If you’re looking for something to cuddle under, consider a lap quilt, Soft, warming, and great for chilly nights, lap quilts are the perfect way to get through the colder months. Best of all, it takes hardly any time, and just a little know-how, to whip one up.
Before we start getting into the nitty-gritty of how to make a lap quilt, the first question we need to look at is… what exactly is a lap quilt?
To put it simply, a lap quilt is, as the name suggests, a quilt designed to cover a person’s lap or legs. Due to the reduced area they’re expected to cover, lap quilts are typically smaller than throw quilts, although the final size and style can vary hugely.
Like size and style, the type of fabric that goes into a lap quilt can be… well, pretty much anything. Most quilters prefer to use wash and wear fabric for easy maintenance, but the final choice will ultimately depend on the individual preferences of both the maker and the receiver.
Now we know what a lap quilt is, we come to the question of how to make one. Although every quilter has their own distinctive style, the lap quilting method can be defined as the process of sewing individual blocks together first, before assembling the sections to make a quilt.
A lap quilling frame ( a small, rectangular frame that sits in the lap and holds the quilt tightly in place) or a hoop (similar to a quilting frame in function, but held in the hand and available in a wide range of sizes) is usually used to hold the smaller sections in place, although some quilter prefers to simply hold them in their hands as they work on them.
Lap quilts are petite, that’s a given. But establishing exactly how “petite” isn’t quite so easy as providing a simple set of measurements.
While a lap quilt will typically be smaller than a throw quilt, it’s final size will vary depending on the needs of the person it’s intended for. Lap quilts designed to rest on someone’s knees while they sit and read will generally be smaller and less bulky, for example, than a quilt intended for a wheelchair user (although the quilter in this instance should be careful not to make the quilt so large it risks getting in the way of the chair’s wheels).
Sizes do, can, and will vary; that said, a “typical” lap quilt will usually measure between 36 inches and 48 inches along each side.
If you’re making a lap quilt for a wheelchair user, there are a few considerations to bear in mind. First of all, you need the quilt to be bulky enough to provide warmth. Secondly, you want it to be large enough to cover the legs, without being so big as to risk getting caught in the chair’s wheels.
Although needs vary, the general standard for a lap quilt for wheelchair users is 34-by-44-inches.
If you’re making a lap quilt for someone in a nursing home, it’s important to consider how, and by who, the quilt will be used. If it’s intended for a wheelchair user, a lap quilt of around 34-by-44-inches will be an appropriate size. If it’s intended for use on a bed, a larger quilt of 50 -by-60 inches or 60 -by-70 inches may be better.
If you know the intended recipient of the quilt, consider their needs before getting started. If you’re donating quilts to a nursing home without knowing where it will ultimately end up, it may be worth speaking to the home beforehand. They should be able to give you a good indication of what kind of quilts they’re most in need of, which you can then use to guide your measurements.
Another top thing to consider when making quilts for nursing homes is your choice of batting and fabric. Nursing homes tend to wash everything over the same high heat, so be careful to choose a washable material that can withstand high temperatures.
We’ve already seen that lap quilts come in many different sizes, but did you know their shape can vary as well?
While most of us think of lap quilts as being square or rectangular, they can just as easily be round or irregular.
There are really no hard or fast rules when it comes to lap quilts, either in terms of size or style, shape or fabric. Ultimately, everything comes down to the requirements of the end-user and the preferences of the quilter.
There are no set rules to determine the size of the squares (sometimes referred to as blocks) on a lap quilt. Beginners will usually find it easier to work with larger squares (which come with the added satisfaction of growing the quilt that much quicker). Experienced sewers, on the other hand, may prefer the challenge of smaller squares.
Of course, much comes down to the complexity of the pattern itself, with some patterns calling for very specific sizes. If you’re freewheeling without a pattern, a good rule of thumb is to use squares measuring 5- by-5 inches if you’re a novice, and ones of 3.5-by-3.5 inches if you’re a sewing whizz.
Top Tip: Whatever size square you settle on, the size of the square you cut out should be slightly larger than the finished size to allow for a seam allowance. As a good rule of thumb, aim for a quarter inch seam allowance on each side. So, for example, if you opt for squares of 5-by-5 inches, the squares you cut out should be 5.5-by-5.5 inches.
Working out the number of squares needed for a quilt can be a mind-boggling affair. Fortunately, there’s an easy calculation that will give you the exact number you need within seconds.
To find out how many squares will go into each row, simply take your quilt dimension and divide by the finished square size. So, if you’re making a 65-inch-wide quilt made with 4-inch squares, the calculation is: 65 ÷ 4 = 16.25. If you land on an uneven number (as in this case), simply round up to the nearest whole number.
Multiply that number by the number of blocks in your columns. So, going back to our previous example, if you plan on having 12 columns, multiply 12 by 17 to give the total number of blocks needed.
If you’d rather someone else do the calculations for you (and wouldn’t we all), there’s a wealth of calculators available online designed to do exactly that. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these handy sites for size:
No one’s going to claim calculating the amount of fabric you need to make a lap quilt is one of the easiest things in the world. Fortunately, it’s the last piece of math you’ll need to do before getting started on the fun part.
Measure the width of your fabric, omitting the unusable edge.
Work out how big you want your blocks (remembering to allow an additional quarter inch seam allowance on each side).
Divide the width of your chosen fabric by the cut block size (I, e. the finished block size plus seam allowance).
Take the total number of blocks you need and divide by the number of blocks that can fit into the fabric’s width. If you land on an uneven number, round up to the nearest whole number. This will give you the number of fabric strips you’ll need.
Multiply the number of strips you need by the width of the block. The number you end up with will be the total amount of fabric you’ll need.
Other than fabric, the most essential part of a lap quilt (and the element responsible for its thickness and softness) is quilt batting. Quilt batting comes in a variety of types (more on which coming up), each offering different levels of breathability, comfort, and warmth.
For those new to quilting (and, by extension, the term “batting”), batting is simply the middle layer of the quilt: although it’s never seen, it’s the main decider of how your finished quilt will look, feel, and drape.
Get the batting right, and half the battle is won. Get it wrong, and your quilt will never reach its full potential, no matter how intricate your stitching or how beautiful your pattern.
Before you decide on the best type of battling for your quilt, it’s worth exploring and learning a little more about the different options available:
As the type of batting you use will determine the final look and feel of your quilt, it’s worth paying close attention to the type you choose.
All battings come with a rating that indicates how close your lines of quilting should be to prevent the batting slipping around in the quilt. As this will affect how much work you need to put into the quilt, choose carefully.
If you’re looking to make a quick quilt, look for a high batting rating (which will mean less overall quilting). If you’re creating a labor of love, a lower batting rating is equally appropriate.
Hopefully, you’ve been inspired enough by today’s post to whip up a lap quilt of your own. If you know any other would-be quilters who could use some handy tips to get started, please feel free to share the post.