I finally finished my first quilt! I made it for a good friend’s little boy. The original idea behind this quilt was that it could be used outside for him to play on. I had seen this waterproofed blanket idea from Martha Stewart and thought it would be the perfect way to keep the blanket from getting damp while being used on the grass. When I think of sitting outdoors, I immediately think of picnics, and to me, there is nothing more classic picnic than a red and white checked gingham tablecloth. With that as my inspiration, I started with two different size checks. I used the very basic 9 patch quilt block and decided to get creative with ways to use the fabric. I didn’t really have a set plan at first… just a concept and a feeling. This is often how I start working on creative projects. Just a rough idea of the size, materials and colors. Halfway through construction, I decided to add in some solid red fabric I had on hand and eventually became interested in the shapes that were forming from all of the blocks (I particularly love the square with the red cross). Once reaching what seemed to be a good size for a little boy, I started playing with the arrangement of all the blocks. I especially liked how the squares are all gingham, alternating and repetitive on the left side but on the right side, the blocks start to break the rigid pattern and dissolve.
With all of the blocks completed and machine pieced together, it was now time to start the actual quilting. A fun fact that I learned while taking a quilting class at Lillstreet in Chicago (taught by the amazing and awesome Nora Renick Rinehart! Holla!) is that quilting is actually the step when you are sewing all the layers together. For the back, I used my favorite wood grain pattern by Joel Dewberry. This is around the time I also discovered the beautiful quilt work of Maura Grace Ambrose and became completely smitten with her simple aesthetic and style. Maura hand quilts all of her amazing pieces using the Japanese sashiko technique. I was so inspired by her work, I decided to hand quilt my picnic quilt. I really had no idea what the heck I was doing and just winged it. I was perhaps a bit naive about how difficult quilting by hand would be and it didn’t take long before coming to the realization that machine quilting definitely would have been much faster, not to mention less painful. Boy, did my thumbs ever hurt from working without a thimble! I have since learned quite a lot — and that’s really what matters when you’re just starting out, isn’t it? Ultimately, I am very happy with the final result, and my friend is thrilled with how much use she and her son are getting out of it!