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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Big Top Baby Quilt

So I received my 10 degree wedge ruler from Amazon in the mail:

So excited!  I was tossing around ideas of what to make with it.  Its main purpose is to make tree skirts, because when you cut out 36 pieces, it makes a 50 inch circle with a hole in the middle.  I, however, wanted to make a round quilt.  When I found out a friend was planning a circus theme for her baby's nursery, the light bulb went off in my head.

My super-awesome hubby helped me pick out some fabrics.  I thought I'd go all-out and spring for the good stuff, so this quilt is made almost entirely of Robert Kaufman Kona Solids. 

We aren't going to find out Baby Stacy's gender until he or she is born (love it, that's how my parents did it with all three of us!), so I had to go with gender-neutral colors.

Obviously, I was going for the circus big top look, but I kind of wanted to stay away from the traditional red and white.  I couldn't find a nice gray at my fabric store (I'm sure the Ohio State fan parents would have loved that!), so I went with a nice neutral beige.  In the end I love the pairing because it gives the quilt a more vintage-y look.

So step one is to cut out 36 pieces.  In this case, I cut 18 of each color.

Look at those big strong hands holding the wedge ruler in place for me!  My husband is truly the best! <3

When you're working with two alternating colors, piecing this quilt is a snap.  I made sure I matched the two colors exactly the same way when pinning (or in my case, wonder clipping) them for sewing. 

After joining all 18 pairs, I made 9 bunches of four each, then 3 bunches of 12:  Here's how they look on my design wall.  Once again, all of this piecing is a snap because they are long, straight seams, and all of your pieces are identical.

It was really quite thrilling to sew the last seam.  All of a sudden, we have a circle!  It was too big to photograph on my craft room floor, so I had to take over the loft :)

Now what to do with that hole in the middle?  Cover it up, of course!  I wanted to find a circus image to applique in the middle.  I found this website with free downloadable coloring pages and printed out two copies of this cute, but simple, elephant. 

I printed two copies to make cutting out the template simpler.  I cute the elephant itself out of one page, then his accessories (the ball and his little ruffle) out of the second.  I traced the elephant and his accessories (backwards!) onto the back of some Wonder Under.

Following the product instructions, I fused all of the elephant pieces to a piece of the leftover red fabric.  I zigzag stitched all around the applique pieces.  As you can see, I also drew on some lines that better define the elephant's features in washable ink to aid in the zigzag stitching.

After I outlined the applique pieces by machine, I hand embroidered the elephant's eye to make him complete.  Don't ask where his tail ended up at :)

Using a dinner plate (I'm regretting not keeping that compass from 9th grade geometry class!), I traced and cut out a circle out of Reynold's freezer paper that would comfortably enclose the entire applique design. 

Laying the freezer paper shiny side down, I ironed the circle to the wrong side of my applique piece, and cut around the paper using a scant 1/4" or so allowance.

I simply folded the seam allowance under and whip stitched the circle to the middle of the quilt.  When there was only an inch or two left to sew, I pulled out the freezer paper through the opening.

My husband loved the idea of using fleece for the backing.  I went with it, because it's easier (fleece comes 60" wide, so no piecing!) and a bit more cost effective, too.  One bonus is that you don't need batting if you use fleece as the backing.  I opted to use polyester batting in addition to the fleece because I wanted this to be ultra plush.  I made the quilt sandwich like any other.

Now onto the fun part: hand quilting!  I opted to echo quilt 1/4" from the seams so the quilting would be visible.  This was my first time quilting with Guterman hand quilting thread, and boy, was it a dream to sew with!  I went with contrasting colors on each section:

Once the quilting was done, I had the challenge of binding the quilt.  I really wanted to add a pop of color to the quilt, but I just couldn't find the right fabric.  In the end, I opted to use the leftovers from the quilt top.

Confession time: I used my Binding Buddy ruler for the first time and horribly hacked up my big-enough piece of fabric.  What to do?  Scrappy bias binding it is!

Once I got the hang of it, the Binding Buddy ruler is quite nice.  It's 2 1/2" wide, so it cuts your standard strips, and it helps you cut them exactly on the bias if you desire.  Here, I've joined together short scraps leftover from the quilt top.  The Binding Buddy also results in pieces with 45 degree angles on each end, so piecing together a continuous strip is a piece of cake.

Of course, you press the binding in half as usual.  I really just wanted to show y'all my new ironing board cover :)

Bias binding is crucial to a round quilt like this one, so don't skip that step.  The binding needs to be able to stretch around the curves.  I used my walking foot to attach the binding to the front of the quilt, and whip stitched it to the back by hand.

I hand embroidered a label with some cool variegated embroidery floss I found:

And the quilt is done!

It's far from perfect, but I hope Baby Stacy enjoys it for a long, long time.  Until next time, God Bless!
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  1. Another wonderful work of usable art! Another lucky baby.

    1. Thanks! This one was a lot of fun to make.

  2. Agh, that looks like the best tool ever. I think the solution that you came up with for the middle circle is fantastic.

    1. Thank you! Let me know if you'd like to borrow it sometime--I'd be glad to lend it to you.

  3. I love this and want to make it. How much fabric should I buy? I'll be buying from your store.


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