Back in March, I received an email from Heather asking if I would be interested in taking on a commissioned quilt for her son. Heather received my information from a girl I went to college with, who now works at Heather’s company. I seriously love how small the world can be.
Speaking of small, I called the Honest Company on Monday to cancel my pre-natal subscription, and after ending the phone call I received a text from a girl who is from Pittsburgh. She now works at Honest Company and said, “you just called and talked to my coworker!” Seriously. This world is weird.
Okay. Pregnancy tangents, let’s get back to it.
Heather emailed me in March with a request:
Could I make a quilt for her son’s first birthday in June using his onesies she’d saved since he was a baby.
And because I like to take on things I’ve never done before — I said yes. :)
We talked about design ideas and possibilities and settled on a simple block quilt — simple and clean. Heather was coming to Pittsburgh that following weekend, so she dropped off a bag of onesies at my house.
And here I am to confess: the onesies sat in the bag until the end of April. I was swamped with projects and commitments that I needed to complete, but I was also terrified to cut up these onesies! Making a quilt out of something as precious as these pieces of clothing scared me a little bit. Okay, a lot a bit. I let these onesies stare up at me from their blue shopping bag, as I would stare back I took these months to plan and think through how I would attack this quilt.
I’m so happy that I didn’t rush into cutting up the onesies. I’m so happy I took time to think through the material and structure and construction and plan.
I learned a lot through the process of making this quilt, so I’m hoping that my tips will not only encourage you to potentially make one yourself, but also keep you from making some pretty big mistakes.
Let’s get started.
Preparing and Saving
1|| Over estimate the number of onesies needed.
When I began going through the onesies Heather had saved for this quilt, my first thought was, “I am going to have so many onesies left over.” Boy was I wrong! The number of onesies needed will change from quilt to quilt and the types of onesies used. If you are using a lot of sleepers or pajamas with snaps or zippers, you will most likely be able to only use the back fabric.
2|| Sort your designs.
I kind of hit the jackpot with this quilt — Heather has some of the cutest onesies I’ve seen! It’s clear she had a tendency to buy stripes, skulls, blues, greys, and Ohio. I began by just sifting through the onesies, pulling out the ones that might be more difficult to use. (For example, a few onesies had pretend neck ties appliquéd to the front of the onesie and because it went up to the neckline, I wasn’t able to make a block from it unless I cut through the appliqué. Does that make sense?) I began to see the stripes theme very early on, so I immediately placed those in a pile of their own. I was so excited to see the stripe pile grow, as I knew it would really help to pull the quilt together having the consistency of them throughout.
I ended up with two piles — stripes and solids/prints/text. You might need to sort according to color, prints/solids, text/pattern — whatever themes you begin to notice!
3|| Plan your block size.
Originally, I thought I would create 4″ blocks — cut at 4.5″, sewn down to 4″ blocks. I quickly realized as I counted onesies and quilt size that I really needed to get my blocks a hair bigger, or I wouldn’t have enough onesies!
My final dimensions:
- 5.5″ squares cut –> sewn to 5″ squares
- 7 squares across by 9 squares down
- roughly 35″ x 45″
*take note of the onesie sizes as well! I was unable to use a few of the newborn onesies because I wasn’t able to get a 5.5″ block cut from them.
Cutting the Blocks
If you read nothing else about this post — please read this step!! Looking back, this extra step feels like a bit of a “well duh” to me, but I’m so thankful I thought about it during my prepping steps…..or I would have been crying. Hard.
Think about the difference between baby onesies and quilting cotton with me for a moment. If you were to choose one characteristic that most obviously separates them — and you can’t say baby spit up — what would it be?
Hopefully your answer was the stretch. Baby onesies, tshirts, etc are made from a jersey fabric — some of your onesies might be 100% cotton and some might be a blend. But the bottom line is that they stretch. They don’t hold their shape like quilting cotton does. Now imagine making a crisp block quilt with fabric that doesn’t hold it’s shape…. uh yeah. Now you see why I would have been crying!
