The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources

Tips on Making a Guest Book Quilt

26 Comments

One of my very best friends got married this summer, and I got to be in her wedding. Hence, I have only this digital picture of the wedding, but you can see a few on the photographer’s blog. Here is a shot of the bridesmaids in the dressing room.

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Anyway, this friend really wanted a guestbook quilt. Lucky for her, one of her bridesmaids was a quilter. Me!

I bought a bunch of fat quarters (a yard of fabric quartered) in her wedding colors, purple, green, and ivory, the lighter and more subtly-patterned ones onto which I ironed freezer paper. (Freezer paper is available at the grocery store, and is a kind of plastic-coated paper that will stick to fabric when ironed on, but then peel off easily. It makes the fabric stiff and easier to write on.) I then cut all the fabric into squares. I started out pinking the edge of some to make them look fancy, but that was taking forever compared to the rotary cutter, so I just intermingled my ~5 pinked squares among the rest. My squares were 5″ x 5.” That means the final size of the square when quilted would be 4.5″ x 4.5″. I took about 120 to the wedding, along with two permanent fabric pens. I think there were something like 180-200 people at the wedding, but many were couples or in families, so I only needed a bit more than half that number of squares.

At the wedding is where I learned of a few more things I should have done:

1. Have an attendant at the guest book quilt table to give instructions. In this cute picture off Pinterest of someone doing a guestbook quilt, they do not appear to have any attendant, just some framed instructions. The basic instruction is not to write within a half inch of the edge, because the quilter needs some material to sew. Some people apparently do not read this instruction, because a few signatures had to be forever bound up in the internal parts of the quilt. Also, one person wrote on the freezer paper side instead of the fabric side. Most people did do fine, but if it is your wedding, you will want to read every signature later.

2. Either have the table where people have to pass it to get to the wedding, or have the DJ announce it several times over the course of cocktail hour/dancing. The DJ at this wedding announced it right before everyone had to head into the reception, so if people hadn’t noticed it before, they didn’t have time to sign it. TSH and I remedied this by walking around with the fabric pens and baskets of squares to everyone during the dancing and asking if they had signed them. We missed a few people, but ended up getting about 50 more squares signed. And we still had time to slow dance together once, which is about all TSH can handle anyway.

3. Have more than 2 fabric pens. One of my pens died partially through the night, and people tend to write a lot more on a quilt square than they would in a guestbook, so there wouldn’t have been as much waiting around with more than 2 pens.

If you don’t sew, you might want to ignore the rest, but I ended up with 16 squares by 12 squares, so 192 squares. (about 75 of these were signed). To at some visual interest, and get the quilt to ~5′ wide, I added some vertical strips that were half the width of the squared when quilted. (2 and 3/4 inches wide before quilted, and 5″, 9.5″, or 14″ long. Every place there will be a seam, you have to add a quarter inch on each piece for seam allowance.) I then arranged it all out on the floor how I wanted and took a picture. The picture is not just for the blog. Rather, I couldn’t leave it on the floor for months, and I wanted to see how I had arranged it.IMG_5170

The vertical strips made piecing the quilt a little bit trickier, so I used a photo manipulation software to draw lines around the sections I could sew together in one chunk before sewing those chunks to other chunks. That looked like this:

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After I pieced it, I made a quilt sandwich with a piece of batting I had on hand, and a purple twin sheet.  I decided to quilt it in straight, horizontal lines. I didn’t want the quilting interfering with the writing on the squares, so the lines were one quarter inch above and below each horizontal seam, and I stopped and skipped over the vertical strips where there wasn’t a seam. You can see the quilting in this photo of a correctly signed square:

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We were able to see the newlyweds a couple weekends ago and give them their quilt. Yay! Congrats again, dear friends!

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26 thoughts on “Tips on Making a Guest Book Quilt

  1. I can’t get fabric to adhere to wax paper! What am I doing wrong???

  2. Yay! It worked. I got the freezer paper today and all finished! Thanks

  3. Are there any special washing instructions? Is the freezer paper just to provide stability to the fabric?

    • You don’t wash the freezer paper. You could prewash the fabric before you iron the paper on, or you could just wash the whole quilt at the end, but before you sew the squares together, you pull the freezer paper off. it should peel right off. Yes, it is just to give stability to make it easier for people to write on the fabric.

