Thursday, March 08, 2018

New England Cabins (formerly Bahama Beach Huts)

I have been busy all week on a quilt I am not sure I am allowed to share yet, so I have decided to talk about the process of making a quilt with an 11-yr old. Recently, Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine published an article I wrote about quilting with kids -- most specifically it discusses my experiences of quilting with my kids. In 1250 words, though it is challenging to really talk about what works and what does not work. Here on my blog, though, I not limited by space.

This is my daughter Sophie's 2017 quilt.  When originally asked for a name to give it, she declined, saying she was bad at that, and I should just name it. It was near the entry deadline, and it just needed to be entered.  It will hang next month among the kid quilts at MQX, a show she has entered 4 other times. For the entry I named it Bahama Beach Huts.
You see, it came from a pattern (below) for beach cabanas, though we turned the door piecing right-side up because this just seemed odd. When she started the quilting, Sophie realized they did not resemble beach huts since she chose green instead of sand, and changed the name.
So this pattern came out of a Fons & Porter Fat Quarter Quilts magazine I picked up for her friend. Long story short...we gave her the magazine with a precut version of this same quilt for her birthday in December.  She has taken a basic sewing class, and has a sewing machine, and wanted to make a mini-quilt.  Feeling envious, Sophie doubled the fabric allotments and decided she'd make the same quilt herself. This was a good decision. Hook, line and sinker...I had her on the hook now to make her MQX quilt.

At the end of December, the girls got together for a day to piece the blocks. Here's the beach hut block sweat shop in my dining room. For the most part it was smooth sailing. Neither probably would have gotten as far as they did if the other was not there. Sewing as a team is a good motivator.
I brought up my sissy ironing board (not the "real" one that is 30"x 6'), and both did their own pressing.  In past years, Sophie has not ironed. Call me over-protective, but rotary blades and irons just seem dangerous to young kids! Not this year. When Lillian said she'd ironed, it was fair game. My only request was that the starch be sprayed away from the wall. That seemed like a reasonable request.
 Here they are...lots of little hut blocks in the making.
 Nothing like the 11-yr old hammy model to show us what she's made.
The finished top is a mere 30"x36". It is really a perfect size for a youth quilter. Twice as large may seem more functional, but making a functioning quilt was not the point. Having an educational experience that has a manageable start and end was. The one thing I know is that overwhelming the child, regardless how interested they seem initially, will only make them disinterested.
The weekend before I went to MAQF, we endeavored to quilt this. It really was about as late as it could have been pushed, since it is being shipped to MQX in a week. One of the biggest challenges of quilting with kids is that they don't typically quilt regularly. Every year when we make a quilt it seems like there is a memory game of trying to recollect what was learned the past year. I do try to bring new motifs and techniques to her project each year so as to broaden her horizon and further educate her about quilting. But really, she just cannot longarm weekly, so we have to do our best.

I envisioned her possibly playing with a freehand grid-based design over the houses initially. The longarm was loaded with a sample house block as well as a yard or so of cheap fabric on which to play. As it turned out, the wiggly grid was inconsistent and harder for her than I anticipated. Probably should have marked it on a straight grid, but when the child does not like it, move on. Lesson learned.
She played with some freehand ideas, some of which I marked partially and then she freehanded. These were motifs that could go on the block - like wind and clouds. For whatever reason, loops are still hard this year too! 
I have to give it to her, though, she has vision. She said she wanted to do bricks for the house. A couple of big red flags went off with this request - first, these might be the only brick beach huts I have ever seen (hence the quilt name change!), and second, Oh very beginner 11-yr old quilter wants to quilt bricks. BRICKS. She is stumbling with loops and wiggly lines, but is asking about bricks.

Not being one to discourage her, I marked off some bricks (above) and away she went. Surprisingly, they were not as bad as I expected. Brick houses they would be! This meant she had a LOT of marking to do, but it was necessary because crooked tiers of bricks would not look very good.  Might as well mark the clouds while you are at it.
It was a weekend adventure. I simply clear my client schedule for a few days so that I don't need to rush her. We take the quilting in small manageable bites of 45-90 minutes at a time. Of course, bribing her with the remainder of my xmas candy canes afforded a little more time! Use the tools you have, I always believe!

