When my best friend Hannah announced she was expecting a baby, I was just over the moon. I do look forward to having babies of my own in a few years, but being an aunt or pseudo-aunt is the ideal scenario: plenty of baby photos without the responsibility. (although not nearly enough baby cuddles… thanks, covid.)
Of course, I’m apparently a quilter now, so I wanted to make a quilt for the new baby. Hannah and her husband decided that they wanted to keep the gender a surprise until the baby was born. I started pulling fabrics that would fit their nursery colors of mint green with navy, but quickly realized how “gendered” my fabric stash is. I don’t think many baby boy quilts contain a bunch of floral prints.
So I said to Hannah, “I’m planning to make something for you (okay, not you, your baby), but I probably won’t get too far until A. COVID is gone enough that I can do some good fabric shopping or B. the baby is here so we know its gender.”
We laughed and said something like, “haha I sure hope the pandemic is over before the baby arrives!” Such naïveté. It felt like those many months would be plenty of time for this whole thing to get sorted out.
Suffice to say, Hannah’s baby girl arrived long before the pandemic was over. And my fabric stash was well equipped to make a quilt for a baby girl.
I played with stacks of fabric – this is my absolute favorite part of making a quilt. So many possibilities! And I always find treasures in my stash that I’ve forgotten about. I really wanted to somehow incorporate those chartreuse-esque fabrics on the top-right stack, but I had to remind myself that this quilt is for HANNAH, not for me. And I’m pretty sure Hannah would hate that chartreuse.
I did end up adding one pink floral fabric, but I tried to keep the girliness to a subtle minimum. Hannah’s color scheme already helped with that, but I hope that this quilt can grow with little baby A long after she’s not a little baby anymore.
To give the blocks contrast, I paired a light fabric (mint, white, cream, or pink) with a dark fabric (navy or gray) for each of my HST blocks, so each square has one light and one dark triangle. I sewed them using the “octo awesome method” which is an aptly named, truly awesome technique for sewing eight blocks at once from one big square!
Cut, trim, press. There’s so much tedium to a quilt but it’s also so relaxing and satisfying to work through the repetitive steps. And sewing a quilt for a baby is akin to a prayer. Whenever I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, my mind would wander to baby A… what will she be like as she grows? Will Hannah read to her on this quilt? Will the quilt make it to her big girl bed? In a year or two, will she notice or point out the bunnies and squirrels? It was so fun to send love to this little baby while sewing a tangible manifestation of that love.
Once the blocks were flat, it was time to work through layout.
Block layout is so hard for me. I always want it to be PERFECT, but it’s such an art. Small changes can make a really big difference. It’s also very tactile – the only way I can do it is to lay out as many blocks as I can on my table and move them around until I start to see something that I like. I also find it HUGELY helpful to take pictures as I go, because then I can easily swipe back and forth between pictures on my phone and see what I like better. The photos also help me see more of the big picture and I often notice patterns (good or bad) that I may not have seen otherwise.
These are some of the pictures I took as I worked through the layout for this quilt. It’s a little scary to share them because I’m worried Hannah will see them and think, “oh man I like that other one better!” But it’s so fun to see how incredibly different the quilt looks just by rearranging the blocks.
I played with a flying geese design, just like with Marie’s baby quilt. I love the way flying geese uses triangles and I think it can be really fun and modern. But it wasn’t quite right for these fabrics. I also played with a chevron but I’m worried that chevrons are too much of a current trend, and I wanted this quilt to be more timeless than trendy. Finally I got to pinwheels, and that felt just right. A timeless pattern, but still somewhat modern when sewn from these fabrics. I then mixed up the pinwheel blocks so each 8-triangle block has 2 sets of matching triangles (instead of the default 4-matching). It felt like the perfect blend of structure and randomness.
Taking phone pictures also really helps for putting all the blocks back where they belong in between steps!
Finally, my quilt top was complete! Time for the next challenge: choosing a quilt back. I found this fabric that I had bought in Jaipur last year, and it just felt perfect. Yes, it’s more girly than the front of the quilt, but it’s still not babyish. It also perfectly echoes the tiny flowers on the dusty pink blocks, which I love.
I quilted in straight diagonal lines, again, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I bound it with solid navy to keep it clean and crisp.
The finished quilt is 40 x 50″, which is pretty big for a baby quilt! Lots of room for baby to roll around and play on, and big enough that it’ll be useful in the future, too. Finished block size was 4 ⅞” per block, for 9 ⅞” per pinwheel foursome. For my reference: I cut my original “octo” squares to 12″. The quilt contains 20 pinwheels, 80 HST blocks, 160 triangles total.
