Thursday, February 14, 2008

How to Make a Quick Crib Quilt, Part II

OK, let's get back to the crib quilt.

So far, we've got it to the point where the design is finished, but we still have some work to do to get it to the point where it's a serviceable blanket.

Step Eight:

Add a Border. (Time: Maybe 20 minutes)

Borders aren't strictly necessary, and I often don't use them on my serious projects. Oftentimes, though, they frame and highlight your design to good effect. For a utility quilt, there's the added bonus that they add quite a bit of area to your piece with a minimum of effort.

You want to pick a fabric that is going to look good with your design, of course. Darks are usually, although not always, better than lights. Look for pieces that echo some of your design's more common colors; or, if your design is primarily in a single color but with traces of a second color, experiment with a boarder in that second color.

Audition border fabric by just setting it next to your finished design. If you are buying fabric for a border, take your finished design to the shop so you can be sure of getting a good match.

I hit the jackpot on this sample quilt, finding an old piece of discount fabric in my collection that was almost exactly the right size to work for both the border and binding (see below). It is a very dark blue, which works to frame and accent the checkerboard pattern of the main design. Although it makes the piece darker than usual for a baby quilt, the fact that it shows stars in a night sky make it appropriate for a night-night. The stars also echo other stars scattered through the main design, and really set off a crescent moon in the upper right.

I cut the border fabric to strips of uniform width (although you can use different widths for the top/bottom and left/right strips, too). In this case, I made the border strips the same width as the blocks in the main design, to keep a harmonious visual look. I cut two of the strips to the design's height, and sewed them onto the design's left and right. Then, I cut the top and bottom strips to the quilt's new width, and sewed those on as well.

The top is finished!

Step Nine:

Backing (Time: 5 - 30 minutes)

It's possible to have a pieced design on both sides of a quilt, but most commonly you just put a single piece of fabric on the back. I like to use flannel for blanket backs, as it is a very warm and gentle fabric, and feels good against the skin, but regular cottons are fine too.

As with border fabrics, you'll want to pick something that looks fairly reasonable with your quilt top, and if you are spending money, it's a good idea to audition your backing before you buy.

For the current project, I once more go with materials at hand and choose an old fitted flannel sheet that I found somewhere. Its jaunty stripiness is an antidote to the darkness of the border fabric, and the fact that it is a used fabric, although is will likely decrease the lifespan of my finished product, will also make it soft and cozy right out of the box.

Cut the backing so that the quilt top can sit on top of it with at least an inch or two of margin on all four sides.

Step Ten:

Batting (Time: 5 - 20 minutes)

The easiest thing is to run out and buy yourself some crib quilt batting.

Once you've quilted for a while, though, you'll notice that you end up with a lot of long, thin strips of batting scraps left over from your larger projects. To save cash and resources, I'll occasionally assemble these scraps into a piece of batting large enough to work for a crib quilt by simply holding two pieces of batting next to each other and running them through the sewing machine with the needle set on a wide zig-zag. The resulting seam is surprisingly strong, and only really needs to last until you quilt the piece anyway. The only trouble I've ever run into with this was the time I used bright red thread for the zigzag stitch, which was then very visible through the thin, light fabrics on my quilt's face. Oops. Lesson learned: Use white thread for tacking batting.

For this projects, I tacked together two scraps left over when I cut the batting for Labyrinth. Cut your batting to about the same size you cut the quilt back.

Step Eleven:

Laying Out (45 minutes)

What I call "laying out a quilt" is getting the top, batting, and back into position relative to each other, ready to quilt. It's surprising how many different ways there are to do this. I'll just tell you how ~I~ do it.

I lay quilts out on our bedroom floor, which has a nice, tight, low-loft carpet. For bigger pieces, I have to adjust the furniture, but not for a little guy like this one. First, I take the backing piece and spread it out, good side down, on the floor. With some heavy duty pins, I fasten it to the carpet, stretching it just a little bit in t the process so that it is pinned out taut.

Then, I lay the batting on top of the backing, and spend some time smoothing it out so it lies naturally and evenly, with no folds creases. If it is new batting and having a hard time "relaxing," you can hold an iron a few centimeters from it and give it a good blast of steam.

Next, the quilt top goes on top of the pile, good side up. Because you gave the backing and batting a few inches of margin, you should be able to center the top now so there is an inch or more of margin on all four sides. Like you did with the batting, except more so, spend a lot of time smoothing the top out until it sits very evenly on the batting and backing.

Finally, fasten the three layers together with safety pins. What? You don't have safety pins? Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier: you'll need a lot of safety pins. Start in the center and work your way out to the edges, making sure the quilt is keeping its unskewed, rectangular shape.

Warning: the first time you do this, you will probably end up fastening your quilt to your carpet. As you practice, you'll go through a stage where the quilt comes up easily enough, but with an interesting velcro sound as 100 pins pull free of where they were just slightly embedded in the carpet. Eventually, you'll figure out how to put in the safety pins so that your quilt pulls up completely smooth. It's all in the wrist.

Your crib quilt is almost finished! You can even kind of use it at this stage! But you shouldn't.

We'll finish it next time in "How to Make a Quick Crib Quilt, Part III: The Final Chapter"


The Calico Cat said...

On borders:

I am really likeing wide borders - they seem to emphasize the body.

Amother option is pieced borders - somthing I "never" do.

jovaliquilts said...

The first quilt I made was a crib quilt for a newborn niece when I was 18 years old. It wouldn't have come apart the first time it was washed if I had had your tutorial! It was 30 years before I tried again.

Sherri said...

Hi Micheal, I love your take on fabric qualities and their uses. I totally agree. I have "tagged" you. If you're interested in playing along, please visit my quilting blog for the rules.

Jennifer said...

Dude! I think that dark star fabric is the same one that I used as the sashing and backing for my very first quilt ever (baby quilt for my baby). The nighttime motif was what I was going for as well. In fact, that same moon appears in my quilt too. . . hey, I think I just figured out why! :-)