My childhood best friend Michelle had her second baby in December. For her first child, I cross stitched an Animal ABC afghan from a Dimensions kit. I liked stitching the afghan and wanted to do another one for the new baby, but after much searching I couldn’t find a cross stitch design that I liked as much as that one. Everything I found was very wholesome and cutesy (not in a good way).
There seemed to be more options in stamped cross stitch, which I’d never done before. I’ve always had the (snobbish?) impression that it’s easier and less elegant than counted cross stitch, but I decided to try it.
Bucilla’s ABC Baby kit caught my eye first. Still resistant to doing stamped cross stitch, I thought I could use the chart to stitch it on afghan fabric instead.
But I soon learned that the charts for stamped cross stitch aren’t on a grid, which would be challenging to cross stitch, and the line art like the elephant would be impossible.
I tried charting a couple of letters using the kit chart as a guide, but wasn’t happy with the results. I also decided that even though this blanket is for a different baby, the new blanket should be something other than the alphabet.
(Also, I didn’t notice until after I bought it that “hippopotamus” is misspelled in the product shot! It’s spelled correctly in the kit I got, so Bucilla corrected this at some point, but I saw a complaint about it in a user review, so it seems there are still “hippotamus” kits in circulation. Awkward.)
So I tossed that kit in the closet and went back to Google. That’s when I came across this 2009 post about two Mary Engelbreit Mother Goose kits from Bucilla. The one on the left is a 45″ x 45″ lap quilt, and the one on the right is a 34″ x 43″ crib cover. (Click the picture for a bigger version.)
The fact that the blog post was dated 2009 and I was embarking on this project in 2020 was foreboding, but you can find anything on the internet, right? I searched around and did find the crib cover on the Plaid website (Bucilla’s parent company) as well as a few other vendors. But I couldn’t find the lap quilt anywhere, and that’s the one I really wanted. I liked the composition of the design better, and the inclusion of more characters.
It was already late July and the baby was due in December, so I decided to buy the smaller one. I set up a saved search on eBay and was prepared to start over if the lap quilt turned up soon after I’d started.
So it turns out I was wrong about stamped cross stitch being easy! I used a hoop to maintain the tension and a sharp needle to pierce the fabric, but stitching into fabric that doesn’t have the defined holes of cross stitch fabric took some getting used to. The design is printed in blue ink, and you stitch over it, consulting the chart to know which colors and specialty stitches to use. The blue ink (theoretically) washes out when you’re finished.
The crib cover is already finished with batting sandwiched between a front piece and a back piece that are quilted together. To prevent the stitching from showing on the back, you’re supposed to run the needle through just the front piece of the quilt and pull it sideways to the next stitch. (This video shows it well.) I tried that for about two stitches and gave up, both because it was uncomfortable for my hands and because the fabric is flimsy and I caused a run in it trying to fish the needle through only the front layer.
The chart that came with my kit had a lot of errors. I’d read about this in the Amazon user reviews but I thought, how bad could it really be?
Um, BAD. Here’s an example:
Notice how some of those lines look exactly the same, and some aren’t even printed? Each of those is supposed to represent a different backstitch color. How are you supposed to know which color to use when the same dark line could represent “light coral” or “dark pink”? Plus the lines that aren’t printed on the legend also aren’t printed on the chart. So you encounter a backstitch line in your blue stamped design, check the chart to see what it’s supposed to be, and that backstitch line doesn’t show up on the chart at all. Awesome.
One of the Amazon reviews had mentioned contacting Bucilla for a corrected chart. I did this, and they emailed me a PDF of the chart for the lap quilt (not the crib cover I was working on). Since the crib cover’s motifs are all present on the lap quilt, I was sort of able to use this, but because the PDF was a scan of a paper chart some of it was too grainy to decipher. I asked them to mail me a paper copy of the lap quilt chart.
A week later I got an envelope in the mail from Bucilla. It contained a printed version of the same crib cover chart I already had, mistakes and all.
I emailed again, reiterating that I wanted a printed version of the lap quilt chart, since the PDF wasn’t high enough quality. This time they sent back a Microsoft Word file that addressed a couple of errors on the chart, but still not the backstitch legend I was having trouble with. It was almost funny at this point.
I called and managed to explain the situation to someone who understood what I was asking for. She said there were no print versions of the lap quilt chart available since it’s out of production, but she had a higher quality PDF of the crib cover chart that she would email me.
The next day I emailed back asking for the PDF since it hadn’t been sent yet, and I was told the file was being resized because it was too big to email. Sure, okay. Four months until due date, I can be patient.
Three weeks later, having heard nothing, I emailed again and they finally sent the high quality PDF. Luckily it was clear enough to read even though they’d had to resize it. The new chart doesn’t address all of the errors, but it was a vast improvement. I put it on my iPad so I could keep it handy when I stitched and zoom in on parts that were harder to see.
