I have a lot of sisters. Four to be exact. And they are all very, very different people. One of my sisters, the middle child, stands out from the rest (typical middle child). I’d describe the rest of us as rainbows and butterflies and her as roses and skulls. She dyes her hair and dreams about becoming a tattoo artist. Now, don’t get all offended. There’s nothing wrong with these things, they’re just different from the rest of us. Plus, she’s very clearly the favorite, so whatever she’s doing is working.
Anyway, she recently purchased a house and her style is a cross between patriotic, farmhouse and dark/skull and crossbone-esque. It sounds like a weird mix, but it works. For Christmas, she asked for a throw blanket for her house. Now, being the quilter I am, I immediately saw an opportunity. I quickly called everyone in my family and made them promise not to get her a throw blanket because I had a way better idea.
After getting everyone to agree not to buy the blanket, I headed straight to Pinterest to find a skull quilt pattern because obviously, I had to make her a skull quilt in place of a lame throw blanket. I searched and searched and searched and I found a whopping one skull quilt. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I was really hoping to have a few more options. Eventually, in addition to the one skull quilt, I also found a skull bead pattern. Not exactly a quilt pattern, but something that could work.
At this point, I gave up on the surprise aspect of the quilt. I know. I know. But we all know that quilts are expensive and this wasn’t going to be a small quilt (in terms of size or time) and I really wanted her input on the two skull options. Ultimately, she picked the bead pattern.
I knew there was no way I would ever get the quilt finished in time for Christmas, so I settled on her April birthday as a much more realistic timeline. I told her this and then never mentioned it to her again, hoping she’d forget.
After way too much time trying to find the perfect fabric for the quilt, it fell into my lap during a weekend family trip to Hobby Lobby (this happened before Coronavirus was spreading in the US) . I wanted the skull to be white and the background black. But I wanted the fabric to be patterned, just subtly. Lo and behold, Hobby Lobby carries fat quarter bundles in gray and black that offered the perfect contrast yet similarity I wanted. I grabbed 2 of each and headed to checkout. (Note: I ended up buying one more of each, so if you’re planning to make this quilt, you’ll need 3 of each.)
The bead pattern measured 25 by 38 beads and I mapped each bead to a square of fabric. This meant I needed 950 squares. Yikes. To limit the size of the quilt, I cut each fat quarter into as many 2.5 inch squares as I could. This yielded final quilt dimensions of 50 x 76 inches.
After I cut all of my squares, I did my best to lay out the entire quilt. Unfortunately, the free space on my sewing room floor just isn’t that big and I had to work in thirds. I stacked each row, safety pinned it together, labeled it and began sewing row after row together. I had so many rows piled up on the floor that my husband finally came in with two hangers and hung them up.
I struggled for a long while on how I would quilt the layers. For Christmas, I received a book of patterns for quilting with your embroidery machine that I had originally intended to use. This idea quickly fell apart when I couldn’t decide on the thread color to use. I didn’t want black thread on the gray fabric or gray thread on the black fabric to take away from the skull and switching colors seemed like a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, I went with plain ole boring straight line in-the-ditch quilting and I’m glad I did. Your entire focus is on the skull, but the back has a brick-like structure to it that isn’t exciting, but isn’t the most boring.
My sister was hugely surprised to receive the quilt on her birthday (Don’t worry, all social distancing protocols were followed for the delivery and she opened it via video chat with the family). She said she had completely forgotten about it- just as I had hoped she would.