How to Sew a Signature Quilt - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

How to Sew a Signature Quilt

November is family story month, and this quilt’s got my family talking. It’s a signature quilt with the names of my relatives, a special way to celebrate our family ties.

signature quilt

This is Kate from the marketing team, and today I’m sharing my latest quilt with you. For 74 summers, my father’s family reunion has drawn our kinfolk to the hot, scrubby land near Fredericksburg. This year, the gathering drew about 150 family members for camping under the old pecan trees. There’s practically no cell service, so everyone puts down their screens for a time to reconnect with one other. The kids play outside all day.

Signature quilts (also called album quilts) date back to the mid-1800s. They’ve long been popular for collecting signatures or messages on a quilt, often to mark a special occasion such as a wedding or graduation.

With the holidays around the corner, there will be many family gatherings and visits with friends. Those are perfect opportunities to collect signatures for a quilt! You can commemorate your New Year’s Eve gathering, make a quilt for a birthday or retirement gift. You can invite people to sign their names or write special messages for the recipient.

Getting Started

First off, I made a writing tablet of sorts to make it easy to write on the fabric. Fabric tends to move a bit when you mark on it, so I used a piece of fine grit sandpaper to grip the fabric.

Then, I cut a 1/2″ seam guide from posterboard in the same size as the fabric rectangle. By placing this over the fabric it keeps writing away from the seam allowance.

I secured the the seam guide, fabric, and sandpaper on a clipboard. I also provided a tester set up for people to practice writing on before committing to the fabric, and told my family to start writing in the middle and work out from there.

I brought a handful of Micron size 08 pens for writing on the fabric. They’re permanent and archival. But I’ve also read that standard permanent markers will do the trick, too.


I made my quilt using the Free Jelly Belly Bars Quilt Pattern in the 54.5″ x 60″ quilt size, with a small change to the layout. My changes are noted below in bold. This pattern is pretty flexible and comes in five sizes, so you can scale up or down easily.

My final quilt layout is slightly different than the Jelly Belly pattern, but only by a little. The top and bottom rows of my quilt use five Jelly Belly Bar Blocks instead of four, so I made one additional block than the original pattern calls for.

Gina Tell of Thread Graffiti did custom quilting, drawing leaves and swirly patterns in and around the signatures, and it looks beautiful! These are some work-in-progress photos from Gina where you can clearly see the quilting.

More Signature Quilt Ideas

Any quilt block with at least 2″ by 4″ of white space throughout will work. For my quilt, I chose a pattern with 4.5″ x 9.5″ of white space for writing and several size options because I wasn’t sure how many fabric squares we would use. There are many more patterns from Fat Quarter Shop that make excellent autograph quilts, and I gathered several pattern ideas on our Pinterest board!

↓ ↓ ↓ PIN IT ↓ ↓ ↓ 

My signature quilt will become a cherished heirloom that reflects the fellowship and bonds of my family for years to come. Have you ever made a signature quilt or plan to make one? Drop a comment below and share about your project.

If you’d like to make a memory quilt with photos printed on fabric, here’s a free photo quilt tutorial you can check out.

Happy quilting!

Stay connected to Fat Quarter Shop!


  1. Your quilt is a treasure! My family also had a reunion every Mother’s Day weekend for many years. Oh how I wish I had done one but didn’t quilt back then. Now most have passed on. Please do it while you have the opportunity!

  2. My family has actually gotten smaller. I would have loved to get my grandparents and great- grandparents’ signatures. I was blessed to have grown up with them, so at least I have precious memories. Thank you for sharing.

  3. The 50th wedding anniversary signature quilt I made was a huge success. My folks were in Florida & many of their GM retiree friends were there, too. Some drew small pictures, wrote a few short poems or: “Remember when…” memories. They were married in 1946; Dad died in 2018, mom’s still here in 2023 @ 96.5 years young. She enjoys re-visitung it, occasionally. There are photos transferred onto off- white fabric, in Black & White. My now grown neices & nephews were but toddlers…Fun to design & lovingly tied this quilt. Had placed a B&W copied photo of their wedding party in the center & placed a similar photo, transferred onto the same fabric, centered on a cotton, drawstring bag, where the quilt is stored.

  4. I made a quilt just like this for my daughter’s wedding. Everyone thought it was a really great idea. My long arm quilter said she had a fun time reading what everyone wrote. as she was quilting it. My daughter and her husband loved it.

  5. We just had a big family gathering for my Mom’s 90th in October…. Wish I knew about this then. It’s wonderful.

  6. This is such a a wonderful idea. I never heard of a signature block. I have a 2 porcelain jolly bars and plan on making one just for fun. Thank ou for sharing this.

  7. I have 2 tablecloths, one made by me and one by my mom. We would all sign in pencil for holidays, and on the kids birthdays we would trace their hand and then have everyone sign.
    Afterwards all was embroidered to preserve the signatures and the memories.
    They are both so precious as the older generation has passed and all my kids are now grown and starting their own families.
    Everyone loves to see them when they are brought out.
    I love the idea of a quilt that could be given to each.

  8. Since seeing this post, I can’t stop thinking about this. We are having a family Thanksgiving with all the family that can come this coming weekend. I am going to start one. Some of the younger cousins haven’t met before. So excited to do this. Thank you so much for the inspiration and instructions.

  9. I’d have a bunch of people asking, “So who gets to keep the quilt?” Well, I DO — it was my idea and I made it! Yes, they would all be lining up for free quilts … Yours is gorgeous!

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