Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The End of the Present of Doom!

As you may recall, my niece was born w-a-a-a-y back in March.  Now my sister lives in India.  In a a bubbly froth of enthusiasm, I bought some yarn and fabric with the idea of whisking up a few semi-cordinated items to celebrate her arrival...

...and I almost made them all.  I know, astonishing, isn't it?!  I wrote off the knitted cardigan idea as being too impractical for a baby that spends most of its days in the sweltering heat of Bangalore but I did whip up a little newborn cotton knitted hat (because it was fun) and I made a decently sized, cotton flannel receiving blanket with some very cool fabric that I picked up at a local quilt show.  Job done, I thought.  Time to send it off to India and paste pictures of my work all over my blog to prove that I haven't, in fact, had my crafting hands cut off at the wrist.

I spoke to my parents in London to check that I had her address right.  They warned me that over 50% of the gifts that people had mailed to her in India had 'vanished' en route.  Very, very sensibly, they suggested that I post my gift to them in London for my sister to pick up on her next trip to the UK...in August.

I glanced at my gift in dismay and did a quick calculation in my head...April, May, June, July, August.  Um, that meant that my niece would be 4-5 months old.  This rather took the shine off my nice, bright, cheerful, handmade newborn gift.  At the very least, I'd need to make a bigger hat.

I stared at my remaining yarn but truth be told, I just couldn't bring myself to make a replica hat in a bigger size.  So, I decided to make something else.  Something that would loosely co-ordinate with the receiving blanket that I had already made but would be appropriate for a 6-12 month old baby.
It took me some time to work out what I wanted to make.  A part of my gift was prompted by a discussion that I observed between a group of quilters at the show where I bought the fabric for my niece's receiving blanket.  Also, my gift took much longer to complete than I expected - well, all of my craft projects came to an abrupt halt when my MIL died in June and I've spent a lot of time this summer helping to sort out and clear out her house (I only finished up work at her house on the Labour Day weekend).  However, I did manage to finish my gifts and get them to the UK in August, in time for my sister to pick it up and take it home with her to India.


My final package (snapped just before I bundled it into the post) contained:
  • a padded, cotton floor mat (1.5 metres x 1.5 metres);
  • the original, cotton flannel receiving blanket (1 metre x 1 metre); and
  • two pairs of bloomers (nappy/diaper covers). 
The padded floor mat came about due to the conversation between quilters that I observed at the quilt show.  The quilters, who had all lovingly made quilts for new family members, were absolutely horrified to find their quilts on the floor when they went to visit.  I heard comments like, 'I hand embroidered it and it was being used as a rug!' and 'That happened to mine too - all that work and they were walking on it!  I am never making anything for them ever again.'

Dwell Studio Fabric (sort of but not really, quilted. 
I stitched around the border and vertically through every other brown circle.  I hope it's enough!) 

Now I do understand - an enormous amount of effort goes into quilts - but why make something for a new baby that you do not expect to end up on the floor and/or smeared with some form of baby effluent or goop?  After all, their world, is mainly at floor level for the first few years of their lives and they are not all that cordinated.  The main thing on parent's minds is going to be how to protect them from the floor while they are having tummy time or learning how to crawl.  So the first thing that they are going to reach for is the one thing in the house that is big, soft, clean, safe and washable i.e. the quilt lovingly made by the grandparent (gifted as an heirloom but doomed to a much more finite destiny).


I don't have any unfolded views of the mat
- it is square with the feature fabric in the centre and a deep denim border..

So with this in mind, I made a cotton, padded floor mat. It is backed and bordered with denim.  Intended for the floor, easy to wash and can be used as an underpad if my sister has any more precious quilts or handmade blankets that she wishes to protect - at least from the floor!
The second item (or the first, depending on how you look at it) is the receiving blanket:

It's cotton flannel on both sides.  The feature fabric is Michael Miller's Bite Me Apples in Lime, which just happened to go nicely with the spotty green flannel that I picked up at a local quilt shop.

On the reverse side of the blanket, I stitched together a half of two different apples and hand appliqued the composite apple into one of the blanket corners.  I stitched crudely but as neatly as I was able (cough) embroidered up the centre of the apple core to cover the join.
The third part of my present is the two pairs of bloomers (diaper/nappy covers).  I used the bloomer pattern in Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing for Baby book.  I used some plain cotton (not flannel) that I picked up on ebay that matches the reverse of the receiving blanket.

I really like the way that they turned out.  This is the first pattern that I've made from this book and I came across a couple of problems that I had to solve.  Firstly, I made this in the 6-12 month size and I am not certain that the measurements given in the book for the leg bias binding strips are correct?

I cut mine to the length stated in the book, checked and checked again, but they simply were not long enough to attach in the way described in the book.  I wonder if the measurement in the book is for the 0-6 month size and the 6-12 month length was omitted in error?  I got around the problem by putting the instructions in the book to one side.  I edge stitched the two ends of the bias strip together and eased the circular piece of bias binding into each leg in the way that I might do if I was stitching a sleeve into handknitted jumper.  I just about made it.

Secondly, the book assumes that you have the baby underfoot.  The idea is that you custom cut the elastic that you need for your baby's waist and legs - a bit tricky to achieve when I am in Vancouver and the baby is in Bangalore!  So, I changed the the top to have a 3/4 - 1 inch waistband and used button elastic instead of the elastic stated in the pattern.  I left 1.5" of the waistband open (over a side seam) and securely sewed a button in underneath.  This way, my sister can adjust the waistband to whatever my niece requires.  I completed the leg elastic as per the pattern but left them intentionally loose.  I hand stitched the last 1.5" of the leg seams closed in a contrasting green thread and sent instructions with the bloomers on how to unpick the green part of the seam and shorten the leg elastic if she needs to.  I have to be honest though.  My sister doesn't sew - at all.  So I am guessing that my niece will just have to put up with baggy leg apertures!   


Voila!  My loosely cordinated set of floor mat, blanket and bloomers!  You'll have to wait to see the knitted hat that my niece didn't get...I might just have popped it into a drawer for Spud!

Who is due in 6 weeks - good grief, where has this year gone?!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant thinking on the floor mat. That's a gift that will be *used*, and it looks fantastic – as do all the rest! (Um, they're also very usable, just so we're clear. But I like how you interpreted and applied the conversation you overheard. Totally right, too.)

Six weeks! Eeeeeh!

Roobeedoo said...

What beautiful co-ordinated gifts in neither pink nor blue! Those bloomers are just so cute - better baggy at the leg than cutting off the blood supply!
And a floor mat is such a practical present - I made one for my babies and it was in constant use for the first year or so of their lives.
6 weeks eh? Got that nursery ready yet...?!