When we last saw the cashmere blanket, it was still warm from its exertions under the walking foot, and somewhat dizzy with the speed at which its quilting had been finished. Not wishing to rest on my laurels, I set about measuring and cutting the binding while I still had my quilting mojo working. This was another first for me (my previous quilt had simply been bagged out), so I decided to research the subject thoroughly before making the first snip. After a few hours spent poring over my various quilting books, and contemplating writing a strongly-worded email to the author of one of them, to the effect that “look on YouTube for instructional videos” is not the kind of content I expect in a reasonably expensive manual, I set to work with the rule and the rotary cutter. Soon, I had a pile of strips polka-dot cotton, 6cm wide, ready to be turned into double fold binding. I had decided to keep things simple by cutting the binding on the straight grain rather than on the bias: to be honest, I felt it worked well this way, and I’d be tempted to stick with the straight-grain method in the future unless I wanted diagonally striped binding, or something of that sort.
I was really pleasantly surprised by the ease and good sense of the double fold binding: before reading up on the subject, I had been imagining something along the lines of regular bias binding, though of course this would leave you with the fiddly problem of a raw edge to be turned under on the reverse of the quilt. I loved the neatness of the double fold method, and the simplicity of making it really was the icing on the cake. I suppose this is the perennial lesson of any form of craft activity: it’s very easy to stick to the simple options, and just to keep doing the things you know. It’s an awful lot more rewarding to push yourself to learn a new skill or two, and find that it’s (a) not at terrifying as you thought it would be and (b) a genuine improvement on the way you had been bodging things together in a ham-fisted manner until that point.
When the sewing was finished, I tested the quilt with a rather rigorous experimental snuggle. It performed well. So well, in fact, that I fell asleep under it midway through a DVD of an RTE comedy programme, and Stephen woke me up in high dudgeon, accusing me of an unspoken bias against Irish television, and asserting that this would never have happened if we had been watching QI, oh no! Of course, he was mistaken: I was just powerless to resist the amazing warmth of felted cashmere and quilt batting in combination. Seriously, if you have a cold house and some worn-out jumpers, make yourself one of these: you owe it to your poor chilled bones.
As you can see from the photos, I do have some way to go before I could be described as a proficient quilter: the blanket has some decidedly wonky areas, and the knit fabric has pulled in one direction and another, even with careful stitching.
Mind you, I’m not disappointed. I have had a chance to practise a mass of new skills: felting, machine piecing, putting a quilt sandwich together, quilting using a walking foot, making and applying binding, not to mention trying to come up with a design before starting to work, rather than just cutting and stitching wildly and hoping for the best. I am also very pleased with the backing fabric: I love the contrast between the geometric front and the floral back, and the fact that these two disparate sides are unified by a harmonious colour palette.
Eoin, as you might imagine, had something of a vested interest in the blanket: he spends a lot of time with me in the Wool Room, inspecting the sewing machine, assembling the blocking mats, poking the Lazy Kate and spinning Jenny’s wheel as fast as he can. He had been rather interested in the blanket while I was working on it, not least because I was reluctant to let him touch it (a pin-basted quilt and a toddler felt like a terribly bad combination, somehow). Finally let loose upon the finished article, he spent a long time rolling himself up in it, rubbing his cheek on the cashmere felt, and generally getting cosy.