Thursday, 24 September 2015

Finishing a Baby Quilt

Here's how to turn a quilted material into a baby quilt.

In my last blog, I showed how to make the quilted material (Stage 1). Of course, if you wanted to, you could buy some material ready-printed in a quilt design - but it wouldn't be the same!

I also referred to the very useful You Tube videos from Jenny of Missouri Star Quilt Company that helped get me started. 

Here's where I got to in the last blog.

Read more to find out what to do next!

You’ve now got a quilt pattern all sewn together, ready to add a border. The sharp eyed will notice that I've now got 10 squares by 7 rather than the 8 x 6 in some of the pictures on the previous blog. With the little 4" squares I was using, I decided 8 x 6 was too small. 

STAGE 2 - Adding a border

To make a border, you can use Jenny’s method with straight across corners. However, I wanted mitred corners. If you want to do mitred corners, the length of each strip for the border needs to be the length of the side it will attach to, plus twice the width of the border. Say your side is 45”, and the border material is going to be 4” wide, then the length of border needs to be 45” + 4” +4” i.e. 53” long.

Attach each of the 4 sides by pinning right sides together, starting with the border piece overlapping the side by 4” each end. (In the case of the measurements above. Obviously, you have an overlap each end equal to the width of the border, whatever that is.) Then, you start sewing to join the border to the quilt at about ¼” in (if you are having a ¼” seam allowance). And stop ¼” before the end of the side. Then the next piece of border is attached in the same way to the exact point you stopped on the first side.

When you’ve attached all the border pieces you will have a lot of flappy bits at the corners. These will form the mitred corners.

The way I create the mitres is to make use of my iron. Each of the flaps is folded so that it forms a right angle with the border. The first one should meet the second at 45o. When you are happy you’ve got a neat 45o angle, press both firmly. Then you can pin and sew exactly on your 45line, down to the point where you attached both borders. Finally, trim off the excess of the flaps so you just have a neat 1/4" left.

STAGE 3 – Attaching the filling and backing

Re-measure your quilt size, then lay out your backing face side down, to the same size. (Actually I start with it a bit bigger so I can trim afterwards.) Then lay your batting on top. I use pretty lightweight batting – it’s only for a crib quilt, you don’t want it too thick, and the baby will be wearing sleeping clothes underneath according to the climate. Make sure it’s smoothed out. Then put the quilt top on top of the batting, and as Jenny explains in her video, start pinning layers together from the centre.

 I put a pin in the middle of each square, and several around the border. But you must smooth it out really well. The mistake I made first time round was not to stretch it out enough, so I found myself accumulating gathers as I sewed. These two photos are actually from quilt no 3, by which time I'd learned this lesson.

Jenny does some lovely quilting design to attach the three layers together, using a program on her machine to make patterns with baby ducks, pacifiers (we call them dummies), cribs, and other baby symbols etc. But I’ve only got a very basic machine, so I decided I would just ‘stitch in the ditch’ along the lines created by the squares. I was still very happy with the results.

Let me tell you the other trial and error thing I found. I figured out that (for me, and with my machine) it was best to start sewing the lines from the centre of the quilt, working outwards. So I did each line in two halves starting in the middle, and alternated horizontal and vertical lines. This meant that if the quilt stretched a little as I sewed, it did so evenly, rather than pulling everything to one side and gathering up. This way, I gradually worked my way out to the outside edge. It may be that your machine doesn’t pull the top layer as much as mine, and you may not need to do that, but can work from one end to the other and then from top to bottom. (On larger quilts I found this impossible, so I just had to make sure I'd stretched out the top layer well first.) I think a walking foot is what you need here, but I didn't have one then.

You then need to do a very careful job of making sure you’ve removed all the pins that are within squares. (Not the border ones, yet.) Otherwise baby may get a painful stab from a pin!

STAGE 4 – Finishing the quilt.

Do any trimming that is required, and then attach double-fold bias binding tape all the way round. You can either fold the corners at right-angles, or, if you prefer, round the quilt corner a little so that you can just continue round, easing the bias around the corners.

If you want to, you can add a little appliqué initial to a corner or middle square. Our first grand-daughter has the initial ‘A’, and the second has the initial ‘I’.

Finally, remove any remaining pins, and wash the quilt ready for use.

And here's the back of this quilt. It's a nice pink and blue teddy bear print. You can probably also see the double fold bias tape edging, and the slightly rounded corners.


Both babies (or their mothers) seem to have been happy with their quilts. The first turquoise one, for Baby A, was originally laid out as 6 x 8 squares. This might have done for the very few weeks while she was in the first size crib, but it was clearly going to be too small for the next size cot, so before adding the border I extended it to 7 x 10 squares. Once on the larger cot, it was apparent it was still too small to tuck in, so I dismantled the finished edge, and added a wider border before re-attaching (a longer) bias binding edge. At this point, I hadn’t finished Baby I’s pink quilt (she was supposed to be 6 months younger)  so I made hers with a bigger border in the first place.


 Before I knew it, Baby A had a younger sister! Both of my older two grandchildren have had cot quilts, so it was time to think about  a quilt for the newest baby. Her quilt is mixture of pinks and blues with the odd lilac and turquoise. I’ve again used mainly ready-cut quilting pieces of 4” square (c 10 cm). I’ve made it with slightly more squares this time – 11 x 8 instead of 7 x 10. That will enable me to revert to a slightly narrower border, as I had originally planned for with the first quilts.

However, I had to decide what to do about the appliquéd initial, given that the two sisters have the same initial letter A. The older one had a capital ‘A’ on her quilt, so the baby has a lower case ‘a’. (Big A and Little a!)

(By the way, I made this appliquéd 'a' using the technique I described in an earlier blog Making your own Appliqués and Motifs.)

A year on, baby A, now Toddler A, is old enough to know her own mind! She so likes sleeping with hers, that we have a request for another quilt. Next time round, I’ll make it with bigger squares. But that will be for another post!

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