How To Make A Prayer Quilt - Detailed Instructions

How To Make A Prayer Quilt

*Note:  This is a long post!  Written for those who want detailed instructions on how to make a prayer quilt

A Prayer Quilt is a quilt that is made by sewing together squares of fabric that have prayers, scriptures, and good favor written on them.  The quilts can be created to commemorate special occasions, as well as to offer comfort for those who are in need of special prayers.  With a basic knowledge of sewing, they are really quite easy to make, and even easier if you have a quilt maker sew it together for you!

There are 10 steps:

1.  Pray

2.  Gather Your Materials

3.  Wash, Press & Cut Your Fabric

4.  Decorate The Squares

5.  Lay Out The Squares (and if you are having someone else       quilt for you, skip to step #10)

6.  Sew The Front Pieces Of The Quilt Together

7.  Baste The Quilt (Stack the 3 Layers of Front, Back & Batting)

8.  Quilt The Front and Back Together

9.  Bind The Quilt Around The Outside Edges

10.  Give Away In Love

1)  The first step, which is to pray, should be obvious, since this is      a “Prayer" Quilt!  My prayers always include:  

*praying for the individual who will be receiving the quilt, whether it is for an illness, a celebration, a difficult time in life, a special memento, etc.  

*praying for all aspects of the design and production of the quilt, that it would be a beautiful gift of love to receive 

*praying that throughout the quilt making process, there would be a spirit of love and peace rather than anxiety, that if any confusion were to occur (and it usually does!) that wisdom and love would prevail

2)   The second step is to gather all of the materials.

(Note:  If you are having someone make the quilt for you, you will only need to purchase the fabric, fabric pens, and stencils. Otherwise you will need all of these items.)  

1.  Fabric:  a.)  solid fabric for the squares that will be written on, b.)  patterned fabric for the border around the decorated squares, c.)  fabric for the back of the quilt                              

2.  Batting

3.  Thread 

4.  Fabric Pens

5.  Stencils (optional, but helpful)

6.  Rotary Cutter & Mat

7.  Scissors, Measuring Tape, Pins, Paper Clips

8.  Basting Spray, Masking Tape

9.  Sewing Machine, Quilting Foot

Special Notes on the items above:

FABRIC:  For the fabric, you will need (and bear with me here, once you get past this, the rest is a breeze!):


1)  3 - 5 different colors of solid cotton fabric - Make sure that the colors are light enough that you can see the writing from the pens.  The quilt size will vary depending on how many contributors you have, so it is difficult to give a precise amount of fabric for the squares.  Personally, I am the type of person who would rather purchase more fabric than I need rather than have to return to the store, so I usually buy 3/4 - 1 yard per color, which I know is overkill, but that is how I work!  

If you want to be more precise in your purchase, you can base your calculations on the following:  

Each yard of fabric makes roughly 35  5 1/2" squares (that is a 5" square with a 1/4" border around the square for stitching).  Don't forget that people will make mistakes when designing, thus many will need more than one square. 

Once you determine how many squares you want to be designed, you can always make the quilt larger by adding coordinating squares or strips of patterned fabric (see gallery).

2)  1 or more patterned fabrics for the border - Again, the amount will vary depending on how you want to make the border (1 solid border or different blocks - see gallery).  I like to choose the border fabrics first and then choose the solid fabrics to coordinate with them.  As you look through the fabric store (praying for the recipient!), a fabric will usually pop out that reminds you of that person (angels, camouflage, flowers, certain colors, etc.).  Because you may not know the exact size of the quilt until you have all the squares back in hand, I usually allow for 1/2 - 1 yard total of the fabrics you choose for the border.  The border size can be any where from 1 1/2" to 3" in width.  If you prefer more exact measurements, there are apps available that will help you determine yardage amounts.

3)  twin flat sheet - I usually purchase a twin flat sheet in a coordinating color for the back of the quilt (flannel makes a cozy quilt, but I don't always use flannel - just a thought!)  If you decide to use fabric other than a sheet, you will either need to:   a) purchase extra wide fabric because most quilts are wider than the average fabric width of 45" or b) cut strips the length of your quilt and seam the strips together, allowing enough extra for the binding.  There are extra wide fabrics available at some stores and online.  If wide enough for the quilt, you just need to determine the length of your quilt, plus 3” all around for finishing the quilt with self binding.  Often I purchase the back fabric after the quilt top is made and I have a better idea of the exact quilt size.  (But if you are at the store and that works for you, go ahead and purchase what you think you might need!)



For the batting, you have the choice of cotton, wool or polyester and each will give a different feel to the quilt.  I usually grab a bag of Sew Perfect Extra Loft Batting, but you can give a quick google search to see if you might want something different.  Here is a link to a site that compares the results of different battings.



You will also need thread to coordinate with your fabrics.  For the front of the quilt, I usually purchase one or two spools to coordinate with the lightest color of solid fabric that is purchased.  Because this is “stitch in the ditch” sewing (stitching within the seam line), you will not see this color thread.  

