By simple definition, a quilt is two layers of fabric that are stitched together. Typically they have a layer of padding in the middle for warmth. Quilt designs can be a simple design or elaborate depending on the purpose or means of the quiltmaker. Throughout history, quilting has been a means of providing warm bedding or clothing for the family. It has also been a means of artistic expression for centuries. Baby quilts make great gifts because they are functional gifts that is an expression of love and creativity of the giver. A beautiful baby quilt is thoughtfully created with the new arrivals anticipated due date in mind. Each cut of the fabric, each stitch is completed for that highly anticipated bundle of joy. Whether you are an experienced quilter, or want to make your very first quilt, these baby quilt ideas can help you get started.
Why Give a Quilt as a Gift?
Quilts make an amazing gift because they are a usable gift. Most quiltmakers would be disappointed to learn that a baby quilt they gave as a gift, never got used. Some quilts are designed to decorate the baby’s room. Wall quilts can become the centerpiece of the baby’s nursery décor. Maybe they drape over a rocking chair or crib. New parents may find themselves wrapped together with their fussy baby under a warm quilt late at night.
Small baby quilts are great for tucking around a baby in their car seat. Larger baby quilts make for a great floor mat. A colorful, soft, and clean place to lay an infant for tummy time. They are easy to wrap around a baby for warmth when the weather is in the in-between stage. Too warm for a coat, but too cool to go without.
As babies grow into toddlers and then children, baby quilts make great snuggling blankets as they settle in for movie night. Small baby quilts can become part of make-believe play. Maybe a comforting piece of home when mom and dad need to leave their toddler with a trusted babysitter.
Handmade quilts can become an heirloom gift. A treasured gift given by a grandmother to a new baby can be passed on to their own children. My grown children still love the quilts I gave them as children.
Be aware, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies remain blanket free in their crib until they are over 12 months of age.
Baby Quilts Make Fantastic First Time Quilt Projects
Since baby quilts are small, they make a great project for beginner quilters. A simple project can be done in a short amount of time. Standard crib-sized quilts measure 36″ x 52″. I’ve made multiple baby quilts and I am sure each one was a bit different in size. Each is dependent on the block I choose and my end goal. However, it’s best to keep your width under 40″. The standard width of a bolt of fabric is 42″. Anything wider and you will have to piece the backing fabric.
The most common baby quilt sizes come in a couple of variations. Some quilters like to give babies a square quilt that is about 30″ square. Others prefer a rectangular quilt measuring 30″ x40″. These smaller quilts are more easily usable for young babies, but they don’t grow with them as well.
Overview of Quilting Steps
Design Your Own: Baby Quilt Ideas
Even as a beginner quilter, I designed most of my own quilts. I always use a block pattern, however, the layout and design elements have been my own original designs. As I dig through photos trying to find as many pictures as I could of quilts that I have made, you can certainly see my designs and quilting skills progressing over time. My very first bed quilt, a twin-size quilt for my son, was a very simple quilt. As with any quilt , the baby quilt design can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
Select a Block Pattern
Choosing a block pattern is one of the most difficult parts of the quilt-making process for me. While it doesn’t have to be hard, my quest to make the perfect quilt combined with my perfectionism and indecisiveness can get the best of me.
When I started quilting, each beautiful quilt pattern came in a pattern book that included detailed instructions. Now free patterns are available on many popular quilting websites. The endless choices of easy free baby quilt patterns can make it challenging to choose.
I still love printed pattern books. As a fan of traditional blocks, I love the quilting book called Around the Block by Judy Hopkins. I’ve lost track of how many quilts I have made from the pages of these books!
An easy baby quilt pattern might include just a few colorful square blocks. Half square triangles are simple to cut by cutting squares in half, but keep in mind, triangles are harder to sew. A quilter should do their best to match the points, so as not to cut them off. Even as an experienced quilter, I still cut off my points sometimes! Certainly don’t let it discourage you to try (especially if you have experience sewing), but be aware to match the points as you sew. Pinning can help.
