As May is themed as baby month I’d thought I’d talk about memory quilts. Those quilts made from the clothes and fabrics that remind us of past times; the babygrow that you brought them home from hospital in, the first funny t-shirt or the special outfit that Nanny bought. (Although in my case, she really wanted a granddaughter rather than the second boy I’d produced, so all I’ll say is – it was pretty!)

Unfortunately, although I’d saved my two’s baby clothes, we experienced a flood where they were stored so I never had the chance to use them. Then last year a work colleague asked me to make a memory quilt for her daughter, I was quite excited to have a go. Her daughter is older, not a baby, but the principles and tips are the same. She had a range of t-shirts from her infant and primary schools, sporting clubs and trips. They were all different sizes so the first thing to think about was the design and finished size. I was aiming for a single quilt size so I knew I’d need to add additional fabrics to make it large enough yet, by doing this, I had a few left over. Using those on the back was the obvious choice.

‘Teenage Dreams’, Helen Kent

I’d researched various different designs. Some people go for just using the clothes but I really liked the framed look. I also feel that it adds robustness to the quilt by adding a frame of cotton around the jersey to help support it. I added a shadow effect to make the designs stand out and I think it really worked.

So, how did I approach the whole thing? Plan out your design, I still use graph a paper a lot as I like sketching it out and playing with ideas and living with it awhile. I did rush mine and cut out the squares of t-shirt before working my final design which made it tricky. With hindsight I would have been better sticking to a regular block size but I’d committed to a variety. It was fine but did make it a little a little interesting getting them to fit!

Once you’ve cut the areas of clothing you want to use it’s advised to iron a lightweight interfacing to the rear to help stabilise the fabric. (Basically to stop it stretching.) I cut the shirts larger than I needed first, then ironed on the interfacing and once I’d decided on the actual sizing, I cut them down. Doing this is ensures there aren’t any edges that aren’t stabilised. To cut t-shirts or baby grows, the theory is the same, cut up the edge seams, chop off the sleeves and around the neckline. This will give you an open, flat area of fabric to use which can be chopped to size.

Rear of quilt

Another tip is to use half inch seams rather than the usual piecing seam allowance of a quarter inch. Again, this adds stability to the jersey. I also went for pressing seams open. You will find the seam allowances are thicker with the added interfacing so this aids with reducing bulk.

As to the main assembling and quilting, you can carry on as normal. I kept the quilting simple as the t-shirts are the stars of the show so walking foot quilting was enough to outline the blocks.

I had fun making this quilt and I am a little gutted that I didn’t learn to quilt sooner, in time to make my boys each one. But hey, I enjoyed it and the young lady loved it, which is the best result. Apparently it’s been on several scout camps and has captured her memories perfectly.

Quilt label