I don’t know whether it’s something in the air, but babies are springing up all over the place at the moment. I know I have indulged myself in a little gloomy introspection over this in recent weeks, but, fortunately for you, dear reader, this isn’t going to be that sort of post. Coming into the world as they do unburdened with any sort of knitted, quilted or otherwise stitched paraphernalia, I tend to feel that the most important thing to do for a new baby is to make it something warm and snuggly as soon as possible. Usually I err on the side of knitting: little hats and cardigans are always practical, and tend to fit the recipient for at least a wear or two before they are outgrown. Two of my friends being due to give birth last month, more baby gifts loomed on the horizon. This time around, though, I fancied a change. Besides which, there’s a distinct gender divide in knitting patterns for babies: even if one eschews the tyranny of pink vs blue, which I tend to do anyway, there’s unquestionably more choice in terms of pattern for girls’ knits. I didn’t know the sex of either baby, and, despite my long-standing reverence for Elizabeth Zimmerman, simply couldn’t face another Baby Surprise Jacket. Prompted by my desire to fail better at quilting, and with my interest piqued by an unhealthy addiction to Pinterest, I decided to make quilts for both of them.
How hard could it be?
I realise I look as if I am setting myself up for a fall here, but, although the quilts weren’t exactly masterpieces of the quilter’s art, and, indeed, are only quilted in the most minimal sense (I stitched in the ditch around each square as I don’t yet have a quilting foot for my machine), I was rather pleased with what I achieved. Here are the finished objects, reposing on the floor of the sewing room (please excuse the foreshortening, but it’s surprisingly hard to take a photograph of a flat quilt):
Not the best photos, I know, but they should give you a general idea of the end result. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take any outdoor shots as the babies both arrived before I had time; I was still applying the binding to Daphne’s quilt the morning she was born.
I used a mixture of new and stash fabrics, taking as my starting point two fat quarters of alphabet and number-print fabric, which I had bought on a whim from Spoonflower some time ago, because they were just so fabulous. They are from Pennycandy’s “Woodtype Alphabet – Primary” collection, and, while I suspect an understanding of upper and lower case letters might be a bit of a big ask for a tiny baby, I absolutely love the designs. The solid blue fabric is an Ikea cotton (I think it might be Ditte in the bright blue colourway) which I used to make myself a skirt from Simplicity 2215 last summer.¹ I also had enough of the black and white polka-dot cotton which I bought to bind the cashmere quilt left over to cut several large blocks, as well as the binding for Laurie’s quilt and the four small corner blocks for Daphne’s quilt. With these fabrics in hand, I decided to stick with the theme of primary colours and high contrast, reasoning that these were not only cheerful, baby-friendly options, but also about as gender-neutral as it is possible to get. I hit City Road and picked up quarter metres of some solid colours and spots in the same shades: I stuck mainly to polka-dots as I wanted something simple and crisp without the hassle entailed in cutting striped fabrics, but I had fun playing with pattern and colour combinations: blue with black spots, yellow with white spots, white with multi-sized red spots… I used some plain white cotton for the sashing, hoping to keep the overall effect from being too frenetic. To finish Daphne’s quilt, I used some bias binding in cheery, seaside-y stripes which I bought ages ago in MacCulloch and Wallis. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be in stock any more, but they do have some gorgeous floral bindings, so go and have a look if you taste in edges runs to the neatly-finished. I didn’t add wadding to the quilts (bearing in mind that babies not only overheat easily but also are sick a lot, I wanted to keep the blankets lightweight and easily washable), but I backed them with plain cream coloured fleece. This came from Ikea: where else? It turns out that one Polarvide throw, cut in half and trimmed slightly, is almost exactly the right size for a baby quilt. It’s a steal at £3.00, and, more importantly, it can be machine-washed at 40C.
I didn’t set out with a clear plan: I just cut as many 13cm squares from the woodblock fabrics and the Ditte cotton (of which I had very little) as I possibly could, then cut a vaguely similar number of squares from the rest of the fabric and played about. Serendipitously, I ended up with almost exactly the right amount of squares to make two 5×7 blocks, giving a central area of about 60cm by 74cm. I initially planned to make the sashing the same width, but this ended up looking a bit over-the-top, and also took me perilously close to the edges of my cut fleece, so I trimmed about half the width of the border away and was much happier with the result. I did some simple stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on each blanket before trimming and binding them; I rather like the fact that, while the central panels are identical, the borders and corner pieces are complementary but subtly different. After all, both babies live in Cardiff, and you’d hate to be seen under the exact same quit as someone else, wouldn’t you?
As usual, my personal finished-object tester had to get a piece of the action:
He was terribly attached to both quilts, and was rather reluctant to see them packed up and sent off. I suspect I’m going to find myself making a train, car and wheel-themed bedspread sometime very soon!