If you get an opportunity to make a satin quilt, say yes.
In my case, I got the opportunity to make a baby quilt from a wedding dress. I said Yes! to the Dress. (That line never gets old for me. Sorry.) You can read more about the dress in my last post, Wedding Dress, Baby!
Today, I’m going to go over my process a bit. I figure that at least a few of you have been faced with a similar custom-quilting opportunity – and maybe you said no because you weren’t sure where to start. Here’s how I worked it through.
First things first: what does your friend (client) have in mind?
Language is tricky. When a potential client friend says, “I want a baby quilt, made from my wedding dress,” that can mean just about anything. I needed to know what she envisioned, so I did the easiest thing. I asked her to google some images and text or email them to me. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
My new friend sent a picture from Pinterest. (I’d post the original picture, but it may have a copyright, so I’ll just tell you about it). It was of a blue and white quilt, which she felt was perfect since her new grandbaby is a boy. I agreed, and I love the elegance of baby blue with white. The quilt she liked looked – more or less – like this:
In the original picture, the large white area in the center was the back of a wedding dress – all buttons – which my friend did not like. I suggested an embroidered panel instead. She loved that idea and ran with it – how about a family tree?
After consulting with my amazing sister Anna (who has an amazing sewing machine that does amazing embroidery), we found a design online at Embroidery Library: a beautiful, elegant but folksy, “Tree of Life” design that fit the bill.
While the embroidery idea was brewing, I tinkered with the quilt design some more. All the blocks in the inspiration quilt were too small. The dress I was working with had large pieces of lace, and so would require larger blocks. I finally came up with a simple design that worked:
It’s a little hard to see on this graphic, but I think you can see how simple the blocks are: Four half-square triangles, four hourglass blocks, and one square-in-a-square block (which will have the embroidered medallion).
Easy, peasy, done! Well – not so fast.
The Practice Sessions
Previous to this quilt, I had never worked with satin. Or – cut up someone’s wedding dress. I will spare you the boring details of all the practice sessions, but let me just say that satin is slippery and stretchy, and I did several “trial runs” before ever touching my shears to that dress. I strongly recommend that you do the same. I learned two important things from the practice sessions:
- You need interfacing with satin fabric. I used Thermoweb Heat-N-Bond Non-Woven Lightweight fusible interfacing to stabilize the polyester satin fabric so that I could get accuracy with the piecing. I tried, and failed, to make blocks without it. The unlined fabric frayed heavily and it was hard to keep square. You could try just using fray block, but – that won’t help you keep your squares in line, and the interfacing helps both.
- I found a good square-in-a-square technique. The biggest surprise with this quilt was that a square-in-a-square was hard to achieve. It looks so simple that I first tried it without directions. Five tries, and a lot of used scrap fabric later, I gave up and searched for directions online. No luck. And then…I went to church.
I was “quilting with the ladies” at church one day (we make quilts to give away to the less fortunate), and a wonderful woman came in with a box full of old quilting books. She invited us to take whatever books we wanted – it would save her a trip to the library. So I browsed through. Lo, and behold! A thin book entitled Square In A Square Quilting System by Jodi Barrows was laying there on top.
Coincidence? I think not. God, the Father, the Almighty, at work in my life? Absolutely. There are no coincidences.
Ms. Barrows’ book gave good instructions on making the block. A special ruler is mentioned, but wasn’t with the old book. I didn’t really miss it, but if I was going to do whole quilt with these blocks, I’d probably invest in it. The ruler and book are still available – I found them on Amazon (see link above) but they are also available on Jodi Barrows’ website.
How to make a square in a square block: use strips of fabric a bit longer than you need, and make them 1/2 the width of the inside block. Sew the strips to both ends, and do not trim. Then sew strips the sides of your block. After all the strips are attached, square up the block. Remember to leave a seam allowance.
Not hard at all, once you know how to do it.
One of the tricky parts of this quilt was cutting out the fabric from the wedding dress skirt. The skirt had partially see-through lace appliques that I wanted to keep intact so that I didn’t have to re-attach them. I decided they should go in the white sections of the triangle squares, curving toward the blue triangles.
The rest of the lace pieces came from the train of the wedding dress. I like how you can see the blue satin through the lace on the corners. I used the same pieces of lace on the remaining white sections of the dress, overlapped slightly to create an arc/garland. All of these lace pieces had to be hand sewn to the quilt.
For the center block, I cut a piece of the wedding dress skirt and gave it to Amazing Anna for her embroidery magic. The center medallion came out, well, amazing. I love, love, love it! But the corners of the center medallion seemed a little lonely, so I took some small detail lace from the bodice of the dress and hand sewed them on.
I don’t often do feathers in my quilting. I’m a bit nervous about them, still, even after lots of practice. But I just kept drawing them, over and over, while I was sketching a quilting plan. I tried to get away from them, but they kept coming back. Note sketches below.
As it happens, I had to go out of town to Spartanburg, SC, before I started the quilting. I was still trying to find a quilting design. Without feathers. But I had a bigger problem – I was running up to the deadline on this quilt, and I knew I’d have to get started on the quilting ASAP upon my return if I was going to get done in time. And I’d cracked my glide foot for my longarm machine, and it was snagging fabrics. This would NOT do for a satin quilt!
In emergency mode, I found a HandiQuilter dealer and quilt shop in nearby Gaffney, SC, called Quilting Sew Easy. What a beautiful little shop it is! If you are near there, check them out and tell Ann and Darlene I said hello. They had one last glide foot! (Coincidence? No. See notes above on God). They also have a fabulous wall of quilting books. It was there that I found Create Your Own Dream Feathers by Peggy Holt. I cannot explain why, but as I spent the night in my hotel room, drawing feathers the way Ms. Holt instructs, I grew confident with them. This quilt was meant to be feathered. And so it was.
For my longarm quilting friends, here are the details of the quilting: Thread was Glide 40, top and bottom (pre-wound bobbins), and I used a size 18 needle. No marks were made to guide my free-hand (no computer, no pantograph) feathers. I was too afraid the marks would not come out. Batting is Quilters Dream Poly. Backing is baby blue Minky.
I think it came out fantastic! The meandering wave going through the white section of the quilt really pulls it all together. I’m so glad I got my nerve up to do the feathers. I can’t imagine how it would look without them. I also outlined the shell and flower details in the lace, which you can’t see well on top. But look at the back! I love the sculpted effect in the Minky. What a great quilt. I’m so happy to have made it, and I’m happy that it will be special to the family for years to come. I’m happy knowing that God guided me along, even on this small human adventure. I am blessed beyond words.
I’m also happy it’s finished! If you’ve made it to the end of this VERY LONG post, I’m sure you feel the same way. 🙂 Thanks for reading.