Making Alfie's quilt was a lot harder than I remember it being with George. I know I have said it plenty of times before, and I was not the only one to have a baby in 2020, but Alfie was born at the strangest time. I went into labour on the 15th March 2020. Parts of Europe had already locked down, closed schools, and were queuing 2 metres apart outside supermarkets. A few days after he was born I stuck him in the sling and did a food shop. There was no bread, eggs, pasta, very little fruit or veg or any of our basic food shopping. When you have a newborn you already feel like you are on a different planet, this felt like something apocalyptic. We came home, had one visit from the grandparents and it felt like we didn't open the front door again for months.
I carefully picked George's outfits. There were outfits he had first cuddles in with family members and friends. There were trips out and gatherings with friends and family. All with cute pictures wearing certain outfits and I included all of those in his quilt.
Alfie already had a wardrobe full of hand me downs that didn't make the cut for George's quilt. He obviously had a few nice new ones, but there wasn't that same association, "remember that zoom call with Nanny" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. There were no parties, gatherings, or cuddles. Just a few socially distanced picnics towards the end of the summer. We couldn't go anywhere further than the garden so I didn't dress him up. I didn't even think about it at the time. I just had a handful of babygrows that I loved, and they went in the wash and straight back on again. There was a particular mustard yellow set that I got from next. There were leopards and lions and things on them. I remember picking it out in the shop and knew it would be a favourite. Unfortunately, Alfie was very jaundice in the first few weeks that he fitted into them and he looked the same colour as the outfit. I picked it out of the wardrobe and wondered whether to include it. I had to take Alfie back to QMC for blood tests at around 10 days old to make sure there was nothing to be concerned about. Face masks were gold dust and patients still weren't being made to wear them, but the doctors and nurses were all PPE'ed up to their eye balls. Before they let me into the hospital I was shown flip cards through the window. They were asking all the questions we became very familiar with "have you had a temperature?", "continuous cough?", "lost sense of taste or smell?". I had to nod or shake my head from the pavement before they opened the door. Then they came out and took our temperature before they let us in. Seeing your newborn have a vile of blood filled through a heel prick is traumatic enough without all of this alien behaviour around it. Were these memories I wanted to be sewn into his quilt? Thankfully those days seem like a lifetime ago already. I remember thinking life will never be the same again. Maybe if I had made this quilt in 2020 I would have left those memories out. Now I think it is important to remember where we came from and what we went through.
It sounds awful but as I was sorting through the clothes I thought "this isn't going to be my favourite quilt". I open so many parcels and think, wow what amazing colourful clothes, or how do parents keep things so clean?!
I have been collecting clothes for this quilt for the last three years. Amongst all my favourites are the items that are too worn out or stained to be gifted or donated to anyone. I figure I may as well include them in the quilt and give them a new life. Making my own also comes with the added problem of not having any restrictions. If you are ordering a keepsake, you will be considering how much you can post, the price and size based on the recommended numbers I have written. I can make up my own rules and make it as big as I want and so I may have got a little carried away. I didn't dare count how many items I included. It did give me the opportunity to try a different design that I have wanted to make for a while. Lots more people like the idea of their quilt not being equal squares but when there are lots of small baby items, the mosaic styles don't always work. This style is perfect for that, and I can size it up or down (although not much bigger as this one is huge!).
Making my own also means I can make it up as I go along and so I have been cutting out bunting flags, and smaller patches, for cushions as I go. There is still a surprising amount of waste involved in making a keepsake, so squeezing every last patch out is really important to me.
As I made it so large, I needed to make the backing fabric up to the same size. Alfie loves cars so Hot Wheels was the obvious choice. Generally, I don't use the backs of plain white babygrows but I thought making a track on the back would be a fun way to make it wider. It also meant I could use the leftover white fabric for the road markings.
On my to do list this year is to name the different style quilts. This will be known as the Alfie quilt. I am hoping this will help make the ordering process easier. Despite not feeling initially inspired, I have now fallen in love with Alfie's quilt. I get this sometimes with customer quilts. I look at the clothes and they may not be to my taste but when they are all sewn up together, they make sense and tell a story. This is Alfie's story and, despite it being the strangest time to have been introduced to the world, it is his story and the extra family time we were privileged enough to have enjoyed is something that (hopefully) no one will experience again.
A closer look
If you have been following me a while you will know that I used to print baby grows. As my keepsake business grew and I had less and less time to dedicate the time they needed. It was a hard decision, but I decided to stop making them to sell. It didn't stop me creating them for Alfie though. George helped create one as one of our lockdown activities and his quilt is full of all my favourite prints.
When I was looking at what outfits I wanted to include in the quilt, I found myself scrolling through photos. It's such a cliché but look how small he was! They both were! It was a really hard decision to cut up some of these, but I am so pleased that I did. I know this must be a dilemma that you all go through too. I hope at the end you feel the same sense of satisfaction. The hardest ones to let go of were the knitted makes from Mama. It feels so rude knowing the effort that went into them. I settled for a few of my absolute favourites, and I hope Mother-in-Law will forgive me!