This past weekend I decided on the spur of the moment to make a quilt for my great-niece who is having her first birthday in a few days. The time available for this project was quite limited…the entire quilt needed to be designed, made, quilted, and bound somewhere between a Friday evening and a Sunday morning. With a need for speed, my thoughts turned first to fabric panel prints.
Panels are a nice place to start when you’re in a hurry to make a quilt. I have a few panels in my stash, mostly taken from sample header cards…hence the missing chunk in the panel I selected for this quilt! That’s where the fabric was riveted to the cardboard card identifying the maker, SKU, etc.
I’ve been making quilts since the 1980s so my automatic frame of reference when designing a quilt is generally pretty traditional. I looked at the panel, measured it, tried to figure out what size blocks I could surround it with. If I used 5″ blocks, I’d have to cut the panel down quite a bit to make the math work, so then I’d also need extra borders to get the size I wanted. I sketched 3 or 4 traditional pieced designs with blocks of different sizes and arrangements and didn’t like anything I came up with.
Then it occurred to me…why not do something slightly more modern? After all, the print itself had a modern feel and with so little time, making 30 or even 12 blocks seemed like a recipe for disaster.
In the end I decided to treat the panel like the center of a one-sided Log Cabin Block. I added pieced strips to the left side, the top, and the left side again and ended up with a 36″ x 45″ quilt, perfect for a one-year-old princess:
Total time spent figuring out a design and piecing the quilt top…2 1/2 hours. That’s where I called it a day on Friday.
Of course, I tossed and turned part of the night, figuring out how to machine quilt it I knew I wanted to stitch in the ditch along the pieced strips, to stabilize the whole thing. I also wanted to outline quilt the bunny and his little star on a string and the pink rectangle. After that, I decided to use star, heart, and flower motifs as the basis for some free-motion quilting. When I do this, I like to cut shapes from freezer paper, press and pin them to the quilt top, and use them as a guide, adding looping lines to connect the motifs as I go. I don’t like to mark quilting lines directly on a quilt…too many bad past experiences! And completely random free-motion quilting is hard for me to keep consistent and even.
So I quilted stars and flowers around the bunny, and a row of flowers on the pink pieced strip, hearts on the red pieced strip, and stars on the black/gray pieced strip. Done! I decided to do an all-machine-stitched flanged binding to complete the quilt quickly:
Elapsed time to layer, baste, quilt, trim, and bind…6 hours. That’s a grand total of 8 1/2 hours from idea to quilt. It would have taken MUCH longer if I’d had to design something to fill that panel area and appliqué a bunny or lots of bunnies!
So, yay for panels, and for thinking in a slightly modern way about quilt design. I’m hoping to approach more projects this way in the future. And I hope to keep on personalizing baby quilts right through at least another generation.
Get more tips for customizing baby quilts here!