How to create a unique baby memory quilt
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Recently my daughter asked me to make my granddaughter (aka Princess, who is now a toddler) a memory quilt from a group of her first-year-of-life onesies and bibs. I was excited, honored and then suddenly nervous. I wanted it to be perfect, unique and special. After sorting through the onesies I realized there were many specific to each of the holidays, so I decided to make two quilts. One for her first holidays and one for all other onesies.
I set about searching for a design for the holiday onesies, and although there are hundreds of beautiful quilt examples for baby onesie memory quilts, I could not find one that really made me smile. I wanted something truly unique so I decided to design one of my own. Following is a guide to making your own truly unique baby memory quilt from onesies and bibs.
Quilt photos are done by DeLong Digital (aka DeLongArtDesigns on Etsy). I am so lucky she lives in a town just down the road from me, so I get to take advantage of her wonderful talent.
I call this a "guide" because there is no way to give a specific pattern (which is why this quilt is truly unique). The journey was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I do hope you enjoy your journey and I welcome any questions you may have concerning how to create your own unique quilt.
*Note: I am the owner of Fabricmoose.com and a number of the supply links go to my store website.
Onesies or bibs
Favorite Quilting rulers for measuring, cutting and squaring
Fusible interfacing and iron (Pellon 906F fusible sheerweight is my preference)
Fabric for background and several for using in each quilt square design (I used a lot from my scrap stash)
Thread to match fabrics
Note: When selecting fabrics, I tried to make sure they all "blended" well. For example, I made sure all the greens throughout the quilt coordinated and so on with all the colors so nothing would "clash" and stick out. I limited it to as few colors as possible so the quilt would not be too busy and distract from the onesies.
I began by counting and noting how many onesies I had for each holiday (For example: I had two for Valentines, two for St. Patricks, seven for Halloween and so on). I then started looking for patterns that could accommodate inserting the artwork from the onesies. Look for designs having a large section with no seams through it. You will most likely end up altering the pattern, so just look for designs that have larger areas and can be altered.
Here is an example of a pattern I used, but altered, to make a space for the onesie art. The first photo is the original pattern by Center Street Quilts on Etsy, the "Teething Bites" is the altered version used in the quilt.
Notice the seam through the middle of the original pumpkin pattern. I altered the pattern to not only make the design larger, but also to remove the seam.
To alter patterns, use gridded graph paper, decide what overall size you need the space for the onesie and work your way back from there. Below I will give additional instructions on how I did this along with more photos. For now, just decide what patterns you want to use.
Pattern designing and altering
Once you have found/purchased potential patterns, it is time to alter them to incorporate the onesie. Measure the art on the onesie and note the width and height of the design. The onesie pictured will need a space that is at least 5.5 inches wide by 4 inches tall to avoid cutting off any of the wording.
Next you will need to determine the maximum size the design could be. What this means is, in most cases, the seam for the sleeve will limit the width of the design. So measure the distance between the arm/shoulder seams and the the distance from the neckline seam to the top of the leg opening.
The largest area that could be cut from this onesie is 7.5" wide by 9.5" tall. Note: there were instances I needed, for design purposes, a smidge more space. You can use a seam ripper to carefully remove each sleeve, which will gain you about one-eighth of an inch in seam allowance on each side (trust me, sometimes this one-eighth of an inch is a lifesaver).
You will now need to redesign the pattern you chose, or draw your own original keeping the space for the onesie insert within the minimum and maximum sizes you have determined (don't forget about the one-quarter inch seam allowance).
Here are a few pictures of my redesign worksheets. On most of my worksheets I used a 1:1 scale (one square equals one inch), but you can use whatever scale works for you.
Credit for original quilt patterns used for altering: Ghost (Center Street Quilts), notice on the ghost I have incorporated the design for one with the "tail" on the left and one on the right. In the finished quilt I used both. I chose to applique the eyes and mouth on instead of piecing.
Cat on Broom (It's so Emma) the alterations in this pattern where mostly related to size and simplifying the pattern a bit to make space for the onesie inserts. The cauldron did not make it into the quilt.
Easter Bunny (Ellis and Higgs) on the bunny you will notice I pulled the tail to the outside of the body section to give more room inside, increased the body size and the head to keep things in proportion and then added an insert of pink into the ear to add a bit more color.
Bottle Rockets (Kelli Fannin Quilt Designs) this pattern just needed the size altered.
The XO and hearts are common free patterns found all over the place. The valentine hearts I designed, but I think there are very similar ones on the internet. Sorry for the X through the middle. I was not going to use the design, but in the end, I decided it would work.
Tom Turkey (Bee In My Bonnet) the major change to this was making the center body section one piece. Otherwise size and the feet were changed.
Acorn (Handmade Quilts N Goods) altered the size. Pumpkin and corn, I just drew myself.
The Christmas tree is my design. I decided against using individual blocks for each Christmas onesie/bib. I really wanted them to come together in one big design using the Santa hat as the crowning piece. You will notice a lot of scribbles; the design changed as I actually began building the large block. Things happen and changes are required; don't stress, just go with it and enjoy the fun.
Not all designs were pieced. The Easter egg was appliqued to a background piece. The grass was sewn on to the background with a decorative stitch and then the egg was hand-stitched to the background and grass.
