Have you ever had someone ask you to make something that made you feel honored, creatively challenged, and a little bit terrified all at the same time? That is pretty much where I was at when my part of this story began. Four years ago, a dear childhood friend’s life changed when her sweet baby boy made his arrival much earlier than anticipated. His road has been a bumpy one but he is a thriving healthy 4 year old boy today. Everyone who knows Ian is so grateful to see him healthy and strong. She shares details of his medical journey here:
Katie is a fierce advocate for her son and the most organized person I have ever known. The information she has compiled here is a helpful resource for other families going through similar challenges.
When she asked me to take his premie clothes and make a quilt, I had quite a mix of emotions. I was grateful that Katie could give me a lot of direction to start. She liked the rag style quilts she had seen, knew she wanted blue or brown for any added fabrics, and told me to not avoid the stains on the clothes. Those stains are just part of the story. I also felt blessed that she encouraged me to be creative and surprise her with the results. Her confidence in me got me past the terrifying idea that I was cutting up their precious memories, and made me realize that this was a fantastic chance to make something beautiful, comforting, and lasting. If you just want to see what I ended up with, scroll on down to the bottom. I don’t mind! This is going to be a long post. But I do want to record how I got there, just for me and because I couldn’t find much information specifically about premie quilts and I know there are other people out there trying to figure this out.
Getting started I researched rag quilts. The tutorial at The Cottage Mama was a great place to start. I also got inspriration from this tutorial at Mominizer. The idea she shares for using small squares to make the larger squares was instrumental in the success of my design. I tested it with some fabric scraps and my baby boy ended up with a quilt to snuggle his stuffed animals in.
After measuring some of the clothes she sent, I decided to go with a 6 inch finished square. Here you can see evidence of my figuring:
This meant cutting 7 inch squares out of clothes and I can tell you that many premie clothes are too small for that. So I also cut 4 inch squares and 4 by 7 rectangles.
Here you can see a typical pair of pants with the 4 inch template. It wasn’t going to fit. By deconstructing the pants, I was able to pull a 4 inch square from each leg.
For pants with a cute little detail on the butt, I opened the waist band to squeak out the 4 inches.
Those teeny tiny onesies came apart a little more easily and it felt like a win that the scrap left over was so small.
Long sleeves could be opened and a 4 inch square squeezed out. I ended up with lots of the little mitten sleeves included in the final quilt.
Thankfully there were plenty of clothes and I had asked Katie to send some extra blankets and bedding. I figured filling in with other special fabrics would be better than impersonal quilt shop fabric. It is amazing how many squares you can cut out of one of those swaddle sacks with the wings that velcro around the baby. When I was done petting all of those itty bitty clothes and it was all cut, I had this:
Next I had to make sure that any snaps and zippers would not be pulled open by a curious preschooler. I have my own 4 year old and I know how they think. All of the snaps and zippers were securely sewn closed.
And I sat down at my machine with this view.
I sewed the 4 inch squares in pairs and then each pair was sewn to a 4 by 7 rectangle. I had a few more rectangles and those were paired together. I tried to do this as randomly as I could while not putting two from the same garment together.
Next I tackled my pile of little details that were too cute to leave off but to small or to close to the edge of something to cut into a rectangle.
These were raw edge appliqued on to some of the simple 7 inch blocks.
I cut 7 inch squares of Cotton Candy blue Kona for the backing and 6 inch squares of batting.
After this, it was like any rag quilt. I made the small quilt sandwiches and quilted each with an X. I did notice that sometimes my machine would pull the leading corner into the throat plate. It helped to chain feed them one after another and when I was starting fresh, I would sew on a small piece of woven fabric and then chain on the square. The 7 inch squares were pieced together randomly into larger sections. It was strange to be sewing wrong sides together but I concentrated and didn’t have to use a seam ripper once (on that part at least!). The sections looked like this.
After this I did lay out each section to make sure fabrics were distributed well and there were no odd groupings to draw the eye. However when the whole thing was pieced, the real work was just beginning. Do not underestimate the time and effort clipping the edges will take. I had to take several days off between clipping sessions or my hands would ache. Finally, the clipping was done.
Then I washed it and dried it to get the fabrics started fraying. There was a lot of lint! This was my lint trap half way through the cycle:
My machine also needed a good cleaning to get all that lint out!
Finally, this baby was done. Here is my finished picture.
But the best pictures came from Katie when Ian opened the package. His smile lights up a room! So glad I could play a small part in this big story.
Thanks for reading along on this long long post and if you are ever tackling a project like this and want to talk it over, please email me. I would love to help you figure it out.