Baby clothes quilts are very popular. Many moms want to preserve those baby years by turning old clothes into quilts. Sometimes it’s a gift for the child. Other times, it’s a gift for the family. Almost every time, it’s a gift for the mom! Many moms have expressed to me how the passage of time is marked by the clothes their babies have outgrown. My job is completed when I share a finished photo of the quilt and moms cry. (It’s my one true talent!)
Recently, I have had requests from mothers who have saved their kids’ clothes and would like them made into baby quilts for when they become grandmothers. It’s the moms in my age group – the ones who have kids who are older and not married, or who may be recently married but don’t have kids yet. Or even some that are expecting and they want to give them a unique and special gift at the baby shower. The pandemic has resulted in many people spending more time at home and finding those bags or bins of old clothes and deciding this is the time to do something about it.
The design process raises many questions. What kind of clothes can I use? (Often, these clothes are “vintage” – or quite old!) What size quilt should I make? What size blocks should I use? What kind of backing fabric is good? How do I choose colors that would work based on the clothes?
I’m writing this post as a design guide to help my clients navigate the many choices they will face. Sometimes my clients have a vision of what they want. Other times, they want to be told what works best. Here, I’ll explore some options by looking at quilts I have made the past few years.
One of the earliest vintage baby quilts I made featured a complete outfit at the center of the quilt. The clothes were in good shape and had a classic feel to them. How will the quilt be used? Is this a gift for a baby shower for the next generation? Is this a keepsake for the child (or adult) who wore these clothes?) These are questions that I discuss with my clients.
In most cases, vintage fabrics are fine to use. Often, stains will arise over the years. When possible, I will cut around the stains. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Similarly, I will try to avoid holes or using fabrics that are delicate. I’ve made quilts out of handmade dresses and other fine materials. Here, again, the end use should be considered. If it’s more of a show piece and won’t be washed frequently, almost anything can be used. However, if it will be a functional baby blanket, I would lean toward fabrics that can be easily washed.
Although the quilt below is made with modern clothes, it showcases the advantage of using small blocks and focusing on the fabric design. By eliminating clothing elements such as collars, buttons, ruffles, etc., and focusing on the fabric, it lends a vintage feel to the quilt.
These quilts are made with larger blocks, but the focus is still on fabric designs.
Consider the function of the blanket. Will it be thrown on the floor for baby to lay on? Thrown in the stroller for a walk outside? Thrown over the rocking chair in the nursery? Blankets can range in size from 2 to 4 feet square.
The following quilt was creating using my client’s son’s clothes and was a gift to him because he was expecting his first child. I cut 49 small squares to create this quilt which is about 42″ square. I had a few extra outfits that I made into a small, keepsake pillow
Even a 25 block blanket is a cute size – about 30″ square.
There are three blankets shown here. As you can see, the 36 block is close to the width of a twin bed, about 36″ square.
Other Design Ideas.
In the next example, my client had a bridesmaid’s dress that she wore at her friend’s wedding. That friend was now expecting a baby and she asked me to create a quilt that incorporated the bridesmaid’s dress. The solid lavender block is the dress material. I took the dress to the store and selected all the other fabrics to coordinate with the lavender, taking into account my client’s request to also incorporate yellow. Additionally, I used a blanket satin border which reminded me of the quilts that were made for my babies.
Another creative baby blanket that is perfect to give as a gift for a baby shower or when a baby is born is to use t shirts. I’ve made quite a few of these for my nieces and nephews and they are a lot of fun.
In this first example, I asked mom- and dad-to-be what they would like and they wanted to pick their favorite teams. From there, I purchased some licensed team fabrics and then some other solids and polka dot fabrics to coordinate and tie all the colors together.
In the next two examples I started with just a few shirts. From there, I built coordinating fabrics. I like to include fun prints that say “baby” to me – usually mini dots, solids, and tonals. The Kent blanket is backed in a polka dot minky fabric and I folded it over to create the border.
This is the classic 9 block t shirt quilt that incorporated items that you can read more about here. I always look for ways to unify the often disparate colors or add a bit of whimsy when possible. In this case, I used contrast blocks and I appliqued a bird that was inspired by their nursery bedding. I often refer to these as “daddy” quilts because it’s a great way to incorporate both mom’s and dad’s shirts into a unique gift. So, to my clients, I say be as creative as you like. I try to do the same!
A big question is what kind of backing to use. I mainly make quilt blankets which consist of a quilt top and a blanket backing. In the early days, cotton chenille was popular and, to me, it has a classic, vintage look.
Minky is very popular and it comes in all kinds of designs. If you want to explore all the colors and designs, you can do that here. Minky dot is a classic.
Many are choosing minky hide, which is a heavy fabric with varying density. You can see that grey is a popular color choice!
For the bridesmaid quilt, I used a minky dot in lavender and also added a layer of fleece as a batting to give it a bit more bulk.
Recently I have worked with organic cotton fleece. It’s similar to a sweatshirt fleece – a smooth knit on one side and a fuzzy fleece on the other side, which I put on the outside of the quilt. The natural color evokes a classic feel to the quilt.
This lovely blanket was created using receiving blankets that belonged to my client’s late brother. She asked for a lofty sherpa fleece.
Organic sweatshirt fleece or various kinds of polar fleece can also be used.
Although I don’t often make traditional quilts, it is possible, especially with the smaller block size and smaller number of blocks. In this case we selected a dainty print and a shiny lavender accent to be the binding.
I made a wall hanging using baby clothes as the leaves. The design was inspired by the mom and was echoed in the room decor for the growing child.
Various levels of accents can be added to the quilts. Some like a name embroidered. Others add hats or booties.
I hope that I have presented some options for you to consider when commissioning a baby clothes memory blanket, especially when giving it as a baby shower git.