I started working on a 12-panel embroidered quilt project (my very first quilt project!) in 2012, and I finally finished it up last night! It only took 4 years! The theme of the quilt is what I like to refer to as “Bugs in Ball Jars,” though the official Jack Dempsey Needle Art name is “Creatures in Jars.”
I loved the stamped block designs, but wasn’t wild about the colors suggested. They seemed too drab for a baby blanket, so except for the floss I used for the jars (pewter grey and turquoise), I used scrap floss I’d saved from previous projects. In spite of a three-year delay from start-to-finish on the embroidery, it didn’t actually take that long for me to finish all the panels since I worked most of it in a simple outline stitch, with the occasional satin stitch added in for parts I wanted filled in. Instead of cutting each block out of the larger fabric first, I kept them in 4-by-4 panels to make it easier to work with a hoop. Once the embroidery was complete, I used a rotary cutter to trim the panels to size.
The original quilt pattern used two tones of dark green material for the backing and stripping around the blocks, but I wanted to liven it up a bit and give it a bit more color. I chose to go with a nature-inspired color palette, with pale green, blue, brown, and yellow stripping, and a complimentary paler yellow backing. I wasn’t entirely confident my fabric selections would work since I was going “rogue” with the pattern, but I went with my gut.
After cutting the stripping to the appropriate lengths, I did a test lay-out to see how everything would look when positioned in the proper place.
Once I was happy with the layout, I pinned and stitched the panels into columns. I then sewed the green stripping to the central column before sewing the outer columns into place.
The next step was to sew on the outer stripping border to complete the quilt top. Once that was done, I started tracing my quilting pattern onto the stripping with a washable fabric marker. I used two different templates: one that I cut out of a cardboard piece for the smaller stripping pieces to use as a stencil; and another that I placed under the material and traced through on the outer borders. I wanted to go with a vine design to stick with the quilt theme, which in hindsight wasn’t the best idea since this was my first attempt at quilting and swirls aren’t the easiest pattern to deal with.
I did do a quick test block on scrap fabric, with some batting, to make sure I had the tension set up okay and practice with the swirly vine pattern. NOTE: Machine quilting a small scrap is A LOT easier than working with a toddler-sized quilt.
The next step was to lay the backing material wrong side up, place the batting on it, and then lay the quilt top down. I hand-basted the pieces together so they wouldn’t shift, working from the center out. And then, I started quilting my design, starting from the middle and working my way out.
I wish I could say things went smoothly, but they didn’t. The bobbin tension kept going wonky on me, the basting didn’t entirely stop the fabric from shifting, and the machine ceased up and needed some TLC.
Once the quilting was complete, I decided to bind the edges by folding the backing to the front to give it a bit more dimension. I used a 3/4″ double-fold that I stitched to the top using a blanket stitch on my machine. About halfway around, my needle broke. I replaced the needle and finished up, and I’m mostly pleased with the end result (as long as I don’t look at the back).
I’m thankful I got some good advice from my mom on pulling this together, and I can’t wait to start my next quilting project. Thanks to Aunt Becky, I know exactly where to look for fabric deals, and with the project books Aunt Pat gave me, I’ll have plenty of ideas to get my creative juices flowing.