Thursday, June 5, 2014

150 in 5, Day 4 - 100 Good Wishes Quilts - An Ancient Chinese Tradition

Hi, all!

We're four days into the "150 in 5" promotion, which you can read more about here.  In the interests of brevity, I won't go through it all again, because we have a very interesting guest blogger with a great post!  I'm so happy to welcome Michele from Quilts From My Crayon Box!  As the adoptive mom of two adorable kids, Jammer and Sunshine, she's been a great source of info for me and has a great quilt-y post for us today.  So without further ado, here's Michele!


 Hi! I'm Michele and I blog over at Quilts From My Crayon Box.  I'm thrilled and honored that Sarah asked me do a guest post today. I have a very unique type of quilt to tell you about. It is a Bai Jia Bie ( pronounced Buy Zhay Bee), more commonly known as a 100 Good Wishes Quilt.  These specific quilts have significant meaning for me and have a special place in my heart, not only because I am a mom of 2 adopted children, but also because this tradition it is what introduced me to quilting and started me on the journey and lifelong passion that made quilting a huge part of my life.

A terrific 100 Good Wishes Quilt using a 4 Patch, cornerstones and a piano keys border

This is a centuries old tradition in China, dating back hundreds of years, and were created to welcome a new child into a family, to surround that child with the love and protection of all the families represented. In Mandarin, it's 百家被, which literally means 100 Family Quilt, or a quilt united by 100 families. The tradition originated in the northern part of China in Tianjin, which sits within China's Hebei Province, just south of Beijing. There are some reports that this custom is also fairly common within Hunan Province. More than 20 years ago, adoptive parents of Chinese children embraced this tradition, creating quilts to not only welcome their child into their forever family but to also to help their child maintain a part of their heritage as well as a connection to their birth country.

Last spring I had the pleasure of being interviewed about 100 Good Wishes Quilts and their meaning to me as an adoptive parent by Marin Hanson, curator at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. She is working on her PhD dissertation and her research is focusing on the 100 Good Wishes Quilts, both the ancient Chinese tradition and the modern adaptation of this tradition by adoptive parents all over the world. You can read more about their research trip here.

How is a 100 Good Wishes Quilt created? The idea is really very simple but the meanings behind it go much deeper. The parents to be ask 100 (or more) family members and friends to give them a piece of fabric for the quilt, something that is significant to them (my hubby chose fire department fabric since he is a volunteer firefighter and I chose fabric with lobsters on it since I love lobster), along with a written wish for the new child which are placed in a scrapbook. The wish can be a blessing, a quote, a poem or anything else the giver wants to say to the new child. A small piece of the fabric is attached to the wish so that the child can match the fabrics in their quilt with the wishes in the scrapbook. Here are a few of the fabric pieces and wishes (combined known as a squish) that I received for my childrens' quilts.


This is just one of the page layouts in Jammer's wishes scrapbook. I grouped them together by coordinating color and kept the pages simple and basic so as to not distract from each wish, but you could certainly create the pages any way you wish.

 The quilt itself can be designed in any style or pattern you want. The overall main objective is to not cut the fabric pieces into tiny pieces. They should remain bigger so as to showcase each one and highlight the deeper connected meaning to each of the people that contributed to it.

This is the 100 Good Wishes Quilt that I had the pleasure of making for my friend Lisa's daughter Miss M. We chose a pale Butter Fairy Frost for the sashing and I found the perfect Pink floral fabric for the border based on her favorite colors of Pink and Green. This is a very typical style of layout for these quilts. To give you a size reference, the focus fabrics are 5 1/2" finished.


Here are a few more examples of quilts that were constructed in a similar fashion. As you can see, the sashing color choice is made to simply frame the focus blocks and not complete with them. Some quilts are made with borders, others are not.

White is a popular choice for the sashing. This quilt also contains some half square triangle blocks. I assume this was done to accommodate the number of fabrics received but still maintain a desired finished size. 

Pink is another popular sashing color choice.

The black narrow sashing and border on this version is striking.

I also made this quilt but this time it was for this special young boy who is battling a terminal and rare form of renal cancer. Though he is not an adopted child, his family is Chinese and truly embraces the significance of the fabrics sent for this quilt by their friends and also sent by my blog readers from all over the US.

If you count, you'll realize that the quilt above contains more than 100 squares. There is no hard fast rule that there must be exactly 100. Sometimes there are more and sometimes there are less, all dependent on how many are contributed.

I've also seen many checkerboard layouts and they work especially well for those quilts that don't have a large number of contributed fabrics to use. Red is a very significant color in Chinese society so it is used a great deal in these quilts.

This is another quilt that I made for a friend's daughter. She requested that the squares just be sewn to each other with no sashing between and the squares to be large (they are 7" finished) She also sent me the fabrics used for the borders, the backing and the binding.

Though the layout for this quilt was challenging due to the various colors and prints, they were thrilled with the results. Here is another example of this style of layout but this one also added some Chinese calligraphy embroidered squares in each of the 4 corners.

These are the most common patterns used but there are many other patterns that work well for these unique quilts. This is my son Jammer's 100 Good Wishes Quilt, before it was quilted. It contains 128 squares because I didn't want to leave out any of the fabrics that we received. This is only the 3rd quilt I had ever made and it is really huge (116" x 130").

The design was based on this Square in a Square 50 Good Wishes Quilt made by a friend for her granddaughter. Why are there only 50 squares you may ask? Because this family actually adopted twin girls and each grandmother was given half of the pile to make into a quilt for each granddaughter.

For this quilt, the maker included a large ladybug in the center, which is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. As you can see, each quilt takes on a different feel based on the design selected and the other fabrics used in its construction.

Here is a gorgeous Snowball pattern 100 Good Wishes Quilt.

