Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Handprint Family Tree Quilt

Completed quilt with autographs
I wanted to do something special for my parents so when I knew a family reunion was being planned I jumped on the bandwagon and got this quilt done in a six weeks (that's a big deal for someone with 5 kids not to mention 40+ handprints that have to go on the quilt).

My siblings quickly sent me via USPS or email the outline of their hands and their children and spouses hands. Then I set to work. The funnest part for me is the planning and choosing a color scheme.

Work of art on display on the kitchen table!
My parents have green trim in their bedroom so I decided to go with green leaves. And yes, each leaf is the size of that person's hand at the time the quilt was made. I gave my mom the leftover fabric so she can add more handprints or leafs or flowers or whatever as more people are added to the family if she wants to.

Prior to pin basting
So that I can remember how I created this quilt and you can create one of your own if you like here are the basic steps I followed.

1. Spend tooooo much time on pinterest trying to find the perfect family tree quilt idea to copy.

2. Decide to create your own pattern. Draw that pattern out and decide you don't really like the chunky geometrical style after all.

3. Muster all your artistic energy and a roll of white paper and draw what you think should be the perfect tree. Show said tree to your husband and a visitor who both declare it looks like a roach. (They are both right.)

4. Give up on your freehand artistic skills and instead use your Silhouette Studio software to alter an existing tree to fit your needs. I am one of 10 children so I wanted a tree with 10 branches.

5. Realize that with the one directional design of the brown fabric piecing the tree together would be a difficult job.

6. Create your own "whole cloth" applique technique. It goes something like this:
  • place the brown tree fabric on top of the white background fabric
  • print your tree from Silhouette Studio with a grid on top of it
  • use lots of rulers and chalk to make a grid on your brown fabric
  • refer to the grids to enlarge the tree from 8 1/2" x 11" size to queen size quilt size
  • use a short straight stitch to sew the brown fabric to the white fabric (no wonder under involved)
  • be sure to backstitch or tie off your threads
  • carefully cut off the excess fabric to reveal the brown whole cloth tree
  • (not the cheapest technique and more wasteful than I like, but I have lots of scraps and I'm very happy with the result)
7. Use three different techniques to transfer handprints to fabric with wonder under or similar fusible interfacing.
  • iron green fabric onto an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of fusible interfacing then use the copy feature on your printer to copy the handprints onto the paper backing of the interfacing 
  • realize that construction paper handprints are going to use all your printer ink if you copy them so decide to cut them out and then trace them onto the fabric directly
  • use your sliding glass door as a light box to trace handprints onto fusible interfacing and realize it's faster than using the copier method because you don't spend time troubleshooting the printer which doesn't always like interfacing (sometimes low tech is the best method)
8. Watch a long movie while cutting out handprints. Remember to label who is who because 40 handprints later you won't remember.

9. Decide where to place all the hands and quickly iron them on before you change your mind or lose one of the handprints.

10. Decide that straight stitch outlining of the handprints will work just fine and will be much faster than zigzags.

11. Do all that straight stitching around every single finger times 47 hands. Thank goodness I didn't do right and left hands!!

12. Realize that your calculations are a bit off and you need a border for the quilt top. Find your inner frugal self (which self had to disappear in the early stages of production) and use leftover green fabric to make a border.

13. Wait a few days for your back to heal from the latest "I lifted the baby the wrong way and now my back hurts" episode before pin basting the quilt.

14. Use the largest available surface in your home to layer your quilt sandwich. Since that surface happens to be the living room floor, take advantage of the carpeting and just use straight sewing pins to pin the layers directly to your carpet  while wondering how in the world you will manage to pin baste this without pinning the carpet.

15. Employ your creative and frugal resourcefulness and realize that your daughter's trundle mattress slides on a piece of hardboard an eighth of an inch thick and the size of a twin size mattress. Carefully slide said hardboard (like pegboard but without the wholes) under quilt sandwich and pin away!!

16. Decide how to quilt the quilt. I opted to quilt along the tree line using invisible thread on top so it wouldn't show when I went over leaves. I used dark brown thread on the back so the back of the quilt has the winter version of the tree. In large unquilted areas quilt clouds or birds or hills to complete the scene.

17. Don't forget the binding!

18. At the family reunion have everyone sign their name with fabric markers (marvy uchida bold point markers because no heat set is required).

19. Remind your parents that yes this is a nice quilt but it was intended to be used and it's okay if it gets dirty. It does wash. I didn't make it to be a wall hanging. ;)

20. And that's how you make Handprint Family Tree quilt in 20 steps or less!

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