1|| Gather your stabilizing supplies.
To keep our stretchy baby onesies nice and square, you will want to use a lightweight interfacing. I used Pellon Fusible 906F, but the Pellon 911FF will work too. The 911FF is definitely a bit stiffer, so I prefer the 906 — but it’s really a preference thing!
2|| Cut. Cut. and Cut.
Prepare yourself for a lot of cutting! Each onesie will essential be cut out 3 times:
- Trim your onesies. Remove the seams, collars, sleeves, zippers, snaps, etc. You want to be left with scraps big enough to accommodate your square size.
- Cut out the square size needed from your interfacing. (In my case, 5.5″ squares.)
- Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of your onesie fabric. For some onesies, this won’t matter, but for onesies with a right/wrong side, it’s very important to pay attention.
- Cut the onesie down to the square size needed using your interfacing square as a guide.
Here are some of my favorite tools that make fabric cutting sessions a little more fun! Images are links!
Sooner or later, you’ll have a stack of crisp squares! The interfacing makes or breaks the final outcome of this quilt — so as I mentioned before…
Don’t skip this step!
3|| Design the quilt layout
This step should be fun — so have fun! Again, think back to how you sorted your squares and work with your theme. But always be willing to go a new direction if your original plan just isn’t working. You might decide to make the blocks completely randomized, no theme, per se, at all. You might decide to rotate the stripes vertically — or rotate only a few? Just have fun with it. Walk away if you’re feeling a bit cross-eyed or delirious from staring and rearranged. Get a second opinion. Take a photo of it and sleep on it — how does it look to you the next day?
There isn’t a right or wrong way to design it — it’s really what you decide you like best!
4|| Fill in the gaps
I was a few short after cutting, cutting, ironing and cutting again, so after designing my quilt layout, I rearranged the design using the few extra onesie pieces I still had that were large enough for squares. I had to make a few newborn onesies just work, so I’d have enough for the entire quilt. I’ll say it again: over estimate the number of onesies needed! (My quilt is made up of 63 blocks… just to give you an idea!)
5|| Prepare your piles for sewing
Stack your block rows and label each row with a piece of paper or sticky note. You could use a fabric pen too, if you’d like. I work from left to right, stacking the previous on top of the next — the top of each stack is the left most block.
Pile your rows from top to bottom, as shown below.
Now we are ready to sew!
Piece your Baby Onesie Quilt Top Together
When piecing a quilt, you want to use 1/4′ seams. This is where it gets a little confusing in quilt-land. The 1/4″ seam that you hear, is really a seam that is just under 1/4″ — you need to accommodate for the thickness of the fabric and pressing it flat within that 1/4″. For a square block quilt like this one, that scant-1/4″ seam isn’t that important — so if you’re a beginner, let’s just focus on sewing them straight! If you want to practice that scant-1/4″, this is also a perfect time to do that. Just stay consistent in your seams, or your squares won’t line up when we sew the rows together!
Enter, one of my favorite sewing machine feet:
I love the guide on this foot! It really helps beginners sew a straight, 1/4″ seam. When your fabric touches the guide, that is typically a full 1/4″ seam. To achieve a scant-1/4″ seam with a foot like this, you will line your fabric up along the edge of the foot — the right side of the right most ski-like-toe shape.
I have no idea what the technical name is for that… whoops! ha.
1|| Piece the Squares into Rows
Beginning with the top square in your stack, take the second square and line up right sides together. We will sew the rows first, press seams, and then sew the rows together! Simply work your way from left to right, piecing each square of the row together until you reach the note indicating a new row. Set the first row aside — with the label! — and continue with each subsequent row.
You end up with a gorgeous stack like you see below.
2|| Pieces the Rows together
Before we sew the rows together, we need to press our seams. I’ve become a believer in pressing my seams open in almost every quilt I make now. For the longest time, I thought that was a big no-no, but I’m learning that there are really no rules in quilting. Pressing the seams open keeps your lines so much straighter, and I think it’s worlds easier to make those corners match perfectly!
