Friday, 2 March 2012

learn to sew - simple baby quilt tutorial

quilt tute

A few people asked for the details for making my baby quilt and I'm happy to share my simple design so here's a simple baby quilt tutorial. You could easily make it smaller or larger, I just cut squares till I was happy with my size (abt 95 x 78cm finished dimensions). Luckily I took some photos along the way too. I'm a beginning quilter, just learning, and I remember when I started I found it hard to find the basic information for the entire process together in one place so I've tried to explain each step in simple terms.

I'd love it if it inspired others of you to take the plunge and make your first quilt. I think a baby quilt is a good place to start! There are so many wonderful resources all over the net so please use this as a starting point and take advantage of more experienced folks to fill in the blanks.


To make a quilt you must have fabric, a ruler, scissors and thread, but there is also some equipment which makes the process much easier, more accurate and less stressful. I love these tools and use them all the time now. They were a great one off investment. n.b. In the quilting world inches rule!

• Rotary cutter - I have a 45mm Olfa rotary cutter with a retractable blade.
• Clear perspex Quilting ruler - My ruler is a SewEasy 6 x 24 inch quilting ruler.
• Cutting Mat - InFocus 90 x 60 cm but you could get by with a smaller size.
• Quarter of an inch foot for your sewing machine.
• Walking foot for your sewing machine.
• Quilting pins (curved safety pins).

baby quilt tutorial


Step 1. Choose fabrics
It sounds so simple but this is the really creative part of the process and the most fun. Lay the fabrics out together till you have a good mix. Combine large, small and medium format prints. Don't go too matchy as this can come out bland, choose some bolder fabrics to shake it up.

I've used a lot of different patterns here (about 32 different designs in 63 squares). Some are repeated up to three times, and others just once. You could easily work with less and repeat them more, though remember, with a quilt like this you don't need a lot of fabric for a square so its a great stash/scrap buster. I topped up my stash with a raid on the Remnants Warehouse's fat quarter packs before I started.

There are so many sources for fabric, this one combines designer quilting cottons, vintage and repurposed linens, cheap Spotlight cottons and flannels, linen/cotton screenprints, swapped and gifted fabrics and a few of my own Flower Press designs.

little quilt

Step 2. Cut your squares

Cut out 4 inch squares. For this quilt I've used 63 squares, 7 columns x 9 rows. As you can see I put a marking on my ruler so I could find my measure quickly each time.

As I said before a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat are going to make this process quicker and easier, your squares will line up perfectly later on too and you will also enjoy the whole process a lot more. If you don't have these and you're doing it on a budget then maybe make a template of the square and mark with pencil on the wrong side of your fabric and cut out with scissors. Iron crumpled fabrics before cutting.

Here is a simple video showing cutting technique for longer strips (which you'll be doing later) it illustrates well how to cut fabric and how to make sure you are cutting with the grain of the fabric. Start with a strip and cut your squares off it.

As the video says you can work with unwashed fabrics. A lot of quilters do and its so much easier and less time consuming than washing and ironing each piece first. If I were using 100% linen I'd wash that first though as it can shrink quite a lot.

If your pieces are too small to cut this way, or you have no selvedge just find the grain and try to cut in line with that. Grain is not so important with small pieces.

quilt tute

3. Layout

Once you have your squares, lay them out next to each other. I love this part and I do it as I cut the pieces, it really inspires you to keep going! In the final layout I tried to alternate the green/blue with the pink, to give the quilt contrast. Where I have repeated fabrics I try and keep them out of the same column or rows. It doesn't always work, I'm sure they sneak back when I'm not looking. Take photos of your layouts as this gives you a good overview of the overall effect.

quilt tute

4. Sewing strips

Once you have your layout finalised then do take a photo. It will be good reference for later when you are putting the squares and columns together.

Collect up the first column of squares, lay each square on top of each other in a pile so you sew them together in the right order at the machine.

Using your quarter of an inch foot (do get one, I love this foot, it makes things sooo much easier) sew each square to the next one with a quarter inch seam until you have a long strip of nine squares. A quarter of an inch is the standard seam for all quilt sewing. It seems narrow the first time but it makes a neat finish.

