September 2, 2016

Elephant Baby Quilt Inspired by Fabric

When the Mom-to-be opens your present at the baby shower and cries, you know you did ok!  I didn't ask too many questions about the nursery ahead of time.  But she mentioned she was decorating in gray and white with elephants.  I remembered a fabric I had which was leftover from making this baby quilt and thought it might work.  After all, this fabric from the Zoology collection by Michael Miller included gray, white and elephants.

Zoology in Sea by Michael Miller
I had the idea of enlarging the elephant and including the bird (which I knew she also liked) and adding some rain clouds for a minimalist design.  I was already thinking about the quilting at this point.

I used a circle template and drew two clouds with a flat bottoms.  Are those cumulus clouds?  I'm not sure.

Clouds with angled straight line quilting to represent rain

Planning to applique the quilt top at a Sew-In day with my local modern quilt guild, I prepared the elephant, bird and two clouds ahead of time.  I chose an almost white background, Modern Background Paper XOXO.

Guild members suggested I add a third cloud and have it going off the edge of the quilt.  You wouldn't believe, the fabric for the third cloud, V & Co Ombre Dots in aquatic blue,  was on the free-for-all table at the sew-in.

I managed to finish all of the satin stitch machine applique at the sew-in and here's the top on my design wall back at home.

Free Ride quilt top

Here's a closer look at the elephant and bird.

Elephant and bird appliqued to background fabric

Now that the quilt top was done,  it was on to the quilting.  And guess what...more walking foot quilting!

I'll show you the finished quilt and then explain how I went about quilting it which is very similar to how I quilted Witco's Daisies.

Free Ride baby quilt with an elephant, bird and clouds

I first quilted the horizontal lines below the elephant to establish the ground. The lines are about 3/4" apart and were marked with the Creative Grids Yardstick ruler and my favorite Clover hera marker.  I decided that 3/4" spacing might be too dense and quilted the 'sky' with lines about an inch apart.

I quilted the lines of the sky at an angle to represent rain. I started quilting from the top.  When I reached the horizontal line, I stitched right on top of my previous quilting line, made a U-turn and ended at the top again.  I didn't mark every single line with the hera marker, just every other one.  I just eyeballed it and quilted between the two lines on the return pass.

Every other quilting line marked with the hera marker

The only time I used a making pen was to mark the distance where I needed to stop and pivot for the return quilting line.  Can you see the blue dots on the horizontal line?  And yes, I quilted right over the applique which I also did on Witco's Daisies.

Straight line quilting with a walking foot on Free Ride

The label was handwritten with a permanent marker.  The process is explained in this blog post.  Just ignore the Great Aunt part, I'm feeling a little ancient!  Part of the label was stitched in with the machine binding. The only part which was hand stitched was the right side.

Handwritten quilt label and stitched mainly by machine

I didn't think it would be that noticeable and stitched over the previous quilting lines to attach the label.   Can you see the lines?  The 2nd and 6th horizontal lines are where I machine stitched on the label.

From the front where I machine stitched the label

And since this was for a boy and fairly light and would probably go through many washings, I attached the binding by machine.

Detail of  Free Ride with backing and machine binding

Free Ride was folded and wrapped the evening before the shower.  That was close, but it was finished on time!

Free Ride baby quilt folded and ready to be wrapped

Quilt Stats:

  • Finished size:  Approx. 40" x 40" (Limited backing fabric determined the size)
  • Pattern:  Elephant enlarged from Zoology fabric in an original setting
  • Fabrics: Background - XOXO in Silver and White from Modern Background Paper by Zen Chic for Moda; Backing - Zoology in Sea from Michael Miller; Binding - Dot and Square from Mini Mikes from Michael Miller
  • Thread: Applique - Mettler and Aurifil; Quilting - Aurifil 2600 Dove Gray
  • Quilting design:  Straight line with walking foot
  • Batting: 100% Cotton Warm & White by the Warm Company
  • Completed: August 2016


  1. This is so fantastic, Paige. I really love how the straight line quilting adds so much detail to the design of the quilt; the ground and rain jumped right out but are subtle details all at the same time. Your applique and satin stitching are beautiful and I really admire your attention to detail. The label stitching blends right in!

