So my best friend had a big birthday this year. One of those milestone numbers that make you stop and think about every decade you've lived thus far, and all the people & places that filled the past years. I've of course known this birthday was coming up, and for more than a year, I've been thinking that I wanted to make her a quilt. That is actually the whole reason I asked for the quilting class for my birthday last summer! So its been a long time in the making.
Why a quilt? Well, for many reasons, but the biggest reason is, well, a card just wouldn't do. I wrote about Tracy here and here but to sum it all up, she is my friend of a lifetime. We've spent years as besties, most of it long distance, and while cards are wonderful, I just didn't feel like that would be sufficient for this birthday. Tracy and I have been through so much together. We met when I was still in high school, and I worked for her and her husband at a video store. Little did I know how that summer job I had originally applied for just to keep an eye on my lame boyfriend would shape the rest of my life! We've taken epic road trips, a couple awesome trips to What-Happens-In-Vegas-Stays-In-Vegas, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and babies. Tracy and I found out we were pregnant on the same day!! Me with Whitney and Tracy with her sweet Isabella. That is to-date and will forever be one of my most precious memories in life. In fact, when I'm old and senile, and my memory has long faded, I hope someone will be there to remind me of that day I was standing in my bathroom, looking at my 6 positive pregnancy tests, and Tracy said, "Were your lines like, super dark? Or was one of them kinda faint? Because I just took a test and it has one really faint second line." OMG, awesome. Tracy is the one friend I've had through the years that never gave up on me. After Whitney died, I didn't really talk to anyone but Sean and my parents. But Tracy called Sean nearly every. single. day. Just to check in on me, ask him how I was and to let me know she still cared. Then after a couple weeks when I was ready to talk, we just cried on the phone together. By the way? That's how you help a hurting friend in need. Let them know you are there for them, even when they can't be there to reciprocate.
I spent hours trying to find a quilt pattern and fabric I liked. Tracy said pink and blue where her favorite color combination, but I was worried about going to literal with that, because I didn't want it to look like a baby quilt. I knew I wanted to use a higher quality fabric, like Moda so I pinned a bunch of charm packs. You can see some of the other fabrics I considered on my Pinterest board here. Once I settled on the Scrumptious collection, I set about trying to find a pattern I liked. I finally settled on this disappearing 9 patch pattern. I used this awesome tutorial here. I particularly like this pattern because it is fairly straight forward, simple to piece and there are actually a lot of lay out options.
I was fortunate to have my mom here several times while I was working on this quilt. She helped me decide on the final layout, and I love it!! My mom was also a HUGE help in finishing the top of this quilt. I knew Tracy was coming to visit in less than 2 months, and I had just had Joanna. My mom was here for 3 weeks after Joey was born and she helped me double the size of the quilt top! She is such an accomplished quilter, she whipped it out in no time. I'm so glad she was willing to help me with that, because I really like the finished size of this quilt.
I finished the borders after mom left, and then was left with the dilemma of how to quilt it all together. For the backing, I decided to go with just one patterned fabric. I actually seamed the backing fabric horizontally, as opposed to vertically, and think it turned out just fine. I had great plans for some really intricate straight line quilting, but I just ran out of time. I started the quilting on the Monday before Tracy came on Thursday. So I had to go for something quick. This quilt is quite a bit bigger than my first quilt, so I was a little nervous about manuvering all the layers of fabric in my basic sewing machine. I wanted to try some free motion quilting, but decided now was not the time to try something so new and different that undoubtedly requires practice. I didn't want to mess up all the time and money I'd spent already with messy quilting! I love the look of lots of quilting-- there's nothing better in my book than a really soft, crinkly quilt. So I came across this technique of just sewing random wavy lines. The final verdict?? I LOVE it! I love the wavy line quilting. And if it hadn't been for a misstep with my bobbin tension, I would have had it all finished in a day or so. (I didn't adjust my bobbin tension correctly, so I wound up having to take out and re-do about 1/3 of the quilt! Urg...) This is such a fun and simple method of quilting and it really does look good, I think.
As you can see, I chose to just quilt the same way all over-- nothing special in the borders or anything. I think the softness of the wavy lines helps break up the structured linear-ness (not a word) of the disappearing 9-patch pattern.
Now about the binding... I prefer the look of hand stitching the binding to the back. But again, time. There just wasn't enough of it. So I googled around for a good tutorial on how to machine stitch the binding on. There are a ton of different options for this, and I would up using a combination of several different tutorial methods. Here is the one I liked best. This one suggested using a decorative stitch to finish the binding, something I had never considered. So after a test run on a small fabric sandwich, I decided on this wavy line. Somewhere in my math, however, I messed up and one side of my binding was bigger than the other. Meaning, if you look at the quilt from the back, the binding is about an inch. If you look at it from the front, it is more like an inch and a quarter. That's why the binding appears to ripple a little-- because it does! But I actually think it goes along with the wavy lines. And I actually really like the way it looked on both the front and the back. I didn't get a really close up picture of the back, but the wavy lines go perfectly over both the binding and a teeny part of the backing fabric. You might be able to see that in the second picture above it you look reeealllly close. I chose to use a thread that matched the binding fabric, and I"m so glad I did. I wasn't sure how the teal thread would look on the back, but I think if I had used white thread, it would have looked messy and like a mistake.
One more new-to-me technique that I used on this quilt was a different way of joining the ends of my binding. I was taught to leave a really long tail on either end, the join them on the bias.... etc, etc. I can't really expalin it because I still don't fully understand it. I also did not have enough left over of my binding to use this method that required leaving a 6-10 inch tail. (Oops, darn math again. Why do you think I went to Bible college?) So in my searching for machine binding, I found this awesome tutorial for joining the ends of your binding. The summary even says, "Start and end your binding using a pocket method that requires no math." Sold!! Revolutionary!!! Watch this video, then try it. I was super happy with the result.
Even though Tracy and I hadn't seen each other in person for 5 years (!!!!!!!), we picked right back up where we left off. We talk on the phone several times a week so that helps, but its so good to have a friendship that isn't faded by years and miles. I love my friends here and am so thankful for them, but they all grew up together. They have memories and inside jokes that I"m not part of. It was so great to be with Tracy again and have those inside jokes and secrets to laugh about. We have secrets we'll take to the grave (unless we let them slip when we're old and senile, but then, everyone will just say 'eh, she's old and senile') and inside jokes that can have us rolling with laughter from the utterance of a couple words. (Swoosh! Tree pole dancing. Hee-haw!! Thunder! Old timey photos!) Much like this quilt, our friendship is cozy, woven together with years of love and laughter. And that's why a card just wouldn't do.