Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Baby Quilts

When it comes to baby showers, one of my favorite gifts to share are handmade quilts.  To be sure, they’re the truly simple kind and they take me only an hour or two to put together after I've wandered through bolts of material in a favorite fabric shop like Elegant Stitches to select something special. 

These quilts I make, they aren't works of art, I want them to be spit up on, and washed, and dried. I want them to be tossed on the floor and packed up & taken everywhere by new parents I share them with.  They are something soft for baby to lay on, to play on, to rest on.  They are sturdy enough to last through the toddler years and perhaps beyond.... when baby is now old enough to drag them along behind everywhere they go.  

In starting a quilt, I carefully shop for two yards of coordinating fabric and a yard of quilt batting.  (Sometimes careful shopping is as simple as a walk upstairs to my attic where I open a Rubbermaid bin of folded material I adored and bought and saved for a quilt I knew I'd make make later.)  Regardless, half the joy in making these are in the searching for just the right fabrics to use: puppies, frogs, dinosaurs bold stripes or trains for baby boys.  Polka dots, florals, delicate stripes, ballerinas or butterflies and gingham for baby girls.                                      

Once home, I place fabrics wrongside back to back and machine sew around them on my Bernina with coordinating thread.  Next, I pull the almost finished quilt inside out so the right sides are now showing.  I use a blind stitch to close the quilt completely. Lastly I machine stitch out around the edges a few times to keep the batting from moving around.                         

Why a handmade quilt for a baby gift you may ask?  Because there is a timeless quality to them. A yesteryear specialness in gifting with them.  A desire within me to create a magical memory.

This year my eight year old daughter, Ashleigh Grace, is finally old enough to start reading and enjoying Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series.   Some of my favorite memories will be the time we’ve spent reading these books while we’re cuddled on the couch by a fire, or snuggled in our pajamas in her bed together.   Ms. Wilder takes us on a journey where life is simple and sweet, if not just a little harder.  She reminds us of many luxuries we take for granted.   Her memories in Little House in the Big Woods have inspired us to treat ourselves to an expensive bottle of REAL maple sugar, to try making our own butter, and to wonder about feeling joyful for receiving only a pair of red felt mittens, a peppermint stick, and a handmade doll for Christmas.  To wrap up in my own mother's handmade quilt.

Recently, I received an invitation to a baby shower for a baby girl.  While looking through bolts of fabric in a store to find that perfect material, Ashleigh Grace asked me which fabric most closely resembled a "sprigged calico muslin" from Laura’s “olden days.”  I spotted some lavender calico to show her.  Suddenly, it became the inspiration I wanted for the baby girl quilt I was going to make.                                         

Maybe my quilt will remind her to cuddle, snuggle and share marvelous books like Little House in the Big Woods with her own daughter someday.  The fabric is a plain and simple cotton.  A lavender and green calico sprigged print on a white background, but it’s deeply rooted in the Laura Ingalls Wilder moments I know she might share one day with her.