My Aunt Alice is a quilting machine. She’s efficient at making quilts and can cut fabric as easily as I can pop the top on a can of Pringles. Seriously. The fabric that you buy at the store is as easy to visualize for her as it is for me to know what’s inside that can of Pringles once I get the top off. She does the math in her head for how many strips to cut and to what size, and she knows exactly how much batting is needed.
My Amazing Aunt Alice came to Alaska for vacation, and I immediately put her to work teaching me to quilt. I unloaded all my sewing stuff at my mom’s house, and my aunt had me pick which fabrics I wanted to use. I settled on some Star Wars prints, a slightly patterned black, and a granite-style grey. Then, I cut strips out– some short, some long, some skinny, some fat. Dr. Seuss missed his calling when he failed to write a book about making quilts!
Then, my Aunt Robin, who is full of wisdom and good advice, helped me sort out the strips of fabric. My Star Wars fabric strips definitely had a noticeable sameness, and I wasn’t loving how I had the strips organized. Aunt Robin suggested laying out the strips so that when the quilt was folded in half, all the words would be right-side up. At this point, I got really excited about the quilt. I could finally see how it was going to come together… at least the top of it anyway! Of course, being a complete sewing newbie, I had to rip the seam and resew the first two strips! I was not quite careful enough when I picked up my strips to get them off the floor and ready to be sewed, so the first Star Wars strip ended up being upside down instead of upside up like I had so carefully planned. Aunt Alice said every seam needed to be ironed. I ironed so many seams, and I realized not for the first time that irons would be a lot more useful if they were actually heavy. If you’re thinking about sewing, I can not recommend going for the heaviest iron you can find, rather than the cheapest. I liked the ironing well enough… all the seams came out perfectly flat, which made the little part of me that is OCD very happy!
A pro tip from my aunt: Take a picture of your different ideas so you can consider them at length without having to re-organize your quilt every time you want to reconsider a design!
The Amazing Aunt Alice had me cut and sew the back of the quilt. Everything about this part seemed backwards. I suspected that I didn’t calculate the math right in my head, but I trusted my auntie that it would be alright. Then, I cut my large piece of batting into two pieces, sewed them together, and then folded them in half for extra warmth– a decision I would later come to regret and then unregret even later!
Then came the part that my parents loved the very best. I had already taken over my mom’s den with all my sewing stuff, so it was time to take over dad’s living room, too. I laid out the back of my quilt, placed the batting on top, and then the quilt top. Using special safety pins, I pinned the quilt together in a few different spots. Then, Aunt Alice helped me cut away the extra fabric. The process was a lot less exact than I expected after how carefully I had sewed together my strips, but Aunt Alice can make a half-dozen quilts in a day, so I figured she knew what she was talking about.
After cutting away the extra fabric, I pinned the quilt together in about 200 different spots. At this point, I really regretted that extra layer of batting. It was so hard to get the safety pins closed on the fabric. The meaty part of my palm, right under my thumb, kept cramping up. On the plus side, I was on my hands and knees while I was working on the quilt, so I didn’t block dad’s view of the TV too much unless I was standing up to stretch.
Once the quilt was pinned together, Aunt Alice showed me how to fold and roll the back of the quilt so that it created a nice finished edging for the front of the quilt. I thought that I had to have some special edging stuff for the edge of the quilt, so Aunt Alice’s simple solution was an excellent surprise!
After that, I sewed up the edges, learned to tie some special surgeon’s knots and finished up the quilt. Finally– my first quilt was finished!
I gave the quilt to my boyfriend. He works for a few weeks at a time, in arctic conditions, and his bunk is tiny. I made him a fleece blanket a couple years ago, but it’s way too big for his cot. This quilt, is just a little narrower than a twin bed, and a couple feet longer– perfectly sized for his bunk, or just chilling on the couch. The quilt was gifted in August, and it hasn’t made it up to his work yet. At first, it went on our bed, where we huddled together to share the warmth (at least until I fell asleep and stole the whole of it from him), and now it’s on the couch, where I snuggle under it while I blog. It is thick and warm, and I am glad I doubled up on the batting.
Many thanks to my aunts: Alice, Robin, Bootsie, and Holly and my uncles: Bill and Steve for imparting their knowledge and providing moral support… and to my parents for putting up with me taking over their whole downstairs for about a month. I never thought I’d make a quilt, and now that I’ve done it, I think I’m hooked!