For the overall quilt, I usually coordinate the thread with the dominant color of the back of the quilt fabric.  When quilting the overall quilt, you again will be stitching in the ditch which means you will not see the thread on the front of the quilt (unless, of course, the squares don’t match perfectly, which will sometimes happen - more on this in a bit!).



I have found that even though I suggest to only use fabric pens that are specifically designed to be used on fabric, people will use whatever it is they want to create their squares, and that is perfectly fine!  Remember no anxiety!  

The only thing to remember is that the quilt then needs a little extra care in keeping it clean, which again is fine.  Even Sharpies are not permanent “fabric” markers.  From experience, I can tell you that they will bleed, but oh they write and color so well! People have also used:  paint, sewn embellishments, and photocopied pictures.  This is what makes the quilt so personal and unique, so I let it be what it will be!  But my first preference is to use pens specifically designed for fabric, although they can be expensive.

STENCILS:  Because stencils can also be expensive, you may not want to purchase these, but they often aid with people’s creativity if you provide them.  I have found that simple drawings of doodles printed and laid out on a table, or printed copies of previous quilts can be another avenue to help with the creative process. 



The rotary cutter and mat are mandatory!  Precise cuts mean a much easier quilt to sew.  

From time to time, I have had people tell me that they will cut their own squares and it turns out to be a disaster.  The squares are frayed and uneven.  It is the perfectly cut squares that make this quilt so easy to put together.  Here is a link on how to cut squares with a rotary cutter, if you have never done so.   



These will all be used to assemble the quilt.

*Try to find an odorless basting spray, if spraying indoors.



I could not find where to give credit for this photo but saw this sewing machine and just had to share it - it is not mine but I sure wish it was !

Any sewing machine you use is fine.  Obviously the newer, the better, but do not feel you need a new machine.  I have used machines any where from 10 - 30 years old.


The quilting foot looks like a scary claw, but it is really quite easy to assemble on your machine.  It helps to grab all three layers of fabric to make the quilting easier.

3)  The third step is to wash, press and cut your fabric.  


You might have the urge to skip this step, but don’t. You don’t want your quilt to shrink after you have worked so hard to have it made; and ironing the fabric will make the cutting, decorating and quilting so much easier!

The majority of quilts that I make use a 5 1/2" square (5" to be decorated, 1/4" around for sewing).  


Here is the beauty though, you can make the squares any size you want!  

BUT though I am usually very flexible about all the different elements of making the quilt, I am hard and fast that the squares are cut by a rotary cutter.  If the squares are cut as little as 1/8" off, it will make the whole quilting process uneven, and thus much more difficult.  

4.  The fourth step is to decorate the squares.  

This is the fun part!  

Scan 8

I suggest sending out a letter to those who you wish to participate in the creating of the squares (though I have known one person to fill out all of the squares for a particular quilt, so that is fine, if you alone want to make it). 

 In the letter, I share:  what a prayer quilt is, how it will be made, and often include a photo so that everyone will understand what you are talking about (feel free to print from the gallery).  

In the past, people have had open houses for people to drop in and fill out the squares, sometimes they mail the blank squares out to friends and family to be returned by a given date, and sometimes they drive them individually to people’s homes and wait!  I have even done quilts where the quilt was completed with blank squares and then they were filled in as people came to visit the recipient.

A word of warning, which you need to share with everyone who participates (but that will also often be disregarded!) is to leave a 1/4” border around the squares.  DO NOT WRITE ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGE OF THE SQUARE.  If you do, part of their design will be eliminated by the sewing seam.  

I tell people this, and tell them again, but they still will write to the edge!  Hopefully some will take your heed!  If not, do not let it bother you, as it will not take away from the quilt.

Another word of warning, put something like a smooth placemat or piece of foamboard underneath the square when drawing so that the markers do not bleed through to your table.  And keep any liquids away from the table where they are decorating - yes it has happened!

5.  The fifth step is to lay out the squares.  


Laying out the squares is my favorite part of the quilt.  This is where I get to see all of the love and creativity that has been poured out over the squares.  

I find a clean space of flooring, like on a family room rug or a clean kitchen floor, and start to lay out the squares, trying to make even rows and to balance the colors and decorations.  (This is another wonderful time to pray, especially in thanksgiving for friends and family, love and support.)


If you find that you are short a square or two to make an even row,  either remove a square of someone who has made more than one square, or add squares by making an extra one yourself or ask someone else to make one.  

Once you are happy with the design, you can begin stacking the rows and clipping them together to get ready for sewing.  I start at the top left corner and stack the squares row by row, moving from left to right, putting each square under the one that was first picked up.  I then clip each row with a large paper clip.  Once all of the rows have been stacked, I then stack from top to bottom all the rows.  

6.  The sixth step is to sew the quilt top together.  

It is now time to start sewing (or pass along to someone else to sew!).  I also enjoy this time because it is such simple sewing and I just take my time and continue to pray.  

Taking the first row of squares, place the first two squares with drawing sides together and stitch with a 1/4" seam.  Continue to do this for each of the squares in the whole row.  

Continue this process for each row, being sure to keep the rows in order.  

