Baby-quilt designs: easy, easier, easiest

Posted by on February 11, 2013, in quilting & sewing, ,

Sunny Sailors baby quiltWhen one of your nonsewing friends asks you how to make a “baby-quilt blanket,” do you:

a. Gently explain that a quilt is not a blanket
b. Whip out the 17 baby quilts you made last week and explain how you stitched each one
c. Sign both of you up for a baby-quilt class at your favorite quilt shop

Whether you chose a, b, or c, we salute you—your eagerness to teach the joys of quilting is commendable!

Making a baby quilt, for beginners or experienced quilters, is irresistible fun. If you’re new to quilting, baby-quilt designs allow you to learn while making a small and easily managed project. If you’re an experienced quilter, you know just how satisfying stitching a baby quilt remains.

Baby quilts, how do we love you? Let us count the ways. Simple baby quilts:

1. Stitch up quickly
2. Require little fabric
3. Mark a happy occasion
4. Offer a canvas for experimentation

Want to try a wacky color scheme, a never-before-tried border, a new appliqué technique, a revolutionary machine-quilting method? Baby quilts make great trial projects. You don’t have to invest huge amounts of fabric, thread, or time. And baby-quilt patterns are versatile! Sophisticated fabrics, seasonal color schemes, or eye-catching embellishments can quickly transform easy baby quilts for beginners into decor grown-up enough to grace a wall or top a table.

Sports Rally baby quiltToday, we’re showing an array of easy baby quilts. And because easy stitching pairs beautifully with quick machine quilting, we’re also sharing Mary Hickey’s top 10 tips for machine quilting. You’ll find Mary’s tips later in this post. But first, let’s ponder the question facing everyone who makes a baby quilt: am I making this quilt for a wall or for a child to use? Baby gets to enjoy your beautiful quilt either way, but some quilters definitely have a preference.

Making a baby quilt: easy.
Getting Mom to let Baby use the quilt: hard.

Ursula Reikes, author of Quilts for Baby makes quilts with heavy use in mind. She says, "I make quilts for babies, not for their parents, and not necessarily to match the decor of their rooms. I make quilts to be used (although some parents insist on putting them on the wall). I want them to be dragged around the house, into the car, and into the yard. If they are bright and busy, they will be noticed, used, and loved."

Can quilters (and babies) have it both ways? Mary Hickey, author of Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts, shares this clever tactic: "Many times, a new mother receives a beautiful baby quilt and wants to keep it as a family heirloom. She doesn’t let her baby actually use the quilt. When I make an heirloom-quality quilt, I always feel that I need to make a second little quilt for the baby—to be the official ‘blankie!’ So I make the honored quilt for the ages, usually in the chosen nursery colors. But then I whip up a second quilt that is quick and easy to sew. Something perfect for dragging, drooling, and serious cuddling."

Whether you’ve got an afternoon, a day, or a weekend in which to quilt, we’ve got a baby pattern for you. Match your time-frame to the selections below, and then get stitching! All the quilts are from books or patterns that are 40% off this week.

Easy: finish in a weekend

Even with appliqué and/or some embroidery, you’d have to commit no more than a weekend to make these fun quilts. And who could resist?

Inch by Inch baby quilt Family Hearts baby quilt
Ten Little Piggies baby quilt Training Wheels baby quilt

Top row: "Inch by Inch" ePattern, "Family Hearts" from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts. Bottom row: "Ten Little Piggies" ePattern, "Training Wheels" ePattern.

Easier: finish in a day

Multi-fabric blocks, super simple triangles, and fun pockets create texture without demanding lots of stitching time. You could have one of these tops finished (and perhaps the layers even quilted and bound) before the day is through.

Hide 'n' Seek baby quilt Playmates baby quilt
Baby Essentials Pocket Quilt Silly Stripes and Doodle Dots baby quilt

Top row: "Hide ‘n’ Seek" from Baby Wraps, "Playmates" from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts. Bottom row: "Baby Essentials Pocket Quilt" ePattern"Silly Stripes and Doodle Dots" ePattern.

Easiest: finish in an afternoon

With simple straight-set blocks and quick straight-cut borders, you could get any of these adorable quilts finished with plenty of day to spare!

from Quilts for Baby Cobblestones baby quilt
Flotton! baby quilt Blast Off! baby quilt

Top row: "Sweet Teddy Bears"  from Quilts for Baby,"  "Cobblestones" from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts.  Bottom row: "Flotton!" ePattern, "Blast Off!" from Quilts for Baby.

Now you’ve picked a quilt to make (or if you haven’t, you can check out even more patterns in the slideshow at the end of this post). For advice on how to efficiently machine quilt your cuddly creation, we go to Mary Hickey.

10 Tips for Machine Quilting Baby Quilts
Excerpted from Mary Hickey’s Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts

Pink Lemonade baby quilt1. If you want to finish relatively quickly, plan a quilting design that has continuous long, straight lines and/or gentle curves.

