I, like most moms, treasure the sweet things my kiddos wore growing up. I’ve had three girls and was able to see some of those items go through rounds of use. I can get very sentimental, so I tend to hoard, but I don’t care for excess clutter, so I also stash. There’s a place made for this kind of thing: it’s called the attic.
I also, like most moms, started to lose motivation in what was once very meticulous memory making. My first two children have adorable baby books where I painstakingly put scrapbook pages together with actual photos that were printed from an actual roll of film. Look at your first haircut! There’s the first lock of flaxen that ever fell from your cherub head! Remember those home parties where they sat women around and talked them into buying stamps and paper packs for their treasures, while making the convincing argument that you could save so much money by assembling your own custom greeting cards? Who the hell were these women?? (Me. It was me.) But by kid number three, you’re over that shit. Snap the picture, post it to Facebook, if it gets enough likes it might turn up in a social media “memory” reminder sometime. Maybe.
Our kid number three also has the distinct benefit of being the baby, and no one wants to cheat the baby. So after years of saving up those sweet things, I pulled them from their dusty bin, scrubbed them down and cut them up. Then I stitched together some of the most precious memories I will ever have the privilege of owning, and wrapped them around my little daughter. It’s lovingly known as her baby book quilt. I’ll show you how to make one of your own.
For this project, we will assemble a simple block quilt. I’m going to walk through the basics of what I did here, but there are plenty of tutorials out there if you need specific instruction. This was my first quilt and I pulled it off without a hitch. It’s a pretty simple design and construction, so don’t worry if you’re not an experienced quilter.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to make this plan while you have an infant, great! You can start stashing pieces away to pull from later. But if you aren’t, pop up to the attic and start digging through that stuff you couldn’t bear to part with at the time. Then wash it, and probably spot treat it, because babies are disgusting.
Once you have a good stack to choose from you’re going to need a few other things for this step.
- cutting mat
- rotary cutter
- wide, clear ruler
- additional fabric in coordinating patterns
There is no possible way to get the precision you need to make a decent quilt without these things. Scissors during this process are not your friend. You might try to tell yourself you can do just as well with your trusty sheers, but you would be a damn liar! It will not work, and these are one-of-a-kind items we’re talking about, and you can’t afford to screw it up. Have these things!
Before you start hacking away, there are a few considerations to make. The most important is size. I wanted my blanket to be a good size for my daughter, so I employed my middle school math skills to figure out what that was in terms of cutting squares. I found that 6″ was a good size for my quilting squares. I cut 56 — 7 across and 8 down.
The next consideration is what exactly you’re cutting apart. I ran into these three possibilities with mine.
1. The easiest of these are the ones that don’t require extra care. The two shown here just took a few simple slices to prepare. (I made the dress in the second photo, so I avoided tearing it apart by utilizing some leftover material from the project.)
2. The knit items are a little trickier. Be sure that as you’re cutting, you’re not stretching the material as you go. So long as you keep it slack, you should be able to get the same measurements out of these squares. You might have a shirt with a focal point (like the first two shown here) that will get you one quilt block. Or you might have something with an allover pattern like the third photo. If you cut these items apart at the seams before slicing it into blocks, you can get several squares out of it to use in your quilt. I managed to get four from this blanket sleeper.
3. The last option is a focal where you’re not necessarily interested in keeping the surrounding fabric. For example, you’ll see in the first photo that this design was too high on the top to make a decent quilt block from it. So I cut the focal and attached it to another background fabric. I did the same with these other two. A word of caution: you must sew these on. I’m a huge fan of bonding fabrics, but for this purpose it’s not advised. I was able to machine stitch most of what I tacked down, with the exception of the pink Minnie. This one required a delicate hand stitch. Take your time with this. You want it to last.
The hardest part is over! The remainder of your cutting will come from the coordinating fabrics you collected. I used seven different options to construct mine. Cut these into squares of the same size as your baby clothing. You may not know how many you need at first, and that’s okay. Cut extra if you want, or wait until you get to the layout portion of our project to see if you need more.
During layout, you can experiment to see what you like best. I played around with this for hours to get it right.You can try out a pattern, or assemble according to color, whatever looks good to you. Here’s what I ended up with in the end.
I will add here to pay attention to the fabrics you’re working with on your quilt. I wanted there to be some soft spots on my blanket, so I chose to include minky (the soft fabric with the bubble-like texture) and it was significantly difficult to work with for this purpose. I’ve been sewing since I was kid and found it problematic, so if you’re not an experienced seamstress, I would stick with less stretchy fabrics to round out your quilt.
Now you’re ready to put it all together! Start with rows. I worked vertically. Use a 1/2″ inseam and carefully sew each block to the next, watching to make sure your squares are turned in the right direction. Once your rows are assembled, you can sew those together to finish out the quilt. Then there’s a a filling you have to do, attached to a backing, bound in more fabric. The best instruction you can get comes in video format, so I won’t try to explain that here. Do some searching to find a good, clear video. Here’s one I would recommend.
To really make this yours, consider adding some finishing touches that are unique to you or your kiddo. Mine loves little things, so I added small buttons in the shapes of cute characters. I also embroidered her nickname on one of the lower squares. If you don’t have an embroidery machine, there are plenty of people who would sell you a square on Etsy for your quilt. Also, these cute little tags are sold in fabric and hobby stores. I stitched “mom” on this one.
And you’re done! Now your little one has a memory blanket to keep forever. The possibilities with this are endless, so harness your creative freedom and start cutting! (But with a rotary cutter, not scissors, dammit.) I would love to see your finished product!