By Christine Koh
My daughter Laurel and I love working on creative projects – she says she wants to be a designer when she grows up so we can work together. And since this summer represented our first summer off (prior to elementary school Laurel attended a year-round day care), I thought it would be fun to have a cool project we could chip away at once school was out.
Laurel wanted a new blanket to snuggle under on the couch and I had been looking for a way to use up fabric scraps so we decided to make a quilt. I wanted the project to: a) be free form and flexible (i.e., not working on an established pattern), and b) allow Laurel to take the lead. It’s proven to be a super fun endeavor; there’s still time for you to engage in a quilt project with your kids, whether it’s for “summer camp” at home, or to work on through the year. The following offers guidance on how to get going.
Quilt pattern not for the pattern itself, but to provide dimension and yardage guidelines
Assorted fabrics for quilt front amount depends on quilt size per above
Solid fabric for backing amount depends on quilt size per above
Contrast fabric for binding amount depends on quilt size per above
Batting size depends on finished quilt size per above
Rotary fabric trimmer
Step 1: Prepare the Fabric
We started by assessing our fabric for the front of the quilt. Laurel laid out the fabric and we edited out any fabrics that didn’t work with the collection (like that brown floral fabric towards the left bottom of the photo at top). All of these fabric remnants were already laundered, but if you are using new fabric, be sure to wash, dry, and press before you start cutting and sewing.
Step 2: Brief Quilt Education + Pattern Generation
Next, Laurel and I flipped through one of my favorite fabric project books, Joelle Hoverson’s, Last Minute Patchwork & Quilted Gifts. The point here was to show Laurel the quilt pattern diagrams so she could see that building a quilt starts with simple shapes that fit together into a big rectangle. Laurel then started sketching a pattern for our quilt. As you can see, the pattern became rather complex! I told her I wasn’t sure if we could execute all of the details, and she said that was okay with that, as long as we tried our best.
Going through the book also helped us decide on the size of the quilt. A baby quilt would be a great project to tackle with a child because it’s so small, but Laurel wanted something big enough to snuggle under with her parents on the couch. So, we’re following Hoverson’s measurements for a quilt approximately 80 x 96 inches. We’re making our own pattern for the front, but will follow Hoverson’s yardage recommendations and directions for the backing and binding; we’ll buy that fabric once we see how the colors on the front shake out.
Step 3: Cutting
Given that I tend to be obsessive about following patterns – checking measurements a million times to make sure I’m doing things perfectly – it was truly liberating to not worry about measurements! Laurel and I simply started at the center of her pattern (the sunburst) and worked outwards. I had a lot of long rectangles of fabric from previous projects; Laurel chose which fabrics she wanted in the sunburst, and then I trimmed them all to the same length and cut them into long triangles, using the middle point of the width of each rectangle as the tip of the triangle. We didn’t worry about the variable width of the pieces.
Step 4: Sewing
Laurel then laid the triangles out in a pattern and pinned the edges together, then we sewed the pieces (she worked the pedal while I guided the fabric!). Because we were winging it and our triangles were of variable widths, we assembled in quadrants. This allowed us to fill in gaps with the fabric we had the most quantity of (orange argyle).
I was amazed that the sunburst worked out as beautifully as it did!
Step 5: Keep Going!
Now, sketch aside, I told Laurel that in order for us to make the layer of triangles around the sunburst, we needed straight edges. I folded the sunburst in half then over again so I could measure the quadrants, and cut then sewed four pieces so I could create a square border around the sunburst. Then we added Laurel’s layer of triangles in a new color scheme (blues/greens) all the way around. Then we added a simple thick border all the way around the triangles in our second layer fabric (the chrysanthemums fabric we used to outline the sunburst) to tie the look together and grow our quilt several inches quickly.
The width of the quilt is almost done so now we have started to work on some of the more complex sections on Laurel’s sketch to finish the width and length. We’re starting with all of the geometrically oriented sections (we just finished piecing together the striped triangle on the top right side of her sketch) and will wing the rest!
Step 6: Finishing
Once the front is done we will follow Hoverson’s directions for the backing, quilting, and binding. Because we’re making a big quilt, it may take us into the fall to finish, but the upside is that the timing will be perfect for the chilly New England weather!
Final Note: I can’t emphasize enough how exciting it has been for Laurel to be in charge of this project. Her pride grows as we add each piece, and she has developed immense admiration for the speed and power of sewing machines! Though the end result will probably be a little crazy looking, I love that the project offers us a way to bond and relax together, is fostering her appreciation for color, pattern, and geometry, and will create a keepsake item for her. At almost six years old, she is now at an age where she will remember this time we are spending together.
About the Author:
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned freelance writer, editor, and designer. She is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas, the designer behind Posh Peacock, and writes a personal blog at Pop Discourse. She resides in the Boston area with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. She tweets about it all: @bostonmamas.