Monday, January 5, 2015

Black Baby Quilt, Because Infant Brain Development and Selfish Quiltmaker

Fabrics and Threads for Amish Baby 54-40 Or Fight Quilt
So I'm going with the black baby quilt, because that's what I feel like making, and I don't have sufficient discipline or selflessness to spend hours and hours making a quilt in fabrics that I do not personally find exciting.  I guess I'm just a selfish quilter.  "Know thyself," right?  I bought fabric for both of the designs I came up with, but I'm going to make the 54-40 Or Fight quilt first because the Storm At Sea wasn't giving me ruler-friendly numbers for all of the patches in the size I wanted to make.  The mantra for this Amish Baby quilt is going to be "Keep It Simple, Sweetie."  The 54-40 Or Fight blocks will finish at 12" and with sashing and borders the quilt should end up at 53" x 53," just right for tucking into a stroller or car seat, and later, for dragging around the house.  
My 54-40 Or Fight Amish Baby Quilt Design

I got some interesting feedback in the comments about black for baby quilts, but my husband pointed out that my high contrast designs with black, white, and bold primary colors reminded him of those "visually stimulating" infant mobiles and toys that are supposed to be better suited to an infant's underdeveloped visual capabilities than traditional pastels:

"Baby View," an "educational" Android app for infants
 I did a quick internet search to see whether this black and white baby thing was still a current recommendation (since my husband is remembering this stuff from when Lars and Anders were babies) and apparently this high contrast stuff for babies is still all over the place and now they even have mesmerizing "educational" apps for iPad, Android etc. such as Baby View, shown above, featuring this graphic, black/white/bold aesthetic.  I have to share this quote from parenting guru Dr. Sears' web site:

"The best way you as a parent can stimulate baby’s vision is using black and white stripes or light and dark contrasting colors. So what about those nice soft pastels that used to be so popular in baby toys and nurseries? While these may look pretty to you, they do nothing visually for your baby. Research has proven that black and white contrasts register powerfully on baby’s retina and send the strongest visual signals to baby’s brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development. Surround a baby with soft pastel colors, and you might as well be blindfolding him. Surround your baby with black and white or light and dark pictures, and watch your baby’s eyes light up."

I put quotation marks around "educational," by the way, because I don't really buy into the idea that you can make your baby smarter by bombarding them with black and white graphic patterns.  In 10 or 15 years, I fully expect the experts to come out with new research that totally contradicts all the advice parents are getting today.  These things must go in cycles so we can continue to blame the previous generation's bad parenting for the current generation's bad habits.  Whatever -- I feel like making my black baby quilt design, so I'm going to co-opt Dr. Sears' infant brain pseudoscience in order to justify my personal aesthetic choices.  Thanks, Bernie!

Let the Piecing Begin!

So, as you can see, I've prewashed/preshrunk my fabrics, cut all of my patches, and I've started to piece the 4-patch units.  Having set aside the paper pieced pineapple log cabin project, this is my first opportunity to piece with the new # 97D Patchwork foot on my Bernina 750QE.  This is a brand new patchwork foot designed especially for 9 mm sewing machines, and I'm in love with it! 

New # 97D Patchwork Foot from Bernina
Traditional 1/4" patchwork presser feet are not wide enough to completely cover the feed dogs on a sewing machine that sews up to 9 mm stitch width, which makes it more difficult to stitch perfectly straight and accurate quarter inch seams on these machines.  That's one reason why so many quilters prefer to piece on 5.5 mm or straight stitch only machines.  The new #97D foot is wider on the left side to improve fabric feeding, and comes with a seam guide that screws firmly into the bed of the machine as shown in my photo at left.  There is a little notch in the presser foot that makes it very easy to quickly install the seam guide in exactly the right position.  The "D" indicates that this foot has a cutout in the back to accommodate the Dual Feed on Bernina 7 Series and 8 Series machines (owners of machines without dual feed should purchase the regular #97 foot without the cutout at the back of the foot).  I am amazed by the difference in my piecing with the new #97D foot versus the older style #37D patchwork foot that came with my 750QE. 
Straight, Consistent Chain Piecing with New Patchwork Foot #97D

See how nice and straight those seams are coming out of the back of my sewing machine?  Usually I struggle with keeping the seam allowance accurate at the beginning and end of a seam, when the fabric wants to shift sideways.  I feel like I have a lot more control with the new presser foot, so much so that my seam ripper has remained in the drawer.  Who doesn't love that?  What's more, my pieced units are finishing accurate to size with the new foot:
Completed 4 Patch Unit Finishes Exactly 4 1/2"

I highly recommend this foot for anyone who is struggling with patchwork accuracy on a 9 mm Bernina machine.  One of the things I most enjoy about my Bernina sewing machine is the high quality of the Bernina specialty feet which make it so much easier to achieve professional results.  Now, if only Bernina would come out with a special foot for doing FMQ ruler work on my machine...

Ah, well -- the kids are home from their first day back at school after the winter vacation.  I'd best head downstairs to see how they are getting on with their homework.

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.  Happy Stitching!


Ramona said...

I love your baby quilt. I have made a couple in the black/white colorway and have added pops of primary colors. Your design is great. And I agree 100%... life is too short to sew with fabric or color combinations you don't like. :)

Barbara Sindlinger said...

I got my 97D foot a couple weeks ago and I love it also. I haven't added the guide though but I think I need to try it.
I think the baby quilt will be wonderful and I'm sure the parents will love it.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

YES-when is Bernina going to come out with ruler feet?? Love this quilt and your decision process. Yes, go with the flow.J

Linda said...

Your color choices work for me. It will be a very cute baby quilt!
Your choice of pattern is actually not simple, and you have understated just how much work you are doing to create such a wonderful gift! I know the parents and baby will appreciate your loving efforts. I enjoy making complex quilts as well. I just bought the 97D foot. I am worried that the metal guide may somehow scrape against my feed dogs. I am going to have to install it and look it over though. Thanks for sharing your quilts with us.

Rebecca Grace said...

Linda, the seam guide that comes with the 97D foot has a cutout at the back of it to ensure that it does not come into contact with the right feed dog when you are stitching. No worries!

Unknown said...

Rebecca Grace - I love the fabrics you are using for your black and white baby quilt. I'm with you, I only let someone choose fabrics for their own quilt one time, bored me to tears making it. Now I ask for color "guidance" but choose the fabrics myself. I am 66 and remember when dressing babies or children in black or using black anything for children was considered taboo. Black was considered too mature looking and sophisticated for children, or possibly dreary and funereal looking, I don't know. But now I love seeing my granddaughter, age 10, in adorable black velvet party dresses or black leggings and bright tops, and nothing makes a handsome young boy with the right coloring look sharper than a black polo shirt, in my opinion. Love your blog. Claudia W