One of my good friends from college, Amanda, got engaged in 2012, and I had the honor of being asked to be part of their wedding party. Amanda and I met in 2008 while I was rushing the professional (and co-ed!) engineering fraternity, Theta Tau. Here we are on the first night we ever met:
On Amanda’s Pinterest boards I saw an idea for a quilt as a wedding guestbook, so I offered to make one for them as a wedding gift. While searching for ideas, inspiration, tips, etc. online, I never came across a good start to finish detailing of how people had made other signature quilts. At the bottom of the post is a more concise list of tips and lessons learned for anyone who’s starting to make their own signature quilt!
I found some inspiration and ideas for patterns on Pinterest, Etsy, and through Google. Eventually I decided on and drafted a square quilt block which consisted of three smaller signature blocks. Their colors were robin’s egg blue, champagne and ivory so each of the off-white signature areas would be surrounded by one of three robin’s egg blue fabrics.
Fabric shopping is one of my most favorite things in the world, so I had no trouble at all finding lovely fabric for their quilt! The fabric was purchased at Four Seasons Quilts in Minnesota.
Amanda and I decided that each signature area should be separate at the wedding, and not sewn into the larger quilt block (let alone the entire quilt top) ahead of time in case one of the squares got ruined, a little kid decided the blocks were a coloring book, etc. It was definitely a smart decision on Amanda’s part.
I decided to make the same number of signature areas as invitations were sent out thinking that each family or couple would sign together. Then I decided I needed about 10 more just in case…. and then 5 more on top of that just in case. Better safe than sorry, right? When I began cutting the fabric for the blocks, I decided that a one inch border wasn’t thick enough to display the pretty blue fabric. So I changed them all to 1.5″ borders, and redid my math. I had enough fabric! Phew. Except that when I started sewing I realized that I didn’t. So there I was, two weeks before leaving for the wedding, and I didn’t have enough fabric! Just go out and buy more, you say? I went to the fabric store in Santa Cruz and as much as I love them, they just didn’t have any patterned fabric that went with what I already picked: light robin’s egg blue with a floral/romantic pattern. I just about freaked, but decided I could do solid blue, too, and it would look good. I picked out the perfect blue, and I found out after the fact that it was actually called “Robin’s egg blue!” Perfect. It was meant to be!
After all the signature areas were sewn, my mom graciously helped by ironing freezer paper to the back of all the blocks. This was an invaluable tip I found online, and made the fabric sturdy enough to easily sign on. Afterwards, it just peels right off!
At the wedding, I brought blue and black permanent fabric pens and the blocks and people signed away. The pens I bought had a thick writing utensil on one end and a thin on the other end.
Halfway through the reception I noticed that not many people were signing the big blocks, which was a problem because to make the quilt squares, I needed one big block for every two small blocks. A piece of feedback I got is that the big blocks were intimidating to sign. I had thought that it would be nice for larger families or people wanting to leave longer messages, but due to the constraints of my geometry (and the backup blocks being put into the mix) it was actually more of a hassle. More on that later. The wedding was beautiful, fun and I was so happy to be a part of their big day!
In my original plan there were three blue fabrics, so each would be displayed once per quilt block. Since I incorporated a fourth blue fabric, it took a bit of time to lay out the squares in a way so that there were minimal same fabric blocks touching each other. I had to put in a bunch of the blank larger squares to get the geometry to work out alright, and I left a space open for an embroidered block to be added later. Here is everything laid out on my living room floor:
Funny story: I initially laid these out one morning and left for the day. When I returned, our white board had fallen off the wall (it’s about 5′ by 6′) onto the quilt and blown the squares everywhere! I came home to 87 quilt squares scattered around my living room! Fortunately they all escaped unscathed.
For the blank blocks, I (again) went to Amanda’s Pinterest to find some cute sayings about love and marriage that she liked. I also wrote out one of the bible verses from their ceremony. It ended up perfect, and I’m glad that some of the quotes made it into the mix. My god mother does embroidery, and she was willing to do the embroidery of Amanda and Max’s name and their wedding date. The entire quilt was laid out on my parents ping pong table to be finished, and I quilted it using embroidery floss ties.
I wish Amanda and Max all the best! A HUGE thank you also to my mom for helping me with all aspects of the process and my god mother for doing the embroidery!
Tips & Lessons Learned:
-Bring the squares separate to the event. This is to prevent any irreversible damage to the quilt as a whole.
-Make all your signature squares the same size. This will make it easier to piece together in the event that not all your squares get signed, or that you use the extra ones and have to incorporate them.
-Make enough signature squares for every invitation that goes out, but also bring extra just in case.
-Buy extra fabric. It should go without being said, and yet…
-Iron freezer paper (not wax paper) to the back of the fabric on which people are writing. The waxy side of the paper goes up against the fabric.
-Suggestion: bring multiple thicknesses and only 1-2 colors of pens. This will add dimensionality, especially if the quilt top is one color, without being too busy.
-Send squares to family and friends that didn’t get to make it to the wedding. This was a fun way to have them still be involed. I did this after the wedding, so I sent the pens along with the squares without needing the pens to be returned to me.
-I would recommend using embroidery floss ties to finish the quilt, simply because it interfered with the signatures the least. It would be fun though to find someone willing to use a long arm and quilt around the signatures.