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?