Home quilts Starting Alice’s memory quilt

Starting Alice’s memory quilt

by Clare Mansell
Starting Alice’s memory quilt

At this time of year I always find myself turning back to quilting after the summer and a couple of weeks ago I started work on Alice’s first quilt and my first quilting project since the spring. I’ve done the odd bit of sewing over the last few months, but its obvious I’ve not been around in the cabin much as both my pairs of fabric scissors had gone walkabout when I went looking for them!

This project is a little different from any I’ve done before because I’m making the blocks out of old baby clothes. There’s a couple of reasons why I decided to take this route, firstly because (obviously) it’s nice to be able to look back on, but secondly because it has proved to be surprisingly tricky to find a home for Alice’s old clothes.

I did give away most of her newborn clothes to a local lady in need several months ago, but I still have everything from 3 months onwards and although some of it will be passed on to special friends or kept for future grandchildren (eek!) the bulk of it sits in that unhappy place between too good to throw away and too worn to sell or give to charity, so I’m cutting it up.

In case you are wondering it turns out that cutting up baby clothes is way harder than stuffing it all in a bag and taking it to a charity shop. It feels really destructive taking scissors to items that your warm cuddly baby was wearing only weeks (or in a couple of cases days) before and on a couple of occasions I have had to just hold my breath and plunge in with the first cut.

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There’s been another thing that has held me back from doing this kind of quilt before which is the fear of using stretchy jersey fabric. I normally work almost exclusively with cotton which doesn’t stretch and stays in a square when you cut it. Fortunately it turns out someone has thought of this problem and created a solution. I bought 3 yards of fuisible interface from the States (not cheap, £19.50 including postage) and it’s amazing lightweight soft fabric that does the job without making the squares stiff or heavy.

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I’m trying loosely to stick to a pattern with the blocks doing alternate white or low volume with darker prints. If I’d known I was going to make a quilt out of her clothes further down the line I think I would have thought very differently about what I’d bought…after all the quilt will be around longer than she wore the clothes for!

It’s coming together pretty quickly (now I’ve found one of my pairs of scissors) and I’ve done about half the blocks I need, though the final layout will need some tweaking.

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Yesterday Alice went through the knee of a much loved pair of baggies and after about a minute of mourning, I got the tape measure out to work out if I could get a couple of blocks out of them. I felt guilty afterwards for being so keen to cut them up, but in reality, as they have a hole in them, they’d only end up in the bin otherwise.

And there is another thing. Going through all Alice’s clothes has given me a lot of time to think about what has worn well and what hasn’t and it’s noticeable that the things that have lasted the best, both washing well and in terms of designs that can be worn a long time, is the handmade stuff. I don’t think this is an accident either, small makers are both more responsive and more answerable to their customers.

The designs I found that were particularly good were an A-Line dress from Sew So Pretty which Alice has been wearing for about 7 months (it’s more of a smock top now) and a pair of Baggies which we got second-hand but were originally made by JJ Jiraffe. The next size up of the Baggies (which we’ve ordered) is actually designed to fit age 1-3 as they have an elasticated waist and elasticated ankles, so really excellent value.

Depending on my speed over the next month this may be a first birthday present or failing that a Christmas one. I tend to work much better with a looming deadline so I hope I’ll bring it together by the end of October.

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