Sorry for the long digression there, but customer service stories that bad deserve to be shared. If you’re stitching Bucilla’s Mary Engelbreit Mother Goose crib cover and you’re having trouble getting the corrected chart from them, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to send it to you.
I started stitching this at the beginning of August and finished stitching in mid-January. Here’s the finished crib cover.
Now I had to figure out how to cover the back, where the stitching showed through. I am not good with a sewing machine and I’ve certainly never made a quilt before. I was nervous about doing this right.
I’d seen Mary Engelbreit fabric on eBay with the same Mother Goose design as the crib cover, and thought that would be cute for the back. I bought a yard that was advertised as 36″ x 44/45″. The crib cover dimensions are 34″ x 43″, so I knew that would be cutting it close, but I thought it would *just* fit.
Nope. Not only was it not 44/45″, the auction hadn’t mentioned the half inch of white fabric at each edge. The seller cut a generous yard, so I had more than 36″ on the other dimension, but not enough more to turn the crib cover 90 degrees and make it fit.
To my surprise, the seller did let me return it for a full refund. (I guess that’s the universe evening out my customer service experiences!) And in the end I’m glad I didn’t use this fabric, because it was thin and not soft. I got carried away with the idea of having the design on the back match the front. Instead, I bought two yards of dusty blue flannel.
To prepare it for adding the backing, I put the crib cover in a large lingerie bag and washed it on delicate with cold water. I also washed the flannel separately. A few French knots pulled through in the wash, so I checked every French knot around the border and fixed the ones that were missing.
Oh, and remember that blue ink that’s supposed to wash off in the laundry? It faded, but it’s still there.
You can hardly see it where it’s stitched over, but it bugs me that the design has an item number on it. Why does that need to be there? In theory it will continue to get lighter each time it’s washed, but it makes this gift I spent a long time working on seem mass-produced.
And speaking of things that look cheap, some of the quilting pulled out from under the binding at the edges. This happened even before I put it in the laundry.
I used a seam ripper to remove the binding from the edge of the quilt. This was kind of janky looking, and if you look at my picture above of my finished crib cover you can see a big lump where the ends overlap on the right side. So I was glad to pull this off.
While I was at it, I used the seam ripper to pull out all of the quilting outside of the stitched border. This was the only way I could think of to deal with those loose ends.
From what I could tell after reading a lot of quilting posts, there were two ways I could add the backing this: sew on the backing and then add a new binding (which I would either have to make out of coordinating fabric, or buy and hope it matched), or sew the backing and crib cover together inside out like a pillowcase, leaving an unsewn opening through which to turn it right side out. The second method seemed more foolproof. This video was helpful.
I started by laying the flannel on the floor and pinning it to the carpet. Then I laid the crib cover on top of it with the good side down, and pinned this to the carpet.
Next I went all the way around, pinning the crib cover to the flannel. I added a few pins in the center of the design as well.
On the advice of the video I linked to above, I bought a walking foot for my sewing machine. It’s intended for thick layers, and I had four (quilt front, batting, quilt back, and flannel) so I didn’t want to take any chances.
I sewed on the backing, then turned the assembly inside out and pressed the seam. I didn’t quilt the back to the front because I had no idea how to do that and no desire to learn, but it’s fine. The flannel kind of clings to the fabric it’s up against, so it’s not obvious that they’re not quilted together.
As I pressed the edges, I also ironed the area where I had pulled out the quilting. Now it’s smooth and you’d never know there was originally stitching there.
The photo above also shows some blue ink outline that’s still visible. (There were places in the design where the crib cover must have gotten creased or jostled during printing, so the design was mismatched and I needed to improvise while stitching — this is one of those places.) I also lost a few more French knots during the sewing process.
After I fixed those French knots, I closed up the opening by hand using an invisible stitch. Here you can see the machine stitched part on the left leading into the hand stitched part on the right. Once I pressed this with the iron, it’s hard to spot the difference unless you go looking for it.
And here’s the finished crib cover! For the most part I was able to use the holes from the binding I’d ripped out as a guide for sewing on the backing, but the corners were tricky. I would have preferred square corners but the fabric wasn’t large enough. Still, I’m insanely proud of this thing!
Epilogue: in October I got an eBay alert for a Mary Engelbreit Mother Goose Lap Quilt kit. This is the larger version that I was prepared to start over for if I found one in time. By then I had already done so much work on the crib cover, including my back and forth with customer service, that starting over wasn’t practical. But I bought it anyway.
In the end, it’s good that I did the crib cover, because I hadn’t realized that the lap quilt isn’t pre-quilted — it’s just one piece of fabric that you need to add your own batting and backing to, and you do all the quilting yourself. This could make for a nicer blanket, but as we’ve just established, I don’t know how to quilt! I’ve stashed it the closet along with the ABC Baby kit I ixnayed in the beginning. You never know, maybe someone else I really like will have a baby.