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!