It feels like I've been unproductive this month because this is my first finish, but I have two other quilts nearly done. But, as happens in life, sometimes an event comes up and you drop everything to make a quilt to let someone know how much you love them.
On May 7, at the last parent meeting of the year, our principal accidentally let it slip that our beloved librarian. Mrs. Gentry, was retiring. We are moving out of our school building at the end of the year, and with all the changes our learners are facing, Mrs. Gentry wanted to keep her retirement quiet until the end of the year. But I think our principal's slip was meant to be because it spurred me to make this quilt.
I have wanted to make a bookcase quilt for awhile and this was the perfect opportunity. As soon as I got home that Thursday, I pulled up Pinterest for some inspiration. There are some amazing bookshelf quilts
I love all the different things that quilters added to their shelves: photos, cats, clocks, globes, plants...so creative! I fired up EQ7
and started working on my own version.
I'm still learning how to add photos to EQ7, so the green blocks are books that are facing out. The black blocks are framed photos. The globe doesn't actually float, and the tulip will be pieced by modifying Podunk Posie's pattern
I think the best part of making a library quilt is the ability to personalize it. That said, there isn't really one pattern I used so much as I drew inspiration from other amazing bookcase quilts that have been shared online, as well as tutorials from Moda Bake Shop
, Fandom in Stitches
, and Jessica Quilter,
who uses selveges for the "book titles."
The most overwhelming part was getting started. After 80some quilts and hundreds of fidget bracelets
and other sewn items, I have a pretty healthy scrap collection! I went through every bin I have, trimming strips anywhere from 1"-5" wide and up to 12.5" long. Most of my strips were 2.5", because it worked well with my ruler, but in hindsight, I wish I would have made more strips that were 4" or wider because they work best as the last book in a block.
Mrs. Gentry's favorite color is green, so I cut lots of green strips.
My original idea was to cut 130 strips, one for each learner at our school. But I got so nostalgic seeing all the fabric I've used and the projects I've created from them. I kept right on trimming and am now ready to make another scrappy quilt that's my queue.
The hardest decision I had to make with this quilt was deciding which print to use for the background of the shelves. My first thought was to use green, but it seemed more natural to use black or brown to go with the shelves. After entirely too much time pondering it, I opted for Moda Merrily Weave Chocolate
because it reminded me of books on shelves. For the shelves themselves, I used the Brown Crackle Calico Cotton from Hobby Lobby
that's been in my stash for awhile.
Once I cut my strips, I was ready to attach them to the background fabric. My template calls for 12.5" blocks, so I cut 6.5" strips of the background print and chain pieced the strips to it.
After ironing toward the background print, I trimmed the pieces to 12.5" in length. It was at this point that I realized the wisdom of using a solid or non-directional print for the background. I had to fold my fabric lengthwise instead of selvage to selvage to get the strips in the right direction. I made roughly 100 of these.
I also made 30ish stacked book strips. If I used a non-directional print, I wouldn't have had to make a separate set of strips. For these, I chain stitched using strips cut traditionally, selvage to selvage. Of course, I still managed to get my strips messed up when I pieced them together and made several mistakes like this that I had to redo.
I set these aside and moved on to the slanted books. It took me a few tries to get the dimensions right. I found the Moda Bake Shop
tutorial to be really helpful. I made six slanted books.
Next, I moved on to the photos and book covers. Rather than printing on prepared fabric sheets
, I made my own using muslin or white fabric, freezer paper, and our inkjet printer
. I specifically bought the printer I did for my craft room because it will print up to 17" x 13". First I cut both the fabric and freezer paper to size. I then ironed the freezer paper to the fabric. I had quite a few wrinkles in my fabric so it took a bit of elbow grease to get it smooth.
For books, I selected:
I recruited some help gathering the six photos, but my favorite is the one of Mrs. Gentry with my son. I was talking with a teacher about how we might be able to trick her into a photo with D when I noticed her new haircut. I came over to compliment her--because it looks great!--and enlisted D to ask to be included when I asked to take a picture for my own much-needed haircut. I love the photo I was able to snap.
