For my grandson’s high school graduation this year I wanted something that would commemorate all the things that we have done together while he was growing up. That said, I wanted something a little more than just a photo collage.
I thought of a quilt with pictures printed on fabric where the fabric is then incorporated into the quilt pattern. My bonus daughter Elaina had done one of these years ago for us and it is unique and special.
This was a perfect idea except for one minor detail…I don't sew. I don't quilt. on top of that, I am pretty sure that learning is not in my future since I simply don’t have the patience for that; fabric does not cooperate with me.
A dear friend, Judy, has already pieced a number of memory quilts for me and I would not ask her to do another one, even when she offered. So, surfing on the Internet one evening provided the perfect solution, a fusion quilt.
Essentially, a fusion quilt combines fabric squares and crocheted squares (much like granny squares) and is set together with crochet instead of being sewn together like a regular quilt would be. Cool! I crochet, I could do this!
I wanted the finished piece to be smaller than a quilt that you would use on a bed. Instead, I pictured a throw that would be perfect for him to use on chilly evenings while doing homework. The only thing Judy would have to do is to sew the fleece backing on it.
There would be one other little quirk to mine, it would have picture squares too. This would accomplish the idea of commemorating some of the things that we have done together.
So, last November I set to work. I decided the size would be 48 inches by 60 inches. The fusion quilts that I had seen were not for graduation, but rather for baby showers or wedding gifts. I just had to fine-tune the design. Instead of pinks and pastels, I would search for "masculine" fabrics.
The first task was to go through all my photos and choose which ones I would use. The very center of the quilt would be a large six inch by six inch square that would feature his baby picture and above and below it I would embroider his name, birth date and how much he weighed and how long he was. That was the easy part.
I knew I wanted 40 smaller picture squares. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider all the photos that I had taken over the past 19 years, well that was no small task. I really think that deciding on the pictures to use was the hardest part of all. I put everything that I found in one folder and then culled them down from there.
When I finally made my selections, there were a lot of firsts in there and some other memorable moments; the first deer he ever killed, the first time on a horse, the first steer he showed at fair, he and I handcuffed and shackled together for the Halloween that he wanted to be a cop and needed a prisoner, our trip to Pennsylvania and so many more memories.
The other reason that I chose 40 photos was because, printing pictures at 3-1/4 by 3-1/4 inches, I could get four pictures on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch fabric sheet. These sheets are not cheap, so this cut down on waste. This also left enough material so there was a quarter inch border around each photo which helped to set it off. A key note here, is that the pictures have to be positioned exactly right so you have one inch between them, which when cut will leave a half inch around each pic. This will create the border and a quarter inch to fold under.
The next step was choosing fabric. Not being a seamstress, I had not been to Joann Fabrics in quite a while. Holy moly, making the selections was no easy task. I finally ended up with 13 different patterns which included camouflage, fishing, hunting and other prints that I thought he would like. The smallest amount you can purchase is more than enough since I ended up using only four of each pattern.
The first thing I did was set to work cutting these squares at 4-1/4 by 4-1/4 inches which left one-quarter inch all the way around to fold under to keep it from unraveling. After cutting, I actually folded all the edges under and ironed them. This made it easier to do the blanket stitch around each square. This blanket stitch kept it from unraveling and also provided a “loop” to crochet into.
The finish size of the crochet squares was also 3-1/4 square. I chose various colors of yarn and different patterns for these.
All in all, I ended up with 56 fabric squares, 40 picture squares, 20 crocheted ones and four denim ones which I embroidered sayings on and positioned these around the larger center square. The fabric, denim and pictures squares all needed blanket stitching around them. To finish the crocheted ones, I single-crocheted around each one and then added a row of double crochet just like I did around the other ones.
All in all, I had 120 small squares, perfect for ten squares across the width and ten for the length. I chose black yarn and single crocheted them together. The single crochet provided a raised border around each small square. Judy then sewed the fleece backing on and tacked the center down.
Yes, there are plenty of mistakes and things I wish I had done differently. After all, this was my first attempt. My major mistake was with the picture squares. They were so hard to sew the blanket stitch on and after the quilt was together, it was really stiff. If I had read directions on the fabric sheets, it explicitly stated: “Peel Off the Plastic Backing After Printing.” Judy pointed this out to me when she first saw it. Did I mention, I…Don't…Sew—good reason for it!
The only other major problem was not starting early enough. Starting in November and having six months to complete the project was plenty of time….not! My initial plan was to have my part finished and to Judy by the end of March. Well, the first week of May found me working till wee hours of the morning to complete it. When you think you have started early, start earlier!
I now have a reprieve of two years before I have to have the next one done. If I am smart, I will do a little bit of it this winter and not rush myself. Perhaps the smartest thing I did was to make notes of all the things that I thought I would surely remember, like how many squares and the measurements, etc. Time has a way of eroding my memory and I don’t need to go through the design process again.
If I had to do it over again, I definitely would. All the pictures that were tucked away have brought back a lot of sweet memories. Hopefully, when he snuggles in it this winter, it will do the same for him. If so, every stitch was worth it!