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Some time ago, (autumn-winter 2019-20) I realized my third grade students could use a reason to practice measuring skills, and needed to refine their fine-motor skills as well. So we worked on a quilting project – not alone, I had parent helpers (including my own mother – thanks Mom!), and they were able to create nice little hotpads to protect a surface from a warm mug or bowl. They needed to measure lengths accurately, sew straight seams, and, after I bound the edges with bias tape, they tied four knots using pretty embroidery floss. They were successful, and it was a joy to share a meaningful, useful, fine-motor-focused skill with the students.

The following winter (mid-Covid) I decided to pull out the sewing machine to mend the dog’s blanket since he had chewed holes in it when he was new to us. I was so pleased with the result that I began to plan a number of sewing projects. Unlike many tasks like crochet, knitting, embroidery, and even writing or painting which I often find tedious, sewing almost always allows me to move beyond myself and drift into possibilities.

I enjoyed dozens (or hundreds) of YouTube videos on costuming, reenacting, quilting, and basic sewing since then. With dreams and plans (but mostly dreams and aspirations) I am now more than 8 months into “baby steps” in sewing again.

I started my re-entry into real sewing with a quilt using a left-over “half jelly roll” of red, white, and blue fabric purchased in 2019 online through JoAnn Fabrics. I also used white cotton, which was supposed to be for the back, and a patterned fabric for the final back, along with a bamboo-fiber batting that is strengthened with a synthetic metrix (like a nonwoven interfacing). I worked with the strips to create a series of 30 sections (roughly square) that were each unique except for a few solid-color blocks in each color. After trimming the sections so they had (mostly) 90-degree corners, sewing those together and then trimming the final top so it was mostly “square” the final quilt before binding as about 30 x 36 inches.

In the process of rough-quilting before binding I discovered that the tensioning on my machine is not excellent on thick layers even after doing all the usual adjustments (it needs to go to the shop for a “check-up”), so ended up putting on the patterned fabric as a second backing/binding (all one piece!). This allowed the back to have fewer quilting lines than the front (the front stitching looks fine!) which made for a simpler and attractive pattern on the back as well as better-securing the fussier front. The small diagonal stripe for the back meant that the occasional small loop or missing stitch due to trimming off egregious loops is less-obvious. I wasn’t overly worried that this would doom the project since the person who will use it won’t wear it out.

To finish the quilt, I hand-sewed the binding catching the front and back at the same time with small running stitches at 1/4 inches (or less). The corners were sewn last and trimmed to eliminate bulk at that time. I did this so all the rough edges were neatly encased, providing a smooth transition to the final 1″ dimension and creating the illusion of a separate binding strip around all sides.

Specific fabrics used: Kona Fabric Roll “Patriotic, Bamboo and Cotton Batting with Scrim, a white 100% cotton I have had for several years, and for the final backing Patriotic Cotton Fabric Star Stripe.

I also used Guterman 100% polyester thread (white). My current sewing machine is a BabyLock “Jubilant.”

As soon as I am able, I will finish editing the video about this quilt. It’s a rougher video than I would like, but being at the end of the school year I was both exhausted and out of time (finished this at noon on Father’s Day 2021). You can check for it at my Stidmama Sews youtube channel. Look for it mid-July!


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