Part 1: Gathering Supplies, Selecting, Calculating & Buying Fabric, and Pre-washing
I’ve always loved quilts. The beautiful fabric, colors and patterns. The love sewn into each and every stitch. And the individual nature each quilt has. Like snowflakes, no two quilts are the same. I love that!
So, when I was pregnant with Elliana I knew that I wanted her to have a beautiful baby quilt of her own. I set out on an almost overwhelming journey to teach myself the basics of making a baby quilt.
While I’m happy to say I accomplished this task, it definitely didn’t come easily. After hours and hours of searching and reading and comparing notes, I compiled enough pieces and parts to slowly put together my own baby quilt.
To make it a bit easier for you, I’ve compiled all the wonderful tidbits and hints I have learned along the way into one quilt along tutorial! This will be a five week quilt along (so you will finish just in time for Christmas!). Each week I will cover a different portion of quilting. The tutorials will be thorough step-by-step guides (complete with pictures) to help anyone create their own beautiful baby quilt!
You do not have to be a seamstress or a master with a sewing machine to complete this tutorial. You just have to start and slowly work your way through. I promise you can complete it and trust me, you’ll be so proud you did!
With that said, let’s jump right in!
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What Supplies Do I Need?
Sewing Machine – This is the one I have and I LOVE it! It’s inexpensive and perfect for simple little sewing projects!
Scissors – If you use a rotary cutter for fabric, your scissors will primarily be used to cut threads etc. Just a simple pair will do (I still use a simple pair that came in a basic sewing kit), but make sure you only use them for sewing!!
Cutting Mat– I started with an old Cricut cutting mat and eventually purchased this mat. You just need something to protect your furniture when cutting.
Ruler – This set is perfect for cutting little squares for a baby quilt.
Iron & Ironing Board – I have one similar to this one and am quite impressed! Inexpensive quality iron!
Pins or Clips
Many of these little items can be found together in a sewing kit, similar to this one.
Selecting the Size of your Quilt
Before you start a quilt, you want to determine what size you want your final product to be.
The wonderful thing about quilts is there is no ‘right’ size. There is just the size that works for you and your desired end product.
Here are some of the most common sizes for quilts:
I have done a variety of sizes. I typically use these common sizes as a guide and adjust from there. I don’t sell my quilts, so I like that each one comes out size just slightly different.
Pick a size that works for you, though I would recommend starting small, and go with it! Remember, you can create a beautiful quilt, even if you’re a complete beginner!!
How Much Fabric Will I Need?
Now comes my favorite part, selecting the fabric! I just love fabric! All the beautiful colors and designs. The adorable baby fabric and the cheery Holiday prints- I love them all.
I honestly have the hardest time selecting just what I need for my project at hand. (Also probably why I have stacks of fabric set aside for countless future projects. Just have to find extra time to get them done….).
Fabric for the front of the quilt
Fabric for the backing (as the name implies, this fabric will be the backside of your quilt. Choose any kind you like. For baby quilts, I love using a basic flannel. It’s comfy, easy to sew, and wears well!)
Binding Fabric (This is fabric for the binding aka trim/edge of your quilt. It helps give your quilt a beautiful finished look! Choose a simple cotton that complements the other colors in your quilt.)
Batting Fabric. This is the fabric that goes in the middle, between the quilt top and backing. It provides the loft and warmth to the quilt. For baby quilts, I typically stick with a cotton batting. I love the brand, Warm & Natural. When washed, Warm & Natural gives a crinkled, old-fashioned look, which I love.
Avoid guessing how much fabric you will need. Download your own Guide to Quilting now! Complete with quilting sizes, fabric measurements, precut fabric descriptions and other great tidbits!
For this quilt along, we will be making a basic baby quilt with 4″ squares. To account for 1/4″ seam allowances (don’t worry, they’ll be explained in detail later on in the quilt along!!), we need 4 .5″ x 4.5″ squares.
The baby quilt will be based on the common measurement – 30″ x 40″. We will need 70 squares. Here’s how I came up with that number:
If using 4.5 ” cut size squares that will finish to 4″ squares –
30 x 40 standard size
– 7 squares x 10 squares (70 squares) -> would yield an area of approximately 28″ x 40″
I will be using fat quarters. Each fat quarter provides 16 – 4.5″ squares. So I will need abut 4.5 fat quarters.