Prepping and using onesies and bibs
Completely separate the front of the onesie from the back by either cutting along the side/arm/shoulder seams or using a seam ripper to part each seam. Onesies are most often made from a stretchy T-shirt type fabric and will need to be stabilized before cutting to size. My favorite stabilizer is Pellon 906F fusible sheerweight. After you separate the front of the onesie from the back, and before you cut anything to size, iron the fusible interfacing onto the backside of the area to be used per Pellon instructions.
NOTE: Use a pressing cloth to apply the interfacing (and throughout the entire project piecing and ironing); this will keep the "glue" from the interfacing from getting on your iron, and most importantly, it will keep your iron from melting the art when ironing the front of the onesie. If the art is not embroidered, it can most definitely melt, and you will be super sad when you accidentally touch the art and drag the melted design over to other areas of your onesie (yes, I learned this from experience).
I use a piece of interfacing that is big enough to cover the entire usable area of the onesie (not just the area needed for the block). I do this because often I will go back and use some of the "blank" unused fabric in other areas. One example of this is the Easter bunny's ear.
Once the interfacing is ironed in place, you can cut the block to the needed size and save the rest of the onesie in case you need it later. I never throw anything away until the entire project is finished.
Bibs will not always need the interfacing. Most of the bibs have a stiff waterproof lining attached, which is a perfect stabilizer, so once you separate the front from the back by removing the edge binding, if there is a stiff liner that stays with the front section, you are good to go. If there is not liner and the fabric is stretchy like on the onesies, apply a fusible interfacing before continuing. In the photo below, you can see the bottom right block has the white plastic lining and does not need stabilization. the other red blocks have ironed on interfacing applied as stabilizers.
You will also notice some seams are ironed open, while others are to one side. I normally recommend ironing to one side for the strength of the seam and the interlocking features, but in this quilt, I often found it best to do a combination of both to reduce bulk.
Make sure you take the time to square each block as you go (you will be so much happier with the end result).
Finishing and embellishment
My goal was a twin quilt, so I had a general idea from the beginning how the finished squares would go together and what the finished size would be. Prior to making the individual pieces, I drew an approximation of the finished quilt to make sure everything would fit inside the desired size. You will notice, in the end, I moved a lot of the pieces around and slightly adjusted some of the sizes.
Notice my lower section (Halloween and Christmas) is 4 inches wider than my upper sections ... oops! I had to adjust the "spacers" in the upper section to add the 4 inches to each row.
Embellishments and extra notes
Some of the onesies had embellishments I wanted to use in the quilt. For example, the white ghost onesie (Too Cute to Spook) had a silver sparkling tulle skirt. I decided to detach the skirt and use it as an overlay for the ghost so it would not blend in with the white background fabric.
The bows on the packages under the tree were also created from the ruffle on the reindeer onesie. They were added to the quilt after it was quilted. The "ribbon" on the package was made from the binding around the outer edge of one of the bibs.
"Baby's First Christmas" hat was used as the tree topper. To make it less bulky and to narrow it enough to fit the top of the tree, I trimmed a wedge shape out of the back before appliquéing it to the top of the tree.
The pom pom reindeer nose was removed and reattached after the quilting was finished.
The stars above the tree were hand-appliquéd to the background once the tree was completed and the hat added.
The "Lauren's first holidays" square was done by a local embroidery shop. Just make sure they are clear about the maximum size the text can fill. I put a square of painters tape around the border of the area the text needed to be within and also safety pinned the written measurements to the fabric piece just in case the tape was removed.
The quilting was done on my APQS Millie longarm quilting machine. I used a fun and festive design called "Say Cheese" by Anne Bright Designs.
The binding was a double fold binding sewn onto the front by machine and turned to the back and finished by hand.
This quilt label is one of my favorites!!! While prepping the onesies, I found one with a "drop seat" and just knew I had to somehow incorporate it into the quilt. After completing the quilt front design, I was disappointed to not have found a place for it, when it suddenly came to me I could use it as a quilt label. This was a functional drop seat, so I did stitch the inside opening closed. First I prepped the label and gave it an extra long tail at the bottom so I could slide it down into the drop seat opening and catch it in the seam securing the opening closed. You can see a slightly curved seam below the flap, this is where the inside flap stopped and I was able to catch it all in one seam. I then applied an interfacing to stabilize the piece before completing the sewing of the label inside the flap. I then attached the entire unit to the back, by hand, being careful not to let the stitching go through to the front of the quilt.
A few additional photos of the quilt and binding
Had to include the crown in some of the pictures for the "Princess."
I do wish I had put a spacer of background fabric between the X and the O. The hearts were on the onesie so I just did a bit of "fussy" cutting to get them properly placed on the X.
My original design had a stem on the four leaf clover, but in the end, it did not fit in the space.
Used fabric from the Little Miss Hip Hop onesie to complete the egg.
Ricrac was used to make the firecracker fuse and rocket streamers. The pinwheel block was created to fill and empty space.
At first it bothered me that the onesie in the broom was sideways, but then it occurred to me if the broom was set in its normal upright position, the onesie would be upright, it no longer bothered me!
Thank you for joining me on this journey. Please feel free to ask any questions. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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