kids' summer quilt project

Kids’ Summer Quilt Project – step 1: cutting it out

To make our quilts, we will be cutting out six-inch squares.  The final size of the squares in the quilt will be five inches, so if you want to make a certain size, keep that in mind.  The extra inch goes into what is called the seam allowance – the part that is folded over to keep the stitches solid.  These quilts will have a half-inch seam allowance, which means that the half-inch around the square will be “extra”, or folded back.

We decided to make our final size 35 inches by 45 inches, which is a good size for cuddling with, but probably not big enough for a bed.  It would be a great size for a baby.  Since our finished square size is five inches, we divide those numbers by five.  (Oh, no!  Kids can’t do math in the summer can they?)  35/5=7 and 45/5=9.  That means we will have seven squares across and nine down.  7×9=63 so we need 63 squares total.  Wait!  We also need squares for the back, so the total is 63+63=126.  We need to cut out 126 squares.  Don’t forget that even though they will be five inch squares in the quilt, we need to cut out six inch squares.

How much fabric will I need?

option 1:  If you are recycling material from old clothes, it will be hard for me to tell you exactly how much you need.  For the flannel shirt quilt, B2 used four long-sleeved men’s large shirts.  One of these was actually a 6XL, so it had a LOT of fabric.

option 2:  If you are buying flannel fabric by the metre (or yard), it is a bit easier to figure out.  If it is a 40″ width, you get six squares from every six inch strip of fabric.  To get 126, you will need twenty-one six-inch strips (126/6).  21×6=126 inches, which is 3.5 yards, which is 3.15 metres.  If you are buying different colours, keep in mind that you need six-inch strips.  If you buy a 40-inch piece, that still only gets you six strips.  Also, remember that at the fabric store, they may not cut the fabric exactly straight.  If you buy a 36-inch piece and both ends are crooked, you might not get six full strips from them.  My policy is to always buy a bit extra so I don’t run out.

option 3:  If you are using old jeans, obviously it depends on the size.  I used eight pairs of jeans – five were a small woman’s size, two were a kid’s size, and one was woman’s capris.

** Remember that whatever you use, get 100% cotton.  If you use something else, it may not fray properly or play well with the other pieces.

Do I need anything else?

Most quilts have some kind of batting in the middle.  You can add a batting to these quilts, but it is optional.  Here is what we are using:

option 1:  For the flannel shirts, we are using another layer of flannel for the batting.  We got an old flannel sheet.  Since it is in the middle, we need another 63 six-inch squares.  Since we are using six-inch squares, the flannel batting will also be in the seam allowances.

option 2:  With the flannel fabric, we are using regular quilt batting.  If you know a quilter, they often have leftover strips from big quilts, so they will probably share with you.  We don’t want to have batting in the seam allowances, so only cut five-inch squares (you still need 63).  If you are making a quilt for a baby, the batting adds a lot of weight.  It is perfectly fine to make it without.

option 3:  With denim, I am not using any batting, so the denim squares are all I need.

How do I cut it out?

option 1:  Cut a six-inch square out of heavy card (like a cracker box).  B2 discovered that the easiest way to cut was to use the stripes on the shirt as guide lines.  He used the card square to measure for size, and then cut along the lines of the shirt.  It is more efficient if you cut six-inch strips and then cut those into squares.

** All fabric has what is called a grain line.  That means the way the threads are woven back and forth perpendicular to each other.  When you cut, make sure you cut parallel to the woven lines – your final squares should have squares of colour on them, not diamonds.  Don’t try to squeeze other pieces in, because it won’t turn out in the end.

option 2:  If you are cutting flannel fabric, you have two choices.  The first is to cut a six-inch square of card, trace it with pencil, chalk or soluble marker and then cut out the squares.  This will take a while, but it is easy and can be done without a lot of supervision.  Just pay attention to the note about grain line.  It applies even if the fabric does not have stripes.  If you have adult supervision, you can use a rotary cutter and ruler.  A rotary cutter is basically like a pizza cutter but with a razor blade, so be VERY careful.  Keep your fingers out of the way and be sure to use a cutting mat.  Cut the fabric into six inch strips, and then cut the strips into six inch squares.







option 3:  To cut jeans, you can use the trace and cut method or the rotary cutter method.  With adult jeans, you can usually get a six-inch strip right up the leg.

With child jeans, or jeans with a very wide leg, you can cut up the inseam to open it up to one layer of fabric.  (B2 was quite upset that I cut up these jeans, because apparently they still fit.)

You can have a seam in the middle of the square as long as the grain lines stay pretty straight.

You can look for elements like pockets on the clothes that would make interesting details, but keep in mind that they must be smaller than five inches square with a half-inch border around it for seam allowance.  Pockets from kids’ shirts or jeans are great.

5 thoughts on “Kids’ Summer Quilt Project – step 1: cutting it out

  1. Hello 🙂
    What kind of alternate material would you suggest for those of us who do not have access to flannel or recycled flannel shirts? (they don’t exist here)


    1. I am still thinking about this, but basically you want something that would unravel if the end was left open. Something like a knit or a fleece would work, but it would have a totally different look – it would not get soft. Any lightweight cotton would work, but then you would need something in the middle to give it some weight.

      What kind of materials are available to you?


      1. Definitely denim and regular cotton… I could just go with those? Denim on the back, cotton on the front? Do I need a padding, then? I have some excited kids! 🙂
        (i do have tshirt cotton, too, but I do t think that would fray well…) Flannel is just VERY hard to get here, and what I can find is light weight and pricy. I miss Len’s Mill! (no flannel sheets, either) Decorator fabrics are the most widely available, but they’d probably be too heavy….


      2. I think a combo of denim and regular cotton would work well and then you wouldn’t need a padding with it. If you wanted, you could use it, but it would make a very heavy blanket. I would leave it out.


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