Tag Archives: textiles

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?


Design Process — Design As You Go

I thought you might be interested in my process while I made a medallion top. The top is a sample I developed for the Medallion Sew-Along. A key aspect of the sew-along is that I invite you to design as you go. There is no pattern prescribing what border to use. I provide a lot of examples and ideas. You take it from there.

But design-as-you-go can seem mysterious to those who’ve never worked that way. So I’ll step through this example and talk about the decisions I made, and my assessment of success or failure on them. I’d love to hear your opinions, too, both positive and negative ones. This is how we learn.

I started by making a 15″ center block.

I love the medallion print in the middle patch, and I like the interplay of blue and browns. The cream background is one I’ve used in a number of “important” quilts. It’s almost gone and I’ll miss it. The churndash pattern is a favorite of mine. Overall the block works with good color and value contrast, and good balance.

To see more, click here!

Medallion Sew-Along #6 — Two Tops Done

Welcome to Catbird Quilt Studio’s Medallion Sew-Along! You’re not too late to join the fun. Parts 1 through 5 of the Sew-Along describe choosing the center block and four border sets. These and other resources can be found under the Medallion Sew-Along tab.

Now the instructions are all posted as linked above, and continuing blog posts will show you my progress. I’d love to hear about your medallion quilts, too. Drop a comment, give us a link. Show and Tell is always the most fun.

When beginning this adventure, I started with nine center blocks. Six of them were Track 1, using a 15″ center and following directions for border widths. Three were Track 2, more free-form. In truth, I might not finish them all. But I’ll show you progress I make along the way.

Today’s progress report is on two tops that are completed. Both followed Track 1.

The first one used the center block I showed you in Make a Block with Me. Well, in truth it was a minor variation of that block, because it was the third or fourth one I made, and I was bored with it by then.

15″ center block. This photo shows the colors most accurately.

Block turned on point, and then framed to 24″

4″ border added

At this point, it languished on my “design floor” for two or three weeks. I loved the spikes of green but wasn’t happy with their background color. It’s a pale gold background with very fine red print on it. Of course gold and red are colors here, but it shows as pinkish from a distance, not at all what I intended. Besides that, I just couldn’t decide what to do next.

Finally I framed it with a narrow border of poison green. Then I was stuck again.

I wanted to use the cream with green circles again, and the wonderful red print in the very center. With just small scraps of the red, I had to get creative. I pieced patches together from scraps. I like the way the squares on point form a bead necklace around. Another thing that works for me, considering the size, is framing it very simply as the last border. If the top were going to be much bigger, another pieced border would be better. As it is, the top finishes at 52″.

The 2″ poison green border with gold corner blocks was followed by the red beads on a pale background, repeating fabrics from the center. The final border is another 2″ green strip, this time with red corner blocks. Finished size is 52″.

The second top began its life as a bursting star.

Another 15″ center block. I didn’t like the center patch — too pink, so I changed it.

Note the different center patch. First border set added 1.5″ blue and oranges on angle, and then the 3″ blue stars. Second border set added a checkerboard of oranges and navies. All the navy fabrics have stars.

I changed the center patch again! Third border set was 2″ of blue followed by 6″ friendship star blocks. Final border set repeated the orange and blue checkerboard, framed by navy to contain all those stars!

I’ve named this quilt “Oh My Stars!” It finishes at 60″. In my opinion, it’s kind of an odd quilt. It’s brilliant to look at with the stark color contrasts. It’s also a little different for me, in that it really only uses two colors. That said, I really like it!


Next week I’ll post another progress report. I’m working on a third top using the 15″ center. This quilt will be LARGE and a little more complex than the first two.

Until then, I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Any questions, comments, great ideas, news about progress, you’re always welcome to stop by and share.

Tutorial: Straight-Grain Binding

When I started quilting in 2003, I had no idea what I was doing! All I knew was that a quilt was a couple of layers of fabric with some soft stuffing between. Over the next couple of years I made a few more quilts, and I figured out some things like how to use a rotary cutter, how to make a 1/4″ seam, and some design principles.

But for a long time I found the last step mysterious: how to finish a quilt by making and applying binding. A beautiful quilt deserves a well-made binding.

There are many ways to edge your quilt, but I will focus on the double-fold, straight-grain binding that is used on most quilts with straight edges.

To find out how, click here!

Harlequin Quilt 1800-1820

For books, like with everything else, I try to control how much I own. I don’t have a huge stash. I don’t buy extra gadgets and notions. My quilting books all live in one small bookcase. But even with pretty good impulse control, one of my biggest weaknesses is for quilt history. And one of the best books ever for quilting history is American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007, by Robert Shaw.

I page through this book now and then, sometimes reading the text carefully, and sometimes just looking at the lush photos of important American quilts. One page I always stop at has the picture of a striking work of art. Its graphic simplicity looks quite modern, though it was made in the early 1800s.

Harlequin Medallion Quilt. Part of the collections of the American Folk Art Museum.

This link takes you to more information about the quilt. (And if you love historical quilts as I do, here is a link to the museum’s collection of quilts and coverlets.)

The description notes the artist is unknown (label your quilts!) but the quilt dates from 1800-1820. It’s made from a glazed wool known as calimanco.

It is constructed in the center-medallion format that was popular before about 1840 but anticipates the elaborate pieced patterns of later quilts. Its bold, geometric composition of large triangular pieces in bright, saturated colors appears very contemporary, belying the still commonly held notion that early American homes were devoid of color. In fact, this type of bedcover often displays beautiful shades achieved with natural dyes.

I thought a lot about this phrase: “It is constructed in the center-medallion format…” If I were to make the quilt, I would make hourglass blocks, so the notion of it being a medallion quilt confused me a little. I think the distinguishing feature is that from a design standpoint, it is not simply one block (or two), repeated. All sixteen blocks are needed to create the center graphic impact.

To see more, click here