  2. It's adorable and I'm sure it will be well loved! I like using the hera marker for straight lines, also. It does such a good job, I didn't realize that one of the blocks I marked didn't get stitched until it was hanging in a show--soooo embarrassing, but kind of funny looking back!

  3. beautiful quilt ! no wonder the Mom-to-be cried !

  4. Gorgeous quilt! Your quilting is inspiring to me!

  5. Wow ! I love your minimalist design Paige. This is a lovely quilt and like very much the clouds.

  6. It's fantastic! I love the quilting. I am also not a fan of the title "Great Aunt", and have been know to cross out the great in favor of Awesome on Quilt labels! Lol!

  7. Paige, that's such a great quilt! And the size is perfect, even if it was determined by your amount of backing material - we've found that moms love the smaller size because they can use it in the carseat! FYI, I'm Wicked Auntie to my nieces and nephews....

  8. I love this quilt! Your elephant is super cute and I love the quilting!

  9. That is super cute! Well done :-) I made my nephew a quilt a few months ago, and when his momma opened it at the shower, she didn't cry (which is always a winner when you gift a quilt ;-) but she did exclaim, "Oh - I was hoping that's what this was!" :-) (my daughter made a stuffed elephant for the same little guy - using the same method that you did; enlarging an elephant from fabric. Great minds... :-)
    Happy Sewing ~ Tracy

  10. Omg I LOVE this quilt! Genius! It inspires me to make more baby quilts - less complicated is easier, faster, and fabulous! Thank you for sharing. :)

  11. Beautiful - I love it. Great quilting choice too - I wouldn't have thought of that.

  12. Wonderful Paige. You always amaze me with your simple and elegant designs. The quilting is the perfect finishing touch. A fantastic finish.

  13. What a wonderful baby quilt! Love the bluebird!

  14. What a cute baby quilt - I love it! You have such a talent for design Paige - and thank you so much for explaining your thought process in your blog post.

  15. You are a Great Aunt! Take pride in that. Your quilt is delightful! Simple but elegant. (Btw I was a great aunt at 17 so that moniker never bothers this 56 year old!) Have a lovely day!

  16. What a lovely quilt. 'Love the addition of the bluebird. Those fabrics and your quilting are superb.

  17. What a wonderful gift, great design Paige! So much thought and care, it's very special.

  18. What a sweet quilt Paige! Thanks for explaining the process too; I love my Hera marker oh yeah. And yup, that's the best reaction. ;-)

  19. I love this sweet little quilt, especially the quilting. I'm sure it will be treasured and loved!

  20. This is a gorgeous quilt, Paige. Thanks for all the info on the process, I've taken notes! 😊

  21. What a perfect quilt for a boy! I love that you changed the density of the quilting for the sky! And what a gift, to have her cry! She must have loved it so much! Makes it all worthwhile.

  22. What a beautiful design and perfect implementation. I love the straight line quilting and your label placement is brilliant! I generally sew my labels onto the backing before quilting, so they are extra held in place by my quilting.

  23. Wonderful quilt! The elephant is adorable, and the quilting is amazing! You created such a beautiful effect with simple straight line quilting.

  24. I love this!! You did an amazing job and it's so creative! Love the clouds :)

  25. This is adorable. So simple and beautiful. I can't even imagine the wonderful emotions the new mother to be felt when she opened this beautiful quilt.

  26. Well no wonder she cried - everything about this is just so wonderful Paige!

  27. It is a wonderful design, beautifully executed!

  28. I am not surprised that she was overwhelmed by this beautiful gift. It's wonderful, Paige!!