  4. What are the best kind of fabric pens/markers to use?

  5. What size fabric pen worked best for you guys?

  6. haha sorry I see the above comment now haha

  7. We washed the fabric first. We tried a few different types of pens and actually put them into a lingerie bag in a cold water wash to see how they would wash afterward as well. There was no difference in the pens — different brands, but all permanent ink. We had some from WalMart — Sharpie type pens, some from Michaels — permanent art pens and some from Joanne’s — fabric markers. The narrow tips do work best for most people — although guests who press too hard will not have as good results

    We actually went to the trouble of putting basting stitches around all of our blocks for two reasons — first, to keep folks inside the lines, and second to keep the paper and fabric from separating during handling. Still, we had some who wrote outside the lines (hint we made the margins a little larger so actually we had none that went past our 1/2″ actual sewing allowance). We had a few who wrote on the back (on the freezer paper side), and a few that must have used their own ink pens!

    You really must have someone posted at the table to make sure that you get good results and that are all squares are useable. But in the end, it is still a wonderful keepsake!

  8. This might be silly – but which side do I iron? The fabric side or the paper? -_-

    • The freezer paper has plastic on it, so you don’t want to put your iron directly on that. Just put them both together, fabric side up on the ironing board, and then when it cools, peel the whole thing off the ironing board. Actually, it’s been a long time since I did this, and I think the box of freezer paper had instructions on it. It gets used for crafts a lot.

  9. I’m doing a signature quilt for my niece and I’ve found that simply placing the fabric on top of a paper towel works well too. It just keeps the fabric from slipping as you write. Less work! Just remind people to write lightly. Actual fabric pens do not seem to need much press to leave ink. Also, instead of sewing on the seam allowances, I plan to use a water-soluble pencil. Super quick to just make light lines where you will sew – I think this will also help people to know which side of the fabric to write on. About pens, I’ve used TeeJuice Fine Point Fabric Art Markers and Pigma Micron 05 (0.45mm line) and been happy with both. Hope this helps people!

  10. Pingback: DIY Wednesday – Guestbooks You’ll Actually Enjoy | Weddings at Coolidge Hall

  11. What is the best way to keep the fabric taut while people write on it. My experience is that the fabric pulls as you write and tends to get messy. I am not a quilter by any stretch of the imagination! 🙂

  12. I found that the freezer paper had a tendency to peel a little, but worked well. Also I had a few folks write on the wrong side–the paper side! An iron-on fabric stabilizer …the kind that is used for machine embroidery and is available at fabric stores like Joanne’s… will work well and can be left on if a lightweight one is chosen; if you want to remove it afterward be sure to get one that says iron on, tear away. And be sure to have someone at the table to prevent folks from writing on the back! 🙂

  13. after people write on fabric where does it go….?? To Dry?? Thanks doing this for my sisters wedding.

  14. Couldn’t we make the quilt and then have it signed by guest? Or is there a purpose in getting squares signed first before quilting! I am trying to find a quilt to purchase for my granddaughters wedding in Sept. Health reasons will not allow me to make one so since I haven’t made a signing quilt before ,just trying to understand my options!

    • You can. Having people sign the squares first gives you control over distributing the notes and keeps the quilt from having cross-outs/mistakes on it. It is also easier to write on paper-backed squares than a quilt with batting inside. in fact you might try first to make sure everyone isn’t going to be frustrated. just lay a thin piece of cloth on top and see how writing on it goes. if they just sign the quilt, you risk having everyone sign one side, or crossing out all over the place.

  15. Love this idea – but wondering if I could do one as a Graduation gift for my son this year and instead of having signatures no the fabric – if I can put photos of little milestones he accomplished during his 12 years of school.
    Thinking 8 blocks across & 8 blocks down = 64 squares in total with about 20 or 32 photos throughout.
    Thoughts

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