How To: Sew a Skyline Baby Quilt

skyline_quilt_fo.jpgIn this tutorial, learn how to make the Skyline quilt - a starter quilting and appliqué project that would be equally at home in a crib or on your wall.

When I heard my sister-in-law was pregnant, my absolute first thought was - QUILT!!!
Sorry, I'm a craft addict. But what am I doing apologizing - what baby doesn't need a handmade quilt?

Plus, the whole family can get involved in making a quilt - my husband and father helped choose the fabrics, my mom did an immense amount of appliqué, and I did most of the construction. When we finally handed over the finished project, we all felt like we'd had a hand in making this quilt!

Because we're all New York-based, it made sense to make a design that celebrates the amazing city this kid will grow up in. Between that, and the authentic New York subway fabric from City Quilter - my absolute favorite craft shop in the five boroughs - the design process of this new quilt came together pretty quickly.

3888292414_d76569b06b_b.jpgRight: the kind of gritty, inspiring New York City architecture that I was thinking of when I designed this quilt.

If you'd like to learn how to hand-quilt and hand-appliqué, this could be the project for you. And you don't need a baby to make it a worthwhile investment of your time - with a few customizations this would also make a kickin' wall-hanging. Both crafts have some definite advantages over their machine counterparts - not least the fact that you can complete the whole project in front of the television!

The finished size of our quilt is 41" x 36" - just over a yard/metre square. It's not a standard size, but that's how I roll.

skyline_quilt_cutting.jpgLeft: my husband helping out - this makes a great family craft project!


  • Approximately 1 metre/yard City Quilter's NYC Subway in black
  • Approximately 1.5 metres/yards City Quilter's NYC Subway in cream
  • Clover Quilt Marker in white
  • Assorted cotton fabrics in bright colors to coordinate with the NYC Subway fabric - green, orange, yellow, red, grey, navy blue, and brown are all colors in use for subway lines in New York City, but don't be limited to these! (I threw in some extras for oomph)
  • Scraps of yellow and dark blue cotton fabric (for windows)
  • 1/4 yard (not a fat quarter) blue cotton fabric
  • 1/8 yard green fabric
  • Quilting needles and thread to match your fabrics
  • 1.5 metre/yard cotton quilt batting
  • Lots and lots of pins
  • Quilting hoop (not an embroidery hoop - I used one that's 15" in diameter)
  • Pens and paper
  • Light cardboard
  • Iron
  • Patience

1. Get out a pen and paper, or even your copy of Photoshop or another image editor. I photographed each of the fabrics I wanted to use so that I'd get the best possible sense of how the fabric would look together. Tinker with this drawing until you're happy with the layout.

What you want for ease of appliqué are a number of rectangular buildings grouped close together - this is not the time to get fancy! (That will come later.) Here's how my diagram looked:


2. Work out how big each of your pieces has to be to fit into the design. Add 1/4" (about 8mm) to the size of each shape. Cut out your pieces.

3. Stitch the sides of each building together, according to the sequence in your drawing (see diagram). Press the seams open, continuing up the unseamed bits of the buildings' sides so that the entire shape, with the exception of the bottom and the outer sides, has a folded-down hem.

applique.jpgAbove: this is how your main building block will look from the back.

If you want to add more buildings in front of your current selection, just cut new shapes, allowing for a hem, and appliqué them in place.

4. Grab the piece you're using for your sky - it should be the width of your projected quilt and the depth of your projected quilt from the top of the sky to below the top hem of the shortest building.

5. Take a moment to lay the building group on the sky. Satisfied? Appliqué your building group to the sky, using a small whipstitch and thread to match each of the buildings. If you'd like to add some buildings in the background, appliqué them to the sky, and THEN attach the main building block.

6. Next up: some detail work. Using scrap paper, figure out where you would like your windows to be, and where. Trace your desired shape onto light cardboard - adding 1/4"/8mm on each side for seam allowance - and cut out the necessary number of shapes from the scraps of yellow and blue fabric.

skyline_quilt_embellishment.jpgRight: don't forget to embellish the quilt, either when it's just a top or at the quilting stage. Initials are always great to include! Just make sure your thread is color-fast.

7. Using a hot iron, fold down the seam allowance of each shape. Appliqué in place, using a whipstitch as before.

8. Draw a moon shape on a piece of light scrap paper. Do not include seam allowance. Instead, pin this paper to scrap yellow fabric and cut roughly 1/2"/1 cm around it (you'll need to use two or three pins for stability).

Trim the fabric until you have something closer to 1/4"/8mm. Cut perpendicularly to the edge of the moon, so that the fabric is tabbed all around the perimeter of the shape - alternatively you can just tab the concave surface of the inner curve of the moon.

Fold the fabric down around the paper, using the iron if necessary. Sewing through the paper, sew the hem down. Press it very firmly, using plenty of steam. Carefully remove the stitches and paper.