After pressing your seams, we will sew Row 1 to Row 2. Even with the interfacing, you are probably going to see some warping with a few of your onesies — you might have to cheat some of your points just slightly, or sew slow and ease the larger edge in very carefully.
You can use pins if you’d like, but I like to work from square to square. I begin my seam, and then I immediately focus on the approaching corner. I line them up. I do a quick happy dance if everything measures perfectly, and I look at which square is perhaps a hair larger and needs to be carefully worked into that seam.
After working from top row to bottom row. Go press those seams open! Don’t forget to iron.
3|| Create your Quilt Sandwich
Pick out backing fabric for your quilt, and cut the batting down to size. You want your batting to be a little bigger than your quilt top….and your backing to be a little bigger than your batting.
At this point, before basting your layers together, you could also look for long-arm quilters in your area to do the quilting portion for you. In my opinion, I think this quilt is a great way to jump right into quilting on your home machine — simple is better, because it lets the onesies be the focus!
4|| Decide on your Quilting Lines and Design
I opted to quilt simple diagonal lines through the striped onesie squares. Initially, I planned on sewing the diagonal through the solids/print blocks too, but I didn’t want to sew through the onesies with a featured image (Ohio, Little Man, U of Toledo, etc.). I used my favorite trick: painters’ tape.
Simply lay your quilt sandwich out on a clean, hard surface and lay down the tape where you want your seam to be. You’ll need to decide what side of the tape you will sew on — each of us will have a preference! You can put down a few pieces of tape, and then move those pieces after you’ve sewn them.
This step of the quilt will be made much easier with a walking foot — if you don’t have one, they are a bit more expensive than other sewing feet, but worth the investment. I rarely take mine off!
(Be sure to check compatibility with your sewing machine! While these generic feet with great with most machine brands, some brands will only work with feet of the same brand!)
Continue working your desired pattern throughout your quilt!
A few patterns to get you started:
- Stitch in the Ditch — sew along the edges of your quilt squares. From the front, there won’t be visible seams, but on the back you’ll have a 5″ grid.
- 1/4″ from each seam — sew 1/4″ from all of your square seams. You’ll end up with a border on your existing squares and fun design on the back.
- Stripes! Sew either vertical or horizontal stripes throughout your quilt. I recommend spacing them at least 2-4″ apart, and then continue “half-ing” those stripes until you get to your desired width.
- The sky is the limit — have fun!
Binding your Quilt
Before adding the binding, you will need to square and trim your quilt. Just as I mentioned with pressing seams, I’m learning that everyone squares and trims their quilts for binding very differently! I use the cutting tools I have listed at the beginning to get my corners nice and square, and then I move my way around the quilt, trimming off the excess backing and batting. Hopefully this quilt is easy for you to trim and square — if done carefully, it should be!
Pick out your binding fabric — or use bias tape if you’d like. I cut my strips 2.5″ inches, but you can vary that width depending on how thick you want your binding to be.
You can see how to sew the bias tape binding here — and I have the next quilt binding tutorial coming next week! So you can work on cutting and piecing your quilt until then!
And there you have it — a finished Baby Onesie Quilt! I love how it turned out — and it kind of makes me want to go through Harlow’s onesies and make one for her! Especially now that we are having a boy!
I was reminded again why I so rarely take on custom orders — I enjoy them way too much, and I spend way too much time on them! I’m so happy I was able to do this quilt for this special guy though — and I’m so happy to be able to share what I learned with you! I think I did one search before I dove in, and was disappointed with the first few images that popped up, so I called it a day and decided to just attack it the Kacia way. :)
I hope this walk-through helps you create a onesie (or t-shirt!) quilt of your own! Please let me know if you have any additional questions or tips — or something to add! If we don’t help each other out, that is just silly.
Happy Wednesday! It’s raining here…and that makes me sad. But it looks like we’ll be cuddling on the couch and watching the news while we eat breakfast — not a bad morning at all!