of quilt all around quilt.

Separate a piece of embroidery floss (see how here) and using 3 stands, baste around edges of quilt following marking.

 Join threads with reef (square) knots and trim about 3/8 - 1/2" from knot.

On right side of fabric, pick a place in the pattern to tie knots.  I pick the center of flowers, for instance, or the stars as in pictures shown.

From front, insert needle straight down through all 3 thicknesses, leaving 3/4 to 1 inch of floss at front.  Now here's where it gets a bit tricky.  Insert the needle up through the back and all 3 thicknesses so it comes out close to where you inserted the needle to make a stitch.  Take a look at the back.  The stitch should be small, about 1/8 inch.  It can be a bit larger, but not much.  If it's too large, pull out and try again.

When you're satisfied with the stitch, don't cut it yet!  Tie a knot, pulling floss tight.  Cut floss about 3/4 inch from knot. 

Continue until you've put a stitch and knot in every spot on the pattern. 

Trim the knots.  I trim them to about 3/8 to 1/2 inch.  Whatever length you decide upon, be consistent.  Here's one where the pattern was regular.



Here's one that's more random:

 Remove all pins.  Wash and dry as per fabric used.  

 And that's it!


Monday, January 04, 2016

Let the revisions begin!

Today I start revising the first draft of my current work-in-progress that I'm now calling The Great Ragout because oh, my, it's got a lot of "stuff" going on.  I realized this was the case as the chapter count increased to a whooping 32.  There was a reason for this -- my work was interrupted by not one, but two, family medical crises in 2015.  Fortunately, things are okay for now, but clearly, the stop-and-start meant I spent some time wandering through the manuscript wilderness, trying to find my way back to the path after each break.

So, how do I revise? 

I print the draft.  For a long time, I thought I did this because I was "old school."  Yes, I started my first book on ye olde typewriter.  And I find it easier to keep track of changes and notes when I can hold the manuscript in my hands.  However, I've come to another realization lately.  Reading on hard copy makes the experience more of a reader experience and less of a writer experience.  It gives me more distance, and gives me a better view of the bigger picture.

I read the draft with colored pen in hand and make changes and notes as I go.  I write additions on the back of the pages and other paper as necessary.  I use highlighters if there are blocks to be moved or deleted. 

After I go through the whole manuscript this way, I begin the second draft on the computer.  I don't just transpose the changes and additions and make deletions as noted.  I make new changes.  Sometimes I'll print up a scene or chapter to check it.  I'll go back and forth making changes or moving bits.  I save the deletions just in case, although I rarely use the cut bits.  After I've done the second draft, I'll print it up and go through this whole process again, at least once more.  Sometimes a few times.   However many it takes until I'm satisfied the story is the best I can make it, and within the right word count.

First drafts are tough.  They take a lot of mental effort, because you're making decisions all the time -- every sentence, really.  It's like building a house.  Revisions aren't easy either - it's like renovating a fixer-upper.  The "bones" might be there, but the plumbing's shot and the wiring's not up to code, and then comes the new walls, etc. etc. and finally the decorating.  But just like a good renovation, when the final draft is done, the satisfaction is wonderful.