Baby Quilts

In early December one of my granddaughters will celebrate her tenth birthday. We celebrate her, of course. But I also celebrate the beginning of my quilting life. Before she was born I decided to make a baby quilt, my first quilt ever.

It was a miserable, horrible, unhappy experience. Completely ignorant about quilting, I didn’t know what great tools there are to make the process easier. I had no rotary cutter, no cutting mat and rulers. The sewing machine I had at the time had tension problems. I often thought of throwing the machine out the window; the only thing that stopped me was knowing that replacing the window would cost more than replacing the machine.

Still, the quilt was finished on time and presented to my daughter at her baby shower, prior to the baby’s birth. And I told her then that I didn’t care how many babies she had, I would never make another quilt. Ha…

The next three were for other grandchildren and were motivated by guilt. Since that time I’ve made or helped make dozens of quilts of all sizes, probably more than one hundred of them. That’s pretty prolific output for someone who swore she would never make another!

With seven grandchildren now, I’ve made baby quilts for each of them. Besides those, I made a few as gifts for friends. Most of the baby quilts I’ve made were donated for distribution in our community.

Tips for baby quilts:
1) Quilts of simple designs (just squares or strips) are more likely to be used than ones with more complex designs. Of course the babies don’t care either way, but fancier designs may be hung on the wall (which is a nice tribute, too) or put away as an heirloom or memento. Memento quilts are NOT remembered by the babies when they get older, unless it as something they were not to enjoy.

2) Let the parents’ color preferences for the baby’s room guide you, if you know them. Another great way to have your quilt put away is for it to clash with the baby’s room. Some people don’t appreciate the colors of love.

3) Wash fabrics before use. Quilters disagree on whether fabrics should be washed before creating a quilt. Since I have sensitivities myself, I always wash the fabrics first, and I use fragrance- and dye-free detergent, no fabric softeners, and no dryer sheets. Babies are sensitive. If you want the quilt used, wash the chemicals out of the fabrics. If you have pets that use your sewing space, wash the finished project again before giving it. One more benefit of washing fabrics before cutting and sewing is that any shrinkage and color bleeding should be resolved before the baby gets the gift.

4) Don’t use buttons, as they can provide a choking hazard.

5) Label the quilt. A label can be as simple as a small piece of fabric with the baby’s name and birth date, as well as your name, written in indelible ink. Hand-stitch the label to the back of the quilt to provide information that can be lost through time.

6) Let the parents know any laundry instructions. If the fabrics are 100% cotton and the batting is either cotton or polyester, washing is pretty simple for a quilt of this size. A delicate setting will abuse the quilt least.

Here are my grandbabies’ baby quilts.

The first one — my first quilt ever! — was for the granddaughter mentioned above.

Only the “center” inside the green border was from the original quilt. I already repaired and enlarged it, from the green border out. She still loves it.

This is the second quilt I made, one of those motivated by guilt. As you can see, it is simple squares in the colors used to decorate the little guy’s bedroom. The real feature here is the baby. I had treated myself to a new sewing machine by then, and also bought my first cutting mat, rotary cutter, and rulers. All these “modern” tools made the process much simpler and more enjoyable.

After making the quilt above, I worried his older sisters might feel slighted, so I made quilts for them, too. The girls were 5 and 7 when they got them.

The quilt below was for another grandson, who is 6 now. My skills had improved markedly by then, but I don’t necessarily like this quilt any better than the others. It is just different, not better. I love nursery rhymes, so when I found this great fabric with old favorites on it, I bought enough to make four quilts. So far I’ve used it for three, including the one below.

This was for a grandbaby now 3 years old. His dad is an aeronautical engineer, his grandpa (Jim) is an amateur astronomer, and his uncle (our son) is in the Air Force.

The last baby quilt made was for our most recent grandson, who is almost 3. The top has only one block with borders. The block style is called “Burgoyne Surrounded.” I found a great throw pillow case at our local Mennonite relief store and used the baseballs in the center and on the corners from it, as well as the main pillow panel on the back of the quilt, shown below.

The last “baby” quilt I’ll show today is a small quilt made for my son and presented on his 21st birthday. He is my baby, even at age 25.

Do you make baby quilts? Do you have special tips to share?


18 thoughts on “Baby Quilts

  1. denmck55

    Love your showcase of baby quilts. That is exactly how I got started but since it was just within the past couple of years I knew about all of the “tools” that make it easier. I’m now thoroughly addicted to quilting.

  2. Laura C

    I can really see a progression in your skill and style as I scroll through these quilts! I just ordered fabric for a baby quilt last night so this post is timely for me 🙂

  3. annbuckham

    One tip I have learned from someone who loves to put quilts on the wall as well as around the baby.
    Ones that are pictures or have things like fish or animals on them, I have used buttons or other things that I sew on only to the first layer, like eyes for example, then you can put it on the wall, but when you want it to be used as a blanket you just snip a thread!

    I have had people ask me to do it the other way around also. They use it as a blanket first and as the baby out grows it add the embelishments and you have a pretty picture or design.

    Yours are beautifull, I love the colors

  4. snarkyquilter

    Thanks for reminding us all that baby quilts are usually meant to be used. I agree that machine sewing the back of the binding is a good idea, as is prewashing the fabric. I also wash the finished quilt (usually in All Free and Clear) just to prove to the expectant parents that it will wash just fine. The only tip I can pass along is to consider backing the quilt with fleece or flannel and skipping the batting. This produces a very soft and flexible blanket that’s easier to wrap around the baby.

  5. farmquilter

    When I make a baby quilt I always sew the binding down by machine – more durable on a quilt that I hope will be washed and loved to pieces!! I also usually do a triangle in one corner for the label and sew that on two sides with the binding – only one side on hand stitches. If I use flannel, I have learned to use a 1/2″ seam because I have had 1/4″ seams come apart because the flannel weave is looser and the threads in the weave are larger than regular quilting cotton. I also quilt them more densely so they have the best chance of survival!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      All good tips! Yes, definitely consider sewing binding by machine. I didn’t do that for my later ones (did for the early ones because I didn’t know the “right” way to do bindings.) But for the future, that’s the way I will go.

      Personally, I don’t like to use flannel, but bigger seam allowances do help a lot. And with that, a quilter may be choosing not to use triangles, because the math changes when you switch from a 1/4″ seam.

      Thanks so much for taking a look and adding recommendations. This is how we learn! 🙂

  6. Jim in IA

    Those were fun to see all collected together like this. You’ve come such a long way with your quilting. I look forward to the ones to come in the future. oxoxox

    1. Barbara Arnelien

      Love all these thing I have learned..machine quilt baby quilts..they take a lot of washing..I am Mennonite & just wobdering which store you frequent..Great quilts..all of them/


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