5 Ways to Personalize a Baby Quilt

Maggie with her baby quilt
Baby quilts are a beautiful way to welcome a new soul into your community.  And truthfully there are lots of very cute, pre-made quilts to choose from.  Etsy is full of lovely handmade options, or you could find a super cute quilt from a big store like Pottery Barn Kids, or Land of Nod.  It will look great and might even be more cost effective than making your own.   So, I can see the draw.

Although the finished product is important when considering a baby quilt, it isn’t the only thing.  The energy and time that goes into the project is at least as important.  After all, if you’re giving a baby a quilt, you are hopefully giving the new baby an heirloom.  Something to use but also something to keep.  A well-made, well-cared for quilt could easily make it to the next generation.  It could be featured in baby pictures, or used for a play mat (or a cape, or a fort top, or a picnic blanket) when baby gets a bit older.  A quilt isn’t just to keep the baby warm, it's to be weaved into the fabric of the baby’s childhood.  Making a baby quilt for a new arrival is a labor of love, so giving a quilt that is as unique as its recipient is worth your time.  Here are some ideas for personalizing quilts:

Trip Around the World

  1. piecing —
There are thousands of different ideas for pieced quilts.  You can choose  something traditional, or go with a fast and easy modern pattern like a zig-zag quilt, choosing colors and fabrics to match your tastes.  You end up with a quilt that is handmade and fairly unique.  I made a “ trip around the world” quilt for one of my daughters to play with when she was two.  I wanted it to be colorful and have lots of energy.  I had a good time making it and I’ve always been happy with that quilt.

Sasha's Heart

I also like to experiment with pre-made patterns and then branch off to suit my personal tastes.  For example, I am currently making a quilt for my sister’s baby Sasha that started out as an experiment with a “broken dishes” block.  As I started playing with the block I realized I could change the designs in some interesting ways as I turned them.  Then I started to change the block assembly and ended up making a heart out of half square triangles.  I liked it and it reminded me of my sister and my feelings for her and her baby.  Then I started working on growing the quilt in a way that felt right for her.   

2.  pictures —
Froggy Quilt
There are lots of ways to include pictures in quilts.  You can transfer an actual photograph to fabric and incorporate them in that way, or you can illustrate quilts in other ways.  I like to appliqué pictures that I have drawn (or found) onto quilts.  I used Darcy Ashton's Aquatic Creatures to make my son's froggy quilt.  Paper piecing and embroidery are also really good ways to get an image onto a quilt.  I made a quilt for my sister-in-law Frankie in which I appliquéd family handprints onto the quilt.  I love this idea because it gives you such a tangible connection to important people in your life.  

Embroidered Poem on Sash's Quilt 
3.  words —
I referred to a book that I enjoyed in an earlier post called Quilt Talk, which includes a paper pieced alphabet for incorporating messages into quilts.  This is a great technique.  I also really like to embroider messages.  I used embroidery in the above mentioned sister-in-law quilt to write names under each handprint, which I felt was particularly effective.  I also chose a beautiful verse from a poem to embroider onto my niece Sasha’s quilt.  It sums up my feelings of love for her and the promise of childhood and I like the way it looks on the quilt top.  It has become a feature of her quilt. 

4.  quilting —
Quilting detail for Scarlet's quilt
The way a quilter chooses to quilt her quilt is a big deal.  It makes a huge statement about what the quilt means.  Was it machine quilted in an hour or two or was it hand quilted over a longer period of time.  (Beautiful machine quilting is a skill that should not be scoffed at.)  Messages or images can be stitched into the quilt.  I  have been hand quilting a bed quilt for one of my daughters for years now.  It is a straightforward log cabin, nothing exceptional about it, but the quilting is where I have chosen to personalize it.  It includes her initials, and some birds.  We are toying with the idea of adding an Emily Dickenson poem, “Hope is a thing with Feathers”.  I love this poem, and it is such a great message to send forward with a child.  I’ve also quilted handprints into my quilts, one of my favorite things to do.  Really, though, you are only limited by your imagination.  Looking at old heirloom quilts you can find grids, feathers, hearts and wreaths.  You can make your quilt specifically for its intended recipient by the choices you make in its quilting.  

Prairie points

5.  binding
Sometimes the binding on a quilt can be an afterthought.  But you still have plenty of choices to make when it comes to finishing your quilt.  What color will you choose?  Will you choose one fabric or make it scrapy.  Do you want it to blend into your quilt or frame it, or do you want to do something completely different, like add prairie points, or a scalloped border?  

These five things to consider here aren’t an exhaustive list.  Really it is only a beginning.  There are plenty of other choices that need to be made when creating a quilt.  Each quilter must make them as she moves through the process.  Her aesthetic and the recipient of her quilt will guide her as she works. 

Scarlet sleeping under her baby quilt

Each of the choices made along the way add up to a finished quilt, but they also add up to something that is completely personal and unique.  This is why a quilt from The Land of Nod will never be an heirloom.  The care, effort and attention to detail put into a quilt that has been made for a specific person is what makes a quilt an heirloom.  This is the value of a quilt.  And this is the process that separates your quilt from anything you could buy in the marketplace.