B is for Baby; Q is for Quilt

Despite thinking for the last several years that I would probably never make another quilt, in 2013 I found myself digging through my quilting cottons.  Cuddly little babies and little snuggly quilts seem to go hand in hand – and I just could not imagine our new grandchild without one made specially for him or her.

I have always been a traditionalist when it comes to quilts, preferring classic quilt patterns to modern art quilts.  There are a few of those patterns which I have gone back to time and again, and my favorite quilt design is a Princess Feather.  Maybe because of this, when I asked my daughter (before we knew “girl” or “boy”) what she would like for a baby quilt, she chose a Princess Feather.  I must admit my heart kind of sank at the prospect of making another one of these complicated designs.  Of course, I was not about to tell her that – and so I began to plan a Princess Feather quilt for Baby Unknown.

For those of you unfamiliar with this American quilt design, here is a little background on it.  The pattern began to appear in the mid-1800s, and was very popular, despite its complexity, on the East Coast of the United States.  A group which took to it with great exuberance was the Pennsylvania Germans who populated the southeastern part of the state of Pennsylvania.  (Both my husband and I are descended from this group of immigrants.) It is thought that the pattern evolved from printed images of the Prince of Wales of Great Britain, whose hat apparently was adorned with a great feather plume.  Its nomenclature probably started out as Princes’ Feather and gradually became known as Princess Feather.

Here is one example of a vintage Princess Reather baby quilt, Reproduced from Crib Quyilts anbd Other Small Wonders, by Thos. K. Woodard and Blanche Greenstein, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1981.

Here is one example of an antique Princess Feather baby quilt, Reproduced from Crib Quilts and Other Small Wonders, by Thos. K. Woodard and Blanche Greenstein, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1981.

And here is anoter antique example.  Reproduced from The Quilt Engagement Calendar Treasurt, by Cyril I. Nelson and Carter Houck, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1982.

And here is another antique example. Reproduced from The Quilt Engagement Calendar Treasury, by Cyril I. Nelson and Carter Houck, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1982.

It was rendered in many different colors, but the classic version of it is with a white background, with alternating feathers in red and green.

Here is a large classic red and green antique Princess Feather quilt from a private collection.

Here is a large classic red and green antique Princess Feather quilt from a private collection.  The handwork on this quilt is exquisite.

This has always been my favorite color combination for this pattern, and so I decided to make it with red and green on white as the basic colors.

I was not very conscientious about taking pictures of the quilt in progress, so most of these details are of the finished quilt!

I was not very conscientious about taking pictures of the quilt in progress, so most of these details are of the finished quilt!

As I started my work on the appliqué feathers, I got really bogged down.  I just found it difficult to work on a quilt for a little person whose personality I did not know, not to mention its sex!  I realized I was not going to have this quilt done for the arrival of what turned out to be our little granddaughter Aida.   So, I reset the finish date to be for Christmas of 2013.  That seemed reasonable to me (however, I did not mention a word of this new timing to our daughter.  For all she knew, I had given up work on it!)

Over the summer, as little Aida’s personality began to emerge, the quilt took on a life of its own as I tried to match the design of the quilt to her charming playfulness and constant smile.  The central feather pinwheel surrounded by a narrow vine, provided the perfect small spaces for happy appliqued animal figures.  The large spaces in the corners definitely needed beeskeps, with swarming little busy bees to duplicate her constant motion!

The beeskep shape is from a cookie cutter, too, but I concocted the stand.

The beeskep shape is from a cookie cutter, but I concocted the stand.  Hope the kitty does not get stung!

I used cookie cutters for almost all the animal shapes.  The animals I chose were:  cats, dogs, chickens, geese (the goose cookie cutter I used is actually one that our daughter made in a Colonial Craft Camp when she was about 8 or 9 years old!), and pigs.

Here are the geese and pigs.

Here are the geese and pigs.

Here are the dogs.

Here are the dogs.

I used rickrack to make embellish the chicken.

I used rickrack to embellish the chicken.

Then, as a lover of old baskets, I added two basket shapes, which hopefully Aida can fill to their brims with her imagination some day!

A tiny basket, waiting to be filled.

A tiny basket, waiting to be filled.

Once I got the animals and shapes appliquéd onto the white background, I laid it out on the floor for scrutiny.  Something was just not right with it.  It needed something else.

This quilt needed something else...

This quilt needed something else…

It came to me quite quickly that it needed something more around the outer edge – like an undulating border.  I cut a sample out by freehand for one side – and voila!  More handwork and that did it.

With the red undulating border added.  Ready for basting the layers together.

With the red undulating border added. Ready for basting the layers together.

By this time, it was early November and I was beginning to panic.  I had forgotten how much work there is in a quilt, even a small one!   I got it basted together after taking forever to decide what type of backing to put on it.  I don’t like to use boring plain white backgrounds, but with a white quilt, I did not want to use a dark or heavily figured backing.  After much looking and thinking, white with small red polka dots seemed happy and fun.