Some of my favorite simple patterns include Pinwheels, Nine Patch, LaMoyne Star, Sawtooth Star, Dutchman’s Puzzle, and Twin Star. Many of these include triangles, but they are simple patterns. Many quilt blocks have different names, so don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a few. The quilt I made for Hunter is called Ribbon Quilt, it’s a variation of the Friendship Star. Find some simple inspiration to create a traditional block quilt here.
Select a Layout
Once you have selected the perfect pattern for your blocks, it’s time to think about layout. I usually plan a general layout in advance, but final block placement sometimes is not determined until I have assembled the blocks. Here are some examples I designed in my editing software to show you how the layout can change the look of a quilt with the exact same block in each design.
Select the Fabrics
The next part of the quilt-making process that I find most challenging is choosing the fabrics. I use 100% cotton fabric in my quilts. Some people like to use cozy flannels either for the entire quilt or just the back as another option. Both cotton fabrics and flannels come in a variety of colors and novelty prints.
My son’s quilt was designed around Noah’s Ark fabric that I found. When choosing a novelty fabric that you might be cutting out certain images in the print, get more fabric than you need. You’ll waste some by cutting out images. I used a template so that I could center the image in the template and then cut it out. Designing a quilt around a print makes for a very simple baby quilt pattern. I added simple sashing and a bit of applique to finish that quilt.
Even an entire quilt made out of colorful charm squares can be beautiful. Precut charm packs include precut fabrics to make quilt-making super simple. You can also make your own.
I usually select specific fabrics for my quilts. It fits my Type A matching personality. However, scrap quilts in bright varied colors and patterns are an easy option for a first-time quilt maker. looking to create a fun quilt. The Sunbonnet Sam quilt (pictured higher in this post) was made completely from scraps.
Fabric stores sell precut fabric called a fat quarter. It’s a 18X22″ square of fabric. I use these mostly for applique, as they are more expensive than buying a quarter yard off the bolt. However, if you buy a quarter yard, it will only be 9 inches wide and likely 42 inches long (depending on the bolt). Depending on the width of the fabric you need and how much fabric, fat quarters might be a better option.
Designs for the Quilting
After you have finished the quilt top it’s time to sandwich the quilt layers together. The quilt top, batting and backing fabric make up a quilt sandwich. The actual process of sewing the quilt sandwich together is called quilting. I love hand quilting! I love how it looks, I love spending time working on a hand quilted project. However for a baby quilt it’s just not practical.
My large bed quilts I took to the quilter’s shop and had them machine-quilted on a large long arm sewing machine. However, baby quilts can easily be machine quilted at home on your sewing machine. A long arm machine makes a simple pattern over the entire quilt with no consideration of the blocks or pattern of the quilt top. If you quilt it yourself, you can add some design elements to your quilt. I often quilt “in the ditch” which means I quilt in the seam lines between quilt blocks. From the front, this won’t be visible, but on the back, the quilt pattern will be outlined.
I also like echo quilting. Quilting about a 1/4″ from the edge of the block or applique. This is easiest on straight borders with a machine. The Stairway to Heaven quilt has echo quilting.
In Hunter’s quilt, I added some unique designs to the quilting of the medallion. I quilted a cloud around the quote that was embroidered. I made long sun rays off the sunshine as well as squiggles behind the deer to give the background some dimension.
A Labor of Love
Quilting, no matter the techniques you incorporate is a labor of love! As an intermediate/ advanced quilter I tend to create more elaborate quilt designs. These quilts take time! I’m releasing a 5-part video series that covers the creation of Hunter’s baby quilt from start to finish!
Hopefully this post inspires you to think about some baby quilt ideas that you can create at your quilting/ sewing level. No matter how fancy, a warm quilt is an appreciated gift that will bless a new baby for years to come.
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.