I saw a tutorial for a quilted baby playmat on the AGF blog and I knew that was what I wanted to make for my niece for her first child. The tutorial seemed pretty straight forward, and the baby mat was absolutely beautiful. I asked a few friends with babies at work if they thought that would be a useful gift and I got a resounding “yes.”
It was a little harder than it looked.
First of all, I needed to choose the right coordinating fabrics. I struggle with getting fabrics to go together as nicely as the projects that I see all over Instagram. Since I couldn’t find the exact fabrics used in the tutorial, I settled on these four sets of AFG fat quarters from the Fat Quarter Shop.
I thought they would give me the look I was searching for. At times, I wasn’t so sure.
I created a circle pattern using Swedish tracing paper. Like the pattern on the AFG blog, I decided the diameter should be 47 inches.
- First lesson learned. This was a dumb mistake that I realized later. How wide is normal cotton quilting fabric? Answer: 44 inches. Make your matt 44 inches or less and you won’t have to piece the back!
I divided the diameter by 4 to create a quarter pattern piece. I added seam allowance and measured out the 4-inch border. So far so good. First I used the navy and mint to create the night and day background, sewed it together and used my pattern piece to create the circle. Then I started cutting the mountains to lay against the night sky. Second dumb mistake. The tutorial called for folding the fabric under to hide the raw edges. In retrospect, I should have used steam a seam to iron on the fabric with the raw edges exposed, then used a zig zag stitch to secure the fabric. As I started sewing the mountains on, I realized I would have a little flap of fabric between where I was stitching and the edge of the fabric. I hoped my quilting would keep that from flipping up.
- Second lesson learned. The tutorial called for folding the fabric under to hide the raw edges. In retrospect, I should have used steam a seam to iron on the fabric with the raw edges exposed, then used a zig zag stitch to secure the fabric. As I started sewing the mountains on, I realized I would have a little flap of fabric between where I was stitching and the edge of the fabric. I hoped my quilting would keep that from flipping up.
Here’s what it looked like as I started to pin down the mountains. I really wasn’t crazy about it at this point, but I had bought all this fabric and started this process and wasn’t ready to give up.
Once I had the mountains placed and stitched down, I started adding the sun rays, then the flower stems. I think the yellow rays helped balance out the funny looking mountains, and also added some brightness to the mat. But the orange seemed too strong. By now I really wasn’t happy about my decision to fold under the raw edges but it was too late. It was easier, however, to do the rays and the stems. I used a ruler to cut the rays two inches at the top and widen out to two and a half. I made the stems by cutting two-inch strips and folding them under half an inch on each side.
I also used the tutorial’s advice to trapunto the flowers, which I made by attaching the fabric to some interfacing right sides together, then turning right sides out. I sewed the hole closed when I sewed the flower down. I found some crinkly wrap that was used to hold my toothpaste boxes together, threw it in the dryer first to make sure it wouldn’t melt, then cut it up. I used a seam ripper to cut a small hole in the back after I sewed down the circles, then lightly puffed the flowers with poly stuffing and the crinkly wrapping. The flowers started to pop and the play mat started to come together.
Now it was time to add the border. I used my pattern to cut the circular pieces and pieced them together with the scraps I had left over from creating the quilt. Something told me to keep the border light and I’m glad I did.
I still wasn’t 100 percent happy with how it was coming out, but I just kept pushing along. Creating this baby mat made me realize that it is never a good idea to quit. You have to keep pushing yourself to finish, even if you’re not crazy about the work in progress. Things have a way of working themselves out.
I gave a lot of thought to how I would quilt this. I thought I”d use some variegated green and blue thread I have, but in the end, I opted for just gray on the light side and dark blue on the dark side. I started by quilting the flower petals around each flower.
- Third lesson learned. Do not stuff those flowers too much. You will not be able to get your foot close enough to quilt around it!
I’m not the world’s greatest free motion quilter so I did a lot of straight line quilting with my walking foot. I did my best with the free motion foot and in the end, it looks okay. I’m happy with it.
I used a dark blue from the Navy collection to bind the quilt. I only needed one fat quarter to create enough binding. Phew. And, even though I felt like I should cut the binding on the bias to more easily go around the edge, it worked out fine. I forgot to clip the circle after I sewed it on, and it is still smooth. I hand stitched the binding to the back and I was done!