Polka dotted cotton for the backing.

Polka dotted cotton for the backing.

I had never machine quilted a quilt before, but I knew this would have to be the first. (I never really enjoyed hand-quilting – in stark contrast to hand appliquéing, which I love to do.)  An ailing shoulder and a looming deadline convinced me to make this small concession.  The only exception would be the very center circle and the swarming bees, which would have to be done by hand.

I quilted a baby hand into the background.  I also added "Honk, Honk", "Meow, Meow", "Woof, Woof", "Cluck, Cluck", and "Oink, Oink" above the related animal shapes.

I quilted a baby hand into the background. I also added “Honk, Honk”, “Meow, Meow”, “Woof, Woof”, “Cluck, Cluck”, and “Oink, Oink” above the related animal shapes.

I always like to quilt an adult hand as well . . .

I always like to quilt an adult hand as well . . .

Exactly one week before Christmas Eve, I completed the quilting.  All I had left to do was to apply the binding.  Three days later (with everything else about the Christmas season and preparations bearing in on me – HELP!!), I finished the binding.  A gentle wash, signing the quilt in indelible ink – and the quilt was done, just in time to be wrapped before Aida arrived with her parents on the Saturday before Christmas.

Finished!

Finished!

B is for baby

Where is Aida?

Where is Aida?

There's Aida!

There’s Aida!

There's Aida!

Christmas is fun!

I suspect I’ll be making many things for Aida over the years – and maybe even doing some vintage-inspired fashion-sewing for her one day.  But there is so often something enduring about a quilt, that sets it apart.  I hope this quilt has that quality to it, for our dear little girl who has already enriched our lives in ways, like the bees, too numerous to count…

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

16 responses to “B is for Baby; Q is for Quilt

  1. Mary Lynn

    That is such a beautiful work of love! Lucky baby abd lucky grandmother!

  2. Cissie

    I really rarely say this, but here goes — OMG! The quilt is a work of art. I wish I could see it up close and personal as there are a million little details that simply take my breath away! The hands, the animals, the “sounds”, the border. It is a true work of art and I’m sure that your adorable little Aida will treasure it always. And just think — you’re going to have to do the same for ALL of your grandchildren! I did one for my first granddaughter — but we passed it down to the other girls!

    • Oh, Cissie, your comments always make me feel like a million bucks! I think you are correct about me now needing to make a quilt for any future grand arrivals. However, no more Princess Feathers!! I’ll see what other complicated design I can get into trouble with!

  3. The quilts I love best are the ones with stories behind them! I love all the wonderful details – the animal sounds, the handprints, and the rickrack on the chicken! The outer border really does complete your design. What a wonderful gift and treasure for your adorable grand-daughter!

    I have a quilt my great-grandmother made that I still love. It’s entirely handsewn – tiny hexagons in flower shapes with white hexagons between. I remember studying all the different fabrics she used (probably scraps from old worn out clothes) and having fun finding random things like elephants and dogs in some of the prints on the pieces. Now that I’m older and understand how much work must have been involved, I also appreciate the beautiful hand stitching. I’m sure Aida will grow to love her quilt more and more as she grows too!

    • What a great quilt story, Brooke. It really does seem that quilts can evoke memories almost more than anything else. Aren’t we lucky that as sewers we can create such things and understand what goes into them?
      Thanks so much – always so good to hear from you!

  4. oh my gosh, I don’t know which of those appliques I like the most (I think the beehive – so, so sweet). The quilt design is beautiful on its own but the added animals make it so colorful and meaningful. What a lucky (and cute!) little girl.

  5. Karen the quilt is lovely lovely lovely, and as for Aida – she is adorable, all dribble and smile :-). Given how unsure you were about making the design in the first place & the time since you’ve quilted it is, you are amazing.

    I also love your pink date night shirt from a few posts ago – I need to make myself a shirt, though nothing as flash as yours. In fact its one of those garments I haven’t really tried yet. Skirt first I think.

  6. betherejess

    This is so beautiful and thoughtful! I’m so glad that you shared your blog on your Christmas card. I’m anxious to follow along 🙂

  7. Susanna

    Oh Mom! Your post brought tears to my eyes. Aida slept under your work of art last night. When we open it up to look at it together, she points at the animals and giggles. I am so grateful to you for all of your work – Aida is so lucky to have this for the rest of her life. And we are so lucky to have you. Thank you for all you did to make Aida’s first Christmas so magical. I will never forget it…and can’t wait to tell her about it when she is ready to hear it. 🙂

    • I hope Aida dreams of wonderful (and giggly) things while under this little quilt! I am so happy that I made it – and finished it for her first Christmas. Your comment really touched me – thank you, dear, dear daughter.

  8. karenlogcabinquilter

    A unique applique border on the Princess Feather quilt. I like the folk art look.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s