A Birthmother’s Quilt

It is customary for adopting parents to give a gift to the woman who chooses them to adopt her child. My husband and I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to give that special woman that will come into our lives. We wore the decision as a weight – what could we possibly give that would convey our gratitude and how special and important this woman was in our life? Eventually, it became clear to me – having spent the last three years sewing, crocheting, crafting, and preparing for an adopted child to come into our life – that we would give her a quilt, handmade by me, a piece of my heart and soul for the woman who will give us a piece of herself.

quilt for webquiltbackforweb

To create beauty requires courage, strength, hope, and belief. Creative work is hard whether it is the creation of life within yourself or the conversion of idea, inspiration, imagination into a tactile, physical manifestation that is given to the world in trust and hope not knowing how it will be received by others. In this small way, creating and giving a quilt to this special woman who will come into our lives is the most reciprocal gift we could give in exchange for her releasing her most creative work into our lives.

We hope that as she wraps herself in this quilt when she is sad, she will remember that she will never be fully separated from her child – we are inter-woven together for life and infused with love. We are a three-strand braid, none of us able to stand alone, always connected and strengthening each other. We are the adoption triad – child, birth family, adoptive family – we are forever linked.

Might you be the special woman we are looking for to weave into our lives?

quiltdetailforwebSome details about the quilt:

The quilt is made with the line of fabrics I chose for the nursery – Central Park by Kate Spain. This line comes in greens, blues, purples, oranges, yellows, and taupes. If we adopt a boy, the nursery will have more blues and oranges. If we adopt a girl, the nursery will have more purples and yellows. I love the way the line captures both the natural and built environment.

In the quilt, I wanted to represent what is known as the adoption triad – child, birth family, and adoptive family. I did this first by cutting all the pieces into triangles (triads – I had wanted them to be equilateral triangles, but this pattern wouldn’t have worked as well, so they are half squares). Then I came up with the idea of three interwoven strands – each one made of a different color to represent our uniqueness, but all three the same size and shape. The strands weave just like a braid. In Ecclesiastes it says that a “cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” As the adoption triad, we are a much stronger unit than any one or two of us alone. The three strands are off-center over the left side of the quilt just as the heart is off-center to the left side of the body. This was to emphasize that this three-strand cord is infused with love.


The three stranded braid was inspired from this Helix Quilt Pattern. I have not figured out how to make a PDF of this pattern, otherwise I would. I’ve tried. I think I do not have the right software. Here’s a general idea of how I put this together.

  1. If I counted right, there are:
    20 triangles x 3 colors + 108 white triangles = 168 total triangles
    10 squares x 3 colors + 54 white squares = 84 total squares
    ~ 1 yard of fabric for each color (if all the same fabric) or 1/4 yard each of 3 different colors (assuming 45″ width)
    ~ 4 yards of white fabric (assuming 45″ width)
    ~ 5-6 yards of fabric for the backing (I made the front first then worked out the back sizing)
  2. Cut 10.5″ squares using a quilt ruler and rotary cutter. Each colored “strand” is 20 triangles. You could use the squares without making them triangles, but you would need triangles for the turning points.
  3. Cut each square into 2 triangles by using a straight quilt ruler and the rotary cutter, cutting across one diagonal.
  4. Once you have the fabric cut out, arrange on a large, flat surface (a bed perhaps). Follow the picture for the design. Fill in around the colored squares with white.
  5. I started by sewing the colored triangles into squares and then stitched squares together in diagonal rows. Using a bed to lay the pieces out was so helpful! I just pulled off the row in stacks and stitched in order. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance. Once I had a series of rows, I stitched those together starting at one end and working down to the next. That’s how I roll.

SIDE NOTE (4/19/17): I’m actually working on a new version of this for adoption #2 (please, Lord, hear my prayer!). I’m going to place the helix diagonal across the blanket and fill in the sides with white and colored pieces. I’m close to being ready to stitch, but other projects have taken over my life. C’est la vie! If another adoption looks promising, I’ll jump right back on it as priority #1.

Free Motion Quilting

The top stitching was a new skill for me. I decided to tackle Free Motion Quilting. This required me to borrow a friend’s sewing machine as the free motion quilting foot didn’t work on my old, basic machine. I bought a copy of Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters: Choose & Use Quilting Designs on Modern Quilts to help me get started. There’s a pattern in there called the Basic Swirl that I seemed to master pretty quickly. After practicing for awhile I realized that I could easily form the loops into hearts and the pattern for quilting the white spaces emerged. This blanket is all about love and that’s why their are hearts everywhere, but guess what, life is also messy and imperfect and so is Deanna’s quilting. ;)  Being new at the skill of free motion quilting, Deanna knew that there would be a lot of glitches, but she kept telling herself that though it’s not perfect, it will perfectly represent life and the inherent difficulty of navigating relationship.

I gathered several tools to make this quilt, to make the free motion quilting happen.

Aside from the book listed above, I bought:

LaPeirre Studio Supreme Slider Free Motion Machine Quilting Mat – to help the fabric move easily over the sewing machine

Machingers Gloves-Small/Medium– to help me grip the fabric

Brother SA129 Quilting Foot – this is a free motion quilting foot that allows for tight stitches but movement between each stitch

Quilt Basting Spray – first time using basting spray on a quilt. There are several brands to choose from. I used Heat N Bond, which I got from Joann Fabric. It worked great! No movement of the fabric layers, no safety pins to remove. Wahoo!