Friday, October 5, 2012

Wait, it's October?

Life has certainly been busy recently. Moving, campaigning, crafting, unpacking, travelling. It's left me with little motivation to add to this little blog, but here we go.

We have two dear friends who are adopting from Uganda (read all about it here), and I wanted to make quilts for the two additions to their family before they left. Two quilts. At the same time. I really adore a baby quilt pattern that I have used in the past (the small quilt at the end of the post), but it just wasn't going to work for this project. I wanted to incorporate fabric from the previous two quilts that I made for their homegrown children into the two quilts for their heart grown children, but unfortunately, the fabric pieces I had left just weren't big enough for my go to pattern (one that I have made 4 times now... I really love that pattern!).

So, what do I do? I go and find some inspiration.

The first nudging of an idea came when I was watching a new PBS special on the Quilts of Valor program (which is something I would love to do at some point). Eleanor Burns (of Quilt in a Day fame) was featured on the program doing a Tossed Nine Patch pattern. She made it look so simple. So very, very simple. So, I thought that these two baby quilts would be the perfect way to test this pattern out. Small, quick, easy. Simple, right?

In theory.

So, the basic pattern of a tossed nine patch is pretty straight forward:
1. Sew a nine patch block (9 equal sized squares sewn in three rows of three)
2. Cut the nine patch block into four equal squares.
3. Toss all the new squares and reassemble them into a beautiful quilt that looks much more difficult to sew.

Simple, right? (I even found a YouTube video of how "simple" Eleanor makes it out to be).

Well, the problem is that I have a really hard time matching fabric. Well, really, matching anything. It was fun to go shopping in my stash for all the fabrics, reliving memories, thinking about the different projects that I had sewn. I found fabrics that I felt coordinated with the two from the original quilts and complimented each other without actually making the same quilt for both children.

I decided to make 4 inch squares to sew into the nine patch pattern and make 12 nine patch blocks. Using a standard 1/4 inch sew allowance, this would give me a finished quilt of about 31" x 42" which, I've been told, is a pretty ideal size for a child's blanket. So I cut lots of fabric and figured out which fabrics went with what. And tried to balance the use of flannel and cotton in the two quilts.

But then I over thought the process. Or maybe under thought? Either way, step three for quilt one took waaaaaay longer than I expected.

I think in the end, though, the quilts turned out quite nicely.

This was the first quilt that I did. For this one, I did not take Eleanor's advice to use the same fabric for the center square of each nine patch. I had some convoluted way of arranging the fabrics in the nine patches and working through some sort of pattern that made sense in my head but was extremely chaotic after the whole jumbling process. The arranging of this quilt to make sure that the colors were well distributed and none of the same fabrics were touching took me two days. Really. Ask Jeff.

And here's the second quilt. For this one, I did use the same fabric for each of the nine patch blocks and arranged the other eight fabrics in a much more intuitive way (I figured out which ones looked nice next to each other, and then just rotated the eight fabrics around the center block for each of the 12 nine patch blocks). This made the post-jumble layout of the quilt MUCH easier.

Jeff picked out which backing went with which quilt since I forgot what I was thinking in between buying the fabric and actually attaching it to the fronts.

And blanket binding. How I hate thee! But, in my opinion, no baby blanket is complete without that satiny finish along the edges, so it is always worth the bother. No matter how many times I do attach this blanket binding, I always forget what I did the last time. My favorite tutorials are here and here. The key is getting your zig zag stitch just right to minimize bunching.

I am not a quilter that actually quilts her quilts, so these are just tied with coordinating floss. The batting is 100% cotton which is the perfect weight for Florida.

I was so worried that the quilts would be too busy and crazy, but when I delivered them to their new home, they seemed to fit right in. The coolest thing, too, was that I had no hint on nursery theme for these puppies, so I started with the animal fabrics (thanks, Mom. Those are from your stash!), the two fabrics from the other quilts (which are the green palm tree and the light yellow polka dot), and went from there. Turns out the two babies will be welcomed with a circus theme! And blanket number one has a fabric that coordinates almost perfectly with the crib bumper for the bed. God was certainly in the sewing room with me on these ones to make sure they turned out just right for this very special project.

The tossed nine patch really was a fun pattern, but I'm not sure if I would do it again. Or if I did, I would probably have the nine patches in all one color family. The next quilt will be back to my favorite again :-)

(p.s. Thanks for the photos, Karissa, since I completely forgot to take some in the rush of finishing the quilts on time. You can see them featured in her virtual baby shower here)


  1. Nice job, Joy! Both are beautiful - but I like the blue one best.

    Aunt Wendy

  2. Hi Joy!! You are the winner of my recent Fabric Giveaway with the Intrepid Thread! Congrats!! Please email me at and I will pass your address onto Julie! Thanks so much and congrats again!