A baby's clothes acquire history so quickly: There is the blanket she came home from the hospital in, the overalls she wore while learning to crawl, the flannel pajamas she fell asleep in at night. For those items too precious to give away, or too stained to pass along, there is a solution more creative and less cluttering than a box in the attic -- a baby memory quilt that is sure to become an heirloom.
Don't worry about piecing together fancy shapes; the simplest patchwork is an easy-to-assemble checkerboard of four-inch squares. Find an interesting part of your baby's cast-off clothing, and use that as a patch: Include smocking, a bit of embroidery, a section with ribbons. You can also use vintage fabrics, hand towels, sheets, children's pillowcases, textured fabric like dotted Swiss, or a bit of a flannel sleeper. In general, stick to 100-percent cotton fabrics of similar weight. Avoid knits, stretchy material, and thick textiles that will pull and wear differently than other pieces.
Tools and Materials
Rotary fabric cutter (optional)
Self-healing cutting mat (optional)
Clear acrylic quilter's ruler
Clothing and fabric for quilt squares
A steam iron
Preshrunk 100-percent cotton batting
Safety pins; 1/2-inch-wide double-fold bias tape
Prewashed cotton fabric for backing (we used a vintage piece of matelasse bedspread, but flannel or another woven fabric will do)
Yarn or embroidery floss
Stitching the Squares
1. Use a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat (or scissors) and the clear ruler to measure and cut squares of fabric for patchwork. Our patches were 4 1/2-inch squares (4 inches with a 1/4-inch seam allowance); our quilt measured 12 by 18 squares. On a table, arrange squares, grouping or scattering colors into a pattern that pleases you. Use extra squares to make a pin cushion or a matching quilted pillow.
2. Pin squares together to form rows, then sew. Press seams so seam allowances all lie in one direction (rather than open, as for clothing); this will make them stronger when the batting is attached. Then precisely pin together the rows of patches, lining them up and measuring an exact 1/4-inch seam allowance. Sew the rows together, ironing the seams in one direction.
3. Lay the patchwork onto the batting, leaving 3 inches of excess batting on every side. To avoid slippage, safety-pin each square to batting, starting in one corner, continually smoothing layers as you go. Sew the two pieces together by "stitching in the ditch," or sewing exactly over the seams. Trim excess batting. Remove safety pins.
Trimming and Backing
4. To create trim, lay 1/2-inch wide double-fold bias tape around perimeter of patchwork, with double edge flush with raw edge, and the folded edge facing inward. Pin, stretching around each corner to prevent puckering.
5. Cut backing to the same size as the quilt, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Leaving straight pins in trim, place backing over patchwork, right sides facing; pin around the perimeter. Sew edges through all layers. Leave 1 foot open on one side; turn quilt right side out. Hand-sew opening shut; iron with steam.
6. Safety-pin layers together so backing doesn't slip. Using yarn or embroidery floss, make a 1/4-inch tufting stitch across each intersection of four squares (tufting stitch should be made by stabbing needle straight through quilt along one seam, 1/8 inch to either side of intersecting point). Tie square knot; trim ends. Remove safety pins.