Monday, February 3, 2014

7 Lessons from a Very Loved Blankie - And an Old Blankie Brought Back to Life

 ***If you're looking for the Boutique Academia Anatomical Heart Necklace Giveaway, click here***

My kids all have blankets that they love, but Katie is my kid who has gotten truly attached to her blankies.  She used to have three particularly favorite blankets.  One of them was lost during our move from California to Washington a few years ago, and that has left her with two truly dear ones.  At current count she has 6 or 7 blankets that she sleeps with every night, and the best way I can describe the way she sleeps in is a sort of nest surrounded by all of her blankets.  (Among those blankets is her twin sized quilt that is generally pushed down to the bottom of her bed and forgotten.)

Katie's most loved blankets have names, "Pink" and "White."  You'll have to forgive her lack of creativity in naming them as they developed when she was just about 2 years old and didn't know all that many words.  They both started out as pink, but "white" was pretty pale.  (Incidentally, the precious blanket that was lost was named "blue," but it was also mostly pink.)

"Pink" and "White" are in such bad shape that she's not allowed to take them out of her bed, so save them wear and tear.  Pink had been made for Katie by my sister Kendra, so when my sister said she still had a bunch of left-over fabric from the project after all these years, I was happy to take it off her hands.

Kendra had already cut the fabric into strips.  (In fact, you can see the giraffe heads on the Suzy Zoo print sticking out the same way on both quilts.)  I debated about whether to keep the pattern the same or change it up a bit.  In the end, we decided to stick with the same pattern, and just extend it to make a larger blanket, better designed to fit her 9-year-old body.
Although I did change up the back.  The new version was a bit to wide for a single piece for the back, and doing a pieced back with an off center strip seemed like a good way to put my own stamp on the quilt.

I sewed it in secret after she was in bed.  The morning after I finished it, I'd left a tiny sliver of a scrap in the garbage (think about 2-3 inches long and less than 1/4 inch wide) and Katie noticed it and said it looked like fabric like "Pink's." I just kind of agreed and went on with what I was doing, and Katie didn't think much else about it.

It's an understatement to say that she was thrilled when she opened the box.  She was super, super excited.

And it really is a wonder looking at "New Pink" and "Old Pink" that they really came from the very same fabric.  I knew Old Pink was worn out, but seeing it side-by-side with a new version of itself was pretty surprising.

Anyway, watching my kids with their blankets over the years as taught me a few things about quilts and blankets that I thought I would share. 

7 Lessons Learned from a Very Loved Blankie

1. Fabric Matters!
If you look at Old Pink, you can see that there is batting showing in quite a few places.  All of those places where the batting is missing used to have a pink-blender-store-brand fabric in them.  An that pink fabric is missing from everywhere on the quilt, except for one spot.
This is the only piece of the pink-blender fabric that is left in the quilt.
 As I was sewing up "New Pink" I could tell handling the fabrics that the pink blender was lower quality.  Now does that mean that I never use store-brand fabric?  No.  Obviously, that same pink-blender still went into "New Pink" because it just wouldn't have been "New Pink" without it.  I did some extra free motion quilting through the blender fabric to hold it in better, and chances are New Pink isn't going to get the same wear and tear that the first one did.  (When Katie carries it around now, she's tall enough to keep it from dragging and it's got more competition for her love.)  Sometimes there's still a great print and I just can't help myself, but I'm getting pickier and and pickier, but more and more I find myself turning to the higher end fabrics from independent quilt shops.  I also buy a lot of fabric online, and can highly recommend any of my sponsors and as great sources of fabric.  I will also say that as far as chain-stores go, I have been fairly impressed with some of the Hobby Lobby house brands.

2. Don't Scrimp on the Bindings
I used to use my cheapest, thinnest fabric on my bindings.  I figured it was a good way to get rid of it, since it shows so little on the quilt.  BIG MISTAKE!  As I've watched my kids blankets get used, the bindings are always the first place they start to show wear.  Even if you decide to use cheaper fabric for most of the quilt, it's worth it to buy the good stuff for the bindings.  You're probably only going to need 1/3 or 1/2 a yard of fabric for the bindings and it's only a couple extra dollars.  If I'm not using one of the prints from the quilt design, I like to use Kona solids for my bindings, although there are several fabric designers that have their own lines of high quality solids.

3. It doesn't need complicated piecing.
You don't need complicated piecing to make a treasured quilt.  Simple quilt designs that let the fabrics speak for themselves are often the best.  "Pink" is really just one big log cabin block.  "White" isn't even a pieced's just two pieces of fabric.

4. It doesn't need to be perfect.
Of course you always want to do your best work...but if some of the corners don't match up...or you've got a few puckers...or your quilting lines aren't as straight as you'd like, it will still be loved.  Chances are, whoever you're making it for doesn't know enough about quilting to notice your mistakes and no one looks at a quilt as carefully as the person who made it.

5. Kids LOVE bright and loud.  
I steered clear of I-Spy blankets for a long time because I just felt they were too busy with so many different prints and too much going on.  Guess LOVE them, for exactly all those reasons.  If you're making a quilt for a child, play to their preferences and they will love the quilt forever.
I-Spy Unicorns Quilt

6. Your choices may end up influencing their long term tastes. 
This maybe doesn't happen in every case, but if you're lucky enough to end up giving a truly treasured quilt, it may end up influencing their tastes.  I made burp clothes for my niece that ended up becoming her comfort item, and she has loved polka dots her whole life because of them.

7. Choose your basting spray wisely.  
I've been having real problems with my machine doing free-motion quilting.  I thought it was just a problem with having an older machine and I recently making this quilt that it's a problem with my basting spray gumming up the needle and causing it to skip stitches.  See those swirls?  I had to stop after each one and clean off my needle with rubbing alcohol.  When I find my new favorite basting spray, I'll let you know...cause I'm not giving up basting spray.

And even with her New Pink, nothing will be able to replace her old one.

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  1. Great advice on well-loved blankets. Beautiful photos of Katie. I can tell she is thrilled with new Pink because she is smiling so beautifully! Good job, Polly (and Auntie Kendra!)

  2. My kiddos all love their blankies too. My daughter is a blankie sniffer. One of her 2 most favorite was one inherited from when I was little. About a year ago, we decided something needed to be done, as it was falling apart. The original backing was a small pink gingham, and I had some large pink gingham on hand. I cut up the favorite one into squares, which I interspersed with the pink gingham, then did pink minky fabric for the back. It should tell you how thin the blanket had gotten--all 3 layers were about the same thickness as my regular new fabric. Anyway, I was worried it would smell different or she wouldn't like it (I caught her sniffing the stack of squares once!), but she loves it. Phew! Here's hoping it lasts for several more years!

    I think you're right about it not having to be fancy. Familiar wins out over fancy every time for my kids.

  3. I've been using this quilt basting spray ( and it's fantastic! It got great reviews on Amazon and no problems with gumming up the needle at all.

  4. Thanks for all the tips. I am trying to get into quilting, but don't know that much about it. These are perfect tips, my kids always love anything that is momma made.

  5. such a sweet post! Last fall I turned my sons crib quilt into a twin size one... So great! Emily

  6. Love your story behind this quilt and your daughter I think is your biggest FAN!!! VERY cool!!! Her new quilt is so pretty and adorable giraffes. Your 7 lessons learned are intriguing and I think the one talking about your choices making a long term impression on the recipient is something to file away in my brain:)


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