Get the next column, pile them up and sew them in order. Complete all seven columns. You're doing great :-) Trim your seams.

baby quilt tutorial

Step 5. Ironing seams

When you have your strips sewn you are going to iron the seams both towards one side. Importantly you are going to alternate the way you iron them. The first strip will be ironed all to the left, the next to the right and onwards. This helps when you are joining the strips because it helps you butt the fabrics up against each other.

quilt tute

Step 6. Pin the strips together and sew

One you have all your strips ironed you are going to line the first two up and pin them together lining up the seams of the blocks so they match and you get neat corners. This is important and worth taking time over. Put two strips right sides together (and make sure you are joining them on the proper edge) hold the two sides together near a seam and rub them back and forward gently until you feel them butt up against eachother. The two ironed seams will fit perfectly because you've ironed them different directions

Pin near each matching seam then sew the two strips together with a quarter inch seam, backstitching at each end to secure. Add each strip the same way till you have the whole quilt top. Hooray, doesn't it look great!

Trim your seams. Iron your quilt top on the back so it sits flat, trying not to overlap seams.

quilt tute

Step 7. Border

I've given my quilt a white border. This enhances the colours and also gives you a bigger top with less work. My border is 3 and a half inches wide. Cut four strips from white quilter's cotton for the four sides. Attach the short sides first, sewing a quarter inch seam to join. Trim the edges to line up with the quilt top and then attach the longer pieces, sew and trim to size. Trim your seams.

quilt tute

Step 8. Batting

Using a piece of batting slightly larger than your quilt. Allow an inch extra all round at least. I wanted to use some smaller pieces so I sewed them together using this great tutorial.

quilt tute

If you are using a self binding then read the self binding tutorial in step 10. (I trimmed the batting at this stage by attaching it to the top and trimming it to overlap by one quarter inch around the edge before I added backing. I found this easier than trying to trim it with the backing on.

quilt tute

Step 9. Backing

Choose a piece of fabric for the backing fabric. I love flannel for this as its so soft. I was lucky enough to find some cheap patterned flannels at Lincraft a while ago and this green spot was in my stash. Here it is after quilting.

If you are self binding make sure you leave an overhang on the backing of one and a half inches. I cut mine larger and then trimmed it to size with my ruler and cutter. Here is the great tutorial I found which explains the process:

quilt tute

Step 10. Make a Quilt sandwich

This is when the snazzy Quilting safety pins come into their own. Lay your backing fabric down on a smooth surface right side down. Lay your batting over the top, smooth it down well.
Finally lay your quilt top down right side up. Smooth these three layers well and start pinning them together from the centre out. You can tape each layer down to keep them taut if you want. This is more important with a larger quilt. I turned mine over every so often to check it wasn't bunching up.

Keep your pins away from the parts of the quilt you will be quilting or take them later as you sew.

quilt tute

Step 11. Quilt

I use a walking foot for quilting, it sews more smoothly over all the layers and helps pull the fabric through so it doesn't bunch up. I used straight lines for my quilting, using the edge of the squares as a guide. I sewed all the short sides first on both sides of the seam, and then on one side of each seam down the length. I sewed to the edge of the white border on the top and backstitched so the stitches didn't show on my self binding. A Hera marker which leaves a creased sewing guide is a good cheap addition to the sewing kit and leaves markings which come out.

quilt tute
quilt tute

Step 12. Self bind the quilt

I'm going to direct you back to the tutorial for this one I mentioned above.

I pinned my binding and then sewed with the machine. You can handsew but I'm impatient like that. I used the edge as guide and did two rows of stitching to make it secure.

quilt tute
quilt tute

The tutorial shows you how to mitre the edges but I could not make this work. Mine are folded.

Of course you can also make your own binding and sew that on, that looks great too. I direct you to all the wonderful tutorials about that elsewhere.

And so you are done. Stand back and admire your quilt. Congratulations. There are few craft projects as satisfying as a handmade quilt. Hooray!

quilt tute


  1. One day (when I finish the ridiculously big project of a paper pieced hexagon quilt that I started) I will do this.
    Great tute :-)

  2. This is invaluable. Thankyou so so much. This will be a permanent bookmark for me as I've never yet made a quilt and am so keen to do so.

  3. This is wonderful Susie! Great tutorial... I've always wondered how to do this. Thanks for sharing the know-how :) Kx

  4. Your tutorials are the best, Susie. So straightforward I think even I could follow them!! Thank you. x


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