Animal Alphabet Baby Quilt
Designing the baby quilt
When I found out that my brother and Sarah were having a baby and that I’d be an auntie, I knew that this baby would need a quilt. This is only the second time I’ve ever made a quilt to a deadline, and I knew that I had around six months to complete it. The quilt I envisioned was colourful, educational and fun. I figured I’d help the baby learn its ABCs. That would be useful because it could learn to read stuff. And reading is fun. I love reading. And the baby will share around a quarter of my genes, so maybe the baby will love reading too.
We nicknamed the baby Merv, after Mervin Tran the Japanese Ice Skater.
Now, I knew that there are 26 letters in the alphabet (I’m clever) and therefore knew that this would be an epic project. Then the proportions of the epicness grew considerably when I had the crazy idea to quilt an animal for every letter of the alphabet. I love foundation quilting and this would be a truly unique quilt.
Finding the alphabet and animal quilting patterns
Seeing as fabric is super expensive, I went on the search for free foundation pieced patterns on t’internet and gathered a list. I then assigned an animal for every letter of the alphabet. I was trying to figure out how do the letters for ages, deep down I wanted to quilt them also, but I knew that it would take a lot of time – 52 blocks in 6 months, that’s 2 a week! Plus, I’d have to leave time for assembling the quilt and for any quilting through the layers that I wanted to do.
Then on one of my frequent adventures around the world wide web I somehow stumbled upon a forum where someone called Dori Hawks had posted paper pieced patterns for every letter of the alphabet drawn last millennium (in 1999). Jackpot! (NB: I found that the patterns aren’t all square – so this is worth noting if you use them).
For the animals, I collected tons of free patchwork animal patterns and adjusted them until I had a full alphabet of animals. The limits of the alphabet forces me to think creatively, and so, a horn was added to the horse pattern and hey presto a unicorn.
Thanks for everyone who continues to design fantastic paper pieced patterns and shares them – I couldn’t have made this quilt without you!
After doing the first few animals, I knew that I would have to get some more fabric. I think that plain colours are the way to go for foundation piecing, and after a lot of searching and comparing I bought the Hurricane fabric pack from backstitch.co.uk. I’ve got loads of colours left, and the fabric is quite rigid, so easy to work with on paper pieced patterns.
Patchwork animals and the patchwork alphabet
I quilted each of my patchwork animals with as realistic colours as possible, and quilted the patchwork alphabet with as colourful fabric as possible. Doing the patchwork took the most time but I really enjoyed seeing each individual block when I’d finished them.
Adding sashing and cornerstones
I decided to add black sashing with white cornerstones. This would have been so much easier if I’d have had my rotary cutter and quilting ruler back then, but I’d nearly finished the quilt when I got them. I added a side and a top to each of my patches, and extra ones to the blocks at the edges. Then I sewed each the blocks in lines of five, and finally sewed each line together to form my quilt top.
Buying more supplies
I got two packs of safety-pins from John Lewis to pin the layers of the quilt sandwich together. And three packs of black, 2 inch bias tape for the binding.
As for the wadding and the backing fabric, I asked my swimming buddy and all-around awesome friend, Nicole, to kindly take me to Patchfinders in Cheadle Hulme. I bought some wadding that could be washed frequently (good for a baby quilt) and bought some yellow fabric with elephants, frogs, lions, mice, spiders, birds and giraffes on, as I didn’t know whether Merv was a boy or a girl, and thought this would be great for either. I later found out that Dave and Sarah had painted Merv’s room yellow, so it turns out it was super choice!
Assembling the quilt sandwich
I layer the quilt, backing fabric, wadding and quilt top, and pinned it together through each block. I sewed in the ditch and added the binding around the edge. Here’s the finshed quilt!
And here’s Merv aka Thomas: