"Little Feet"

What My Son Taught Me About Letting Go and Quiltmaking

Quilting With Kids

Here lies a very proud boy.

At some point last year my son asked me to teach him how to hand sew. We started with a basic running stitch and scraps in his favourite colour. Moments at a time - the attention span of a normal 4 year old boy - we stitched some triangles on squares and sewed them together. Then they sat. And sat. Then one day in the winter he asked to sew more. 

What ended up happening is he placed his one block on the design wall and started pulling scraps. He played and played and played. I loved watching it come to life one piece of fabric at a time. The next day it would change and again the day after that. In all honesty I thought it would stop there.

Boy, was I wrong.

Tips for Sewing With Kids

Soon he started pushing for us to turn those scraps on the wall into a quilt. Hmm... now how exactly was I going to do that? He was quite adamant that it literally be what he laid out. I thought about doing some planned improv - using his fabric and sizes but puzzling it together to make it a solid piece, a quilt top. Well, that, and some applique.

He shot me down. The boy knows nothing about quilting other than watching me but he knew exactly what he wanted. So we picked a background fabric and carefully, with his sisters' help, he transferred the design to the background fabric. Then he glued each piece down. Just so.

This is where I had to take some deep breaths. But, but, but... He picked a busy background fabric and it could be seen through some pieces... He didn't cut selvages off... All those raw edges... those unicorns are upside down...

You see, when I am teaching a new person - child or adult - I am a firm believer in basic, solid technique. Good 1/4'' seam allowances, pressing, colour work, squaring up. It's what I've done with teaching my own kids all along. Know the basics then riff all you want. But here was this boy completely making up his own process, his own rules. 

I thought about the articles you read where kids remember being told they aren't creative and they stop making art. About adults coming back to art after feeling shunned due to rule breaking. I thought about those things and didn't want to do that to my boy. I had to let go of constrictions and rules and supposed-to-dos. I had to embrace the way he saw the quilt and the process.

So I followed his instructions to the letter, even when they made me cringe a little as a quilter. Better to make a 'not proper' quilt than kill the spirit of a child. That made me feel better as a mother. When it came to finishing he made all the decisions - backing, thread colour, even the quilting pattern, and binding. He has the label even designed, but that's waiting for a picture with him and Daddy and the dog. 

Tag Fabric and Sewing With Kids, Quilts

We will make no mention of the fact that the quilt is effectively a baby sized quilt. He thinks it is perfect for Daddy. And so it is, son, so it is.  

The Quilt Show, Improvisational Piecing, and I

The Quilt Show Cheryl Arkison

Back in August I had the pleasure of a trip to Denver (with my favourite Evil Genius as assistant) to film an episode of The Quilt Show. Alex Anderson, Ricky Tims, and all of their staff were amazing! The behind the scenes action and prep work were so well organized and it was a fantastic experience. And now the show is live!

If you are a member of The Quilt Show you may have already seen the episode (number 1911). If not, The Quilt Show has generously opened up viewing for my special readers for one week only. Free viewing lasts only until December 4.

UPDATE: Link now works. Apologies if you tried an earlier version.

The Quilt Show Slabs Big Quilt Bee

On the show I demo making Slabs and a brief overview of Improv Curves. It's a totally free class! And that's on top of an interview/mini trunk show.  More of me than you might want! Or, because I have limited ability to travel, a snippet of me in your home.

It was a total thrill to bring my Evil Genius with me. A truly special experience for us both. And The Quilt Show treated her like a star! She stepped up and went to work on set while I was filming, helping set up and processing sales in the shop. A huge thank you to the show for welcoming her as well. Here she is with me backstage for cuddles and a bonus interview.

I've been a quilter for over 18 years now. Ricky Tims' book, Convergence Quilts, was one of the first ones I ever bought. And Alex Anderson is a super star quilter, with a career to envy. I never could have imagined that I would end up a guest on their show! What a strange journey life can be. Now that I've had another onscreen experience I can honestly say I need to make this a more regular part of my life. I even told Alex that when she wants to retire, that she can feel free to consider me for her replacement. Just sayin'.

Samsquanch - A Bigfoot Quilt

Bigfoot Quilt in the Wild


90'' x 90''

Take one Legendary pattern, multiply it by five, add in a family of five sewing, and you get one crazy quilt.

Our family winter project is finally finished. We took a jaunt to the mountains yesterday to capture the quilt in the wild, in some truly squatchy country. It's already made a debut at a local quilt show and is in good use on the odd chilly night in the basement. 

I quilted it with a combination of thread and techniques. The white background is done with a walking foot and using a white Aurifil 50wt. The trees are straight line with the magical olive green from Aurifil. The Bigfoot herself (we decided she was female while making her) is done with a brown variagated in 40wt from Signature. She needed fur and a face so my free motion skills got a lot of practice - once my BSR was replaced!

To make the face my husband and I spent far too much time researching Bigfoot art and representations. Then we compared them to primates and sketched and resized. Total nerds. I gave myself a chalk outline and went at it contour drawing style. Thank you Melissa Averinos for teaching me that!

Bigfoot Face in Quilt
Bigfoot in the Mountains

The backing is a mishmash of greens and leftover browns from my stash. The only fabric we bought for this quilt was the binding. I simply had nothing at home that worked so the girls picked this ombre and it's perfect. 

It really was an incredible project to work on together. From picking fabric to sewing together I had fun. It's easy to get annoyed or stressed when the kids are sewing, but we learned to go with the flow - and their enthusiasm. I gave in to all the requests when my little guy wanted to help, including having him on my lap while doing some FMQ! We had fun stomping through the trees for photos, complete with photo bombs and blurry pictures from laughing. 

Bigfoot Quilt Ombre Binding

It's summer now so there isn't much couch snuggling going on. And Hubby rightly pointed out that the white background is more wintery. I had hoped to shoot this in the snow, hence that white background. But believers know, Sasquatch is always out there...

And one word on the name. My husband is a wildly sarcastic man with a unique sense of humour. He likes to make up words and stories to mess with people, the kids especially. So in our house it isn't Sasquatch or Bigfoot, it is Samsquanch. 

Bigfoot in the Wild - Quilt

Embroidery - Properly

It took four years. Four years to get from this to that there.

Their first efforts have hung on their art wall, surviving every single purge of art at their request, for the past four years. Then one night a few weeks ago The Monster asked if we could do it again.

"Mama, can we do more of that up down sewing with thick thread? Except, can we do it properly?"

Of course sweetie. And I panic. Because I have no clue how to actually do it properly. Thankfully I have a rather extensive book library for sewing. A few resources to the rescue and we teach ourselves a running stitch and a back stitch. We stock up on a few bits of floss (all in pinks and purples except for one lonely skein of yellow. We buy hoops. And we put their little brother down for a long winter's nap so he stays out of our way.

They each drew a picture on a piece of scrap osnaburg, lightly and with a pencil, selected their floss, tightened it up in the hoop and we sat down to stitch. And we stayed there for two hours! This activity kept my 7 and 5 year old girls still for two hours. I'm still in shock about that. I was on cutting, floss separating, and knot tying duty.

We've got some skills to learn - sometimes they don't always pull the thread all the way through and we get tangles, and their back stitch and running stitch look kind of the same. But this first effort is not any better than I probably could have done.

And the best part? They want to do more.