This past week, the girls were out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I had the pleasure of their company for two days in a row. They are always eager to “do a project” and we decided to make a quilt for their American Girl dolls. It was a great project to use for them to learn how to sew with a sewing machine.
We talked about different styles of quilts they could make and discussed what size was best for their 18″ dolls. Belén decided to make a patchwork quilt from 5″ squares and Eloise liked a strip quilt design. I printed off a layout for the designs they chose. Next, they went through a pile of fabric from my stash and pulled out the colors they wanted in their quilt and then labeled their layout sheets accordingly.
It was fun to watch them sort through several stacks of fabric and choose which prints they wanted for their quilts.
For Eloise’s quilt we cut a number of 2 1/2″ strips and she laid them out in the order she had on her sketch. Of course, she was able to move some of them around so they were just the way she wanted them. Her fabrics were bright and colorful and included an assortment of storybook prints (Little Red Riding Hood), peace signs, bicycles, etc. She chose a 1930’s conversation print for her outside border.
Belén also chose a variety of prints. I was impressed how she laid her blocks across her quilt at an angle. She balanced her colors by repeating the fabrics used in the corner blocks. I think there is a future quilt designer in the family! Belén had to go to gymnastics for 3 hours, so Eloise and I stitched Eloise’s quilt first.
Since Eloise is only 6, I set the machine up so that she could sit next to me and as I fed the fabric through the feed dogs and stitched strips together for her quilt. Eloise was in charge of the foot pedal. When she pressed down the foot pedal, the machine sewed until we were at a stopping point. Then, we repositioned the quilt for the next line of sewing and she stepped on it to sew again.
It was a great way to help Eloise feel a part of the construction process of her quilt top. She also liked to help me line up each strip as we gradually sewed each section of the quilt together. She was very attentive and listened carefully for when to start and stop and slow down. We had a good time!
As we joined the strips together, we pressed each seam to the darker side. I explained to Eloise why we did this to keep the seam allowances from showing up on the front of the quilt. We had a good conversation about this.
I didn’t let her use my hot iron, but she was able to use a toy iron and press the seams once again for good measure.
In no time at all, we had completed Eloise’s quilt top and it was time to pick up Belén from the gym.
After lunch, we began work on Belén’s quilt. We first sewed the blocks together in pairs and then the pairs became rows and step by step, we sewed B’s quilt top together.
She was curious to learn about the different parts of the machine and why and how it worked, how were stitches formed, etc.
We pinned her blocks together and she sat and stitched them together. She learned how to chain stitch and why it is a great way to save thread and time.
Before we knew it, her blocks were sewn together and we were able to get the border sewn in place as well.
Once that was done, our first day of sewing was complete. We decided to take a break and run a few errands in preparation for Thanksgiving.
The day after Thanksgiving, B asked if we could finish her quilt. I told her we needed to create a label for the back of her quilt and she proceeded to type the content for her label into my embroidery software.
We worked together to decide what type of border she wanted on her label and she decided to stitch turtles around the perimeter of the border. When the design was complete, we sent the file to my embroidery machine and stitched it out.
We layered our backing, batting and quilt tops and pin basted them together. I used my larger Bernina 830 machine to quilt both quilts. This was such a time saver and we were pleased at the finished quilting.
Next, the binding was cut and pieced together and I stitched it to the back of the quilt, and folded it around to the front. Before I stitched the binding down, I inserted a 1″ folded strip of red trim fabric under the edge of the binding. This added a little bit of color to an otherwise very blue border and helped to “pop” some of the other colors in the quilt.
While I was sewing her binding, Belén enjoyed reading a book called, Sewing Machine Fun for Kids. It has not only great illustrations of the machine and the sewing process, but a number of games kids can play as well. In fact, I had an adult tell me that she bought it for herself when she first started sewing and found it a valuable resource.
Of course, the final step was to add the quilt label that Belén had designed for her quilt. It read “Belen’s First Doll Quilt 2017 – I enjoyed making my doll quilt with the help of Nana. She taught me a lot of new skills as we created it. I love to sew with Nana. Belén”. It warms my heart so much to read her label.
Next week, Eloise and I will finish her quilt. She has been thinking about what she wants on her label and I so look forward to spending some more time sewing with her.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and would love to hear about what projects you have been sewing. It’s such a perfect time of year to be sewing.