This post was most recently updated on January 12th, 2022
Not all of our travel is to a foreign location. Sometimes, we travel in time. And it’s just as enriching. It’s like a postcard–a perfect depiction of a cherished memory. Today I spent several hours piecing together a baby quilt. I was brought back to the day when I was twelve years old and my Grandma Zehrung invited me for a weekend of sewing. She met me at the bus stop near her apartment. “Ready to go shopping?”, she asked. We caught another bus to the mall, where Grandma helped me pick out patterns and fabric for my new school clothes. I love fabric stores! All the colors and textures and possibilities for creating! We took our purchases back to her apartment and got set up to sew.
With her expert advice, I learned how to take measurements, cut out fabric, and follow pattern instructions. Together we made pants, a blouse, a jumper, and a matching hat. I couldn’t have been more proud to wear the new wardrobe my Grandma helped me make!
Now I am making a baby quilt for my new granddaughter, and I can’t help but think of my Grandma. This is how we travel in time, by indulging in wonderful memories! Her love for me was apparent as she tutored me through many life lessons. Besides teaching me how to sew (and crochet and knit), she also taught me to look for new opportunities in life, to create, and to make things happen.
Grandma supported and encouraged me in whatever I was doing and inspired my love of travel with the postcards she sent (and the souvenirs she displayed in her home). She even financed my dream to become a travel agent by loaning me money to attend travel school. She was always there for me, and I knew it. Even when I was away at college, she continued to write me every month. She was there at my wedding and at my sister’s wedding, but she died soon after when I was pregnant with my first child. My chldren never knew her.
The more I’ve learned about my Grandma, the more I wish she were still around. She had some very difficult trials in her life, but she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her. Grandma was tough and feisty when she had to be. When she suddenly found herself single with two young children to support, she started a seamstress business out of her home and was self-sufficient for the rest of her life. When she taught me how to sew, she was sharing years of experience and knowledge with me. I am so grateful for that gift.
So today I have traveled through time. To a place where my Grandma was a part of my life. And where I could feel her love again. I hope that my children and grandchildren will come to know her in part as I share what she has given me. And I hope I can share a little of my Grandma with you in this simple strip quilt tutorial.
Here are the instructions for the quilt I completed today. This quilt measures about 40″ x 45″.
1. Cut 17 strips of fabric in colors of your choice
Three 1 1/2″ x 40″ strips, four 2 1/2″ x 40″ strips, four 3 1/2″ x 40″ strips, three 4″ x 40″ strips, and four 4 1/2″ x 40″ strips
2. Assemble in any random order
Begin stitching fabric strips together, long right sides together, with a 1/4″ seam allowance
3. Press open all seams
4. Trim edges of quilt top and cut batting to same size
5. Add flannel to back of quilt,
with wrong side of flannel against batting
Trim the flannel backing to be about 1 inch wider than the quilt top+batting, on all sides of the quilt. This excess will be used to bind the edges of the quilt
6. Fold excess flannel to edge of quilt top, then fold again and lay on top of quilt edge
Pin in place. Miter corners as shown, by folding in corners, trimming, and folding sides as before. Be sure to pin corners in place. Then topstitch around entire quilt at the edge of pinned flannel backing. (Click on any photo to enlarge)
7. Now it’s time to quilt
You can either tie your quilt, hand-quilt it, or machine-quilt. I chose to machine-quilt by stitching in the “ditch” (the space between two strips of color). I machine-stitched between every two or three strips. You can see what it looks like on the back when you’re finished.
8. Add a label or other embellishment if you like.
I found this label at Yardage Town–seemed like the perfect message for a quilt made by “Grandma” with skills learned from my Grandma! But you can check out these cute custom labels on Etsy, too.
9. Show off your quilt!
What special memories do you like to re-visit? What did you learn from your Grandmother? Where do you go when you travel back in time?
Loved reading your story about your grandmother!
Glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks for the beautiful quilt. I also have wonderful memories of my Aunt teaching me to sew and it’s a skill I am becoming more and more thankful for all the time.
You are welcome! It was so much fun to make it, and it will be even more fun to see your baby wrapped in it!
It sounds like your grandma left you with a lot of good memories and always offered her support. Thanks for sharing how special she was. I think it is wonderful that she started her life over and made a living as a seamstress. That is such a skill!
I love the colors of this quilt! <3 And it is awesome that your grandmother gets to live on through you and your sewing. It is like your granddaughter will get to know a little of her great grandma through this quilt. 🙂
What a gorgeous quilt and beautiful post about your Grandma. She sounds like a real special lady. This quilt looks easy enough for even the beginner seamstress. I used to make so many things, loved sewing (especially cutting out the patterns) and haven’t’ done it in 20 years.