As a rule, I don't tell people that I'm making a quilt for them. Mostly because it can be years from the time they get put on my queue til the time I finish the quilt. But also because pressure usually kills my creativity. In this case, not only did Mrs. Gentry not know I was making her a quilt, but I had to be a little sneaky at home because my son wasn't supposed to know about her retirement until the last week of school. Whenever he was home, I had to hide the photo of her retirement cake!
I trimmed the book covers to include a 1/4" seam, then added enough background to make the block 12" tall. For the photos, I added a 1-1/4" border around each to make the frame, then added the background.
I also printed a globe on my computer, using an image I found online.
I used my Silhouette Cameo
to cut to stand using a sparkly silver print from my stash.
At this point, I must stop and give massive kudos to Amazon
's customer service. I had a minor heart attack when I opened up my new mat from Subscribe and Save
and realized it had already been used.
When I contacted customer service, they immediately overnighted me a replacement. And I didn't think I could love Amazon more!
To applique the globe and stand to the background, I used a zigzag stitch instead of a blanket stitch for the first time. I was afraid it might bunch up without any stabilizer, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.
Finally, I made my tulip block as a nod to our Dutch family. I chose orange in honor of the House of Orange
. I mostly followed Podunk Posie's pattern
, but I only made one, much thinner leaf, and added the pot. The little section above the leaf bothered me, so I replaced that piece with a scrap that was printed in the right direction. (Have a mentioned that directional prints are not a good idea for the background?!)
At last, I was ready to make my blocks! For book-only blocks, I simply pieced together the strips until I had a little more than 12.5"x12.5", then trimmed to a square. For the others, I started with the feature items, and then added books until I had the right size. This is why I would recommend making more thicker books. Some of my books got pretty slim! Another option would be to not do blocks at all and just keep adding books and objects until the row is the length you'd like.
I made thirty blocks:
Once all the blocks were made and I finalized the placement, things moved quickly as I sewed the rows together and added the 3" strips of bookcase fabric.
At this point I was tempted to call it a day, but I really wanted to add more green to brighten it up and make it more personal with her favorite color.
My original plan was to use up a remnant that went well with the backing from my stash. But alas, I needed a yard and a half, not a scant 3/4 yard. Off to Joann I went and found this green and gold striped Christmas fabric. (Oddly enough, the background fabric is also from a Christmas collection).
I made 5.5" x 4.5" legs for the "shelf," and used 5.5" strips for the "wallpaper."
Once again, I used a directional print because I like to make things difficult, but it totally made my day when I realized I did this. I couldn't repeat it if I tried.
At this point, I finally got my first real look at the quilt put together.
If I had made my blocks smaller, I might have added another border of the wallpaper, but I was close to king size at this point!
I amused myself while putting the blocks together. I imagined Mrs. Gentry playing I Spy with her new granddaughter on the quilt, so I hope the juxtaposition of some of these print makes her smile.
Coffee and Educators = Perfect Match.
Landing on Mars.
Donuts or oranges? Eat it all!
will miss her.
Including my son, the aspiring rocket scientist.
Because time was getting very tight, I quilted straight lines 2" apart, stopping to avoid quilting over the photos and book covers. I stitched in the ditch around those.
For the binding I used the same print as the wallpaper. I love how it makes the yellow-green circles on the back look gold.
I finished at 2am the morning before I planned to deliver it.
D and I were up bright and early to take pictures in the morning light.
Mrs. Gentry was surprised and very touched.
I think we all felt like her on this morning. She has such a gift for making each child feel loved, special, and smart. Countless children know how to read because of the time she has spent encouraging them and finding the perfect book to help them fall in love with reading. Our school family will miss her so much.
Later in the day, when we were all composed, we took a more dignified picture.
On the last day of school, I was touched to see that she had displayed the quilt in the hallway, where other appreciative families offered their own cards and gifts.
Happy retirement, Mrs. Gentry! We love you and thank you for a career of loving and inspiring our kids. We hope your retirement is filled with joy and happy times with your family.
To see more pictures of this quilt in progress, look for #MrsGLibrary
on Instagram. If you'd like to see what I'm currently working on, follow me at de Jong Dream House