Slugs & Snails Memory Quilt – Tutorial

Sewing at a Snail’s Pace

My colleague and his wife had an impressive collection of Slugs & Snails tights that their sons had outgrown and they wanted to turn them into a memory quilt. I had no quilting experience but I offered to do it since I loved the tights' bright colours and designs, and I love sewing for other people - it gives me the opportunity to make something I wouldn't usually choose to make for myself.

Colourful patchwork quilt

I took the tights home two years ago but didn’t cut into the first pair until October this year. I spent a long time planning, reading tutorials, ordering fabric samples and procrastinating out of the fear of messing it up. Once I’d finally found the courage to snip into the first pair, I worked on the quilt every evening and weekend for six weeks to get it finished in time for Christmas.

Close-up of a colourful patchwork quilt

Since this was my first quilt and I wanted to show off the tights, I kept the design simple and used a hundred equally sized squares, attached them to a solid red cotton fabric by stitching in the ditch and finished it off with a matching binding. Below are the full step-by-step instructions if you’re interested in learning to make your own memory quilt.

Close-up of a colourful patchwork quilt
  1. Gather your supplies. You will need:
  2. Cut the pieces out roughly with a ½″ border. See the images below for the cutting lines. For larger tights I managed to get 2 pieces from each leg and 1 piece each from the front and back.
    Square quilting ruler on top of some colourful tights Square quilting ruler on top of some colourful tights
  3. Press the pieces and apply interfacing to each one. I block fused the pieces before cutting them down to size to ensure the squares didn't shrink or stretch out of shape.
  4. Cut the interfaced squares to the exact size. I drew around my square quilting ruler with a white gel pen and cut it out with dressmaking scissors but you can do this much more quickly and accurately using a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat.
    A stack of squares of colourful fabric
  5. Arrange the squares, balancing the colours and contrast. I spent a few hours on this step, making sure all the adjacent squares were a different colour and taking black and white photos to check the contrast. I also tried to scatter the logo pieces evenly but after finishing the quilt I noticed there were four in a row. That will bug me forever!
    Squares of colourful fabric laid side by side
  6. Sew the squares together, row by row. I used a walking foot for this step to make sure the two squares didn't shift out of alignment and I stitched them together with a ¼″ seam allowance using a neutral beige thread.
  7. Press the seam allowances to one side. If you plan to attach the front of the quilt to the batting and backing by stitching in the ditch, you need to press all seam allowances to one side. This is so it catches the fabric rather than just the stitches between the two squares and therefore makes the quilt stronger. I admittedly pressed my seam allowances open because the thick knit fabric made them very bulky and they wouldn't lie flat when pressed to one side.
  8. Sew the rows together, making sure the seams are lined up. Place two rows right sides together and pin them where the seams meet. After pinning, baste the rows together to make sure the seams line up before sewing them together at ¼″. Press the seam allowances to one side.
  9. Place the finished quilt front over the batting and cut the batting to size. I used a rotary cutter and a long ruler for this step to ensure I got a clean, straight line.
  10. Repeat the previous step for the backing fabric.
  11. Pin the quilt front to the batting and backing fabric, square by square. Quilters usually use safety pins but I didn’t have enough so I just used long quilting pins. This resulted in lots of cuts on my right hand when I ran the quilt through my sewing machine!
  12. Stitch in the ditch to attach the front to the batting and backing fabric. I used invisible thread for this step so it couldn't be seen on the front of the quilt but I don’t like how it looks against the solid red fabric when it catches the light.
  13. Cut several 2.5″ strips of fabric for the binding. I cut these on the cross grain using my quilting ruler and rotary cutter, and I used this machine binding tutorial which has photo instructions for turning the strips into one long piece.
  14. Attach the binding to the quilt. I used the tutorial in the previous step to attach my binding with metered corners. However, I sewed the binding to the back of the quilt by hand rather than by machine so the stitches weren't visible.

  15. I'm happy with the finished quilt except for a couple of things: some of the lines of stitching on the back are a bit wobbly where the knit fabric shifted as I stitched in the ditch and I hand sewed the binding too loosely in places where I got to the end of the thread. I've told my colleague to bring it into work if ever it needs mending so the quilt should last them many years.

    Close up of a quilt made out of colourful Slugs and Snails children's tights

    I'm so glad I procrastinated for as long as I did because my sewing skills have greatly improved over the past couple of years and I'm sure there would have been many more mistakes if I'd made it back then. It also gave me lots of time to think about how I'd cut and arrange the pieces, and to learn about quilt making.

    Starting the sewing in October with a Christmas deadline also meant I could take my time with each step, double checking measurements, basting pieces together and hand sewing for invisible stitches. In a world of fast production and instant gratification, it's nice to be able to slow down and enjoy the process.