Baby Clothes to Baby Quilt

baby quilt

In spite of the fact that I had never actually made a quilt from clothes before...  when a friend of mine asked if I could help her turn her daughters first year baby clothes into a quilt - I jumped on the baby quilt bandwagon! Ten BIG boxes of clothes and a month or so later - it was done! This is a wonderful project to do with friends, family... or solo for that matter! Here's the basics of what you'll need to do:

Materials:

Note that this project is somewhat improvisational in nature (which makes each and every quilt unique). I started by considering the basic size for a baby quilt (about 50" x 53"). The final size of my quilt came to 42" x 58". 

• Plenty of clothes you may want to use for the quilt top. We may have started with 10 boxes, but after you sift through everything and pare things down - it won't be nearly that much (unless you make a HUGE quilt that would be too big to move). I'd say we roughly ended up using 2 boxes of clothes - just to give you a little perspective :)

• 6 - 10 yards of Fusible Interfacing. I used a couple of different brands, but loved preferred the medium weight Heat N Bond. It ironed on well and has a lighter weight/feel than some of the others I tried. 

• Backing Fabric (yardage will depend on the size of your quilt. I didn't want to piece the back at all, so I purchased 3 yards of standard 44" wide quilting weight fabric - and ended up using 2 yards). 

• Border Fabric (yardage will depend on the size of your quilt and how wide you want your border to be). I used one yard of fabric (piecing the long sides), plus a fat quarter of contrasting fabric for the corners. 

• Roll or stack of large size sheets of clean white paper. I used sheets that were 11" x 17" (which fit on my ironing board well. I think a roll of paper, not wider than your ironing board would actually be best.

• Coordinating thread

• Quilting pins (and/or contrasting thread for basting the layers together). 

• Straight pins (I prefer the glass topped pins which won't melt under a hot iron). 

• Paper scissors

• Fabric scissors

• Large cutting mat with measuring grid. 

• Rotary cutter

• Clear cutting ruler - It would have been harder to do this project without my Omnigrid. I have a variety of sizes, but the two I used the most for this project were 6" x 24" and 9 1/2" x 9 1/2".

• Metal T Square (great for squaring up your quilt as it gets larger)

* Hand quilting needles

• Sewing Machine. I used a very basic Viking Emerald 118 for all the piecing and then a Brother Novelle 1500S for the quilting. As long as your machine can do straight and zig zag stitching and is open enough to run the rolled quilt through it - you're good to go. 

baby clothes

1. Start by sorting all of the clothes by general color pallet. We opted to go with a green, pink and brown as the primary color theme (other colors worked their way into the project, and acted as secondary accents). One of the hardest parts of this project is being willing to pare things down (you can't use everything, but it's all so darn CUTE)!

instructions

2. The second step and second hardest thing to do for this project is being brave enough to make the first cut on one of these little treasures...  but you can do it! Cut all the seams away - then trim up the fabric into rectangles (as big as the garment pieces allow). Also - be mindful of any appliqué or special print you want to use by not cutting too close to the art. You will also want to leave enough room for any seam allowances. You will be able to fine tune the trimming later. 

iron

3. Once you've got the first wave of clothes/onesies cut apart and trimmed up into rectangles, it's time to add fusible interfacing to the backside of your fabric pieces. The fusible interfacing gives stretchy knit fabrics the stability they need for piecing and quilting. I added the interfacing to all of the fabric - even if it was made with woven cotton to keep everything a consistent weight. 

On top or your ironing board -

Lay down a sheet of paper, then - on top of the paper, place as many fabric pieces that fit onto the paper (face side DOWN). Next - with the glue side DOWN, add a layer of fusible interfacing on top of the fabric pieces.  Cut the interfacing sheets so they are just a bit smaller than the paper - this will prevent any adhesive getting onto the ironing board. 

Heat up the iron and place a pressing cloth over the top of the layers you just made (I used a clean sheet of muslin). Follow the directions from the fusible interfacing manufacturer for the heat/steam setting - then press the fusible interfacing to the backside of your fabric pieces. 

pressing cloth

4. Remove the pressing cloth and the paper foundation layer - then cut apart the rectangles, trimming off some of the excess interfacing. 

baby clothes

5. Take your rectangles over to the cutting mat. Using your clear ruler and rotary cutter, carefully square up your rectangles. Again - pay special attention to appliqué or printed art you'd like to highlight, being mindful to include about a 1/4" seam allowance on each side. 

Begin laying out the different rectangle pieces pin up wall or large flat surface. As I worked on this, I made a conscious effort to place pieces that had a nice contrast next to one another. I also tried to avoid having areas that had too much of one color. This created a visually balanced feeling overall. At the end, if it looks great to you...  that's all that really matters! 

seam

6a. It all starts with one seam - begin piecing together your rectangles. I pieced from top to bottom first - and ended up creating 6 long vertical strips. The long strips were then pieced together to complete the main quilt top. 

As you are piecing these - you just need to go with the flow - squaring things up as you go. Like I said at the beginning, it really is more improvisational - so keep piecing and squaring things off. Little by little - it starts to come together. 

cloth pieces

6b. The pieced strips will begin to look like a quilt! Keep going! 

step 7

7. Once you've got it to the size you want - square it up once again and get ready to add the border! 

added border

8. I cut my border strips 4 1/2" wide (corner accents cut at 4 1/2" square) - then pieced them together to make them fit the quilts outer dimensions. This is a detail of the finished quilts border (with the binding attached). 

seams

9. At this point, I've got the top of the quilt finished...  with the border sewn on. I notice the seams are pretty wonky and a tad thick on the back, so I opted to "tack" these areas down (knowing it would make the quilting easier). The goal is simply to get things to lay as flat and uniform as possible. 

10. Square up the entire quilt top one more time (using the T square comes in very handy at this stage). Next, layout your backing fabric (face down), layered with your batting (I used a double layer of 100% cotton batting), and then the quilt top (face UP). Make sure the backing and batting layers are about 2" larger around the perimeter of the quilt top.

material

11. Baste the quilt layers together. I opted to hand baste (rather than use safety pins). For me - it seems as though the layers lay flatter making it easier to machine quilt. I just used contrasting thread and created large chunky running stitches over the entire quilt. Whatever works for you! 

12. Once you've got the basting done (trim off the excess batting and backing) - then simply stitch in the ditch (use a straight stitch) around the grid of the quilt tops squares and rectangles. 

13. Finally, remove the basting stitches and check once more if you need to square up anything. Then - apply whatever binding technique is right for you. You can make your own bias tape binding, but I opted to purchase pre-made bias tape. 

stitch

14. Last, but not least - consider adding a personalized label to the back. I used a little label I designed/illustrated for one of C&T Publishings quilt label collective CD's. You can get your own copy here at http://www.ctpub.com/quilt-label-collective-cd-volume-iii/ 

Printable fabric sheets are now widely available for desktop printers (just google printable fabric sheets). The possibilities are endless and FUN! Just hand-stitch the label into place and add a bit of simple embroidery if you're so inclined and voila! 

If you've got any questions about the process or are interested in having me teach a group - just send me a shout out!  I LOVE hearing from you!