This past week, I made a baby quilt for a cousin. It was a wonderfully quick process, because I used a new-to-me method that combines the piecing and quilting steps. I had been thinking of this as a version of “quilt as you go,” which I’ve seen discussed elsewhere, but now that I’m looking at those discussions more closely, I think it’s a different technique. (Of course, I didn’t think to take any pictures of the construction process — darn!)
I used a technique described to me by my mother, who I believe ran into it for the first time in patterns for strip-quilted garments from the late 1970s (something like this picture, though I can’t vouch for that pattern using this technique).
After selecting the fabrics and deciding on the size and placement of the various strips, I laid out the backing fabric, a thick light yellow flannel (approximately 42″ x 42″), smoothed a slightly larger piece of cotton batting (“Warm & Natural”) over it, and then lay the first strip of the top on top of them, arranging it just like a “quilt sandwich.” That is, I placed the first strip (one of the wide yellow ones at the ends) in its intended final location. Then, I placed the next strip (one of the navy blue bridge ones) upside down, lining up its edge with the interior edge of the yellow strip. I pinned through those four layers (upside down navy fabric, right side up yellow fabric, batting, and right side down backing flannel) all along that matched edge. Then, I rolled up the rest of the batting and backing and ran it through my sewing machine, stitching along the pinned edge about a quarter inch in. After that, I folded the navy fabric over to be right side up and smoothed out that seam. In fact, since it was such a small quilt, I ironed it, batting and all. Then, I repeated the process quite a few more times, lining up the edge of the next strip, upside down, with the bottom edge of the strip I’d just stitched.
When I was finished, the back of the quilt had a traditional quilted look, with visible stitching. The front of the quilt looks only like it’s been pieced — open seams, with no visible stitching. However, it should be just as durable as a traditionally-quilted blanket.
All in all, I was really pleased with this technique. It certainly went together much more quickly than my traditionally-made (i.e., pieced, then later quilted) baby quilts have in the past. Typically, I really enjoy the piecing process, then procrastinate and eventually struggle through the quilting. Combining those steps made it much more pleasant. It also helped that I wasn’t quilting the entire blanket it at once, because instead of basting the entire thing (I usually pin-baste), I pinned just one strip at a time.
There are two disadvantages I see for this method as compared to piecing and quilting separately. The first is that it’s much more suited to a simple piecing pattern, such as these strips, than to something even slightly more complicated. The other is that you can’t choose which way to fold over your seam allowances. They’ll all face “down,” i.e., in the direction you worked. Normally, I would iron my seam allowances toward the darker of the two fabrics, so the dark fabric in the seam allowance doesn’t show through the light fabric. This wasn’t possible here, so it was lucky I chose fabrics that are mostly quite opaque. One of the yellow fabrics was the exception to this — I underlined those two strips with unbleached muslin.
I bound the blanket with a 3/4″ bias binding I made from solid gray quilting cotton. I sewed it on the front of the quilt with my machine and hand-stitched it down on the back.
In addition to the gray cotton binding and the yellow cotton flannel backing (Joann’s “Cozy Flannel” in bright yellow), the fabrics used are a bright yellow (“Buttercup”) Kona cotton solid, Michael Miller Bridgetown: Waterfront Park in navy (which I also used on the blue throw quilt), a medium blue with white dots, a navy and white chevron design (also Joann’s, but I can’t find it on their site), and Joann’s Baby Basics Dot Print in yellow (this was the transparent one).
I’ve got some more baby gift sewing on the horizon, and I’ve also signed up for the Secret Valentine Exchange this year — I just got my match today and am already brainstorming enthusiastically.
Photo credits for the first three pictures in my post are due to John L., who releases them under the CC BY-SA 4.0 International License. (The rest of this post, including the final picture, is also BY-SA, but I’m the author — see blog footer.)