In our family every year all the adults draw names to see who they are 'gifting' at the annual Christmas Eve party. It's boring to put all the names in a hat and draw them out so we vary the method from year to year. One of our favorites was when my sister put a small piece of paper with a name in a balloon, blew up the balloon, then tacked it to her wood garage door. We each tossed darts until we broke a balloon. You bought or made a gift for the name in the balloon. Our least favorite was at a Halloween party where my sister boiled up some spaghetti, added lots of tomato sauce and called the mess 'brains'. Each of us had to dig through the 'brains' to find a plastic eyeball with a name inside. Last year I drew my niece, Heather. Heather is in her mid twenties, works as a teacher at a day care center, and lives at home with her mom and step dad (my brother, Mike). At first I thought, Heather's easy to buy for. But when I went shopping, nothing screamed 'Heather'. Jewelry? Tastes can vary so much, I didn't want to spend money on something I wasn't sure she would wear. Clothing? Heather always wears the cutest tops, but she likes her clothes to fit a certain way so everything must be tried on. I knew she loved Disneyland and children and that purple was her favorite color. I knew that she had just had heart surgery and would have more surgeries later on. I decided that Heather needed a comfort quilt. One that was small enough to take with her each time she had to go to the hospital.
The Design Process
So, how do I tie all of Heather's likes into a quilting design? First, I accidentally found the perfect 'main' fabric. Black background with fabulous purple roses when I was shopping for baby quilt fabric I didn't even have an idea for the quilt yet, but this fabric screamed 'Heather!' loud and clear. And I listened. I purchased 7 yards, thinking I would use it for the backing and incorporate some of it into the front somehow.
Now that I had the fabric I had to decide what design to use. I scoured countless quilting magazines (I subscribe to them all). I knew I wanted the quilt to be fun and to have reminders of all the children Heather loved whether it was hand prints, drawings, pictures of them. Somewhere along the search, I came across a picture of the first quilt my mom had ever done. It was in 1974. I was a junior in high school, my sister was a sophomore. Mom designed a quilt for her mom (Grandma Vee) with shadow profiles of all Grandma Vee's grandchildren, appliqued the black shadows on white blocks and then embroidered the child's full name and birth date on the block. She alternated solid red blocks with the appliqued blocks, backed the quilt in a red and white print, and finished it with black bias. Mom and Grandma Vee have since passed away, and I've inherited the quilt. Not one stitch is missing, and there isn't a rip or tear in the fabric.
Mom's Quilt alongside Sketch of Heather's Quilt
Gathering the necessary ingredients
I asked Heather's mom for profile drawings or even profile photos of each of Heather's cousins, nieces and nephews, the correct spelling of their full names and their birth dates. Of course, I didn't want to do a quilt exactly like Mom's because it wouldn't express Heather's personality. So, how do I tie in the Disneyland theme? Then I remembered something my daughter had given me when she took my grandson to Disneyland. There is a little shop on Main Street in Disneyland that will draw your profile, cut it out of black paper, glue it to a preprinted cardboard and frame it. I dug through all my photo albums until I found it, then I scanned it into my computer so that I could take Little David (my grandson) out of the picture and put in all of Heather's cousins, nieces and nephews.
I didn't get the names that I needed in time to make the quilt for Christmas so I gave Heather a box with the fabrics I had purchased, a picture of mom's quilt and told her what my plans were. I just needed to get the list of names and birth dates. At Easter I finally got the names and birth dates. I finalized the design for the frame that was on Little David's silhouette from Disneyland and gave the design to my daughter to digitize and embroider with our industrial embroidery machine lovingly named Amy (Melco's Amaya). It took a few weeks to get the embroidered blocks back from De'Anna because the design took some tweaking. The original had some curly q's that we took out, a line had to be fixed here and there, etc. Once the design embroidered beautifully, De'Anna and her husband David embroidered all the blocks.
First Embroidered Block
In June my sister and I went to a quilt show at the Alameda Country Fairgrounds and saw the perfect addition to Heather's quilt...Mickey Ears! Someone had done a beautiful wall hanging with one silhouette wearing Mickey Ears. It was the cutest thing. So, I added Mickey Ears to all the profiles. Then the whole project sat in a drawer...out of sight, out of mind. However, it is now August and I am finally getting into the project again because it is time to start projects for this Christmas and I feel that I can't start them until I finish Heather's quilt since it was last year's Christmas present.
Today, August 29, 2009 my sister came over and we rotary cut all the pieces for the top of the quilt. I printed out one of the kids' silhouettes from the computer. We put heat and bond on the back of black cotton fabric, pinned the silhouette to it, cut the silhouette out of the heat and bond backed black cotton very carefully and then ironed it into the center of one of the embroidered frames. This week I hope to have the rest of the kids' bonded inside their frames and then run a small zigzag stitch around each silhouette so that the fabric won't unravel or fray when the quilt is washed. I'll post back next weekend with my progress. Stay tuned!
First Appliqued Block
A Captive Illusions project.
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