Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to Make a Baby Quilt

Since I have been writing about different quilting and sewing projects, I thought it might be fun to undertake a blog post that provides instructions on how to make a quilt. Over the past few years, I have been keeping rather busy making baby quilts. At this point, I think I have lost count. I do enjoy baby quilts for several reasons - most of all because I love celebrating the arrival of new babies. Baby quilts also go together much more quickly than larger quilts and help provide a sense of accomplishment.

The baby quilt pattern that I am about to share is a favorite standby. In part, because it does go together quite quickly. Another reason is that it offers a chance for some fun and creativity with fabric choices. This quilt is commonly referred to as a "Split Nine Patch" or a "Disappearing Nine Patch." Because the dimensions that I will share are for a baby quilt, I call this one a "Baby Split Nine."

The "Baby Split Nine" is a charm pack-friendly quilt. For those of you who may not be as familiar with quilting terms, a charm square is a 5 x 5 inch square of fabric. Many fabric designers put together "charm packs" of about 42 charm squares featuring the different fabrics in a given fabric line. If you find a fabric line that you like, but a charm pack isn't available, you can easily create your own charm pack by purchasing 1/6 of a yard of 7 to 10 different complementary fabrics from a given fabric line and then cutting them down into 5 x 5 inch squares. In the example below, I selected seven different complementary fabrics from the Camp-A-Lot fabric line from Riley Blake. I don't recommend using fewer than 7 different fabrics, because this is a quilt that really does benefit from variety.
Here they are cut into 5x5 inch squares ready to be combined to create the quilt:
Before I go any further, a fabric supply list might be helpful. Here is what you will need:

  • 45 5 x 5 inch squares of fabric. Note that I mentioned above that a typical charm pack only has 42 squares. Not to worry - you can cut 3 additional squares from the fabric that you will use for the inner and outer borders.
  • 1/4 yards of fabric for the inner border
  • 5/8 yards of fabric for the outer border
  • 1/3 yards of fabric for the binding. Hint: you may want to consider selecting a fabric for the back that also would also work as a color/pattern for the binding. If so, you won't need to buy extra fabric for the binding. You can just trim off the extra backing fabric once the quilt has been machine quilted. The choice is yours and really depends on your overall fabric choices. On some occasions, I've used the same color for both the back and the binding. On other occasions, I have used different fabrics for the back and the binding.
  • 1 1/3 yards for the back - the nice thing about this quilt is that its dimensions do not require you to piece the fabric for the back together. 1 1/3 yards allow for adequate overhang on all dimensions.
Now, here are the steps to assemble the quilt top:
  • For all sewing, use a 1/4 inch seam.
  • Sew the 45 squares into five nine patch blocks. This is where you want to have fun and just be random in how you arrange the blocks. That being said, if I have a "bigger" print or pattern, I try to place it in one of the four outer corners so that it will stay intact in the next step. With smaller prints, I try to make sure that they aren't always in the same position. Before I start sewing the blocks together, I often set them out on a floor or table for a quick review. Here is how I arranged the blocks for this quilt. You can see how I have moved the patterns around in each block and that some blocks feature more than one square of the same print. 
  • The next step is to cut the blocks into fourths. This is what adds even more variety to this quilt and gives it its distinctive appearance. Here is an example of one block that has been cut into its four equal pieces. After you have cut all five blocks into fourths, you will have 20 small blocks.

  • The next step is to arrange the 20 blocks into four rows of five blocks each. From the pictures below, you can see how the position of the "small" square is rotated as the blocks are sewn together. The second picture illustrates two rows sewn together. Note the ongoing pattern of rotating the individual blocks.
  • Once the blocks have been sewn together, it is time to sew the inner and outer borders to the quilt. 
  • The inner border strips are cut 1 1/2 inches wide. 
  • The outer border strips are cut 5 inches wide.
The following picture illustrates inner border strips that have been cut to 1 1/2 inches x the width of the fabric (WOF) which is about 44 inches.
Here are a few hints for cutting borders. Although they seem fairly benign, they can be a bit tricky and make the sides of the quilt "bow out" if you are not careful. Even though the cut strips will be longer than the sides of your rows of blocks for this quilt, I recommend cutting them to the exact length plus about 1/2 inch. This "extra" can then be trimmed off. For rectangular-shaped quilts, you will obviously have "long" and "short" sides of the quilt. I prefer the look of sewing the borders first to the "long" sides and then to the "short" sides.
  • Measure the length of your quilt at its middle to determine the appropriate length for the "long" sides of the quilt. 
  • Cut the border strips for the "long" sides of the quilt and sew them on (still using a 1/4 inch seam). 
  • Now, measure the width of the quilt at the middle to determine the appropriate length for the "short" sides of the quilt.
  • Cut those strips and sew them to the quilt.
  • Repeat the above steps for the outer border.
Just to make things tricky, here are some things to consider if you are working with fabric an outer border (or any wide border) that has a "direction" to it. The main thing is that you think about which way you want the direction to go. In the case of the quilt I am illustrating here, I chose to have the pattern go across the long sides of the quilt. As such, I cut two 5 inch strips  x the width of the fabric for the "long" sides of the quilt. So that the direction of the fabric would be the same on the short sides of the quilt, I cut the "short" sides along the length of the fabric. To accommodate the dimensions of the quilt, I had to piece them together, but you can get the idea from the pictures here.

Once the borders have been attached, the next step is to take the quilt top and back to be machine quilted. Many local quilt shops have individuals who provide machine quilting services or can refer you to a local machine quilter. You also will consider what type of batting you would like to use. I have had baby quilts finished with either a poly-down batting and a lightweight 80/20 batting. I don't know that I have a strong preference for one or the other. Both result in a nice quilt.

The next step is to attach the binding. You can create either a single-fold or double-fold binding. I prefer a double-fold binding because it is more durable for a quilt that is intended to be well-used.

  • Cut strips 2 1/4 inches wide and cut the ends at a 45 degree angle. As shown in the picture below, be sure that the angles on the two ends are parallel to one another. For this quilt, you will need to cut 5 strips. Sew the strips together.
  • Once you have sewn the strips together, fold them in half, wrong sides together.
  • Sew the folded binding to the top side of the quilt, using a 1/4 inch seam.
  • Fold the binding over to the back of the quilt, pin it down, and attach it using a blind stitch. I prefer hand stitching mine down. It takes time, but I think it provides a neater finish.

 Here are some up close pictures of the blocks and machine quilting for this baby quilt. My machine quilter never ceases to amaze me with her work. I love the edge-to-edge camping design that she chose for this quilt.

A closing thought on babies and the source of my motivation for sharing these gifts with them before I close out this post …

Behold, children are a gift from the LORD… Psalm 127:3