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Useful Tips to Make a Photo Memory Quilt at Home

Shruti Bhat Mar 19, 2020
A photo memory quilt makes for an excellent gift. It can be as colorful and unique as you'd like to make it.

Golden rule of stitching

Measure twice, cut once.
Whether your children are leaving home for college, or getting married, or even if they are having kids of their own, a photo memory quilt is the ideal gift to give for any occasion.
This way they can take away pieces of their past along with the memories, and what better way than to have it made by that special someone who loves them unconditionally. It is also an ideal gift for mothers-to-be to be given by their mothers.
A photo quilt is something that they can wrap themselves with on cold winter nights, when they feel homesick and are in dire need of a warm homely hug. It's like taking along a little piece of home, while away from home.

Photo Memory Quilt

Transferring Photographs onto Fabric

Step 1: Choose a light colored garment to print on. This will enhance the colors of the photograph.

Step 2: Wash the garment you wish to print the photograph on.
Step 3: Buy a fabric transfer paper. You will find this at any craft and office supply store. Read the instructions on the package carefully before buying. If you choose to ignore step 1 and wish to go with a dark fabric choose a Transfer to Dark transfer paper.
Step 4: Upload the photographs onto your computer. Re-size or edit the images as per your liking. Round off the corners of the photo to prevent it from peeling off later.
Another point to remember, here, is that white spaces in the photograph will be transparent. Therefore, it will be replaced by the color of the garment. Test print a small image to be certain of the final look.
Step 5: Read and follow the instructions that come with the transfer paper. Follow the instructions to the letter.

Step 6: Keep the photographs away from dirt, dust, wet and oily hands.
Step 7: Complete the transferring process. Be extremely careful not to peel off the transfer when peeling the back off. Iron it according to the instructions given in the instruction letter. If it clears the iron test, iron it on a hard and stiff surface instead of an ironing board.

Step 8: Do not wash the garment for 24 hours.

Mattress Sizes

Full: 54 x 75 inches (137 x 190 cm)
Queen: 60 x 80 inches (153 x 203 cm)
King: 76 x 80 inches (198 x 203 cm)
California King: 72 x 84 inches (182 x 213 cm)

Face of the Photo Memory Quilt

Step 1: You might like to consider the mattress size before you begin. This will help you to know the size of the quilt you are working with and the quantity of supplies you will require, it will also help you align the photographs better.
Following are the standard sizes of mattresses. These are basic guidelines. You can choose to make them bigger or smaller as per your requirements and skills.
Step 2: Pre-wash all your fabrics. Cotton materials often shrink and their colors often run. By pre-washing the fabrics, you are allowing the fabric to shrink and come to its original size, this will prevent it from shrinking after you are done stitching it into a quilt.
This also avoids the color from bleeding out onto the quilt later on. High quality fabrics will not shrink nor will they bleed, wash it nevertheless, to prevent mishaps later.
Step 3: Iron the fabric to remove any creases and wrinkles. This will also help you get a stiffer cloth when you need to mark and cut it. Though many would say that you need not iron the batting, ironing it will help you later while stitching.
Step 4: If you know how large your quilt will be, it will aid while measuring individual small blocks. You need to remember the following part very carefully.
While measuring, add ½ an inch of fabric space for every block. For example: if your quilt is to be made of 5 inch squares, you will need to measure and cut each square of around 5½ inches, ¼ of which will be the inseam. The extra ¼ will come in handy later - mark this with washable fabric pen.
The size of your quilt and every piece is arbitrary and may vary as per the pattern but the above ¼-½ extra will remain constant. Measure and mark the fabric along with the extra bit of the inch before you begin cutting.
You could also try this trick.
If you are using a 5 inch square, cut out a 5½ inch square out of transparency paper/ butter paper. You can also make tiny holes at the ¼ mark. All you have to do is place this stencil on the photograph printed cloth and make dots or a dashed line as per your requirement.
Step 5: Let's first focus on the face of the quilt for now. Once you are confident about the markings, cut the fabric into pieces. Lay all the pieces on the cutting board and place your clear ruler over the top. Assemble them as per your liking and pattern.
Decide which image goes where and which photograph will follow it. This is an important process. You don't want all the photographed images on one side and the designs and prints on the other; or the fabric pattern repeating itself too many times. Take your time with designing your quilt.
Lay it along with all the designs and fabrics you've collected. Arrange and rearrange them till you are completely satisfied. This will also give you a rough idea if you want to add or remove certain fabrics and patterns. You can also write it or draw a rough sketch on a piece of paper.
Step 6: Stack up the pieces in a way that's convenient for you. Row-wise will be a little easier to plan rather than pattern-wise - since you will have to remember which pattern is following the next, in the latter method.
This will help you be more coordinated and to avoid any faux pas. To help you keep a track of which fabric will follow the other and not to mention on which row, you can mark numbers (1,2,3...) with a chalk.
Step 7: Let the stitching begin. Start sewing the first two pieces with the pattern facing each other. Sew straight stitches with a ¼ inch inseam (remember we had left ½ an inch in step 4. This is where it comes in handy).
This way each of your pieces especially the photographed ones will get a border on each side, like a miniature frame of the base cloth that you have printed photograph on. If you don't want a frame to it, increase the inseam to ½ inch. Then add another square to the row in the same way.
If you have marked each square as mentioned in step 4 and 6, this is going to be easier for you. Continue the same process till the end of the row. Make individual rows as per your pattern. This will give handy long stripes.
Step 8: Once all the stitching is done, you will notice that the back of the pieces will have the inseams sticking up. To make the next process easier and to give it a better finish, iron these inseams flat. Be careful with the heat of the iron in case you are using different fabrics. Use a setting which will enable you to iron all kinds of materials.
Iron each row in the opposite direction. If you iron the first row to the left then iron the second one to the right, so on.
Step 9: Stitching the rows together is as easy as making them. Turn two adjacent rows and turn them inwards so the patterns are facing one another. Remember to check the direction of the photographed pieces. You don't want any mistakes here.
For the second row, pin the first row with the second. This will hold the rows in place, which will aid you while stitching. Make sure you stitch the two rows in a straight line. The inseams stitches will come in handy.
Just make sure you are sewing on the ¼ or ½ inch marking of each piece. Continue this process till all the pieces have been stitched together. And even if they don't line up perfectly, don't panic. Your quilt will still look beautiful.
Step 10: Once all the rows are stitched together it's time for another ironing. Flip the quilt with the inseams facing upwards. Use the same technique of ironing all the rows. Flatten out the inseams completely, but in opposite directions. This will help you while sewing all the fabrics together. For now, we have the 'photo patchwork' ready.

