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It's Hip to be Square, Baby: A Simple Quilt Tutorial

I think I've established already my love for making baby quilts for friends, family, neighbors, and/or coworkers. Making a baby quilt for a new baby is the best of about 1,237 worlds: I get to pick out and coordinate colors and patterns! I get to work with flannel! I get to feel involved with a new baby! (I'm not going to have to get up in the middle of the night with said new baby!) I get to let someone I love know that I love them and am so happy for their new arrival!

But sometimes, no matter how much I love making time-consuming quilts, sometimes I need to make something quick and simple. Not, of course, out of lack of love for the baby who will be wrapped in said quick-and-simple quilt. But just for lack of time.

(Dare I confess that I have twice made a quilt like this on the day of the baby shower? And once even brought it to the shower still warm from the dryer? Sometimes procrastination gets the best of me.)

Today I'm sharing a tutorial for a quick and simple baby quilt that has just enough detail to make it feel not quite so quick. I think of it as my Hip to be Square quilt (and then I curse myself for getting that stupid Huey Lewis and the News song stuck in my head). Here's what it looks like all finished:

Htbs quilt finished


And an alternate, less visually appealling shot (quilts are hard to photograph well I've decided!)
Htbs quilt finished 02

And folded (there is something in me that loves a folded baby quilt)Htbs quilt folded

And an attempt at a detail shot of the quilting, this one of the back:
Htbs quilt back

I made this for Kaleb's teacher, who just adopted a baby. Kaleb picked out all the fabric, which I thought was sweet (although I confess: I tried my hardest to dissuade him from the red quilt back, but alas, he would not be dissuaded). From starting the quilt to throwing it in the washer it took me two hours and 15 minutes to complete; that also included hunting down my iron which "someone" had moved, cleaning my machine, and finding my box of new needles to replace the one that was on there, which was so dull from sewing chipboard onto a scrapbook layout that it was useless. In other words: it's really a fast quilt!

To make your own Hip to be Square quilt you need:

  • 1 1-1/4 yard square of flannel for the quilt TOP (a chance to indulge yourself in whatever sweet baby print appeals to you)
  • 1 1-1/4 yard square of flannel for the quilt BATTING (this should be a color flannel in a color that both adds contrast and also goes with the pattern or print of the quilt top; white or cream are almost always good choices for the batting, but don't be afraid to use a color, either!)
  • 1 1-1/4 yard square of flannel for the quilt BACK (this can either be a solid or a print that goes with, somehow, the quilt top)
  • thread that matches both the front and the back (meaning: you might need two colors of thread)
  • a marking pen or pencil
  • a tape measure or quilting ruler
  • a sewing machine with a regular (NOT 1/4") foot or a walking foot (walking foot is best)

Once you've brought your happy new purchase home from the fabric store, follow these steps to make your own Hip to be Square quilt:

