June 13, 2011

Making a Baby Quilt

I told y'all all about my road trip with baby and dog sans husband last week. Did I mention I also finished a quilt and held a garage sale (more on that in another post soon) while on the road? Yup, not going to lie, I felt a little like super mom with all that I accomplished and managed to fit in the X-terra those two weeks.

I had been wanting to learn to sew, quilt, knit, something for a few years now. I wish I had taken a home ec class in high school. I just feel like there are a lot of skills women used to pass down from generation to generation that we are loosing. Then last year we found out we were expecting our first child. Hooray! Along with the exciting news came that urge to learn to sew again. A friend from church said her mom quilted and would be more that willing to teach us both.

This was great news except that we were moving in a few months. There wasn't much time. I met with her and her mother for a few weeks and learned the basics of a sewing machine, how to create a pattern, make cuts, allow for seams, and other must-knows. I even sewed my first few squares together at her house. It was so neat to see my baby quilt start to come together. Then it was time to watch the movers box up our home and fly back over the ocean to the mainland.

My beginnings of that little quilt went into a box as well, and there it sat for months. Without my teacher by my side, I was too scared I would mess up if I tried to work on it alone. Sweet Henry was born, and my life was consumed with being a new mommy. I thought my poor quilt was doomed to never be finished.

Then I read this Young House Love post about how they made their first quilt. All the sudden I realized - Henry's baby quilt doesn't have to be perfect - it will be special because I made it especially for him. Also, its only fabric; if I mess up, I can just use my trusty seam ripper to back up a few steps. I realize for y'all who sew/quilt on a regular basis my method will be full of mistakes and improper techniques, but please bare with me. With new energy, I packed up my grandmother's sewing machine that my mother, sister, and I pass around to whoever is in need of it at that time and hit the road.

My stack of quilt squares finally seeing the light of day again after being forgotten for so many months.

Straight pins are your friends for keeping everything together while you run it through the sewing machine.

In Baton Rouge I managed to get all my little squares for the front sewn together. Place your squares with the fronts sandwiched facing each other; you should be looking at the back of the fabric as you sew. This way all the extra fabric from your 1/4" seam will end up on the inside of the quilt.

See the front of both squares lined up facing each other.

I sewed two squares together at a time. Then sewed two sets together (always inside out; the fronts facing each other) to make a row of four squares.

Here are my six rows of four squares. Every other square is a solid piece of fabric. The squares made of five different pieces are what I made while working with my sewing teacher before our move. They of course take some time to make, but don't get scared of them. Think of it as making lots of tiny little quilts, and then sewing them together.

Please ignore the funky hairdo going on in the back and the pajama pants at the bottom. Focus on the beauty of getting all those little squares sewn together at last!

In Ft. Worth I put on the border. Which is really just four inches of extra fabric around the edges. I wanted the quilt to be a little bigger, and there were a few fabric patterns that I loved so much and wanted to use more of them. Same method as the squares: pin everything with the inside facing out, sew all the pieces for one side together, and then sew the whole strip to the quilt.

Here are a few close ups of the five piece squares.

I decided not to put batting in the middle; I wanted this to be a lightweight and totally machine washable (another reason I used a sewing machine instead of sewing by hand - the seams will be stronger for going through the wash) blanket since Henry will most likely be drooling and spitting up on it. I simply cut an old sheet to the size of my quilt to use as the middle. Then I cut the tangerine colored fabric the same size for the back. I lined the front, middle layer, and back up inside out (like you're sewing a pillow case) and sewed three of the sides and most of the 4th. Then hand stitched the last little bit together after I flipped the whole thing right side out. I ran the whole thing through the sewing machine in three different spots to hold the three layers together, so you could pull it apart in the middle.

And, drum roll please......
Henry's Baby Quilt!

Now I'll confess it is not perfectly square. I'm not an expert yet and had a little trouble keeping all my seams the same 1/4" width; therefore when the whole thing was put together, it was slightly off. The more exact you are with cutting squares and then sewing seams together, the easier it will be to keep all your edges and corners lined up. Its like a ripple effect; with each step you get a little more off from that perfect square. Still, I'm pretty proud of how the first thing I have ever sewn turned out, and Henry boy seems to like it too - he's already Christened it with baby spit up. 

I can now say with experience that the baby quilt goes through the wash beautifully!

And for those of you who are sentimental like me, here's a shot of Mompy's, my grandmother's, sewing machine. A little old school in the design. A little amazing that its still running. A lot sweet that Henry's quilt took shape with his great-grandmother's machine.

Ok, I know there have to be some experienced seamstresses out there. Any tips for a beginner? I'm thinking pillow cases will be my next sewing project. What was your first project? Any funny novice blunders you'd like to share? 

Want to start on your own quilt or other fabric project? Check out these cute patterns! Amy Butler's fabrics are adorable!


  1. natalie! i think you did a great job! :) it looks fabulous!!

  2. I love it! You always inspire me. Now I just need to get a sewing machine and figure out what to make!

  3. Thank you, ladies! Every time I tuck Henry in for bed with the quilt, I love it a little bit more. :)


  4. Love that you finished the quilt, good job mama! It's perfect! :)

  5. So awesome! It looks great! Now I want to make a quilt. :-) The case I'm building for why I need a sewing machine is getting stronger ;-)

  6. Liesl~

    It was a lot of fun and not near as hard as I had thought. Go for it! :) I am asking Santa for a sewing machine of my own this year. Maybe they'll be one under the tree for me?!