The CAT-EO of TLC has two big loves in his life: food and catnip. For all his fuzzy cuteness and hilarious vocal range he is an utter pain and has a nasty habit of eating like a toddler. His food gets everywhere: over his mat, up the wall, all over his whiskers, face and head… How he manages to get it between his eyes is a mystery we’ve yet to solve!
His feeding mat reached such a stage of disgrace that we decided he needed a new one. So Becky made him a replacement using one our Quilt As You Go Pet Placemat kits. If you want to read more about that then check out Becky’s blog post here. I was promptly roped into creating another mat using the bone kit to test how simple these kits are. We decided to test how idiot-proof the design is by finding the biggest idiot around.
Pip's Pet Placemat - Machine washable thankfully!
We went hunting through Teen’s box of fabrics to find something suitable for the bone and came across something hidden in a suitcase which caused a little upset: two pieces of fabric pinned together as the beginnings of a duvet cover. Becky’s Mum had started this project over 25 years ago as part of a Little Mermaid themed bedroom. In the midst of Becky being in floods of tears I quietly put the fabric in a drawer out of the way. I wondered if I possessed the skills to finish this project...
When I managed to get a good look at it on my own I encountered my first stumbling block. The pins had been in the fabric for so long they were rusted in place. Not wanting to damage such a sentimental piece, I turned to our Instagram for help. I posted a picture of the pins and explained the situation. Thank you to everyone who gave really helpful tips! Using tips from the Instagram post and a little bit of cautious brute force I managed to remove the rusted pins without too much damage.
Then one lady went above and beyond. @LovingStitch got in touch and offered to walk me through the quilting process. It was a short but intense journey which began with working out the best way to go about quilting the fabrics. I initially (foolishly!) suggested free motion quilting. I’d seen Becky using this technique once and thought it looked like the ideal way to outline all the sweeps and curves. When I was informed quite how difficult this is I reigned my ambition in! Instead I opted to straight stitch the outline (a much more achievable technique for me!)
The pics I sent Becky when I claimed to be "practicing my sewing"!
Under the guise of getting some sewing practice done I hid myself away from prying eyes and set about the task. I’ve only ever sewn 4 things: a shirt (with sleeves wrong), a dress and a pet placemat. I’ve dabbled in helping Becky sew some of the basic parts of dog coats but always under her guidance. This was a project on a totally different scale!
Freshening up the fabric and removing the embedded creases required an obscene amount of Best Press and a lot of abusing the steam generating iron.
Things took an odd turn when I’d finished this prep work. I started welling up with tears a little. If you’ve read my “behind the scenes” blog you’ll know I’m autistic which means parts of my emotional processing and regulating is a little out of whack. Having a weep while ironing confused me. I couldn’t quite work out what was going on and had zero idea why exactly I was crying. All I know was there was a lot of emotional and mental “stuff” involved in this undertaking. I had been prepared for the physical and technical challenge but was oblivious to the emotional toll it would take. The tears became a running theme throughout this project along with a heavy helping of doubts: Could I do this and do it justice? I begged the Sewing Gods not to let me do something wrong or have the sewing machine eat the fabric etc!
Thanks to a lot of help from lovingstitch via Instagram messages I managed to get stuck into the work. I taped the backing to the floor, marking the corners out with tape as there wasn’t much wiggle room with the size. I understand you generally want to start with pieces a good few inches bigger than you want. But I didn’t have this luxury!
I used batting/wadding that also came from Teen’s stash and cut it to size. Using quilt basting spray I carefully rolled it into place (sticking myself to the floor several times along the way!) Using the same spray and rolling technique I managed to get the top piece into place. Somewhere in this process I managed to get the top a little crooked – useable but crooked!
I matched a few colours from the design up to some spools of Gutermann rPet and wound a bobbin from a turquoise colour to match the back. There was nothing for it but to remove the tape, roll the quilt up and with a combination of squashing, tugging, pushing, swearing and sweating I manoevred the monster into place at the sewing machine. I started from Ariel’s waist in green and headed towards the tail – or whatever you call the bottom half of a mermaid? Is it all tail? Or is the tail the fan shape at the end? Anyone with knowledge of mermaid anatomy do get in touch and let me know!