While the fabric is still freshly pressed, appliqué the shape to the sky, leaving at least 2 inches/5cm between any part of the moon and the border of the sky.

skyline_quilt_finished_top.jpgAbove: the completed quilt top.

9. Now, cut two strips of fabric the width of your quilt - one narrow, 2"/8cm strip from the green, and a 7"/16cm wide strip from the blue. Using a either a sewing machine or hand-stitching (this is an exception to my hand-stitching only rule because it will not significantly reduce your TV time) sew them to each other, and then sew the green side of the resulting piece to the bottom of your appliquéd buildings. Presto - you have a nice green lawn and the river!

10. Give the whole thing a good pressing - you're ready to quilt!

skyline_quilt_sandwich.jpgAbove: nothing's as tasty as a quilt sandwich.

11. Lay out the piece of NYC Subway fabric in cream - if necessary, tape the edges to your work surface so you're sure that it's completely, totally flat. Lay down the cotton batting, smoothing as you go. Finally, lay your pressed quilt top down, creating a quilt sandwich. Pin the layers together, and then, if you wish, baste and remove the pins (for a longer quilting project I'd do the latter, but for this project I just used pins.

12. Quilt around the insides of each shape, to reinforce them. Then, go crazy! I did a zigzag on the lawn and Japanese-inspired waves in the river.

I also quilted craters on the moon, and some happy little clouds (I love you Bob Ross). Make sure you do enough quilting so that any two lines of quilting are never more than 4 inches apart. This will increase the durability of the quilt. Likewise, leave an unquilted area one inch/2cm from the edge - this area will be covered by the binding (no point quilting where no one's going to see!)

Not sure of your technique? Sew Mama Sew has a fantastic tutorial for hand-quilting - but basically, all you do is tie a small knot, pull it through the top fabric so that it pops through to the underside, and then do a simple running stitch, aiming for 5-9 stitches per inch (see step-by-step diagram). Easy peasy!

13. When you're done quilting, pat yourself on the back. You're making an heirloom! Then, cut four strips of the NYC Subway fabric in cream - 2, the exact width of your quilt long and 3 inches/7cm wide, and 2 the exact height of your quilt + 6 inches long, and 3 inches/7cm wide.

skyline_quilt_binding_3.jpgRight: it's important to place the binding at least 1"/2cm from the edge so that the resulting border has some filling.

14. Take the shorter strips and lay them right side down on the top and bottom edge of your quilt, 1"/2.5cm from the edge (see diagram). Sew the edge of each that's closest to the edge of the quilt (see dotted line in diagram). Fold 'em out and iron.

15. Place the longer strips, one on each of the side edges, placed as before. Sew so that the binding forms a rectangular border around the quilt (see diagram).

binding_2.jpgAbove: the binding process in three steps.

16. Flip your quilt over. Fold the binding strips back over the edge of the quilt so that 1.5"/4cm overhangs (see diagram). Starting the in the middle of each side, fold a 1/2"/1cm seam - pin it into place. Keep pinning in either direction until you get to within 4 inches of the corner. Continue until your quilt looks like this photograph.

skyline_quilt_binding.jpgAbove: by working from the middle outwards to the corners you will prevent bunches in your binding.

17. Fold the corner as if you're continuing to turn under the seam on one side - the difference is that you're going to tuck in the remaining fabric from the other side of the corner at the same time. Trim a bit of fabric from the underlayer if necessary - but be conservative.

skyline_quilt_corner.jpgRight: a finished square corner.

If you'd like to miter the corners, just follow this tutorial from - they'll have you mitering in moments!

18. Now, sew around all of the edges, fixing the hem in place using a whipstitch. Sew it securely with strong thread, and be careful not to pierce the top layer of the quilt.

And you're done!

Fancy turning this into a wall hanging? Check out these awesome tips, direct from the experts at Amish Country Lanes.

skyline_quilt_fo_w_mom.jpgLeft: my mom put in so many hours on this quilt! She's very proud. 

See more of Ellen's work over at Little White Bird.

Have any questions? Please leave 'em in the comments section.

[This pattern is copyright Ellen Lindner 2012. Not for commercial use. Additional images via The National Archives on Flickr.]

How To: Sew a Skyline Baby Quilt - Comments

  • terri

    I've been wanting to make a skyline quilt & this gave me some inspiration! Houston has an interesting skyline also!

  • MadameMolet

    A totally gorgeous heirloom for one lucky baby.

  • Cara5569

    El, the quilt is BEAUTIFUL.  You are so creative. I love the intials embroided in the quilt.  This so original. Keep up the great work:)

  • ellenlindna

    Thanks, Cara!!!

  • Lynne Lindner

    This project was definitely infused with a lot of love. I really enjoyed appliqueing and quilting. I missed working on it when the quilt was finished.

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