Every baby needs a blanket and a cuddly bear, so why not combine the two and make a secret pouch inside the bear to put your handmade baby quilt into? This combination is a sweet marriage of cuteness and practicality. Having a quilt/blanket on hand wherever you go with a baby or toddler is handy, particularly if the child concerned can happily carry it around hidden inside the new favourite cuddly bear. The padding in the quilt will come in handy if you have to put a baby to sleep on the floor.
You will first need to choose both a bear that is big enough to hold your blanket and the soft material that you will use to make your baby quilt. You can use an old bear or buy a new one if you are intending this as a baby shower gift. Make sure it is at least 50cm tall so that there will be enough space in the pouch cavity for the quilt.
Flannel is an ideal choice for the quilt fabric as it is soft and comfortable. Polar fleece is not recommended for babies because it can cause them to overheat.
This project can be attempted by beginners, but is probably more suitable for someone who is comfortable with the basics of both hand and machine sewing.
Step 1: Step 1: Gather Your Materials
You will need:
stuffed bear (50cm or larger)
1.5m x 1.12m fabric (can vary, depending on how large you want your quilt)
.75m x 1.12m wadding
4m bias binding (or ribbon >2cm wide)
scrap fabric (approx. 65cm x 24cm)
zip (length of top of bear's tail to its neck)
tailor's chalk/marking pencil
Step 2: Step 2: Unpick Bear's Back Seam and Remove Stuffing
The bear will have a seam in the centre back. Identify the seam and stretch it apart until you can see an individual stitch. Use your thread unpicker to sever that thread and carefully unpick the seam between the tail and the neck to the same length as the zip. When the hole is wide enough, reinforce the threads either side of the hole with a few close stitches.
Remove half the stuffing from the bears back. You want to remove enough to leave a cavity for the pouch that the blanket will sit in, but you want to leave enough stuffing that the bear doesn't look like a deflated balloon.
Step 3: Step 3: Measure and Trim the Pouch Fabric
The size of the fabric that you use for the pouch will be determined by the size of the bear and the length between the bear's tail and neck. To determine the size that you need, use this simple formula:
length of zip + 5cm = x (short edge)
2.5x (long edge)
If you want the pouch slightly larger than the zippered opening, add an extra 5cm to your calculation of x.
Trim your fabric scrap to the required dimensions as calculated above.
Step 4: Step 4: Cut Pouch End Pieces
The pouch that you are making is shaped like a barrel. A barrel needs a top and a bottom. If you have followed the calculation in Step 3, you will have a piece of fabric that's length has a ratio of 5:2. Cut off 1/5 of the long edge, then cut that in half, as seen in the photo. These two pieces are the pouch ends.
Step 5: Step 5: Shape the Pouch Ends
Adding the ends to the pouch will be hard if you leave them square shaped and would result in a rectangular pouch. To make your pouch easier to sew, round three of the corners of both end pieces with scissors as shown in the photo. You can leave one pointed. This will be the zip opening.
Step 6: Step 6: Press Up a 1cm Seam Allowance
The zip opening will have three layers: the bear fur, the zip and the pouch lining. Press up a 1cm seam allowance along the short edge of the 4:2 pouch lining fabric.
Step 7: Step 7: Mark the Zipper Location
Centre the zipper along the short edge and mark its edges using either tailor's chalk or a fabric marking pencil.
Step 8: Step 8: Taper Corners of Pouch Lining
Using the zipper markings as a guide, taper the corners of the pouch lining fabric with scissors.
Step 9: Step 9: Sew the Ends of the Pouch Lining
As mentioned before, the pouch lining will be roughly barrel shaped. With the square corner against the tapered opening edge (wrong side), stitch the pouch lining end to the long edge, pausing approximately 5cm before the end. At this point, it will be possible to accurately determine where the other seam allowance will need to be on the other short side. Press the seam allowance and then trim it to 1cm. Taper the edge of the other short side to match the other side. Finish stitching the barrel end seam.
Repeat for the other end.
Step 10: Step 10: Check the Dimensions
The pouch lining should look like the photo. Check that the zip fits in the opening and that the pouch itself fits inside the cavity created in the bear's back. Push the pouch into the cavity and adjust the stuffing behind the pouch. Once the pouch is stitched in, you will not be able to adjust it, so make sure that it is evenly distributed behind the pouch now.
Step 11: Step 11: Hand Stitch in the Pouch and Zipper
Unzip the zipper and position it between the bear fur fabric and the lining, making sure that it protrudes slightly (about 3mm) between the two fabric layers, rather like a sandwich filling that spills out from between the two slices of bread. If you neglect to ensure that the zip protrudes, you will not be able to close the zipper. If you have it protruding too far, it will be clearly visible and not the secret hiding place that you intend it to be.
Handsew through the three layers to stitch the zipper and the pouch lining into place. Check that the zipper opens and closes easily.
Step 12: Step 12: Prepare the Three Layers of the Quilt
Depending on the size of the quilt you intend to make, you can either fold a long piece of fabric over the wadding to encase it, or pin the three layers to sandwich the quilt wadding between your chosen fabric.
Step 13: Step 13: Sew the Quilt Layers Together
Depending on whether you are an experienced quilter or if this is your first experiment with quilting (as this was for me), you may choose a complicated pattern or simple channels to sew the wadding in place and achieve the characteristic quilted look.
As you can see, I chose simple channels that were about 3cm apart, partly because of the pattern of the fabric and partly because that seemed simple enough for my first quilting experiment. Make sure that you maintain tension on both sides of the quilt as you sew the three layers together. If you are not careful, the underside will bunch, resulting in a lot of unpicking that will be tedious. I speak from recent experience.
Step 14: Step 14: Shape and Trim Your Quilt Edges
Now that your quilt is looking more like a quilt, it is time to decide what shape you want it to take - you can leave it rectangular, or experiment with something a bit different. Keep in mind that straight sides will be easier to bind.
Trim the quilt to the desired size and shape.
Step 15: Step 15: Finish Off the Raw Edges
There are several ways to do this: you can overlock the edges, finish them with a combination of straight stitching and zigzag or try a combination of straight stitching and pinking shears.
I chose to straight stitch, zigzag next to that, and then trim the raw edge down to 1-2mm in preparation for binding.
Step 16: Step 16: Bind the Edges
To bind the edges, you can use bias binding or ribbon. I used some ribbon I had leftover from another project. To turn it into a binding, I ironed the ribbon in half. To do this, you will want to use a ribbon that is at least 2cm wide, but wider would also be suitable.
Personally, I like to stitch the binding twice - the first time, I am aiming to simple attach the binding to the edge, so the binding is stitched down the centre of the binding. Once the binding is secure, stitch the binding a second time along its edge. Whilst not strictly necessary, having two rows of stitching helps keep the binding secure.
Step 17: Step 17: Insert the Quilt Into the Bear Case
Roll the quilt up tightly like a sleeping bag and insert it into the prepared bear case.
Give the bear to the child of your choice and enjoy the smile when the secret pouch and blanket are discovered.