Making a Swaddle Quilt

DIY, Home, Parent Life

One of my favorite aspects of newborn life was wrapping my son and daughter up in those super soft swaddle blankets. Made from muslin and printed with adorable images, they brought so much comfort to those early days. Each time I wrapped them up I remember thinking, ‘I would really love being wrapped up in this fabric, too – it’s so dreamy.’ As my kids grew I couldn’t stomach getting rid of their swaddles. Aside from the soft fabric, the memories of those early days were also in each and every one.

To be honest, the decision to make a quilt out of all their swaddles was a bit spur of the moment. I needed the closet space and didn’t want to part with them. The perfect solution – make a quilt!

The Process

Something to know about me and my quilting skills…I’m not a perfectionist. I’m more of a progress-over-perfection quilter which, for me, means just the right amount of planning and execution. I love love love working on my sewing machine and care for measuring, ironing, and pinning much less. I still do all of those things, but definitely don’t get as much joy out of them. I see quilting as a fun creative outlet verses a serious craft. That likely puts me in the minority among quilters, but that’s ok, I’m comfortable here.

Luckily, as I discovered, all of the swaddles we had collected were perfect squares of 44″ x 44″. This made planning out the quilt super simple. Not so lucky for me, swaddle fabric is very stretchy and super difficult to work with. They make amazing swaddles but can also be a nightmare when it comes to ironing, measuring, and cutting. Unsure of how to proceed, I called my quilting expert Aunt Jan. She confirmed the fabric would make this tricky and if I wanted to have perfectly cut and sewn squares I likely would be investing serious time on the front end to spray starch, iron, and measure each swaddle before cutting and sewing. I made the decision this quilt would be made with love and care, but wouldn’t be perfect. This approach isn’t for everyone but it worked for me!

I started by taking each of our nine swaddles and cutting them in half and then in half again. (Yes, I skipped the ironing and measuring.) This resulted in 36 equal(ish) squares, which would become the blocks of the quilt. I decided to make this quilt a perfect square with six blocks across (rows) and six blocks down (columns) so all 36 blocks would be used.

Next, I laid all the blocks out on our basement floor – the only place large enough in our home for a quilt to be spread completely out. With all the blocks laid out, I did my best to arrange them in a loose pattern with varying colors so the quilt felt balanced, though not a perfect pattern.

Now came time for pinning – one of my least favorite aspects of sewing BUT also one of the most important! Just about every time I approach my sewing machine I ask myself if I can skip the pinning part. Then I hear my grandma’s voice in my head, sigh, and get out my pins. I pinned together all the blocks from one column before taking the full strip over to my sewing machine. While my kids were less interested in me cutting squares and arranging blocks, they were super interested in the sewing machine. Veda helped me sew just about all of the blocks together. This quilt was made with love and contains all perfect imperfections I was hoping for.

Once all the columns were done, I joined them together strip by strip to form the top quilt. You’ll notice from the picture a few of the blocks have trim. We had two plain white swaddles with a decorative trim that I loved. I didn’t want to loose the trim in the quilt, so I sewed those blocks with the edges up so the trim would remain visible. It adds a nice dimension to the quilt.

Ok, with top quilt done I had some choices to make about what to do next. Option one: add a backing, finish it like a traditional quilt, and call it done. Option two: add a backing to strengthen the muslin top, then turn this into a duvet cover that could be stuffed with a fluffy comforter. After consulting the family, the consensus was to make this a fluffy duvet.

Time for a trip to Joann! While soft and scrumptious, the muslin top quilt was still very stretchy and a tad bit fragile. I was concerned the quilt wouldn’t stand up to the test of time OR use by two rambunctious kids. I found a slightly thicker and more sturdy white flannel for the backing. This gave the muslin some security and shape while still protecting the softness of the original swaddles. To make the duvet pocket, I selected a light gray jersey fabric that I knew my family would find super comfortable and snuggle-worthy. Yes, I know, jersey is another tricky fabric to use. But since this quilt is a standard square with no fuss I figured I could make it work.

Back in the basement it was super simple to add the backing. Honestly, the most time consuming aspects involved maneuvering the largeness of this now king-sized quilt. It’s heavy and massive and took some finesse to get it over to and through my sewing machine with pins around the edges.

Since this quilt was so large, the backing needed to be secured to the top with more than just edge sewing. Generally, quilters will sew patterns in the top to help secure the top quilt to the backing. Since I do not have the machinery necessary to do that on such a large quilt AND I wasn’t about to sew it all by hand, I decided to knot tie it with yarn. I used an embroidery needle to knot tie short pieces of yarn through the center of all 36 blocks.

To add the duvet pocket I duplicated the same maneuvering I did for the backing, but left one side open. This is how the quilt, or should I now say, ‘duvet-quilt’ currently stands. I haven’t finalized the pocket with buttons just yet because this thing is so big and heavy I’m not sure we want to add a king size comforter to the inside. Yes, it would be fluffy and amazing. But, where would I store this massive thing?!

The (almost) Finished Product

So, the duvet-quilt remains slightly unfinished. Do I close the pocket and keep this a quilt? Or do I add the buttons and make this an official duvet? What do you think?

Either way, we tested it out this weekend and it makes for the perfect nap blanket! Tucker the Pug agrees.

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