Custom-made baby quilt
When one of my best friends had her first child a few years ago, I decided to celebrate the baby’s arrival with a custom-made quilt. I wanted to make it personal and meaningful, so I decided to bring in close friends and family members to help. I enlisted them all to contribute blocks to the quilt and the result was a wonderful collection that was as loved by the mother as it will be by the child when she grows up.
If you’re interested in doing a quilt like this for a mother-to-be, here are the general steps to follow:
Step 1: Select the participants
The first step for creating this custom quilt is finding loved ones to contribute to it. Each of them will create one quilt block for your quilt, and you’ll sew them all together in the end. For a good-sized quilt, you’ll need either nine (for a 3×3 quilt) or twelve (for a 3×4 quilt) participants. I asked my friend’s mom, grandmother, and aunt to join in, and they were thrilled with the idea. I then filled out the list with her good friends, and we had a total of nine participants.
You need to decide how big you want your quilt to be, and that will be determined by the size of each quilt block. I suggest you use quilt blocks of either 10″x10″ or 12″x12″, but you can obviously change this to your liking. For this quilt, I would have nine 12″x12″ blocks, arranged in three rows of three, with a 2″ trim between each one and around the edge. That would make the finished quilt size about 44″x44″.
Step 3: Select the fabrics
The next step is to purchase the fabric for your quilt. Because this quilt will likely be displayed in the baby’s room, it’s a good idea to choose colors to match the nursery’s decor. My friend decorated her nursery in yellow and blue, so I selected fabrics in those colors. I chose four different patterns of fabric for the blocks, and I got enough to give each of the nine participants a 12″x12″ piece of each pattern. I then chose a fifth pattern to use solely for the back of the quilt and the trim pieces between the blocks. For this fabric, I needed enough to do the entire back (44″x44″) as well as all the trim on the front, so I had to get quite a bit.
Step 4: Create the kits
With the fabric purchased and the participants on board, I needed to give them their materials and instructions for how to complete the quilt block. To help you out, here is a sample instruction sheet to start you out. You’ll need to make a few customizations to personalize it for your own use.
Download our free Baby quilt project sample instructions template
The main purpose of these instructions was to let the participants know about the size requirements (which are very important), but it also encourages the participants to be creative and personal with their design. Along with a printout of the instructions, I put one 12″x12″ piece of EACH of the four fabrics in an envelope. The quilters were given the envelope and asked to put those scraps together any way they wished into a 12″x12″ quilt block.
Step 5: Calm their fears
Right about now is when your participants will start to freak out and say they can’t quilt. This is when you tell them that there are no advanced skills required, and they can do any design they want, no matter how simple. The sample designs provided in the instructions will help inspire them as well. I have had participants who had never sewn a button before, but with a needle and thread in hand, they managed to turn out adorable quilt blocks. Assure them that it truly is the thought that counts here, and the mom will be delighted to see the efforts everyone put in — especially those who aren’t experienced quilters!
I will admit, though, that the person organizing this quilt — and putting it together in the end — WILL have to have some pretty good sewing skills, because assembling a quilt is quite an endeavor.
Step 6: Scheduling
If you think of this idea early enough in a pregnancy, you will have time to put the quilt together before the baby shower, and it will make a wonderful gift then. However, if you’re rushed for time (or have procrastinating participants!), you may end up giving the quilt after Mom and baby are back home. Just be sure to let your participants know what time frame you’re aiming for, and be sure to give yourself time to put together the final quilt.
Step 7: Assembly
Once you have all the quilt blocks returned to you, you need to look at them all and decide which is the smallest one. You may have asked your participants to make them all 12″x12″, but things don’t always work out, and they will surely each be a slightly different size. Whichever one is the smallest will determine your standard quilt block size, and the others will have to be trimmed down to that size.
Next you’ll sew these blocks together with 2″ strips of your fifth fabric (the one you will use just for the trim and back) in between, and around all the edges. Once you have all the blocks together and have one large sheet of fabric, you can then make your fabric “sandwich”. First put a piece of your backing material face down on a large table (or a clean floor) and then top it with a layer of batting. Put your quilt block sheet on top and pin all three layers together to hold them still while you work.
Then take the fabric sandwich to the sewing machine and start quilting it. I followed the designs of each of the blocks with my stitches, which helped to make each block pop out. However, you could do an all-over random stitching or any other stitch design you want.
When the quilting is all done, trim the edges of the top two layers but leave the backing layer about 2 inches longer. Wrap that back layer around to the front and fold the edge under, pin it in place, then sew it down all the way around.
As an added touch, if you think the Mom will want to hang the quilt, you can add 2 or 3 small fabric loops to the top edge (just stitch them onto the back), and she can thread a dowel through there and hang the quilt on the wall.
Step 8 – Give the gift
Once the quilt is all done, wrap it in a nice box and present it to the new Mom, along with a card listing the names of everyone who has contributed to the quilt.
The first quilt we made worked out so well that I’ve actually made two others since. Here is a 9-block quilt I made for my sister and niece in a Snoopy theme to match the nursery. Notice how neat the back of the quilt looks, too, when you follow the designs of each block.
And here are two 12-block quilts I made for Jo for her two daughters. The first was tan and cream to match the nursery, and the second is made of various lovely shades of pink.
These quilts will be treasured mementos for many years to come!