Sunday, June 27, 2010

One year on, and a new backpack for my baby

It's my birthday today, which means it's exactly one year since I got my sewing machine and was bitten by the sewing bug. I'm really loving being able to create beautiful things for my family and friends, especially my kids, and can't ever see myself getting tired of sewing.

This week also marks my last week of maternity leave, as I return to work next Monday. I have mixed feelings about this, as it means putting my youngest in childcare for two days a week. He's only 10 months old and we've never been apart, so it's going to be a huge change for us.

I decided to make him a backpack to take to daycare so he's got something special 'just for him' that was made by his mummy. I know he won't have any clue about that, but it will at least make me feel better!

I used the toddler backpack pattern by Made by Rae with a few amendments: I added a zippered pocket to the front, increased the height by 2 inches and fully lined it. I also added a nameplate to the back. The backpack came together without any fuss and I had fun picking the fabric (cute Kokka aeroplanes) and trims.

This was my first time using a zipper and I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was. It was also my first time working with piping (ready-made) - I liked the effect and am looking forward to using it again.

View from the front. I drafted my own patten for the front pocket and am pleased with the result.

Side view. Even though I used cotton canvas and interfaced it, it's not quite as firm as I would like.

Back view. The straps are padded at the top. The bottom section is webbing and adjustable.

The nameplate. I machine-embroidered Tom's name and trimmed it with piping.

I added lining to give the bag a neater finish. All seams are bound with contrast bias binding. You can see the quilted bottom here - it's the same on the bag's exterior too.

And the top view - my two very first attempts at a zipper!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bumble Bub quilts

My mothers group is going to grow again over the next six weeks with two of the mums due to give birth again. Hurrah! My 'babies' are now 9 months and 2, so I am looking forward to squooshy newborn cuddles again.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that we usually chip in and give the expectant mum a handmade present for the new baby. One of the mums has a business making gorgeous cot linen and sleeping bags so the task usually lands in her lap, but as she is one of the recipients this time I volunteered to make the gifts.

I've never made a quilt before. It's never really appealed to me and my mum is a beautiful quilter so I am kind of spoilt in that regard (I own about six gorgeous quilts that she has made me over the years). But I spotted a very cute little baby quilt in the book Kaleidoscope by Melly & Me and just had to make it. Well, I decided to make two, since we have two mums about to give birth.

The pattern is called Bumble Bub and it's a good size for a beginner. The end result is about 38 by 46 inches from memory, so it's a nice size for a cot or a play mat on the floor.

Being a little bit naive, I thought the quilt looked simple and I'd be able to whip a couple up pretty easily. How wrong I was! I started last Monday and averaged about six hours a day to get the quilts finished by last night (Saturday). That includes time taken for mistakes, including an emergency dash back to the fabric shop to buy replacement backing fabric when I didn't buy enough the first time).

While the pattern is straightforward with clear directions, I hadn't taken my perfectionist tendencies into account and I nearly drove myself to drink making sure each block and strip was cut, sewn and aligned perfectly. I was very aware that each small mistake would be pretty obvious, as opposed to making garments where a slightly too-big or too-small seam allowance won't really show in the finished product.

The quilt tops came together well. Each quilt has three super cute bumble bees which took me a bit of time to cut out and applique. I would normally hand-stitch these but being short of time, I used my machine's blanked stitch for the first time and was very happy with the results (the little faces were hand-embroidered however).

I used a very basic quilting pattern, diagonal lines through the centre of each block. My lovely mum - keen to encourage my quilting - gave me an early birthday present of a walking foot and I was very impressed by how well it worked. I did have a few teething difficulties initially though, where my stitches were very short in some areas due to the weight of the quilt pulling it back a bit. I learnt pretty quickly how to deal with the weight and volume of the quilt.

The quilt binding is done by machine - if I had more time I would have preferred to finish it by hand. The pattern also includes a very cute bumble bee softie and I really regret not having enough time to make a couple to accompany the quilts. I may make these before the babies are born and then bring them to the hospital.

The quilts are intended to be gender neutral. I am happy with the colours (I wanted them to be 'fresh', which I think they are) but wish I'd spent a bit more time looking at fabrics as I think there are so many great combinations you could use for this quilt. Four of the seven prints I used are from Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane collection, with some Kokka and Michael Miller thrown in. I used a cotton and wool blend batting.

If you're new to quilting, I can really recommend the Oh, Fransson! blog, which has a great 'quilt along' with great tips and techniques.

I have plans to make this quilt at least a couple more times, as I do love the end result and I think it makes such a lovely gift for a new mum and baby.

The bumble bee blocks, appliqued and ready to be trimmed to size.

One quilt pinned and with quilting lines marked out, ready to be sewn. I'm not sure if it's 'normal' to mark out the quilting lines before you start, but I didn't trust myself to keep it straight otherwise.

One of the finished quilts. This photo was taken in the shade, the actual colours are a bit brighter than this.

Bee detail.

Quilt x 2! I made the quilts identical as I couldn't bear having one 'better' than the other.