Easiest baby quilt – part 1

Minky quilt
If you’re not familiar with quilting techniques, you can still make a little baby quilt quite easily. These quilt panels require no special cutting or piecing. Just add batting, quilt in the manner of your choice and add a super-soft backing like minky.

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the “quilt sandwich,” the quilting and adding the backing. Next week, we’ll do the binding. (Click here for part 2 of this post)


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Baby quilt panel - BALSAY

Minky baby blue - CUEBAE

Darning foot

You’ll need one quilt panel; this one is just one of several cute choices available at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.
For the backing, you’ll need 1 yard of minky. You’ll also need thread for quilting in your choice of colors and 40″ by 50″ of batting.

A few notes on quilting

What is quilting? It’s obviously the broad term for making quilts, but it’s also the term for the act of stitching together the layers of a quilt, which include the quilt top, quilt back and batting. But in this case, I am only quilting through the quilt top and the batting, then adding the minky backing afterwards. It would ruin the soft nature of the minky to quilt through it, and I want this to feel soft on a baby’s skin.

So, normally you would make a “quilt sandwich” with the quilt backing facing right-side down, then the batting, then the quilt top facing right-side up. You’d smooth it all out and secure with safety pins across the quilt. Then you’d quilt through all three layers.

In our case, we’re going to leave off the quilt back until after the quilting is done. This is actually a lot easier because we don’t have to be concerned with the tension of the thread on the back side of the quilt. It’s easy to have it look nice on the front and knotted up and messy on the back. In this method, we don’t even have to worry.

I’d like to point out that your quilt top should be your smallest layer. Your backing and batting should extend a little ways past the quilt top. It’s much better to trim them down at the end then to find that you’re short. I’ll be able to explain this better in next week’s binding tutorial.

NOTE: If you don’t have a darning foot or don’t want to deal with free-motion quilting, you can also just quilt in a grid. Either use a presser foot with a guide for spacing (preferably a walking foot) or measure with a ruler and draw with a marking pen.

Below, I’m going to show you the basics with photos and explanation. But I also thought I’d include a few videos. I just got a video camera and am still learning to use it and upload videos, so I must admit they aren’t the best. I have some technical issues to work through, for sure. (My husband also pointed out that they are boring. Thanks, dear!)

The process

Position in center of quilt
I am going to do free-motion quilting in this case. I like the way it looks, and it simply involves random meandering motions. For this stitch, you’ll need a darning foot and the ability to drop or cover the feed dogs on your machine. The feed dogs are the little grippy things under your needle and presser foot that guide the fabric through. With free-motion quilting, you’ll be feeding the fabric with your hands, so you don’t want the help of the machine.

I like to start in the center and work my way out so I can smooth any wrinkles outward as I go.

Hold thread taut
You’ll want to bring your bobbin thread to the top layer. Simply put the presser foot in the downward position, hold the top thread taut and move the needle into the downward position they way you would when you bring the bobbin thread up after changing the bobbin.

Pull bobbin thread up
If you click the picture to enlarge it, you’ll see that I have caught the bobbin thread and am pulling on the top thread (which you see going upward to the left) and that it’s pulling a loop up with it (the bobbin thread). Pull the bobbin thread until the end comes out the top.

Stitch in place to start
To start your free-motion quilting, take a few stitches in place. Your fabric won’t move unless you purposely push it with your hands because you’ve dropped the feed dogs. Then start moving the fabric, creating squigglies with your stitching. After you’ve moved a small distance away from the starting point, snip the threads off.

Keep squiggling
Continue sewing around and around, making a meandering pattern. If you watch the video above, I introduce quilting gloves, or gloves that have rubber dots for good gripping of the fabric. These really make it easier to control the fabric and takes some of the strain off of your body. I bought mine for quite cheap at a local quilting store. The only downside is that every time you get to a safety pin, you have to take them off to remove it and then put them back on.

Watch for puckers
Here’s the reason why I like to work from the inside outwards. The fabric has started to pucker up as I approach the last safety pin in this corner. I’ll just take the pin out and smooth it, but if I had not sewn outwards, this pucker may have been trapped between stitching and been rather ugly. (Note how my batting is sticking out past the quilt top, as described above.)

Add minky
Once you’ve finished quilting, lay the quilt top face-down and place the minky on top of it, face-up. Smooth it out as best you can and pin around the edges. Minky can sort of stretch and distort, so get it nice and taut. I find it easier to do this step minky-side up because if it were on the bottom, it may be wrinkling without my knowing.

Baste and trim
Machine baste around the edge of the quilt. I basted from this side, on the very edge, just outside of where I pinned from the other side. This just seems to me the most accurate way to get smooth results, even if it seems a bit strange.

Trim off some of the excess backing and batting, but be sure to still leave a good 1/2 to 1 inch of extra beyond the edge of the quilt top. We’ll trim all the excess off in the binding stage, but for now we need some extra.

The two sides
Now we have a nice, neat quilt to start our binding on next week.