Introduction: Sew a Sweet Heirloom Baby Quilt!

About: We moved to the Crowsnest Pass 10 years ago to start our own business. We now have two little boys (and a girl!) and a thriving coffee shop. We are both DIYers and enjoy renovating our home.
This Instructable is for a crib-sized baby quilt, approximately 40x50", fashioned in a 100 year old or so 'hole in the barn door' pattern with a twist.

I consider myself a novice quilter, but have picked up some great tips and tricks over several years of sporadic quilting. I will show you that a beginner can turn out a beautiful, heirloom-quality baby or lap quilt that will be treasured and enjoyed for years to come. This start-to-finish Instructable even includes a video on the finer points of stippling (the method of machine quilting I used). video here:

Thank you for reading my Instructable! I hope you like it.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.

I assembled the fabrics I wanted included in this quilt. I had about 2 1/2-3 metres of the neutral beige (and used it for backing and binding) as well as half a metre of the red polka and the turquoise I used for borders.  I used 8 different fabrics in 12 quilt blocks, so I had a couple of duplicates. I used a combination of fat quarters that I had purchased, as well as fabric from my stash that went well with the turqoise/red/vintage-y feel I was going for. I fell in love with the turquoise ric-rac in the store and almost built the quilt around it.

As far as colour choice goes, try to pick one neutral, as well as some others that will pop. You can certainly go mono-chromatic, but you will lose the 'barn door' effect.   With a traditional pattern, I tended to stick with a traditional palette.  Be sure to choose a bold or complimentary border that will 'frame' the quilt. I had hints of red here and there, so chose the red polka dot as my border.

Fabrics don't have to cost you an arm and a leg. It's great fun to buy it off the bolt, but that adds up quick. You can easily get close to a metre of useable fabric from a men's XXL button down shirt for a buck or two at the thrift store. They are often 100% cotton as well, and if you look for brand names, you can get quality cotton, not just flimsy, lightweight stuff.  Don't forget to stroll the ladies' clothes too...a XXL cotton skirt in a flowery, summery print may be in just the colour scheme you're looking for.

Other essentials for this project: sewing machine, cotton or polyester quilt batting (poly will bear repeated washings well), coordinating thread, pins, scissors, rotary cutter, mat & ruler, iron & board and handy but not essential is the water-soluble marker.   In the end, I have quilted this quilt with a darning foot on my sewing machine. You can also quilt by hand, tie your quilt (more on that later) or you can quilt with the regular foot on your machine as well. 

Step 2: Begin Your Cutting.

In quilting as in carpentry, it's wise to measure twice and cut once! When cutting a large number of squares, it's a time saver to cut the fabric first into manageable strips, then cut your squares from there.  You can double or triple-layer the fabric up and chop your cutting time in half, but you also run the risk of having the fabric slip out of place and ending up with squares that might not be square!.

Using a rotary cutter is a treat when it comes to cutting large numbers of squares. You can see in the photo that the pinky finger on my left hand is OFF the edge of my ruler. Keeping that finger in contact with the table ensures that the ruler doesn't slip away from me as I make my cut. The ruler can tend to slide on the fabric, so a finger firmly planted JUST off the edge of the ruler will make sure things stay put. 

The cutting is probably the most time-consuming part of this project, but if done accurately, will save you many a headache in the long run. If you are a beginner at using a rotary cutter, just take your time at the start and it will start to come quicker as you go along.   Some quilters pre-wash all fabric to preshrink, but there is another school of thought that thinks the puckers caused by shrinkage the first time you wash your quilt adds character and a vintage feel. I happen to love that look, so I don't prewash! The choice is yours.

The completed size for this quilt is 40x50inches. Cut the shapes as follows:
For your quilt blocks:
24 x 4 1/4" coloured squares (in your focal fabric)
24 x 4 1/4" neutral squares (your beige or equivalent)
12 x 3 3/4" coloured squares (in your focal fabric)
48 x 3 3/4" neutral squares (your beige or equivalent)

Sashing:(in between the quilt blocks)
20 x 2 1/2" bold squares (I used red)
31 x    2 1/2"x 10 1/4" rectangles (from complimentary fabric, not neutral)

Border: (frames the quilt)
4 x 2 1/2" squares (neutral or complimentary tone)
2 x   2 1/2"x 48" rectangles
2 x  2 1/2"x38" rectangles

Backing fabric: enough to go approximately 3" past the edge of your quilt top all the way around. A piece 44x 56" should work well.
Batting: again, enough to spill out past the edges of your quilt top by a few inches.

