It was September; my niece Madi was expecting a baby and I was invited to her baby shower. I cannot turn up at a baby shower without a baby quilt of some sort. I did that once—my gift that time was a baby scrapbook, with quotes about babies, baby-themed embellishments, and spaces for baby photos—but several people told me, before the gifts were opened, that they were excited to see what kind of baby quilt I'd made, so I was embarrassed and never did that again.
Plus, nieces (or nieces-in-law, or friends, or neighbors, or co-workers, or co-workers' daughters) having babies gives me an excuse to go to the fabric store.
So, since Madi was having a baby, I went to the fabric store. Even knowing my material weakness. I tend to enter a fabric store with excitement that's slightly tempered by trepidation. Will I be able to find what I want? And (perhaps more importantly) (definitely to my husband) will I be able to restrain myself and not buy all of the fabric instead of just the fabric I went in for? (Highly unlikely.)
I intended to buy some baby-themed flannel that fit my usual criteria: a good-quality material and a print that matches my baby-quilt aesthetic. (Which avoids the overly bright or overly commercial or overly cute.)
I came out with two perfect pieces of flannel, in earthy greens, greys, and tans, one plaid and one little forest animals, for Madi's baby's quilt.
And five pieces of pink fabric for the black-and-pink quilt I literally do not need any more pieces for.
And two pieces of black-and-white fabric that I also didn't need for said black-and-pink quilt. (But more variety! and it was irresistible, as black-and-white anything usually is to me.)
And a piece of flannel printed with teal, purple, and grey flowers that formed the color scheme for the soccer quilt I've been meaning to make. (By "soccer quilt" I don't mean a soccer-themed quilt, but a quilt with a denim back and a cozy but sturdy top that I can keep in the car during soccer season in case of cold and windy games.)
And seven companion pieces for the soccer quilt.
And some Halloween fabric that was on sale. (Halloween stuff is also fairly irresistible to me, even if I have no idea what I'll do with it.) (And plus: Becky mentioned something on Instagram about her unfinished Halloween project and I got sort of sad, thinking about a sister of mine spending all October without any Halloween textiles. That's almost unimaginable.)
I went home and started cutting, which might be my favorite part of the quilting process. (Except for buying. Buying's obviously a favorite part.) (I also love combining colors and patterns.) (And sewing it all together.) (OK: there are few parts of the quilting process I don't like. Basting and anything that involves pinning.)
I discovered I had just exactly enough to make the baby quilt I'd planned for my niece. (Who says jr. high geometry, which I failed at spectacularly and thus sent myself into the start of a deep, dark abyss, isn't helpful in adulthood?)
But I wanted more purple/grey/teal pieces.
And I definitely needed more Halloween fabric if I were going to carry out the vision in my head I'd imagined while driving home.
So I went to another fabric store, wherein I procured a few more pieces for the soccer quilt and a bunch of fat quarters for the Halloween project.
But that fabric store doesn't carry a lot of flannel. So I didn't even go home: I went to Joann, which sometimes only has flannel that is the exact opposite of my baby-quilt aesthetic but this time had some lovely aquas and purples and greys. (On sale!) And then I went to the last fabric store that's (fairly) close to me, which has a fantastic flannel selection and unusual bolts of minky. Purple fleur-de-lis minky with hints of turquoise? How perfect is that?
I might've bought a few more black/white/pink prints just in case.
And a few more Halloween prints just for fun.
As I drove home, I thought about how my shopping that day reflects my quilting style. I like scrappy, colorful quilts, and I make them scrappy by including a wide variety of prints. Like my penchant for non-cutesy baby quilts, I lean towards prints that have a certain feel, less traditional, more modern. I like florals and stripes and dots and diagonals, but with a specific design sense that I can only recognize by seeing (I can’t always describe). I like making what I think of as mixed media quilts, with cotton and lawn and flannel and minky, but my favorite fabric really is flannel and I wish they'd made every single print in it. I rarely use someone else's quilt design because I like coming up with my own (I'm also really bad at triangles so I don't do them very often.) (But I'm getting better, as I should be, because that black & pink quilt? Has 229 so far.)
I also realized—and skip this paragraph if you know me and are having a baby any time soon—that I'd procured enough fabric to make not just the quilts I wanted for myself, but five or six similar baby quilts. (Which, if you're having a girl in the next, oh, 3 years or so, will likely be either black & pink or aqua, purple, and grey.)
After my epic day at fabric stores, I spent several days in cutting, piecing, assembling, and binding bliss. I did not accomplish everything I'd set out to do, but that's OK as I finished some things.
I made five oversized Halloween-themed hot pads, two of which I kept and three I gave as gifts (one to Becky so as to assuage my worries over her Halloween-fabricless existence). These came together quickly and were so much fun to make. I made binding strips for them out of different colors of fabrics, a technique I've never tried before but really like:
And I made 16 more half-square triangles for my black-and-pink quilt. (And also for the quilts of future babies, who aren't even conceived yet, whose parents might not even know each other yet.)
And I cut out all of the squares for the soccer quilt, but as soccer ended in the middle of October, I didn't start sewing them together yet. (And, let's be honest: If I don't actually make the quilt, that means I can perhaps find some other applicable fabrics.) (ie, have another perfectly reasonable reason for going to the fabric store again. Maybe even ranging further afield, to fabric stores I've never been to.)
I made another trip to Joann, where I found the perfect denim for the back of the soccer quilt (it reminds me of a pair of jeans I had when I was 16) as well as the spot in the back corner where the Insulbrite is kept.
And, oh yes: I made the baby quilt which started this whole wingding in the first place:
(I neglected to take a photo of it after I snipped the seams and washed it. There's a layer of white flannel in between all of the squares that made the ragged seams more contrasty and so cute!)
I'm not sure if all other quilters sewers fabric artists work in this way, at a slightly-frantic pace that is bubbling with excitement to see the finished product. Color, pattern, the texture of cloth under my fingers; the swish of the rotary cutter, the hum and thump of my machine. There is a specific kind of happiness to be had in making things with fabric, a happiness I am grateful to have found.