Thursday, April 21, 2011

Baby Clothes Name Blanket

Let me start here by saying this project is a surprise birthday gift for my daughter next week. So if anyone that reads this spills the beans before I have a chance to give it to her the day after Easter, just go ahead and expect me to show up at your door to administer a beat-down for leaking this out of our little Craft Cone of Silence. What is posted on the blog, stays on the blog. Until Monday, anyway.

But I digress...this story starts 8 1/2 years ago. I am pregnant with my daughter and since second babies don't usually get showers to celebrate their forthcoming arrival, I wanted to do something else special so this baby would know we were happily anticipating her appearance in the world. I stole an idea that my mom had at her baby shower for me: name squares. I passed out and mailed 8x8" squares of fabric to my (female, because we all know how most men are when you ask them to do something crafty...) friends & family and asked them to write a name on the square. I said it could be the name they think we should use for this baby or just their favorite baby name. This works best if you do it before you start blabbling the sex of the baby, because if you do that first, you're going to get a very one-sided blanket out of it. As a person who owns a name blanket, I always thought it was fun to see what names people liked, which people thought I was going to be a boy or a girl, and what names were popular at the time I was born.

After I got the name squares back, I embroidered them right away (I was still pregnant and still had free-time while my 2-year-old napped!) Then, I put them in a drawer....for 8 years.

In my defense, what started out as a name blanket, morphed into a "name and baby clothes" blanket somewhere in Maya's toddlerhood. I thought it would be cute to incorporate clothes she wore as a little girl into the quilt instead of just buying random fabric to patch the name squares together. So, I had to wait a while for her to outgrow her clothes and amass a large enough collection of things that were memorable and not too stained to use!

I went with a twin size because 1) that's the size her bed is right now, and because she has the small bedroom, it's not going to get any bigger, and 2) it's possible to machine-quilt a twin size (and probably even a fill size, but I wouldn't try it with a queen or larger.)

Since my name squares were 8x8", I cut out a matching square from heavy card stock to use as a pattern on the clothes. Many things (shirts, dresses) were easy to find a square to use, but other things (pants, diaper covers, shirts with logos too close to the neckline) took some creativity. On a few shirts, I ended up cutting out two squares, one from the back that I flipped around so the right side faces up, then one from the front that incorporated the neckline, then I sewed the two together so it was still a square, but I got all of the fancy neckline stuff in. If you enlarge the quilt picture, you can see a blue square that was a shirt with lots of necklaces sewn on it and a green jumper with a butterfly on it - both of these squares were done this way. There were also a few items that had cute logos (strawberry shortcake comes to mind) that were in a really inconvenient spot. So, I cut the logos out, cut my square of fabric from wherever worked best, then used my sewing machine as a serger and sewed that sucker back into place on the new square of fabric.

I picked two other challenging garments to picture here: the first is a floral top that had some stains on the front. I thought about using the back (it had cute pearl buttons all the way up the back) but I settled on the side because there's a bow, and my little girl loves her some bows. The side was slitted, so first I sewed up the slit, then cut out the square.

The second challenge was two diaper covers I saved from dresses Maya loved (I think I sold the dresses at a garage sale). They weren't big enough to give me an 8x8" square, so I cut the biggest triangles I could out of them, then sewed them together. After ironing the seam, I was able to cut out my 8x8" square.

For a twin size comforter, I needed 9 squares across and 12 squares going down each row. So, we're talking 108 different squares. As I was cutting squares, I realized I didn't have quite enough different clothes, so I also used a plain pink velour baby blanket, and I cut more than one square from a few of the larger-sized garments.

After you have all your squares ready, lay them out on the floor. You'd think that you could just randomly sew squares together for a "crazy quilt" like this, but I spent quite a few minutes moving squares around, breaking up the pink with other colors, trying to alternate the "logo & large picture" squares with the "plain or small pattern" squares, and I had a definite spot for each of the name squares (I put the ones from close relatives and friends in the middle, bottom & side that will show once it's on the bed. Squares from people Maya doesn't know as well went all the way at the top (often this part of the quilt is folded over, so these squares don't always show) and the side of the quilt that is tucked in against the wall when it's on the bed. Anyway, spend some time laying it'll be glad you did.

I'm not going to go into a detailed description of how to sew together a quilt (if you're reading a craft blog, I'm going to assume a basic level of sewing competence here...if not, there are plenty of websites that will walk you through the process.)
I did machine quilt this tw
in-sized comforter. It's a challenge, but not impossible. It involves folding or rolling up the side that's smushed between the machine and the needle, and making sure you never have more than half the comforter on that side of the machine. It's a pain, yes, but it's more of a pain to quilt it by hand. Amen to that.

Slap a blanket binding around the border and you're good to go.

Can't wait for next week!

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