Unpinning to stitching took me about 2 hours which gave me an hour to start the sewing before calling it a day. By the end of the first day I had done the green tail and half of the torso.
On day 2 I was determined to crack on. I finished outlining Ariel and added a few lines to the middle sweeps of her hair. Since the hair was the same colour as the crab it made sense to tackle Sebastian next. The tight curves in the hair were difficult to manage, especially with the amount of fabric in play. I felt a bit more confident about the simpler shape of Sebastian, reverse stitching some of his legs to avoid having to turn the bulk of fabric back and forth over and over. I felt quite proud of my reversing skills and managed to stitch about 90% of him without having to keep tying off to start a new section!
I started to feel some relief with only two large pink flowers left to do. These were much more manageable than the other parts. I had to reactivate the basting spray with the iron in a few places but each time gave me a few hours of fix time before needing redone. I worked my way around the last petals with the occasional outburst of a few tears here and there. This complicated matters as trying to do neat lines with bleary eyes isn’t ideal!
I thought I could get away with it but as is typical the bobbin ran out with only about 5 inches left of the last petal! Winding a new bobbin wasn’t a waste at least as I was about to bind the quilt in the same colour anyway.
It may have had a few angles in place of curves and the odd lump and ruck but the quilting part of this project was finally complete. I took a practical approach using a large cutting mat, ruler and sharp rotary cutter to square the top off. This gave me an edge I could work a right angle off so I carefully worked my way down the raw edges of the quilt to straighten it up then finished with the bottom. I now had something of a fairly squared off quilt (although Sebastian did have to forgo the tips of his legs in the process!)
Apart from the sheer length of it, binding was something I felt fairly confident apart. So after working out which side I needed to stitch first I got stuck in (I have some special issues – this was especially apparent when I was making the shirt and I get mixed up between what’s the right/wrong side!). Lovingstitch did mention a lot of people hand stitch the binding but this was not happening with this quilt. I’ve only just got to grips with machine sewing. Hand stitching 7 metres per side wasn’t something I liked the thought of (I’m allergic to manual labour).
I joined 2 pieces of our 5m bias binding and somehow managed to make it a fairly near join. Although I do wish I had folded the exposed edge under as it looks a little raw and I worry it could fray. Trimming the excess around the edge didn’t help the binding stay in place when I folded it back even with the help of the iron. So I had to pull it into place as I went, doing my best to keep an even edge and neat corners.
There must have been a couple of shifts in the fabric when quilting as I had to deal with creating two mini pleats when finishing the binding to get the fabric to behave. The final few stitches to hold the binding was a bit of a mixed bag: it felt good to have completed it but for some reason there was a sad, emptiness to my feelings. The whole project had drained a lot of energy from me. I hoped I’d done it justice.
Draping it over the ironing board I clipped any remaining threads. Becky always tells me off for leaving my threads untidy! A thorough lint rolling was needed as the quilt had been all over the floor covered in thread and bits of wadding. A quick iron on the reverse with plenty of steam helped tidy it up. I folded the quilt and took my prize home to its recipient. I’ll leave it to her to let you know what she thinks of it*.
From start to finish it took me around 10 hours to finish with a lot of helpful and encouraging messages from lovingstitch who I can’t thank enough for her help on this!
*Note from Becky: It was a shock when James showed this to me - naturally a good few tears were shed. My Mum had the crafter's curse most of us contend with. She had so many part-finished projects and it was heart-breaking to find this. When I was about 3 years old Mum lugged back a stack of Little Mermaid bits including wallpaper to decorate my bedroom as I loved the movie. This was always meant to be my duvet. I am amazed at the work James put in and so grateful to lovingstitch for helping him to achieve this. It's a beautiful gesture and there simply aren't words to say how proud and happy it made me!