Saturday, February 9, 2008

Create An Alphabet Quilt

Difficulty: Moderate

If you have ever given a baby shower and wondered how to get your guests acquainted and relaxed but entertain them at the same time, here is an idea for you. This baby quilt is definitely a group activity. Everyone attending the shower can help as well as those who are far away.

Instead of playing traditional baby shower games, let the guests help design and make the blocks for this quilt. The quilt will then be finished after the shower and given to the baby as a group gift.

Fabric for blocks - sashing - backing - binding (100% cotton)
1 - 1 � yds. - blocks
1 � yd. - sashing
1 � yds. - backing
� -¾ yd. - binding
Thread to match fabric
Polyester quilt batting
Permanent fabric markers - found in craft stores or quilt shops
Masking tape
3 or 4-in. letters to trace or stencil

As an example, it's nice when the blocks are signed by the guests. It becomes a lovely memento for the mother and the new baby. The preparation for this project is simple and inexpensive and could be divided among the guests. The largest expense is the fabric and batting, so the cost would be minimal if everyone wanted to contribute. The sewing is simple but some experience putting a quilt together would be helpful.

1. Purchase and wash 1 yd. of 100% cotton fabric for the squares - light color or muslin works best.

2. Cut or tear the fabric into (26) 8 x 8-in. squares.

3. Purchase a selection of colored fabric pens with various size points or tips. Be sure they are permanent on fabric and will not bleed.

4. Purchase a set of foam letters - usually sold as bath tub toys for small children - about 3-4 in.

5. Let the guests each choose a letter to use on their block and explain that they will use that letter in a bit of advise or wisdom for the new mother, father, or the new baby. Their message just has to use the letter, not necessarily begin with the letter. Suggest that they embellish the message in creative ways that will make the blocks very colorful.

6. Prepare a counter top or table where the blocks can be taped down with masking tape securely before beginning.

7. Mark each square so there is at least a 1/2-in. border on all sides. This allows plenty of room for sewing the blocks together.

8. Have a few extra squares cut to size in case of mistakes. The number of people attending will determine how many squares each person needs to do but don't forget to save some squares for missing guests or relatives.

9. The best arrangement of these blocks or setting for the quilt is 5 blocks by 5 blocks. The left-over square, the Z block, can easily be appliqu�d to the back of the quilt.

10. Ask the mother-to-be to get involved with the choice of a fabric for sashing between the blocks and for the backing and binding fabric. It's especially nice if the quilt matches a color scheme or theme in the nursery. Purchase about 1 � yards of fabric for sashing.

11. Cut or tear this sashing fabric into 2 � in. strips. Then cut some of these strips into 8 in. lengths. Join the blocks together horizontally, and then use the remaining strips to join them vertically. When all the blocks are joined together it should measure approximately 45 in. square

12. Cut or tear strips to border this square on all four sides. I used a 4-in. wide border. Sew this border on to opposite sides of your quilt top and then to the top and bottom of your quilt. It is not necessary to miter the corners.

13. Prepare the backing piece after measuring your finished quilt top to determine the size back you need. Be sure to give yourself an extra 2 inches of fabric on all sides for the back. Your quilt top is now wider than 45 in. because of sashing and borders therefore you'll need to seam two pieces of fabric together for your quilt back. Beginners: be sure to give yourself extra fabric on the back due to shifting while putting the quilt layers together in Step 14.

14. Make a quilt sandwich with your backing, a piece of batting and then the quilt top. Carefully pin these layers together and either hand quilt or machine-quilt them together. I did a lot of "stitch in the ditch" technique between the blocks.

15. Cut strips to bind the edge of the quilt from a contrasting fabric or left over backing or border fabric. The finished size of the quilt is about 54 inches square, which is an ample size to make this useful for infants and toddlers or to hang on the wall in the nursery.

So have fun with this project and make a one-of-a-kind gift! Don't forget to appliqu� the block with the letter Z on the back of the quilt.

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