This one is different from so many others and the 1st diamond version I've come across.

Since becoming a quilter I look at many patterns with a different eye, looking at new ones and seeing if they would make a good option for a 100 Good Wishes Quilt. This adorable pattern by Amy Smart of Diary of A Quilter is just one great example. Though this sample only contains 72 focus squares, the overall size can easily be easily adjusted to accommodate the number of squares you have to use.

This Baubles and Beads pattern from McCalls Quilting: American Quilts for the Home, Spring 2011would be another fabulous layout option for a 100 Good Wishes Quilt. This quilt could look dramatically different depending on your color choice for the areas of White and Yellow.

One of my favorite patterns for these quilts is this from the Moda Bakeshop: Geese in the Park, designed by Karrielyne of Freckled Whimsy. The size and the layout of the quilt can be altered based on the number of fabrics received from friends and family.

Just imagine what a 100 Good Wishes Quilt would look like if you used Darlene Zimmerman's Hanky Panky pattern. The fabrics used in the center could be those from family and friends closest to you. 

 Another option with a different vibe is this Circa Charmer from the October/November 2010 issue of The Quilter.  As mentioned above, the fabrics used for the Card Trick blocks could be from those near and dear and the rest of the fabrics you receive could be used for the 16 patch blocks.

 And the last pattern idea that I'm sharing with you today (the list of possibilities could go on and on) is this Nara's Garden pattern by Nancy Mahoney and available from her website as a free download.

I hope that these examples give you some ideas of the many varied ways that you could make a 100 Good Wishes Quilt besides the typical sashed or checkerboard versions that are so prevalent. It just takes a little imagination, perhaps some adjustment in the size of the blocks and a little reconfiguring to include all the fabrics received. It can most definitely be done well and will result in a quilt that you would be proud of and that the new child will cherish for many years to come. I have been honored to make four 100 Good Wishes Quilts so far and I'm happy to say that there are 4 more in process for later this year.

One last tidbit I want to mention is that a few years ago an adorable book was published about this tradition. A Quilt of Wishes tells the story in a slightly different but totally heartwarming and tear jerking way. Be ready with the tissues. This is one book that every owner and maker of a 100 Good Wishes Quilt should have.

Since I first learned of this ancient tradition when we started our journey to bring our daughter home I have come to truly believe in my heart that it is a fantastic keepsake to make for any new child joining a family, whether by birth or adoption and no matter in what country they were born. That is why I made the quilt for my son who was born in Vietnam.  It is terrific for a child to know that they were waited for by so many and with their 100 Good Wishes Quilt they will always be surrounded by the love and protection of all of those around them.


Wow!  So many great ideas and now I can't wait to make one of these quilts for our little Nathanael!  And I'd love for my extended "quilt-y" family to be part of it too - so if you'd like to send a "squish and a wish" I'd really love that!  Mention in a comment if you want to send one and I'll give you my mailing address.  Be sure to leave your email address just in case you are a no-reply blogger!

Thank you so much, Michele, for being such a wonderful advocate for 100 Good Wishes Quilts - I think it's a great idea that every child should receive one!  

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow for the final day of the 150 in 5 event - we'll be whooping it up as usual, and I have a special quilt to share!

And here's a reminder about how the 150 in 5 works - I hope you'll check out her necklaces - they're just beautiful!!




  1. WoW! What a post! It's a fantastic tradition, and I will be definitely making one, staring as soon as tomorrow! I'm going through adopting process as well right now and while my lil girl is not from China and already living with me, this tradition has such a meaning that's impossible to resist! A VERY big thank you for this post!

  2. What a wonderful post and tradition. I love the quilts and the meaning behind them. I will send you a squish and wish for your new grandson's quilt. I know your mailing address. I still can't decide on which necklace I want. I know tomorrow is the last day for Nancy's event so I'd better hurry and decide.

  3. Beautiful post. What a wonderful and special tradition to share.

  4. A lovely post and thank you Michele. I would love to send a squish/wish (you may want to be specific on size).

  5. Oh, I have read about these quilts before. I will send a squish - but what size?

  6. Love the idea of contributing to you new grandson's 100 good wishes quilt. Sorting through the fabrics today.

  7. I enjoyed this post. I would love to send a squish/wish. Please let me know what size.

  8. I had the privilege of helping a family make a 100 Good Wishes quilt for their adopted son from Vietnam....what a special project!

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  10. Your blog was referred to my by one of "the girls" in our quilting guild.
    It is of particular interest to me as I have two adopted grand daughters from China. They were both adopted when they were nine months old, the eldest is now 17 and the youngest is 13 years old.
    When my DD & SIN went to China the first time they were grouped together with five other families, as they were all adopting babies from the same orphanage. (I also went with them).
    During the past 16 years these six families have been having a yearly reunion, each family taking turns to host. It has been a privilege for me to see those tiny babies grow into beautiful young women.
    In September all the girls will be starting their final year of high school and then looking forward to continuing their education, travelling, working and generally getting on with their lives, so I fear after next years reunion they will become a thing of the past.
    I wanted these girls to stay connected as they have a unique relationship very few people can say they have. I know the social media can do that but having something you can hold which you know has been touched by someone you care about is better than words on a screen.
    So... at last year's reunion I had each girl sign five pieces of 6 1/2 inch fabric and I have made all of them a lap quilt. Incorporating a photo showing them as babies, their name, a quote from Confucius, and "Love, Laugh, Love" embroidered on a block. I used Oriental themed fabric and love the way they turned out.

    I will be giving them to the girls during our reunion this year on the first weekend in August.

    I also went with my DD to adopt their second baby, however, it was a much larger group and the families were from all over Canada, so reunions were not something which could not easily be done.
    Thank you for letting me tell my story.
    The quilts above are beautiful such a great idea.



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