Thursday, September 9, 2010

birthday quilt

My daughter Hayden just turned five years old on August 24th. In the weeks prior to her birthday, I was hoping to get her a little bed set...some cute sheets and a comforter set. But as I began to poke around, I found myself thinking, "I could make her a quilt...I should make her a quilt!" And within a short amount of time, I had a sweet pair of flowered sheets from Goodwill, and an inspiration for a birthday quilt.

I actually grew up watching my mom sew everything from clothes to curtains and back, but I never really took an interest. As an adult, my mother-in-law gave me her amazing sewing machine and I came to love playing around with it.

It was four summers ago that I made my first quilt. I was fortunate enough to be spending that summer with my dear friend, Bonnie. Her mother, Ruth, was also there for awhile and we had such a great time sewing dresses for our girls (Hayden was just taking her first steps, then). The two of them painstakingly taught me how to make a quilt, and walked me through my first one. Those memories and those days and nights of sewing (okay, and the coffee with Bailey's) are so precious to me. Since then, I have made about 7 other quilts, mostly gifts for friends and family, and mostly for babies.

So, first I broke out my dusty sewing had been almost 2 years since I last used it. (I cannot believe that!!) Then, I dumped out all of my fabrics to choose for the quilt. This is one of my favorite parts. I just collect random fabrics and scraps from here and there and have built up an astonishing collection which I have managed to bring with me on every move.

I also had some special things that I had saved, it just so happens, from that first quilting summer. I had saved one of Hayden's onesies that she wore all the time and for some reason, I just loved it. It was just a pink/polka-dot onesie from Target, but it was my favorite on her and when she outgrew it, I just had to hang on to it. So- it became a quilt square. :) I also had two shirts of my own that I wore all that summer which also became quilt squares. And though it was bittersweet, I used some of those very dresses I sewed for her as a baby, and made them pieces or squares. Otherwise, they would just stay stuffed in a box, right? Why not incorporate them into this living memory!

It just so happens that summer was a pivotal one in my life, and our life as a family. It was when we left Florida, but had not yet settled somewhere again, so we were just sort of floating. Our love as a family, and the love of many friends became our "roots" as we had no ground to root in then.

I actually made a block for each of the states that Hayden has lived in- FOUR states in FIVE years! Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. I even made a small stitch on each state to represent the general area we lived in. By the way, I have fallen in love with embroidery, and though it so time-consuming and tedious, I hope the love shows through. I almost got carried away, and if I didn't make myself stop eventually, I would still be embellishing a square or stitching another flower or something.

Here is the pile of fabrics that I chose...

The next step is to cut each fabric into squares of exactly the same size. These were 8.5".

I did most of the embroidery on each square before I sewed the blocks together. I used little hoops to hold the blocks...

Then, I lay out all of the blocks and decide what order I want them to be in and what goes where...

Then, I sew together each row, block by block. Then, each row to row. This gives me the entire quilt top. Then, I lay it down on the batting and the quilt back (cotton flannel in this case) and cut the batting and backing to the size of the quilt top.

Then, I pin the three together, all wacky and backwards and sew three and a half sides together.

Then I flip it all right side out, sew that last bit together and add little quilting stitches at each corner of each block with embroidery thread.

And voila...a month later, and two weeks after her actual birthday- I'm done!

So, I will resist my usual self-deprecating humor and just go ahead and give myself a giant pat on the back. :) While I am definitely a novice quilter, I did pour my love, sweat and tears (and a little blood, as well!) into this beautiful piece. I am proud of it. And I am proud of my little girl who will rest beneath it. The images and the fabrics do tell a story of these first five years, and I hope she will treasure it forever. Perhaps 90 more years and 40 more states. :)

Also want to mention that Ruth, my quilting mentor, has a sweet little business. She sews up the cutest little dresses. Check her out here. Happy sewing!


  1. ohh, that is lovely, really, so beautiful, all the details a real heirloom to keep for generations. well done, I hope to one day make one , I have long been wanting to make a quilt. When I do, I will come back here for clues..
    So much love sweet friend ~Christina

  2. Katie I'm so proud of you!!! It looks so beautiful. I love how you told a story with the pieces, not just getting cute fabric that matches. I miss sewing with you and Bonnie and always enjoy thinking of that summer. Keep up the good work and thanks for the acknowledgement.

  3. beautiful! the quilt and your words. what a treasure she will carry with her. i loved that summer as well. wish we could sit and sew all night together again. happy birthday sweet hayden. great job lovely friend.

  4. I love the quilt! You put so much of yourself into it that it can't be anything but special. Love the embroidery you did. I'm starting to get into it and you're right, I could do it all the time!

  5. This is absolutely beautiful! You are very talented.