Where Should I Purchase My Fabric?
So now you know how much fabric you need, but where should you purchase your fabric?
Let me say, if you have extra cotton fabric lying around, feel free to use it, especially for your first quilt. This is the perfect way to get your feet wet quilting without spending money on fabric.
If you don’t have extra fabric or you want to make your first quilt with specific colors or theme, here are some of my favorite places to purchase quality fabric:
Missouri Star Quilting Co.
Fat Quarter Shop
Local Quilt Shops (Local Quilt Shops are often wonderful places to purchase quality fabric and are often great resources for learning tips about quilting!)
I can always find what I need from these stores and the fabric is always really great quality!
What Kind of Fabric Should I Buy?
One of the best and worst parts of entering a fabric store is the large variety of different types of fabric available!
This is a wonderful thing, as long as you know what you’re looking for.
For a baby quilt (or any quilt for that matter), you typically want to stick with a basic quality quilting cotton for your quilt. It will hold up the best and offer minimal shrinkage and fading over time.
When I first started my sewing adventure, I found it easiest to shop online for fabric. Online shopping allows you to navigate directly to the ‘quilting cotton’ section, without wandering aimlessly through the aisles of pretty non-quilting fabric.
When shopping for fabric, there are several terms you will come across. Here are some of the most common:
- Fabric by the Yard: Just exactly as it sounds, you designate how many yards of fabric you want and it is cut to size. Unless otherwise marked, this fabric typically comes in 44″ width. This would make one yard of fabric 36″ x 44″, two yards would be 72″ x 44″ and so on.
- Fat Quarters: Size of fabric cut: 18″ x 22″. A fat quarter is simply a quarter yard of fabric, cut into a rectangle. A great option when making a baby quilt!
- Fat Quarter Bundle: This is just a group of fat quarters sold together. These groups typically include fabric from the same collection.
- Jelly Rolls: Size of fabric cut: 2.5″ x 42″ strips. A jelly roll is a combination of fabric from the same collection, cut into 2.5″ x 42″ strips. Jelly rolls typically contain 40 strips of fabric, though this can vary depending on where its purchased.
- Charm Packs: Size of fabric cut: 5″ x 5″ squares. These are my favorite for quick and easy baby quilts. They are already cut to size and include a nice variety of fabric from a particular collection. Charm packs typically include 42 squares, but this can vary by manufacturer.
- Mini Charm Packs: Size of fabric cut: 2.5″ x 2.5″ squares. Just as the name implies, mini charm packs are the smaller version of the beloved charm pack. These packs also include various pieces of fabric from the same collection and are a wonderful option for various quilting patterns!
- Layer Cakes: Size of fabric cut: 10″ x 10″ squares. The big sister of the charm pack, layer cakes are just the larger version. Again, these are precut fabrics from the same collection and usually include 42 squares of fabric.
Download your own Quilting Reference Guide, complete with a glossary of fabric precuts! Trust me, it will come in handy!
To Prewash or Not?
This is a hot topic in the quilting world, with each quilter having their own personal preference.
Personally, I prewash everything except precuts. Precuts fray too much when washed, not worth it to me.
Why worry about prewashing?
For two main reasons: shrinkage and bleeding.
Depending on the quality of your fabric, it will shrink when washed. The worst thing in the world is to complete a beautiful quilt only to wash it and find it ruined due to shrinkage. Fabric will shrink the first time it is washed, whether it is quilted or not. If it is quilted it will pull at the seams and potentially fray and rip. Ask me how I know…
Your fabric will also bleed when washed, especially red fabrics. One of my first quilts I completed a beautiful red and white cross. I prewashed all the fabric together. Big mistake. The red bled into the white and was a big mess.
Thankfully, I was able to salvage enough of the white to complete the quilt, but it was stressful!
Moral of the story: prewash red fabrics separately and/or use shout color catchers just to be safe!
Gather your Supplies and Let’s Get Quilting!
Now that you know what you need, take the week to gather your supplies for our quilt along. Get your supplies and fabric, prewash your fabric (if desired) and meet me back here next week to get started quilting!
Join me next week to learn how to square up fabric, use a rotary cutter and cut our squares for our quilt! You don’t want to miss it!
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