Though she is getting taller, the kitchen step stool is really a necessity. It puts her up where she can see everything. Disregard the "still in pajamas" "unbrushed hair" "I'm a careless 6th grader" look. There is no dress code in my studio.
Now, let me show you her top after the quilting, then I'll talk about what was done in each area. Because this is our 6th quilt, she is able to do several different "stitches" or motifs. Not very many of the youth quilters approach their quilts with a custom quilted look. More are done using an edge to edge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; we did two of them like that previously including a twin-sized bed quilt. These little houses just called for something more, and she knew that.
Using a light aqua YLI polished poly thread, the "wind" and clouds were quilted in the sky areas and across the roofs. She had to very carefully backtrack along the ditch of the block so that this could be quilted with minimal start and stops. She has learned to use the electronic channel locks, and used them to help her ditching lines stay straight.
 She picked a fun pink-purple variegated Aurifil poly thread for her bricks. I think she did an amazing job on this, considering how very much control this design really requires. Sure, there are places where the backtracking is not ideal, but hey, she's 11!
Here's a closeup...
Next, a bright green YLI thread was put on the machine to do the "grass"...zig-zag lines, the straight lines of the door and the "plants". Her greenery for the flowers got a little out of hand occasionally, but quilting with a child is a game of live-and-learn (not sew and rip out).  The zigzags were freehanded to give texture. The doors were quilted with marked lines using the vertical channel locks. She was striving to create a semi-realistic look, and I think she succeeded. We had a plan to add flower buttons to the "greenery" and door knobs to the doors later on.

She finished the quilt with parallel lines in part of the sashings, and a box design in the inner border. I did discuss with her that I thought that the sashing and inner border ought to be quilted in one design because they are the same fabric, but ultimately the decision was her's.  She has quilted this box pattern extensively, and is comfortable with it, but somehow it was stitching slowly this particular day!  The outer border was finished with 1" parallel lines stitched using the channel locks, just stitching in from the edge of the quilt and back out. Last year she learned how quilting these another way (which requires backtracking along the ditch to the next line) can cause problems when the backtracking is not ideal. So, we changed it up this year so that ricrack would not be needed! LOL

After the binding was added, we went shopping for the "details". At first we bought sparkly flower buttons, but the shank on them was too large making them not lay flatly. Plan B was to create sparkly flowers from my extensive stash of crystals. Seriously, what pre-teen girl can't use one of these tools??! She was a natural.
She created some tall flowers and some round ones.  I kept using the "variety" word - in reference to shape and color. Yes I love orange, but not for all the flowers.  Mix them up a little.
We also bought some little "critter" plastic buttons. I hacked the shank off with a serrated knife, and they were glued to the quilt at the end.

Here's a look at one of the houses, complete with all the details!  I love it...great job. 
 The owl is perfect, as he is rolling his eyes. Someday she will understand the irony of including him.
 Her favorite, no doubt, is the hedgehog. He may be a porcupine, but don't tell her!
If you want to read more about our quilting adventures, here are links to her 2014 quilt, 2016 quilt (scroll down), and a general post.

Making the sewing project a big craft project engages the child from the beginning. I still need to get together with her friend Lillian and help her finish her quilt too. Although we tend to time her sewing/quilting projects to get an entry into MQX, mostly that stems from her enjoyment of coming to the show with me and seeing her quilt hanging too. Since she was a wee little thing, barely 4 or 5, I took her with me to the shows. I hope she continues to enjoy this together time that sewing brings.


sdrussell said...

What a fun project for two little girls. Her quilt is wonderful and should win an award.
Learning in small time frames is perfect for a child. I fully expect for her to be a much better quilter than her mother. Of course starting so young will give her a leap in her quilt journey. It is so nice to have a mother daughter project. She will be learning a lot and not really realizing that it is learning and not just fun. I hope her interest will continue, and who knows she might write a children's quilting book.
Congratulations to you both.

Nancy LaPointe said...

Thank you for sharing, I’m looking forward to seeing Sophie’s quilt at the show