Binding: A complimentary or neutral, something that goes with your border fabric.
3" x 180+ inches. You want to have some overlap & extra binding, rather than get around your quilt and find you are 8 inches too short (as I did!)  You will need to piece some rectangles together to get a piece this long.

Step 3: Mark, Sew, Cut & Press Your Triangles.

Placing your 4 1/4" feature square fabric on the diagonal, mark (with your water-soluble marker or chalk works well too) from corner to corner. Match your feature fabric square with a neutral square of the same size and sew 1/4" seams on either side of the mark, then cut on the marked line with your rotary cutter. Open out your squares and press on the good side of the fabric, taking care to ensure the excess fabric underneath is laying towards the darker of the two fabrics.  If you press towards the lighter of the two fabrics you will get a 'ghost' image of the seam allowance behind. Not a big deal if some of them end up that way, but it just looks nicer to have it pressed towards the darker of the two.

I used a square-up ruler to make sure the squares all ended up being 3 3/4". If all of your seams don't happen to be perfect 1/4" seams, this will help keep things moving along neatly and accurately. You can square up using a regular ruler. You can see in the 6th photo where the pink fabric is on the left and I trimmed the right side. Then in the 7th photo I flipped it over and trimmed a wee bit off the pink side. It doesn't make a huge difference in doing one square like that, but in the grand scheme of things, 1/16th of an inch on every square would really add up to leave your finished product askew!

Step 4: Lay Out & Sew Together Your 'barn Doors'.

Lay out a triangle square (triangle pointing down) next to a 3 3/4" neutral square, with another triangle square on the other side. Sew these together in this order and press, again with the seams towards the darker fabric. For the middle row, place a 3 3/4" neutral square next to a 3 3/4" feature square with another neutral square on the other side. Sew together in that order and again, press your seams. For the last row, follow the first step again, but pay attention to the direction of your triangles (pointing up).  Press. Repeat for all remaining quilt squares.

To save time and thread, you can chain stitch these together at this point. Rather than clipping the threads in between each square and starting anew, just pop your next set of squares under the needle and sew your next seam. They will all be in one 'prayer flag/hot mess' at the end, but once you clip them apart and press them, you can put the checks with the checks and the flowers with the flowers and sew your next seams, again chain-stitching them to save thread & time.  The second image below shows what chainstitching looks like.

Step 5: Sew Together Sashing.

Take a 2 1/2" square and sew it to a 2 1/2" x 10 1/4" rectangle to start your sashing  (the long strips that criss-cross your quilt, separating your blocks). Sew another square to the other end of your rectangle, repeating until you have four long ribbons of 5 squares sewn to 4 rectangles.

Step 6: Put Your Quilt Top Together.

Lay out your quilt squares on a large table or clean floor. Play around with colour placement to see what looks best. Try and balance out so that you don't have three of one colour on one side and none on the other. Check to see if any of your squares have a 'direction' or an up/down. Take your time at this step...once you start stitching the top together, you won't want to rip out stitches to change the layout!

Lay out the 2 1/2" x 10 1/4" sashing pieces (that's in between your quilt blocks). Starting at the top left (well, that's what I did, anyway!) sew a sashing piece to the top of one block. Sew a sashing piece to the bottom of that block, then the next block in that row, then another sash, another block and another sash. Repeat for the rest of the rows, working top to bottom. When you are done, from left to right, you will have one long ribbon of sashing &  squares (that you sewed together in the last step), one long row of quilt blocks & sashing, another of sashing and  squares, another of quilt blocks & sashing, another of sashing & squares, your last row of quilt blocks with sashing and finally your last row of sashing and  squares.

Now comes a fiddly step of trying to match up your seams as you sew the whole thing together. I try not to get too worked up at this point. I'm a perfectionist by nature (Virgo!) but the overall effect is stunning and being 'out' by a fraction of an inch is just not that big a deal to me.  You can always tuck a small, inconspicuous pleat here and there if you think one side will have too much excess. 

Start by sewing one long, skinny sashing piece to one long row of blocks.  Press. Then sew the quilt block edge to your next long, skinny sashing piece & press again. Then add another long row of blocks & press. Add another row of sashing and your last row of blocks & last row of sashing, pressing after each addition. Flip it over and admire. It's really coming together fast now!

Step 7: Put Together Your Border.

I used the red as the border for my quilt, but wanted a little extra punch, so added one of the other fabrics from the quilt into the border as a corner patch. Sew a 2 1/2" square corner piece to the 2 1/2" x 48" border strip on each end & press.  These pieces will go down the long side of your quilt. The two shorter pieces will go at the top and bottom edge.