Once you have sewn all of the rows, press the seams and cut off excess threads.  I press the seams to one side rather than open, and I usually press them toward the darker fabric.

Now, sew all the rows together.  Starting with the first two rows, place the drawing sides together, pin and sew with a 1/4” seam.  

Continue with the next row sewn to the first two, and then with all of the rows, until they are all sewn together.  Again, press the seams to one side, and cut off any loose threads.




Once the quilt squares are sewn together, it is time to measure and cut the binding fabrics.  


The amount of strips you need to cut depends on the size of the quilt.  If using one fabric, I usually make a 2 - 3” border all the way around, and if using two fabrics, I will use a 1 1/2” border for the interior strip and a 2” strip for the outer strip.  To the width of each strip, I add a total of 1/2” to the strip, which leaves a 1/4” seam on both sides.  The amount of strips you need to cut will be determined by the outer measurement of the quilt.  

Using a rotary cutter, cut strips of fabric for the binding. 

 To achieve long enough strips, you will need to miter two strips together.

When you have the border strips sewn together, sew them to the quilt front.  Starting with the inner border, I sew the strips to the long sides of the quilt first and then attach the top and bottom strips.  

When pinning, leave a little headroom and then cut off the excess after sewing.  

After the inner border is sewn, do the same with the outer border.

After I press the seams, the quilt front is now completed!


7.  The seventh step is to baste the quilt.  

Basting is important to keep the 3 layers together as you are quilting.  First, you will need to cut the quilt back and batting to size.  I measure the front side of the quilt and then about 6" on all sides for both the quilt back and batting.  (Again this is usually overkill, but it works best for me.)  


Once the quilt back and batting are cut, they will need to be stacked on a a clean hard surfaced floor, or on a large table (I often use a ping pong table).  First, lay out the quilt back fabric, printed side down towards the floor.  Take the masking tape and tape down very tightly all the sides to the hard surface.  Tape down one side first, then move to opposite side, smoothing and working to keep the fabric taught as you tape.  

Next lay the batting on top of the quilt back.  (There is no right or wrong side to batting, so either side up is fine.)


Before placing the quilt top, spray the basting spray in between the back and batting.  Fold one half of the basting over and spray the back side, following manufacturer's instructions.  Fold back and then do the same for the other end.  With your hands, smooth out the layers of fabric and batting so that they are lightly stuck together, with as few wrinkles as possible.

Then center the quilt front, printed side up towards the ceiling, on top of the batting.  With your hands, smooth out the wrinkles on top of the quilt top.  Repeat the process of folding one side over and spraying with the basting spray.  Folding back and then repeating on the other end, until all three layers are smooth and lightly basted together.


8.  The eighth step is to do the actual quilting.

You will need to first put the quilt foot on the sewing machine, following manufacture's instructions.  It is usually just a matter of unscrewing one foot and screwing on the quilting foot, very simple.

Then place the thread you will be using in the bobbin and on the spool.


To begin quilting, slide all three layers under the quilting foot, and start sewing at the top center of the decorated squares, following the pattern below.  With the excess fabric, you can roll in a log to the side.  

1.  Start at center top, stitch "in the ditch" beginning at the top of first row, turn, go down length of quilt, turn at bottom, and go back up the length, finishing at the top by back stitching. 


2.  Cut and move quilt to starting point two and repeat.  You will stitch all the length ways lines of one half of the quilt first.

3.  Then turn the quilt so the bottom of the quilt is at the top and repeat quilting pattern on this side.  You will stitch all the length ways lines of the second half of the quilt next.

4.  After the length ways  stitching is completed, you will quilt the horizontal lines.  Stitch horizontally following pattern below for each half of quilt.

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You will notice that when stitching in the ditch, the lines will not always be perfectly aligned when you move from square to square.  Just do your best to follow along the lines.  It will not stand out when the quilt is completed.


Once the interior part of the quilt is stitched, carefully cut off the excess threads (you do not want to accidentally cut through the quilt!)

Then following the lines, stitch in the ditch around the borders, but do not stitch the outer most edge of the quilt.  Turn the quilt over and make sure that you have not missed any rows (like I did here!).


Once all the quilting is done, cut off the excess batting.  Do not cut the quilt backing.  You will need that for the binding.

9.  The ninth step is to bind the quilt.

Using a rotary cutter and mat, cut off the excess quilt backing, with the exception of two inches that you will use to fold over for the binding.


To bind the quilt, fold over the outer edge of the quilt backing to the outer edge of the quilt, then fold over the quilt and pin.  Do this for all four sides of the quilt, mitering at the corners.


Stitch around the quilt, just on top of the folded over binding, making sure to turn and stitch back and forth at the mitered corners.  

10.  The 10th AND FINAL!!!! step is to GIVE AWAY IN LOVE!

I know this has been a lot of information.  If you have any questions, just let me know by emailing me at or messaging me on Facebook at My Sunshine Room.

May your friends and family be blessed by the prayers, hard work and love you exert in making someone a Prayer Quilt!



© margaret young