My Neighbor Totoro Baby Quilt

When my friend contacted me to ask if I’d be able and willing to do a My Neighbor Totoro-themed baby quilt for her son (who happens to be almost the same exact age as my youngest!) I was thrilled! I got to work right away drawing up a design. I came up with the idea to have a simple background with Totoro himself on the front. This was my sketch. Whenever I design baby quilts, I like to design them a bit larger, so that the kiddo can use them for their toddler beds and more as they get older.

I decided on 6” strips, and as you can see in my design I did not take into account seam allowances, so the actual quilt turned out much more square. That’s okay, since the applique ALSO didn’t turn out exactly like my sketch- I wound up doing much more of Totoro for the applique, which I like better anyways.

To make Totoro, I taped together three pieces of freezer paper and using a reference photo, freehand drew the character, making it as big as I actually wanted it to be on the quilt. Now, here’s where I made another mistake (and I will probably keep making it, because there just isn’t an easy way to not do this). I drew him the correct way, when I should have drawn him mirrored, because I wanted to apply the freezer paper to the BACK of the fabric. Oops. So, I had to trace over the first drawing a second time, working on the mirror of it.

It actually worked out fine, because I had to do individual pieces to make all of Totoro in the separate colors. So I drew the nose, then the umbrella, then the underside of the umbrella, then the whiskers, then the eyes, etc, etc.

Once all the pieces were drawn out, I cut them out, ironed them to their respective fabrics, and then cut the fabrics out. Now, for some reason, when I worked with freezer paper before, I was always able to peel both sides of the paper off, leaving only the sticky middle. That didn’t work this time, so I wound up just taking the freezer paper off entirely, and basting the pieces down using either spray starch (for the larger pieces) or Elmer’s glue sticks (for the smaller pieces). I also pinned the pieces down as I stitched, just to help them stay where they were supposed to. I then did raw-edge stitching around the applique, because I wanted the fabrics to fray a bit, to give a feeling of furry-ness to the character. My idea was to make it seem more life-like.

Finally, the last thing to do was to quilt it. I spent a couple days deciding between a pantograph of rain drops and just straight quilting to mimic the look of rain. Eventually, I let my friend decide. She chose the straight line quilting and I’m so glad she did! I think it really enhances the quilt without detracting from Totoro. I even worked a couple of rain drops bouncing off the umbrella.

Overall, I loved working on this quilt. It was a little intimidating because applique is usually not my thing, but I’m so very, very pleased with how it turned out, and she loved it, so I’m definitely considering this a win in my book!

Happy stitching!

Postcard from Sweden

I bought this kit in 2015. Finally, after years of staring at it, I decided it was past time to put it together! It came in such a pretty way; all 36 colors were arranged in a rainbow cascade. I loved it! Unfortunately, when I took at look at the directions, the way she laid them out was NOT in the same order. And none of the fabrics were labeled. So, my first order of business was comparing the colors to pictures online to figure out which one was which, and putting them in order, before labelling them. This process, all told, took me at least a couple of hours. Honestly, it was the worst part about the whole quilt!

After cutting the triangles, I started the piecing process. I had a sew-in that I brought them to, which was good because I could lay them all out. Since I hadn’t labeled each triangle as I cut them, I assembled them block by block, and row by row, referring occasionally to the pictures. Yes, the way I did it took me much longer, but it wasn’t too bad after I got in a groove. I did need more space for this process, since I also had to lay each row out as I assembled them, and it did prevent me from chain piecing, so I spent a lot more time getting up to trim, iron, and grab more pieces. All told, assembly of the top took probably about 10 hours total with this process. If I were to do it again, I’d probably get some small labels for each piece so I could chain piece, and hopefully save myself some time!

Once all the rows were assembled, and the rows put together, I had to decide on a quilting design. On the example quilt, the designer had done simple, wavy lines from edge to edge, and originally I had planned to do the same. I wanted a quilting design that wouldn’t detract from the But I really wanted to try this new pattern out, and I figured that it would blend well enough since it was a pretty benign design. And boy, I was right. I absolutely LOVE how it looks- I’m a huge fan of dense quilting, and this really fit the bill! It complimented the quilt without overpowering the top. I chose to use a grey thread to blend. The backing is a cerulean minky I found on a recent trip to a local quilt store up north (a whole different story, but if you’re ever in the Traverse City, MI area, check out Renee’s House of Quilting; it is an *amazing* store and I spent literal hours there! I couldn’t get enough of all the kits they had on their walls. It’s been a long time since I wanted to buy every other kit I saw there, but that was the case! Anyways, back to this quilt.) I’ve never quilted with minky before, only cotton and fleece- but I absolutely, positively adore how the quilting pops on the back! I’m definitely using minky as backing more often in the future.

The kit originally came with enough to make the smaller of the two sizes, but honestly it had enough that, with a little swapping of just a couple triangles, there was plenty to make the larger size. The tricky part was that the binding came with the kit and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough of that- but there was just enough!

This kit was purchased with me in mind; and I’m definitely keeping this one. In fact, one of the reasons I made it is that this Saturday I’m going to a local craft show and having a booth there, and I wanted this one to be one of my display quilts. (Can you guess the other quilt I want to display? If you guessed my Make It Rain(bow) Bargello quilt, you’re right!)

Postcard from Sweden kits are still available, I believe, although you’d have to go to Etsy to find some I think. I know the directions are free online (I’ll link them here too!), so you could always just download the directions and get the fabric on your own. It might even be easier that way- you could have them labeled for you ahead of time and save yourself some sorting hours!

Anyways, that’s all for today; have a wonderful week, and happy stitching!