Thursday, November 06, 2014

Using What You Have

Let's be honest here, while quilting at its roots is a craft of using up what you have lying around, these days it can be an extremely expensive hobby and sometimes you just can't afford to buy new stuff for a project so you return to the original idea of making do, and use up what you have.
This baby change mat was one such project.
It was for a baby's nappy-off time on hard floors so it needed to be as waterproof as I could make it, and as comfy and thick as I could make it.
I started by researching the various waterproof or water resistant fabrics and products available and soon realised that even if I could afford to buy them, the time it would take to get them posted to me would mean it took too long for me to get the quilt to its tiny new owner, who then wouldn't be so tiny anymore. :P
So I began to look around and see what I had. I discovered that bamboo batting is the most absorbent, and that's what I had the most of so I tested it out by layering it and seeing how well it handled me pouring water on it. The results were good but not great, so I began digging through my stash for the softest, most absorbent fabrics.  
I discovered that I still had a fair amount of this cute polar fleece from when I made a pair of PJ pants for my daughter, so that was one side of the quilt taken care of.

This was for a gift, so I obviously had to make the other side pieced and pretty. I found that of all my quilting fabrics, the shot cottons were the softest and I had a metre of a beautiful teal I'd been hoarding. Which was perfect because teals and purples were colours chosen by the baby's parents.
I then began looking for a design that would be pretty, but still leave a large open area in the centre so the baby wasn't lying on a whole bunch of seams all the time. I ended up going for a sawtooth star.

Because shot cottons have a different coloured thread for the warp than they do the weft, they can look very different depending on which way you orient them. I had to pay careful attention to which way my teal squares were facing when I made my flying geese. The goal was to make sure they all ended up flowing together properly so they looked as if the star was one continuous piece of fabric. 

After piecing my star, I then had to add a border to make it large enough to turn into a circle later. The original picture shown to me of what the parents wanted had been circular so I tried to keep to that basic design, while adding my own style.
I dug around in my stash again and found this pale aqua flannelette which I didn't quite think worked but it was all I had so it became the borders. 

I was still worried about how water resistant this quilt was going to be but then I was in my garage and noticed my son's old cot mattress and remembered I still had some of his cot mattress protectors in the cupboard. So I grabbed one of those and chopped into it. It was only about as wide as the star, and I knew I couldn't have a join running right up the centre of the quilt or it would defeat the purpose of being water resistant so I ended up just having a piece of the mattress protector running lengthwise across the middle, which is presumably where it was most needed anyway.

So my quilt sandwich was the fleece on the bottom, a layer of bamboo batting, the mattress protector piece, followed by another layer of bamboo batting, and the pieced top. Definitely the thickest thing I've ever attempted to quilt!

I began the quilting as usual, by stitching in the ditch.  I ditched around the star shape, and then in the seam between the star block and the border. I immediately fell in love with how puffy all the layers made it!

My next step was to define the eventual circle shape so I could plan my quilting accordingly. But who has a metre-sized circle template just lying around?  Oh wait, I do. Kind of. :P I used my oval washing basket to trace some curves which I joined into a vaguely circular shape. Yup, this was the "making do" quilt, all right. :D

After drawing the "circle", I then proceeded to quilt a guide line around the quilt, so I knew approximately where the edges of the finished quilt would be.

Then I had to quilt something in the centre because it was too big a space to leave open. But it had to be minimal because each hole left by my needle in the plastic layer of the mattress protecter part was a potential place for leaks. So I drew up another saw toothed star in the centre to quilt, and then just echoed the main star out to the points as well.

I decided to also mark my design for the outer borders, to keep it consistent. I usually won't use the Frixion pen on proper quilts, but the chalk I had wouldn't come off the flannel fabric, so the Frixion pen was my only option. It didn't seem to really leave any ghosts behind like it does on quilting cotton, though. Phew!
As you can see, I used another high-tech device for marking circular designs...a thread spool. :P

I didn't have any thread that would have blended with the border so I decided that if I had to use a thread that would be seen, I'd make it a design feature. Go big or go home, right? :P
I chose two beautiful purples and a turquoisey teal.
I first used the darker purple for the bones of the design, trying to keep more than a quarter inch inside the outer circle so the design wouldn't get cut off when I bound it.

Next was the teal thread, which I used to go back inside the leafy and feathery designs with a spiral. I began this late at night and made a stupid design decision to do a ribbony effect on the spiral but it just ended up looking like I was being really bad at travel stitching. :P
I couldn't unpick it, because I didn't want to leave any extra holes in the mattress protector layer so I just had to live with it. Thread that blended would have been nice to have, here!
When I noticed how bad it was, I switched to just a regular travel-stitched spiral and it looked a million times better.

At this point I began having problems with my thread breaking all the time. I changed my bobbin, needle, rethreaded everything and cleaned my machine but I still kept breaking thread. I was devastated because it meant I now had way too many thread ends to worry about unravelling. Ideally something you don't want to have happening on a quilt a baby is using. :(
I didn't even discover the reason why until much later when I was completely at my wits end and thinking I had to take my Beast in for a service already. I'd moved my thread stand back at some point, so the thread was practically running through the thread cutter next to the bobbin winder every time it came through and getting shredded. *facepalm*  :P

 Lastly I chose a paler, almost lilac-like purple and echoed around the whole design to tie it all together. I'm actually quite happy with how it ended up. It reminded me of Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, which works well in a design for a baby girl.
So puffy! <3
After trimming it to a (vaguely :P) circular shape, I then freaked about how thick all the layers were and how on earth was I going to bind it?!

 But a lady on Instagram rescued me by suggesting I do a zigzag stitch all around the edges and it worked brilliantly. It was all flattened out and I was able to attach my binding with no real problems.
I chose a deep purple solid for the binding because it was what I had, and I don't think I could have found a better choice, anyway. It really tied the back, the front, and the quilting together.

So that's my very first baby change mat type of quilt. I just used what I had lying around and didn't buy anything new for it. It's far from perfect, but I think the quirkiness of its imperfections and the choices I had to make about using whatever I already had some of just makes me love it even more.


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