Friday, May 26, 2017

Quilt #81: Mrs. Gentry's Library

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 out there.

I love all the different things that quilters added to their shelves: photos, cats, clocks, globes, 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 ShopFandom 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.

This was my first project with the new printer so I printed on 11" x 17" sheets. I grabbed the book cover images from the internet and referred to the dimensions on Amazon to size them to scale. The hardest part here was narrowing down to only six books! (Magic Treehouse! Boxcar Children! Nancy Drew! Geronimo Stilton! Choose Your Own Adventure! All cut from the final list).

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:
  • 6 with framed photos
  • 6 with book covers facing out
  • 6 with one slanted book
  • 1 globe
  • 1 tulip
  • 5 with stacked books
  • 5 with only book spines straight up

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.

Smart Princesses.

Landing on Mars.

Donuts or oranges? Eat it all!

Many hands 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.

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  1. what a moving story! Thank you for sharing, and thank you for the details about the process.
    Pat F in Winnipeg

  2. What a wonderful, loving gift! I enjoyed every word of this post, reading step by step as you designed and stitched this fantastic quilt. Mrs. Gentry is surely an exceptional person to inspire you to create it. Thank you for sharing!

  3. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my art quilt bee surprised me with a quilt in my favorite colors that features blocks with a spiral, which to me represents journey. It was a total surprise in that it came together in less than a month and that the were able to keep it a secret from me. It is one of my most cherished possessions because it was made with such thoughtfulness and love . Thank you for sharing your bookcase story. I am sure Mrs.Gentry will enjoy it and tell your story over and over. Quilts are love.
    Mary Ann

  4. Beau cadeau pour une dame qui fait aimer la lecture

  5. What a fabulous quilt and what a wonderful story! To hear all the thought that went into it was inspiring and I enjoyed sharing your journey. I'm sure that Mrs. Gentry was thrilled and you must be a very special person to have made it. Kudos all around!

  6. My apologies to Lynn from! I accidentally deleted your post ant can't retrieve it to post it from you. It said:

    Oh wow, that is such a lovely quilt and a great recipient by the look of it. I have been wanting to make one of these for a friend for a while. Your instructions are so helpful. I've only begun to cut some strips for the book spines. Fabulous post.

    I'm glad the post helped. I'd love to see your book quilt!

  7. What a great project--and I am impressed with how much you documented the process. And you did such a creative job balancing all the elements you wanted to include. Mrs. Gentry must feel very loved and appreciated for all her years of teaching.

  8. Thank,you for showing us all the fascinating details about the making. It is truly a precious memories quilt..for Mrs. Gentry and for your family. A fantastic finish you can be proud of.

  9. Thank you for showing us the whole process of construction, fascinating. It is truly a precious memories quilt for a remarkable woman. Congratulations on a finish you can be truly proud of!

  10. What a fabulous gift for a librarian! Great job getting it finished so quickly and sharing the story. Thanks for linking up with Oh Scrap!

  11. A beautiful quilt, and a fabulous gift! I'm sure it will be treasured.

  12. Thanks for sharing the creative process for Mrs. G's quilt. It's a beauty! (I will share your post with the ALA Biblioquilters (librarians who quilt).)

  13. What a story, thanks for sharing. You made such a beautiful quilt. It turned out stunning and I love Ms Gentry's reaction. Thank you for your effort to make this happen =)

  14. Wow, what a stunning quilt and an epic journey get it finished in tip. Thank you for sharing the proces of the construction.
    Greetings from the Netherlands... the King actually was in my town today, but I had to work... Anyway. Love your book quilt!!!

    1. Hoi Esther!!! I love meeting Dutch quilters! I just sent you a message on FB. Check your "other" folder!

  15. Librarians are so special and you made such a lovely gift for her. I know she will treasure it forever.


  16. You did an outstanding job on this quilt! So much personalization, and special fabrics - WOW! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful gift on Midweek Makers!

  17. What a wonderful gift an dhow she will treasure it by her reaction she loved it to. Your step by step tutorial is teriffic and would be so easy to make, but sadly it has put me off making one now LOL There is so much work involved I'd not have the patience or the space to lay all that fabric out. Thanks for sharing your journey on this stunning quilt I learnt so much from your tutorial. Cheers Glenda

    1. Oh Glenda! Your comment made me giggle! I always make things harder than they need to be. I've seen some beautiful bookcase quilts that have only book spine blocks. That kind would come together very quickly! I promise!

  18. I am in awe. This quilt is positively inspiring and gorgeous. You certainly put in a large amount of creativity and work in this one. Thank you so much for sharing your process. I am sure this quilt will be treasured.

  19. What a delight! Mrs. Gentry sounds great but you are too. . . for taking the time to make her feel special.

  20. What a neat quilt for your librarian. I love your choices of books that were printed. Hopefully Mrs. Gentry will love retirement and have many happy memories of her years at school when she looks at her special quilt. Great job.

  21. Beautiful! What a lasting gift for your retiring librarian! Well done!

  22. Oh wow! What a wonderful retirement gift! You did an amazing job.

  23. My goodness this is a fabulous quilt. Thanks for giving step by step directions and for explaining the details of some of the steps. It's especially nice to know how you created that globe! (That one seemed impossible.) And let's not forget the "what not to do" parts. Who wouldn't have chosen those directional prints? They are so pretty, but you've clearly expained the process and how to make things easier for the rest of us.
    Mrs. Gentry is one lucky lady to have friends who care for her so much. This quilt will remind her of the most wonderful moments in her career and she will always know that she is loved by her school family. Surely you thought of her every step of the way.

  24. Hi Jen,
    This is just one of the best posts I have ever read. What a fabulous, thoughtful gift. I hope you share this post with Mrs. Gentry - she will love to read about the back story on her quilt. Truly! I have always wanted to make a book shelf quilt and you have certainly inspired to do so sooner than later. I'm going to Pin this too, so that I can remember all your awesome tips. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post with us! ~smile~ Roseanne

  25. What a fabulous quilt! This inspires me to make one someday. Thanks for linking up to Wednesday Wait Loss.


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