FINISHED!!!! The Very Hungry Caterpillar Quilt
Yes, I know Ronan is only 16 months old and probably doesn’t need quite so many quilts. But we do storytime every night before bed, and one of his absolute favorites has long been The Very Hungry Caterpillar. So when I saw the full line of the fabulous Andover Fabrics Eric Carle fabrics at Ladyfingers when we did the shop hop last fall, I couldn’t resist. I didn’t think I’d make anything with them any time soon, but when I was reorganizing the fabric in my studio closet I wound up leaving the central panel within toddler reach. Ronan not only grabbed for it, he kept playing peek-a-boo with it and was making his “cute noise” (normally reserved for sightings of furry animals) while looking at it. What could I do but start a quilt?
I had lots of fun with this due to the extremely simple piecing and the bright saturated colors. While there are absolutely gorgeous blenders and tone-on-tone fabrics in the Andover collection, I chose the path of thrift and used all fabrics from my stash for the four-patches. The long vertical mirror-image panels with the caterpillar and the sun were originally joined in the center for making a bolster pillow or door-bottom draft stopper, but I thought they’d look more interesting in the quilt. I originally planned this as a lap quilt, but it finished 53″W x 76″L; I thought about stopping with just the central three panels divided and surrounded by four-patches, but I loved that large stripe and decided it needed to be a part of this top. Besides, that means Ronan will be able to use it on his big-boy bed someday.
The large food stripe had the power to be a deal breaker because it depicts the art from Ronan’s favorite pages in the book, the ones in which the holes in the foods are actually punched out of the book’s pages so that little fingers can follow the path of the caterpillar. I had only bought 3/4 yard of the stripe last fall, as I had no idea what (if anything) I was going to make out of these fabrics and I didn’t want to go overboard. However, it’s also not the sort of design that could be pieced without looking extremely strange. Therefore, once I finished the center of the quilt and all the four-patches, I got on the Ladyfingers website to order two more yards. They were sold out. Trying not to panic, I began searching elsewhere online. I did find a few sites that had it in stock, but they were either a) in England, or b) offering it for the low low price of FIFTEEN DOLLARS A YARD. So Ronan and I made a Saturday morning trip to Zook’s at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. They had the majority of the line, but not the large food stripe. (I consoled myself by buying a few other fabrics at their fabulous prices.) However, across the street at The Old Country Store, they had it!
I promptly brought it home, washed it, and cut it the wrong size. The less said about that day, the better.
But I made it work. I had initially planned to have those borders run the entire width of the quilt without being surrounded by four-patches on all sides, so I wouldn’t be limited to multiples of 2″ for the height of the border and could just follow the design. So although having to cut it 12″ finished height meant that there are some little stems and leaves and details peeking up from the seam line, I think ultimately the four-patches gave it a more finished and cohesive appearance. I can’t say I’m glad that the price of gas is tiptoeing towards $4/gallon, but that certainly helped me make the decision to work with what I had rather than jumping back in the car, and I think the final result is the better for it.
In my continuing struggle to select appropriate quilting designs and appropriate threads to quilt them in, I think this project was a solid success. I wanted this quilt to be softer and more pliable than Ronan’s fancy blue and taupe quilt, so thus much less heavily quilted. The batting is Quilter’s Dream Orient, a blend of bamboo, silk, Tencel, and cotton; I thought it would be funny for the caterpillar quilt to have batting made by actual caterpillars. A practical advantage of this batting is that it can be quilted up to 8″ apart, granting me significant latitude in designing the quilting.
I never want to mark or measure more than necessary, so I used the four-patches as landmarks for gridding the unpieced panel areas. I used a simple on-point square grid for the central panels, and a hanging-diamond variation for the horizontal borders. I think grids come the closest to disappearing over heavily graphic areas so as not to distract from the artwork. This also allowed me to use the walking foot for all straight line quilting. I then switched to my free-motion setup, which continues to perform extremely well, with no skipped stitches or shredded thread. Again drawing inspiration from the subject matter, I quilted echoed leaves in all the four-patches. I used a yellow Isacord #40 polyester thread for all quilting. While it did play peekaboo to some extent, I’m happy with the result.
This process was a good reminder that simple quilts can be a satisfying and rewarding experience, that every quilt teaches me something. And Ronan loves it and knows that it’s his, which is reward enough.
For a happy dance for a quilt based on the story of a caterpillar’s life cycle from egg to butterfly, what could be more appropriate than “The Circle of Life”? Dan and I were fortunate to see “The Lion King” on Broadway about 10 years ago, and this number left me speechless: