Five Babies + Six Months + One Four-Day Retreat = Seven Quilts!

True story: my daughter’s group of friends welcomed 5 babies in one 6-month period last year. 


The thought of these moms and dads all being able to share their experiences is pretty wondrous to me, and there’s so much more fun still to come as these little guys & girls grow up with a batch of lifetime friendships and a whole loving tribe of honorary aunties, uncles and cousins to share the joys of their presence in the world. 

Since every baby in my world needs a quilt (and probably in yours too, since you are reading a blog post about quilting), I decided that my annual four-day summer retreat would be dedicated to making them each—you guessed it—a quilt. First challenge: the pattern.

Like the babies, each quilt needed to be unique.
And like the babies, all the quilts needed to share some unifying factor. 
Those are not qualities that make for a quick Google search.

But it actually didn’t take much hunting to hit upon the solution. I’ve been following Deborah Fisher of Fish Museum and Circus for awhile…her work, whether ceramic or fabric, never fails to make me smile and wonder at what it would be like to have such a nimble creativity, the ability to intertwine humor and whimsy and craftsmanship so seamlessly. 

So when I realized she had written a book, I couldn’t wait to take a look. Quilt Giving: 19 Simple Quilt Patterns to Make and Give, contains a pattern for a sweet quilt called Tender: a just-the-right-size snuggle quilt made with a few fabrics and simple shapes in perfect proportions. 

Find Deborah Fisher’s website here. Find her book here. And her adorable Etsy store here.

I decided to base all the quilts for this crew of little buddies on Deborah’s Tender pattern, customizing each one with pieced areas using fabrics from the other quilts. 

This way, as they grow up and get together to play, each of the babes can find some of the same prints on their little friends’ quilts…unique, yet unifying. And sort of an “I Spy…” game in a quilt!

Choosing fabrics is the moment of endless joyful possibilities to me! I put together different sets of palettes and prints for the main pieces of each quilt—plus extras, of course, my wallet burdened by a high tolerance for cuteness. 

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A retreat was the perfect place to do this kind of project:
it allowed me to focus in the middle of a whole room full of creative inspirations, and came loaded with friendly encouragement.

While I often bring a few different projects for variety, this time I was committed and only brought the one. But there was enough creative decision-making and variety to keep me excited about each and every one: fussy-cutting tiny skiers and foxes, shifting bits and pieces around on a design wall.

As with every retreat, the range of styles, talents and techniques in the room are very inspiring…and their thoughtful comments on my projects were more than welcome! But that’s not to say that all I did was sew! We played cards ‘til late, ate too much good food, hit a couple of local quilt shops and a delicious seafood restaurant, took a great long walk on one particularly beautiful day, conferred with and talked to and laughed with each other. We might have had an extra glass of wine. I think it’s a fair to say that we all came home with more friends and smile-muscles than when we arrived.

And by Sunday morning, cheered on by friends old and new, I had pieced and quilted four little quilts, and brought three little finished and layered quilts home to complete. 

Once again, that joyous blend of friendship and creativity
only found on a retreat worked it’s magic!

Maybe it’s time for you and your quilting friends to take some time to make your big challenge come together.

Very briefly, here is what I did and didn’t do to amend Deborah’s Tender design for my purposes: 

  • This is the first quilting book I’ve ever purchased as a pdf download. Of course the purchase itself was easy, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked having my laptop in my sewing area, and the ability to refer to various pages with a quick scroll. 

  • I did not use the pocket or the adorable little Friends she’s designed to tuck in to the pocket…that may someday be perfect for another baby! 

  • I did add pieced areas to each of the quilts using fabrics from all the others. 

  • I did use flannel in place of batting, turning the quilt rather than binding, as she suggests. And I will never, ever use anything else inside a baby quilt…the final quilts were soft, pliable, and as she says herself, the perfect weight for tucking and swaddling a newborn.

  • Though Deborah used straight squares, I quilted all of these with an overall diamond pattern by marking the turned quilts with blue painters tape, a quick and easy process I’ve come to love.

I hope this post inspires you to create, and share the joys of creating with friends!