The Story of Making the Raccoon Quilt

By James M. Curtis (JC)

One Sunday in July 2016, my son John & Courtney came to visit and brought us each a gift, a cardboard box made to resemble an oven and in the oven was a cup cake. We did not get the implication right away. Then they stated just like a bun in the oven and then we finally got the message that they were expecting a child that was due Feb 16, 2017. It was quite a celebration after that with lots of hugs and kisses. 

                The next step was a gender party at John & Courtney’s new house in Glenview to be held in September 2016. The immediate members of the family’s were invited. At the party we were given the choice of submitting names for the new child and a gender guess. I did not want to jinx the party so I voted for a girl. John & Courtney had a black balloon filled with paper the color for the gender, pink for girl blue for boy. So with great ceremony they burst the balloon and the air sparkled with blue confetti so we knew  then that our first grandson in the family would be born.

The other grandfather Steve & I shook hands and congratulated each other. I decided right then that I wanted to make a quilt for my new grandson. I found a raccoon pattern from Joanne Fabrics and copied it. We were getting ready to go the Florida for the winter so we were very busy and packed the pattern with the fabric we were shipping to Florida. We left soon after and arrived in Florida for the winter months in late October.

It was late December 2016 when I turned my attention to the raccoon face quilt for my grandson. As in any quilt I make, I drew it in my quilt book that has gridded pages. I used the computer to enlarge the raccoon face drawing so it would be a 14 inch square block. The technique for making the raccoon face was paper piercing where the design is sewed on the paper with fabric under the paper.  I decided on three shades of gray for the face with white as the fourth color. 

I was having trouble with assembling the face block so I called a friend in Crackers Sewing Guild that I belong to in Florida. My friend said to contact Rose O’Toole as the person to mentor me. I contacted her by e-mail and she said that she would be glad to work with me on my quilt and we set up an appointment to meet to my house. The first meeting did not go so well as I was able only to assemble ½ of the head as we tried to do it in one piece and later learned to break the head pattern into 6 sections. I was very discouraged at first and thought maybe I was not going to be able to make this quilt.

  Two weeks later we had a second session and I broke the block into 6 sections and then sewed the sections together to complete the head. We also had to remember to work upside down as we were sewing on the paper side. The second session went very well and we were able to complete one raccoon head. I was able to now understand the process of how the heads were assembled. I next had to assemble 8 raccoon heads. 

The quilt was going to be made of 15 blocks, 8 of which were going to be the raccoon faces. To make all 15 blocks into faces would be too cluttered, so we needed to simplify but also decide how to fill the remaining 7 blocks. Inspiration struck and I decided to create 7 stencils of animal tracks and to use acrylic paint to stencil the tracks onto the gray fabric blocks. Once the stencil was painted onto to the blocks, I waited 24 hours and then used an iron to heat and fix the stencil paint on the fabric. The tracks were enlarged so they could be easily seen. 

The quilt intuitively told me that all 8 faces in gray were not right so we created 3 blue raccoon faces using blue fabric instead of all gray and that worked perfectly. That was what was needed. I had the quilt assembled on the baby’s due date February 16, 2017 but no baby for another week of anxious waiting. My grandson was born on February 27, 2017 and he was named for me and his grandfather on Courtney’s side of the family: James Toshio Curtis. I was so honored. 

I took the quilt over to Leda Hall for the long arm quilting and binding. It turned out outstanding! Although we picked up the finished quilt from Leda in March, it was not in time for the show and tell at the monthly Crackers Guild meeting. But in April I did and gave a short presentation to the club including how I did the stenciling. That was a high light of the meeting. I gave credit to Rose & Leda for their assistance. In April I mailed the quilt to John and Courtney and they sent back a picture of James Toshio Curtis lying on his quilt.

The End