Assembling the Quilt

Step 1: Now that we are done with the face of the quilt, let's begin making a patchwork cloth into a quilt. Start by cutting the batting and the backing. Measure and cut both these materials 2-3 inches larger than the face of the quilt.
Step 2: This process is known as basting the quilt, in which you will layer, pin and place the materials together for sewing. You can either use a basting adhesive or use pins to hold the fabrics down.
Layer your fabrics in the order, beginning with the face, batting and the backing, with the face facing you and the backing being the last fabric. Handle them with care to prevent them from wrinkling. Work out any wrinkles and folds, from the center, going outwards.
If you choose to use the basting spray, lightly coat each layer (except the actual face side and the backing) with it adding the next layer. Don't forget to smooth the fabrics after spraying, this will secure the fabric while removing any creases. Always remember to work from the center outwards. Pin them to secure it further.
If you choose to pin the quilts, use safety pins at the center of every piece. This too working from the center outwards as you pin them. This will secure the layers together while stitching them together.
Step 3: Begin by sewing from the center of the quilt and move outwards to push the extra fabric towards the edge rather than the middle. The easiest way to sew these layers together is to sew inside or near the seams that you have already created, which are between the pieces. You can also sew diagonally across the pieces or even free-hand the seams.
If you aren't very confident about sewing, you can begin by marking location on the quilt that you want to sew with a washable fabric pen. It is important here for you to know that the more seams you sew through, the better the finish product will look. This will hold the three layers intact.
Step 4: Now, you can sew a binding border that will go around the quilt periphery to protect the seams. You can choose to cut your binding.
If you cut your strips, you will have to overlap them to be 2½ inches wide, and long enough to be able to go around on all sides of the quilt. Sew the strips together so that you have 4 strips equal to the length of all the 4 sides.
Step 5: It is okay if you have sewn the multiple pieces together to make one length of the binding. All you will need to do is to iron them flat.
Step 6: Pin these bindings onto your quilt. Lay them in a way that the opposite sides are down on the top of your quilt. Set them in a way that the edges line up neatly. Use pins and safety pins to hold them in place for stitching.
Step 7: Begin sewing from the edge of the quilt and the binding and sew using ½ inch inseam. This should be done on both sides of the fabric to ensure that no loose ends are left. Doing so will leave you with a quilt with two pieces of backward facing bindings.
Flip the quilt over exposing the back. The edges of the binding will be standing up. Fold the binding over the edges and corners so as to touch the quilt. You can choose to iron the corners once again since the binding will overlap there. Do the same for the remaining three corners and stitch the binding firmly onto the quilt.
Step 8: To sew them in place, use an invisible thread or if you choose to handstitch, use a ladder stitch. But ensure only to stitch through the batting and the backing and not to stitch the face of the quilt. Stitch all the four sides and make sure the corners are squared off and even.

Step 9: Wash, dry, and iron your quilt once again.
There you have it, useful tips and detailed instructions to make a photo memory quilt. You can choose to personalize this further by stitching pieces of old clothes like jersey, baby sock, and onesies. But remember to stitch through them and not around, to secure the pieces of fabric into place.