grad quilt: here comes the sun
By Patricia Belyea
SEATTLE WA Carson Thomas’ parents chose a flannel nightgown to include in her high school graduation quilt. The nightgown, decorated with dancing cats and dogs, went down to Carson’s ankles when she first received it. Seven years later Carson still wore it—as a mini-nightgown.
The improv project took over my studio as I made more chunks and sewed them together. Even though I was sewing straight edges to straight edges, as the quilt top grew, it flaired along the bottom side. To resolve the problem, I opened up long seams and took out skinny wedges of fabric before re-sewing the seams.
Over Memorial Day weekend I drove to Vancouver, Washington to finish the quilt on Jane Dudley’s long-arm machine. Jane and her twin Judy Oakes put me up and fed me for a two days while I learned how to use the machine. First I practiced on two charity quilts. Then I free-motion stitched wacky flowers all over Carson’s quilt. (Using Hobbs 100% wool batting, I got lots of definition with the stitch design.)
Back in Seattle, I made a double-fold French binding and stitched it on—all in one day. The final touch was a hand-written label with the name of the quilt—Here Comes The Sun. With Carson heading off to a college on the East Coast, I thought “Watch out world, here she comes!”
At the presentation, Carson was surprised and pleased to see her childhood nightgown in her quilt.
I learned two big things from this project. 1. It’s tricky to make a wonky-looking quilt top that lies flat. 2. Quilting on a long-arm machine makes stitching fast and fun—potentially life-changing info for a steadfast hand-stitcher.