  1. Iron the fabric. I confess: I HATE this step. The iron and I are not friends. But ironing is absolutely necessary. Try to get the main creases out. Don't put your iron away yet!
  2. Make the quilt sandwich*. Spread the quilt BACK on a smooth surface with the right side of the fabric facing down; smooth out any wrinkles. Spread the batting piece on top of the quilt back, smoothing the wrinkles out again. Now spread the quilt TOP right on top of the batting piece, again smoothing out the wrinkles. When you smooth wrinkles, work from the middle out. Make sure none of the pieces have any puckers.
  3. Square it up. This is the trickiest part for me because I don't own a cutting mat or ruler that is 45" long. And because I am challenged in the cutting-of-straight-lines department. This is one reason I love working with flannel: it's forgiving. And because you're going to be ragging the edge, if your quilt isn't perfectly square it won't be obvious. OK then, to square it up: fold the quilt sandwich in half. Align the folded edge with a straight line on your cutting mat, then trim the short edge; repeat for the other short edge. Unfold, smooth, and fold in half the other direction; trim each short edge.
  4. Iron again. This is an important ironing because it's your last chance to get out any potential puckers. Work from the middle of the quilt outward.
  5. Frame square A. I start with a 4" template. (Please note: in this case, my "template" is a 4" square cut from a drawing my son made of a catapult. In other words, it's just a square scrap of paper.) Using your tape measure and/or quilting ruler, center this square so it's as close to the middle of your quilt as you can manage. Pin the square right in the middle.Htbs quilt no1 square A
    (this quilt really is square. I just can't get far enough away from the entire thing to show its squareness in a photograph.)
  6. Quilt the first square of square A. Line up the left edge of your machine's foot against the paper square. Now, quilt an entire square around the paper square, using that left edge of your foot as a guide. Htbs quilt no2 square A no1
    When you get to the corner, leave your needle in the down position (so that it's poked into your fabric). Lift the foot and pivot the fabric 1/4 turn. Put the foot back down, then start sewing again. When you meet back up at the spot where you started, take a couple of back stitches to secure the thread, but don't cut the thread! Remove the paper template if its presence is making you crazy.
  7. Quilt the second square of square A. (This will eventually make sense I promise!)  Raise your needle and lift up the foot. Scoot the quilt forward and back a little bit so that the (still-attached) threads aren't too tight. Now, position the quilt so that the left edge of the foot is lined up with the row of stitching you just completed. Using the first square as a guide, sew the second square. Htbs quilt no3 square A no2
    (This is called echo quilting.)
  8. Quilt the third square of square A. Repeat exactly what you did in step 7, except this time you'll be sewing a third square using the second square as a guide.Htbs quilt no4 finished square A
     When you are finished, trim all of the threads—you'll have three on the front and three on the back to cut. Take the quilt out from the machine and spread it out on the floor or table, smoothing any wrinkles from the middle out.
  9. Frame square B. For this step, you'll be making a second, larger square that you'll alsoecho quilt. Find something square that is 12"-15". (A 12x12 piece of cardstock will work perfectly!) I'm using the 15" square cutting ruler I happen to own just because I happen to own it. Again, using your ruler and/or measuring tape, center the square in the middle of your quilt. If you're using paper, pin it down. If you're using a cutting ruler or a piece of thick cardboard or something else you can't pin, use a marking pen or pencil to outline the square. Htbs quilt no5 square B
    Here I used a marking pencil and the line is pretty light. That's why I usually use a marking pen, but mine had wandered off. If you marked your square, make sure to also smooth and pin before moving on. (If you used paper you've already, obviously, pinned!)
  10. Quilt square B. Do the same thing you did for steps 6-8, except when you quilt the first square of square B, stitch along the line you drew in step nine or right next to the edge of the paper.
  11. Frame square C.This is the largest square you'll echo quilt. Use whatever you used to frame square B, except instead of centering it on your quilt, you're going to put one corner of the template in the quilt's center. Mark the top and left lines, then flip the template down to the bottom left quadrant.Htbs quilt no6 square C start
     Mark the left and bottom line; repeat until you've drawn a square. I found my marking pen (it was with my scrapbooking markers instead of my sewing supplies! ooops!), which makes a much clearer line that the marking pencil, so I used it here.
  12. Quilt square C. Do exactly what you did in step 10, except (obviously!) use the large square as the first guideline.
  13. Bind the edge. Smooth your quilt out on the floor or table one more time. You might have to trim the edge a little bit, especially if the quilt back is smaller than the quilt front. Pin. Take the (almost finished!) quilt back to your machine and quilt along the outermost edge using a 5/8" seam allowance.Htbs quilt no7 bound
  14. Snip the edge. This is how you create the ragged edge. Use a pair of sharp fabric scissors with a short blade if you have one. (I use these for snipping the edges of all my rag quilts.) Cut a fringe all the way around the edge of the quilt, making sure to not actually cut into the row of stitching. I cut my strips about 1/4" wide, but they don't have to be exact.Htbs quilt no8 snipped edge
  15. Rag the quilt. (Make sure to remove any last pins before this step! Just take my word for it, a pin or two in your washing machine is so totally not good for your washing machine's tubes. Long story...) Once the four edges are snipped, toss the quilt into the washing machine. I don't usually run an entire wash cycle, just a rinse and spin; the purpose is to get the quilt wet and to rinse out the markings. Very Important Note #1!!!!! If your quilt has any red fabric, use a Shout color catcher. Trust me...even really expensive red flannels will bleed. The color catcher does a great job at catching the extra red dye so it can't redeposit itself somewhere you don't want it to. Then put it in the dryer. Very Important Note #2!!!!! Since the dryer is sort-of shredding the edges of your quilt, a long of thready bits are going to work their way into your lint screen. Along with a lot of lint because, well, it's flannel. There are urban legends of dryers catching fire from drying rag quilts, and while this has never happened to me or to anyone I know or to anyone anyone I know knows, to prevent your own possible urban-legend dryer fire, clean your lint screen two or three times while the quilt is drying. Very Important Note #3!!!!! Most moms of new babies are going to wash this quilt again before they let their baby use it, but I still don't use any fabric softeners. I do use a dryer sheet, but the kind without any fragrance. Just in case!

That's it! Once it's dry shake off the loose bits of ragged edges, fold it, and toss it in a gift bag, and voila: the fastest baby quilt that's still totally cute is now the gift you're giving to that totally cute new baby.

Make sure to link me up if you make one of these!

*My husband heard me use the term "quilt sandwich" once and has teased me about it ever since. Husbandly teasing aside, however, it is a real quilting term. It just means all of the quilt's layers...sandwiched together!

Comments

Becky K

I love your quilt sandwich! This is a very cute cute quilt, and I should make one soon! I have a friend who adopted a baby last week...I'm dying to make her a blanket. Maybe I'll do this one! (I'm currently stuck on the mitred corner quilts - they are my go to fast baby quilt.)

And: I hate the ironing and squaring part, too. Ugh. Those parts take WAY longer than the actual sewing!

Wendy

That is SOOOOOO cute!

Andrea b

I know I adore the quilt you made for us. It's beautiful. And she loves how snuggley it is. Thank you so much for putting your time effort and live onto something for us. Especially something even with your great instructions I couldn't make for myself. I have your thank you note at my house I just haven't made it around to deliver any yet , sorry.

Margot/NZ

So very cute, belies how easy it is to make! Next time I need a baby gift in a hurry I will try to remember this (Pintrest pin coming up!).
Thanks for sharing (and BTW, I totally love the red back).

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