Finally it was finished, and ready to meet baby A!
I took some photos before packing it up… but what good is a baby quilt post without some baby booty!?
And even better with butt ruffle pants. Hannah, you make excellent outfit choices. And thank you so much for taking these pictures… I’m sure you weren’t busy or anything.
This might be my last quilt for a little while, but they were the perfect immersive projects for 2020. I’m so grateful for my sewing room. And, of course, I’m a thousand times more grateful that these pandemic-born babies are so healthy and amazing. It’s a hard time to learn to be a mama and I am so proud of Hannah, Marie, Katie, and all the other new mamas out there.
Back in the Before Times, February 2020, I went on a trip that included a stop in Japan, which for me meant a stop in Nippori Textile Town aka Fabric Heaven. My dear friend Marie was expecting a baby, and I wanted to make her a little something… then I found this sheep fabric and it was just PERFECT.
Marie loves knitting, and animals, so by association she loves sheep and alpacas – they’re both adorable AND they help make yarn. I loved these cute baby sheep, plus the fabric was gray – extra perfect since I didn’t know the baby’s gender yet.
By the time I started on the quilt, of course, we were in full stay-at-home, mask-up mode. A trip to Japan was as likely as a trip to Mars. I had just completed my rainbow quilt top, QUILTID-19, and in true quilter fashion, I decided to start another quilt top before actually quilting/finishing my first quilt. So I pulled fabrics from my stash to match the sheep accents: soft red, yellow, aqua, and gray; and started cutting.
After the 500+ triangles that went into QUILTID-19, I treated myself to simplicity this round and cut really big triangles, 10″ each, for a breezy 40 triangles total. The finished quilt came out to about 35 x 44″.
One of the hardest parts of quilting, for me, is laying out the blocks. I always have to play around with the layout and I never feel like it’s just right. Here on the left, you can see my “first draft”. I loved the rainbow gradient of QUILTID-19 so much that I considered trying that again, but it didn’t work AT ALL with these colors or the large blocks. I then pivoted toward a flying geese-based design. I chose the solid gray, red, and aqua as my dark contrast, and the yellow, light gray, and light red as my lights. I think this is a fun way to play with a classic quilt pattern: the large scale and the non matchy-matchy makes it more modern.
It was so refreshing to work with these large blocks and the quilt top came together so quickly!
Next it was time to quilt. I once again used my ill-advised method of basting with just straight pins. This quilt wasn’t too big, so it was much easier to wrestle through my home machine. I also didn’t need to use nearly this many pins!
I quilted with simple diagonal lines again. I like how the minimal quilting keeps quilts more lightweight and “scrunchable”. I also don’t trust myself to do intersecting quilting lines yet… I just know that will cause some puckers to get sewn down on the back of the quilt.
I didn’t want to add yet another print, so I bound the quilt in the same solid dark gray that I used for some of the blocks. This also helped to tie in the dark gray blocks, since that was the darkest color on the quilt top. The dark gray border gave it an anchor.
I always make my own quilt binding, and this one I cut on straight grain rather than the bias. Here’s how I bind my quilts. But I did the binding entirely by machine this time! No more hand sewing for me. I used this machine binding tutorial from APQS and intend to machine bind probably all of my future quilts. I also believe that machine binding will hold up better to regular machine washing.
As always, I find Clover wonder clips to be a godsend when it comes to binding.
Finally it was all done and ready to make the long journey to the UK!
Baby Benjamin and his cat friends – I’m not sure whether this is Luna or Tonks (fantastic names) – are big fans. The quilt has been part of tummy time and many a park outing and I’m so, so glad it’s being used and loved!
I also love that many of the fabrics have tiny animals on them (including more tiny sheep!). It’s so fun to think of Baby Ben becoming Toddler Ben and noticing the little zebras, sheep, and elephants on his quilt. Every baby quilt should have a little bit of I Spy to it, I think.
These are my go-to quilting items that I used on this (and every) project:
The Warm Company Warm And Natural Cotton Needled Batting 90″x96″ – this batting is so easy to work with! Natural and not too heavy.
Juki HZL-F600 – My trusty sewing machine. I finally upgraded a few years ago and this machine is just amazing. I wouldn’t have dared to machine quilt anything bigger than a placemat on my old machine.
Clover wonder clips – Perfect for pinching and holding layers together without pins.