Saturday, November 13, 2010

I've Finally Finished Ella's Rag Quilt!

So what was once a pile of sandwiched squares:

Has now become this!

Making this rag quilt for Ella was probably the hardest and most nerve wracking thing I've done in the past 5.5 months. It made me learn a few extremely valuable lessons, unfortunately the hard way, but it was all worth it for this:
I think she likes it...

The specifics:
- Her bed is extendable and currently in the medium length. Once it's fully extended (as she gets older) it will be the length and width of a normal twin size bed, so I made the quilt to fit it at it's biggest size. (Mattress measures 40x75")
- The quilt measures 55x80", which took 176 squares in 16 rows with 11 squares each. I didn't make it the typical 65x88" because of the permanent footboard and I figure her bed will probably always be pushed up against a wall.
- Each square started as 6" squared, but with the seam allowance (for fraying) when sewn together they ended up being 5" squared. Although the quilt is only 55" wide, all of the fabric before sewn together would have measured 66", and instead of 80" long, it's actually 96" of fabric. Seam allowances are a big deal, people!

The lessons learned:
- Take your time! I was so anxious to see this accomplished, plus when I started I hoped I would be done in time to give it to her for her 3rd Birthday. Well that didn't happen. Because I rushed, there were a lot of missed, crooked, loose or wrongly placed seams.
- Have the right tools for the job. I started clipping the seams with a pair of 'whatever' scissors, which were not sharp enough. It took about 3 tries to clip through each spot, so once I made them duller by trying to sharpen them on a knife sharpener, I went out and bought the proper pair.
- Watch what you're doing. Yeah... Someone told me that clipping the seams was a good thing to do while sitting on the couch in front of the TV... HA! I cut too deep into some of the seams, causing the squares to separate in numerous places. So once they pulled apart in the machine, I had to sew it back together while it was wet.
- Don't skimp. Although most of the wet sewing a had to do was because of the deep clipping, there were also some spots I had to fix because the back fabric wasn't cut square or wasn't wide enough to fit from seam to seam. The back of the quilt has some ugly spots where I had to "top stitch" the fabric into place to keep it from fraying.
- Go to the laundromat! I have a commercial grade washing machine, so I figured there was no harm in doing it at home... I obviously didn't think of the mess it would cause. I had threads all over my house, stuck to the kids clothes, and caked on the laundry room wall. I'm still finding them on my clothes today. I emptied the lint trap in the dryer about 4 times, because I didn't want it to all catch on fire. Although your local laundromat might hate you afterward, it's worth it for your vacuum's sake.

Here's a few photos of the process:
When is was only 1/2 the length (which coincidentally fit perfectly on the top of her bed, but sideways)
Before the seams we clipped
The clipped seams (to encourage it to fray and become fuzzy)
Once washed (still wet) the seams have frayed
The pile of lint & threads that came off it from the washing machine and dryer (not including all that was on the floors and myself)

And some pictures of the finished project!

The back turned out better then I thought! In the beginning there were some worries that because the pattern didn't line up it would look messy, but I think it's too busy to matter. Thanks to a couple of my friends for the encouragement to continue past this worry!

Near the end I started to run out of my variety of fabrics. I didn't think about this when I was purchasing them, so eventually when I needed 11 different patterns to make a row, I only had 6 and would end up with multiples. So I improvised and scrounged around. Here are a few squares I got from a blanket Ella had as a baby. There are also some of the back fabric, and a few receiving blankets and washcloths in there!

In the end, it's clear that she loves it, appreciates my hard work, and will cherish it for years to come.