2. Use a sewing machine needle with a larger eye, such as size 90/14, that will not shred the thread.

3. Experiment with different threads to find one you like. Many machine quilters prefer silk-finish cotton thread.

4. Keep the spacing between quilting lines consistent over the entire quilt.

5. Adjust your chair to a comfortable height.

6. Practice with layers of fabric and scrap batting until you get the feel of controlling the motion of the fabric with your hands. Running the machine fairly fast enables you to sew smoother lines of quilting.

7. To start and stop, shorten the stitch length for the first and last ⅛" to ¼".

8. Practice stitching some scribbles, zigzags, and curves. Try a heart or a star. Be patient. You can go fast on the machine but it does require some skill and practice.

Roll quilt for machine quilting9. Roll your layered quilt up like a scroll. Starting in the center and using a walking foot, stitch all the straight lines from top to bottom. Always start at the same end so that the rows won’t pull in opposite directions. Re-roll your quilt from the sides and repeat stitching the straight lines in that direction. Next repeat with the diagonal lines. Remove the pins as you get the areas secured. Remember to take several breaks and stretch your back.

10. When you’ve completed all the straight-line quilting, switch to your darning foot, lower the feed dogs, and start the free-motion quilting. Stipple quilting in the background areas gives a lovely texture and doesn’t require any prior marking. Pretend that you’re drawing jigsaw-puzzle lines on your quilt—lots of curvy lines without any loops. Try to end at an intersection where you can "jump" across to the next area to be stitched.

Have you chosen a quilt for Baby? Tell us about your favorite baby quilt, either given or received, in the comments.  Then see more charming baby quilts at the bottom of this post. Remember, all the quilts shown here are 40% off this week!

Animal Crackers

"Animal Crackers" from Quilts for Baby

Baby Bow Ties

"Baby Bow Ties" from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts

Buttermint Swirls

"Buttermint Swirls" ePattern

Evening Stars

"Evening Stars" from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts


"Flutterby" from Baby Wraps

Flying Frogs

"Flying Frogs" ePattern

Hugs and Kisses

"Hugs and Kisses" ePattern

Log Jam

"Log Jam" from Quilts for Baby

Loose Arrows

"Loose Arrows" from Baby Wraps

Something's Fishy in the Attic

"Something's Fishy in the Attic" from Quilts for Baby

Wiggle Flowers

Wiggle Flowers from Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts

8 Comments (leave a comment)

  • These quilts are really cute. I have done a couple really simple quilts.
    Of these quilts I am smitten with wiggley flowers and evening stars. They are perfect for the little ones.

    —Diane Wright on February 11, 2013
  • I have some of these books. They are really awesome. The quilts are easy, quick and you have to let the fabric make the quilt. Then there is hardly any work!

    Debby Kratovil on February 11, 2013
  • I’m currently making a baby quilt for my Great-neice in England. Because I have several projects on the go (don’t we all?) I wanted something that was portable and easy to work on during my lunch breaks or in the evenings in front of the tv. I’ve settled on English paper piecing 1 1/2″ Hexagons and, using a wonderful Hexagon graph paper that I found online, I’ve designed a sweet pattern of 5 rows of 4 flowers, yellow centres with lilac petals, surrounded by apple green.

    I have had so much fun designing with colouring pencils and this fantastic graph paper!!

    —Kayt on February 11, 2013
  • I have 2 favorite Single Irish Chains baby quilts. One was for my first grandson and the other, for a friend. It was my first machine quilting class and I was instructed to buy two fabrics: one for the background and one for the contrast chains. In my "newbie" brain, I picked two geometric, almost identical, except in color fabrics and fortunately, one of the salesladies led me back to reality as to what I needed. I used one of the geometric fabrics as my background and my contrast color was royal blue chains.
    The second quilt’s background fabric depicted firemen, Dalmation dogs, and fire trucks; and the chains, were red. It wasn’t finished at the time of the baby shower, but my friend returned it, and the following week, I finished it. The dad’s favorite color was red, and we oftened joked, thier son, Aaron, would have to "fight" his dad to use his own quilt. There are many pictures of father and son curled up together on the floor or couch, watching TV, napping, and both, are covered with this quilt. Aaron’s father passed away when he was young and Aaron’s fondest memories of his father are when they shared his quilt.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on February 12, 2013
  • These are so cute and so inspiring. It makes me want to go to the machine and start creating.

    —Dolores on February 12, 2013
  • My favorite baby quilt to make is a flannel panel on one side and squares of fabrics with many different textures on the other side. I also include taggies along with the baby’s name embroidered on a corner pocket. It truely is a play and discover quilt. My grandkids love theirs!

    —Mary Ann on February 15, 2013
  • I made my new grandson a bow tie pattern baby quilt using all blue fabric. I think it turned out nice.

    —sharon on February 16, 2013
  • I just finished a quilt for my soon-to-be born grandson! My son is a Steeler’s fan, so I found a pattern that was rectangular but looked like a football! I just loved it! I used Moda Marbles in brown and Kona white for the lines on the football and the laces! Then I sewed the Steeler’s emblem on the lower right hand corner of the quilt! My son and wife loved it, as well as everyone at the baby shower!

    —Jan staples on February 18, 2013

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