Step 8: Add in the Ric-rac!

This may have been my most favourite part of building this quilt! Ric-rac is so fun (it's even fun to say!) and gives it a sweet, old-fashioned charm. I've never used much ric-rac in projects, although I love it so, but it was surprisingly easy to add at this step.   I fiddled around with it a bit to see how much of it to hide in the seam in order to get the most of it peeking out on the quilt top. You can see in the photos that just a bit of it overlaps towards the right, while most of it stays on the fabric. You could pin it, but it was easy enough to work with, without needing to pin.

Simply tuck it between your quilt top and your border fabric and sew, using your 1/4" seam allowance. Open it out and press. Charming!

Step 9: Make a Sandwich!

Ok, if you are hungry, you should stop and eat. Then come back and make this sandwich! ;)

Working on a clean floor (table top not likely big enough, unless you're a Duggar) lay out your backing fabric, right side facing down. Smooth it out so there are no wrinkles. Then lay out your batting. Match up the edges the best you can, again with no wrinkles. Now lay out your lovely quilt over top, trying to keep it centred in the middle of the batting.  You can see in the photo that I've got about 3" of overhang (underhang?) of quilt batting & backing fabric. This allows for some shifting of your quilt top as you quilt it. If you don't give yourself this allowance, you run the risk of the quilt top shifting just over the edge of your batting and then you are left with an 'empty' spot in your quilt where there's no loft or puffy batting! Not good.

Step 10: Smooth Out Any Ripples or Wrinkles.

Working from the centre of the quilt, smooth out any ripples or wrinkles, running your hands from middle of quilt to edge. Begin pinning in the middle, adding a safety pin every 15cms (5 inches or so) and work your way out to the border. You will need a fair number of safety pins for this step.

At this point, you may notice that some parts of your quilt don't lay completely flat. Don't be discouraged or worry about these puffy or puckered places, as the quilting will take care of it. Pin it well and when it comes to the quilting (or tying) these odd parts will all be compressed and will look great.

Step 11: Baste! Baste! Baste!

Now, even though you've pinnned like crazy, your quilt could still shift a bit, so basting around the edge will keep things in place and ensure  everything stays put.
Some machines likely do this (heck, mine probably does, I should check the manual!) or you can do it by hand. This is a great way to use up the last of that hot pink thread you got on clearance that time. Baste, taking large stitches as close to the edge of your quilt as you dare. If you do it close enough to the edge, it won't be seen once you bind your quilt. Do it too far in and it only adds on a 15 minute job of picking the stitches out after you've put your binding on, no biggie.

Step 12: Quilt Your Quilt!

I love the look of stippling. It uses a special darning foot on your machine and if you can drop your feed dogs, then do that. This allows you to move the quilt freely underneath the presser foot without the feed dogs dragging at the bottom of your fabric. You have free reign over the direction your quilt will go. A walking foot will work as well. (See the link at the end of this step to the how-to video I made just for you!)

Stippling is a free-motion style that is very forgiving to newbie quilters.  I don't think there's a wong way to do it!  Loops and circles and hearts come easy, or you can use your fabric pattern to dictate how you will quilt; quilt around your robots on your robot fabric, quilt around your daisies or roses on flower fabric. 

Start at the middle of your quilt and work your way out to the edges, taking pins out as you go. My quilt has 12 blocks, so I did the inside ones first and worked my way out from there. I quilted all of the blocks, then went back and quilted the sashing. I decided the border was bold enough, I didn't want to take away from the punch the red added, so I didn't quilt it at all. A general rule of thumb however, you don't want to leave areas more than 10cm or so unquilted, as over time it can come loose inside and ball up. I'm sure we've all had a childhood quilt or comforter that has done that...there are 'empty' places and there are lumpy places where all the batting has migrated to! Overall quilting will ensure that the batting inside stays put.

A faster alternative to quilting, if you don't want to take the time or if your machine is not capable: tying your quilt! This is a charming and old-fashioned method that uses yarn. Start from the top, poke your needle & yarn down through your quilt and back up, taking just a small stitch. Tie in several knots and trim, leaving a bit of excess. Do this all over the surface of the quilt, again, keeping in mind the 10cm (or so) rule. This would be a lovely timesaver that would in no way take away from the final look of your quilt.

I stippled my quilt and love the puffy, vintage look it gives. I made a video on how to stipple:

Step 13: Trim Excess Backing & Batting.

I love this step too, as you can really see your project nearing completion! It's a great feeling! Woot!

