Memory Quilt

Seeing as my little boy turns 4 today (!), I thought it would be the perfect occasion to share the memory quilt I made him as this week’s DIY. Okay, so this is technically not one you can make in a weekend as it involved several years of collecting old baby and toddler clothes, but you could make a similar quilt just with normal fabric (unless you still have old baby clothes stashed away somewhere). What you will need:

  • fabric scraps (e.g. old baby clothes, college T-shirts, or just whatever fabric you have to hand)
  • a large piece of plain fabric for the backing
  • some fleece lining for the middle

I made my quilt squares 15cm plus seam allowance, as that was the biggest I could get out of baby clothes, with the quilt being 8 rows wide and 12/13 rows long. If you are using larger pieces of fabric, you can of course make larger squares and adjust the number of rows accordingly.

Step 1: Cut out enough squares and arrange them on the floor in the order you would like them (sorry, no photo of this step). Although the quilt was to be 12 rows long, I needed 13 rows – you will see why in a moment.

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Step 2: Gather your rows in to piles and number them – unless you don’t care in which order the squares go, in which case you can just make equal piles. You will be sewing the squares together length wise first, so you want to gather them ‘down the way’, if that makes sense. So, in my case, I made 8 piles each with 13 squares.

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Confession time – I used a sewing machine to make the quilt. Considering a hand sewn quilt I started when I was 18 is still not finished, I thought this would be a safer bet. However, I’m not super talented at using a sewing machine, so there was no chance I would ever get all the squares even. How to avoid it looking all wonky? Here’s the trick I used, and why I needed 13 squares for 12 rows.

Step 3: Sew your squares together lengthwise in to however many rows your quilt will be wide. So, in my case, 8 long strips of 13 squares each. At this stage, since you’re just sewing long strips, nothing needs to align. Phew.

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Step 4: Now sew the long strips together – but instead of sewing side by side, trying to get them aligned and failing, sew them together offset against each other by half a square, alternating in either direction. Then trim the squares that are too long at either end. I hope the picture above helps to explain what I mean.

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Step 4: Sew the fleece lining on to the back of the patchwork (cut it to be slightly bigger than needed in case things slip a little, you can always trim it later). For this, I sewed down the lengthwise seams (you can’t sew across, since the squares don’t align that way – see previous step). This helps keep the layers in place. I started with the seam in the middle, and worked my way out from there.

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Once you’re done, the back should look like this (see photo above), with seams running down lengthwise through both layers.

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Step 5: Sew your backing material on to the quilt. When you cut it, give it a seam allowance of at least 5cm on all sides. You can always trim it later, so better to make it big instead of too small. I decided not to sew along the lengthwise seams through all three layers again, but instead to just sew the backing to the other two layers along the edge, as shown in the photo above. I started with one of the long sides, and discovered that by the time I got to the other end, the material had all bunched up, so then I had to unpick it all. Sewing the too short sides first to stretch out the fabric and keep it in place, then sewing the long sides, worked much better!

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Step 6: The final step involved watching a good movie (or two, depending how fast you are at sewing by hand) – I really didn’t want to mess things up with the sewing machine at the final hurdle, so I decided to do this last bit by hand. basically, you fold over the extra material (seam allowance) twice, over on to the front of the quilt and stitch in place, thus covering up all the stitches from sewing the layers together and making it look neat. The corners were a bit tricky. I’m not really sure how to explain how I folded them, I hope this photo helps:

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And that’s the quilt! Initially, it was going to be a birthday present for the boy, but in the end it was part of the mini-makeover we gave his room, following almost 7 weeks of it being a building site after water damage from the flat above. He was so patient during that time, we figured he deserved a little treat so added a few surprises when putting the room back together. He absolutely loved the quilt! Apparently, every single square is his favourite :)

Don’t forget to check back next week for more DIY gift ideas!

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