A Birthday Quilt for My Girl

comments: 317

A few months ago, I stumbled upon this pin on Pinterest. It was a set of embroidered coasters designed by Japanese embroidery designer Hiroko Ishii in the (all-in-Japanese) book Stitch Ideas Volume 11 (ISBN 978-4-529-04826-2). Before I knew it, I had ordered the book, planning to make a birthday quilt for Amelia.

In the book, there is the pinned picture, another detail picture of a few of the coasters close up, and a tiny set of line drawings — each one about 2" square, maybe. I enlarged the drawings on a copy machine so that they were almost the width of a letter-size piece of paper, so about 8" square. I spent a day gathering my fabrics and planning colors and transferring the designs (I always trace my designs on a lightbox with either a fine-tipped permanent marker or a fabric marker, or in the case of the black one, a white quilting pencil). I kept most of the fabric colors, most of the floss colors, and most of the designs exactly the way they were in the original. (I changed October somewhat, to be more birthday-ish.) And then I started to stitch. And stitch. And stitch. And stitch. Every night, after she went to bed, I hurled myself onto my chaise lounge with a cup of tea and a bag of Raisinettes and some Ice Lake Rebels (obsessed) and got to work. Last week, I finished the embroidery. This week, I framed the squares with 2" calico strips and stitched them into the quilt top. Today, allow me to show you the months of the year that have occupied my every August and September night at the end of this glorious summer we had, the one just before our girl turns three years old.













The whole year:

Oh man. Someone draw me a bath and bring me a good book and pick up my kid from playschool and make some dinner for me, please. Then it'll be right back to work to make some money to start saving for the pony for her fourth birthday because there's just no possible way I can top this thing on my own, ever.

I'm rather proud of this. Andy came in while I was working on it and said, "Oh wow, that's awesome! That's too nice to use!" I said, "I know." He said, "But we are going to use it, right?" I said, "No." Then I said, "Just I am." Then he made that face like the emoji with the big eyes and the straight line for a mouth.

I actually did cry about four times while sewing the top together the past few days. One time was when I was listening to the song Little Waltz by Basia Bulat. Another was when I was remembering the day Amelia was born. And there were two other times. It was just getting so big and I was really happy with it, and kind of weirdly relieved that it was coming together, and my baby girl is growing up. It's strange to have hours to myself, sewing, and thinking, thinking about her, which is what I had over these past few days, alone in my studio. I did little else but work on putting this together, using some of the strips of fabric from clothes I had made her over the past year, the October block framed by the fabric that I'd used to make her birthday dress last week, the background fabric one I've just always loved — salmon-colored flowers against an opal-gray background, like the bright leaves on our dogwood tree against the autumn sky, as it was the October day we brought her home — and that solid-colored frame around the first calicoes the color of moonstone. Oh, my love.

. . .

The top's big, about 54" x 72", so she can use it on her toddler bed and hopefully on her double bed when she moves into it. The back will be 1/2" gray gingham and the binding a sort of pale mustard with lilac dots. I'll try to finish the back today. I'm using cotton for the batting because I have it already. Everything for the top and back I already had in my stash, or got out of my scrap basket. All of it, even that, felt really good. I can't say enough about how much I love Hiroko Ishii's design. It's like a sweet, quiet, wistful, charming poem. What an privilege it's been to make this. I think it's my favorite thing I've ever made, ever.

Now to make the quilt sandwich, and then to sit under it while doing the quilting and binding. By hand (it can be no other way, I don't think). I may not finish it by her birthday. I doubt I will. It'll be close though. You can't rush hand sewing. You don't want to.

It was really hard to photograph this, for some reason. I apologize for the wrinkles. I dragged it all over the place looking for normal light in my house which apparently I don't have. Nevertheless, thank you for indulging me. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. I'm gonna go eat a sandwich now and watch Judge Judy.


Oh, Alicia, oh, Alicia
It is the best! I swoon at your work. It will be a forever piece in the Paulson family. Bless you and yours. I have no more words for how lovely and special it is.

I don't think there are any words to describe the beauty and the love in all that stitching. What a priceless treasure.

you are one amazing mama, alicia. what an amazing gift of love.
xoxo, i

That is simply beautiful. Simply. Beautiful. You are definitely going to have to start saving for that pony.

I love that you showed a close-up of each block. Beautiful design, hand-work, and colors.

It's AMAZING!!! What a treasure!

Ohhhhh Alicia, that is utter perfection! What a labor of love you've made for your sweet little girl -- she will love it. I can just imagine her before she falls asleep looking at each square and thinking about the picture she sees and the story behind it (or making up a story). Thank you for sharing this with us -- I'm sure we held our breath as we scrolled down to the next one!

How precious. Now that is a labour of love, and although it's neither your first or your last, it's definitely very special. I'm a tad jealous of Amelia! xx

It's stunning. You should be very,very proud of it. You're daughter is so lucky to have you as a momma!!💕

Oh, that is just beautiful. What a keepsake it will be! So meaningful, too, that you used fabrics from clothing you had made for her. What a treasure! It is nearly as special as Amelia herself. Thanks for sharing ... and I think I will need to find that book for my own craft library.

It is beautiful and a keepsake for sure.

Kristen from MA says: September 24, 2015 at 12:03 PM


Alicia, you've created a future heirloom for your adorable daughter. She will appreciate this beautiful piece for the rest of her life. You should be very, very proud!

Have you thought about hanging it above her bed or on the wall as a piece of artwork? That way it is still decorating the room but won't receive as much wear and tear. Something she can keep forever. It's so sweetly beautiful.

Absolutely enchanting. Such a treasure. Amelia is such a lucky little girl. I'm cracking up about 'Judge Judy.' My grandmother loved that show, and we watched it together while she taught me to quilt. Love it!

Lovely - beyond words.

This is the most beautiful quilt. Your love for her shows in every stitch.

I have always loved quilts with embroidered blocks which is how my Grandma made them. And your quilt has the most perfect embroidery with such sweet lovely fabrics. I really don't have the words to describe how special I think it is.
When you first mentioned that magazine, I looked for it and couldn't find it so I bought a different volume. And I think it is so beautiful. A week or two ago I did find volume 11 and it is on the way to me now. I can't wait to get it and I am thinking I am going to want to collect all of the volumes.

It is breathtaking! I have enjoyed this journey you have been on.

Sarah Hartfield says: September 24, 2015 at 12:08 PM

Gosh, there are no words for how special this is. My own miracle turns 3 about 10 days before yours does, and so reading this made me cry, happy tears for both of us. xxoo

What an achievement, Alicia! Amelia will treasure it forever, there's so much love in every single stitch. Very well done, it's beautiful in every sense of the word.

Lisa Dexheimer says: September 24, 2015 at 12:14 PM

I love your photos of your family and your creations but mostly I love the joy that you express as you live your life with your sweet girlie. Truly, in my experience, it only gets better, this having a daughter. My sweet girl is 29 and still the light of my life.

Oh. It's beautiful.

This is one amazing quilt. Where did you order the book? I'd love to make one like this.

This is amazing! Our little granddaughter Piper was also born in Portland three years ago next week and I watch Amelia grow and I watch Piper grow and I'm teary eyed at the quick passage of time.
Blessings always,

So beautiful. I love that little bunny on the bottom corner of April.

Whenever I doubt the goodness in this world, I only need to come to your corner of the internet and be awed (and awwed) by the pure beauty and love that you can wring from mere fabric and thread. Thank you!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com