Using scissors or rotary cutter, carefully trim off the excess batting & backing fabric. Don't throw it out! These little scraps of batting are perfect for crafts, soft toys & Christmas tree ornaments. Likewise for the backing fabric.  If you haven't crazy quilted, you might not know that pieces as small as an inch square are quite useful. (I know, hoard much? lol)

Some quilters might balk at this step, as this excess backing fabric can be wrapped around the front and sewn as the binding. I don't mind that method, but with a baby quilt that you hope will get lots of use and lots of love, the double thickness of the binding I'm going to show you in the next step will stand up to years of love and use!

Step 14: Prepare Your Binding.

So, since you needed 180+ inches of binding, you will need to piece together your fabric to come up with this ridiculous amount. It is better to have a bit extra than be 8" short, like I was!! Ha, ha, live and learn!

Piece your binding fabric together, then fold in half, right side facing out, and press.

Step 15: Sew Your Binding to the Quilt & Make a Fancy Mitred Corner!

Starting in the middle of the bottom of your quilt, place quilt right side down under your presser foot. Place the end of your binding over top, with the fold on your left & two raw edges on the right. You can anchor with a pin if you like. Leave yourself about 2" of binding 'tail' behind the presser foot before you begin to sew. Backtack a few stitches and then with your 1/4" seam allowance, off you go to the first corner!

Pictured in the second photo, stop 1/4" from the corner, backtack it and cut your thread. We are going to mitre a corner. Don't be scared, it's easy and is going to look amazing!

In the third photo: Turn your quilt (the seam you just finished sewing is horizontal now), fold your binding fabric up at 90 degrees, then (pictured in the fourth photo) fold it back down over top of itself, toward you.  You can jab a pin in there to secure it while you get ready to sew again.  Then in the final photo, starting 1/4" in from both the top and side, begin sewing your binding once more. Repeat these steps at the remaining 3 corners.  The fancy mitred corner is coming...

Step 16: Join Up Your Binding.

After you've sewn binding around all four corners, you are bound to wind up right where you started!  You should have some excess binding fabric.

Backtack a few stitches and leaving yourself several inches of unsewn binding, cut your thread. You will want to take the quilt out and fiddle around to get it to look right at this point. In the second photo, I trimmed off the excess, leaving myself about 3/4" excess. This wasn't quite enough, I'd rather have had 1-2 inches. Oops! 

Photo 3: Tuck one end of the binding into the other end, making sure to fold over the raw fabric edge. Looking good? Sew it up! 

The final photo is how it looks after the binding is sewn on completely.  This is why I put this at the bottom of the quilt...if it doesn't end up looking stellar, it will be less noticeable there!

Step 17: The Magical Mitred Corner...oh Yeah, and Some Handsewing!

This really is remarkable and I would say, almost foolproof!  I'm always chuffed at how these corners look, once I'm done!

The first photo shows what your quilt will look like from the back. Now flip it over and push the corner of your quilt into the binding.  With your left hand, fold over the left side of the binding ( you are aiming to pull it over far enough to cover your basting stitches and the binding seam you just finished sewing) then with your right hand, fold over the right side, creating a neat little mitred corner like in the third photo! You can pin it to hold it snug, or just work away at it while you stitch.

Starting at the bottom of your quilt, blind-stitch the binding onto the front of your quilt; knot your thread and starting from under the binding, take a stitch in the binding and a stitch in the quilt keeping your thread snug and having as little of your stitch show as possible. This takes a wee bit of practise, but again, that's why you start at the bottom. After a few inches, you will have a rhythm and find your own technique.

Again, when you get to your first corner, to keep that mitre precise, you may want to use a few pins.  Carefully & neatly, make your way around the corner and up the next side. Go all the way around and finish back where you began. Try to hide your knots just under the edge of the binding.

Step 18: Sign Your Masterpiece!

After all of your hard work, it would be a shame not to sign it. It really is a piece of priceless folk art! You never know where it will be in 100 years. You want the aliens and people riding jet-powered i-Scoots around the museum to know who made it, the date and who it was for.

You could embroider a nameplate for it or (easier, and what I did) write it all out on a piece of coordinating fabric using a permanent marker (designed for such a job, don't even think of using a Sharpie from the junk drawer!!!)  and handsew it to the back of the quilt.  Really, after all the effort and expense you've gone to, a $4 marker from the craft supply store is no big deal, right?

Step 19: Enjoy Your Quilt!

Give this lovely quilt to a special little person or keep it for yourself and treasure it always! Maybe this little quilt will be the start of a wonderful hobby. Thank you for reading my Instructable!
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