After my recent attempt at quilting and all the adventures, failures and very steep learning curve that went into making a baby quilt, I decided for my next expectant friend, a different approach was in order. Pinterest to the rescue for inspiration and I came across this tutorial for a faux chenille baby blanket. Although the end result is lovely, it didn't look easy and even the writer had plenty of problems along the way. Never to be daunted, I gathered my materials and got to work.
- Top layer – I used this cotton panel above. Any good quality non-stretch fabric should work. (See HERE for other cute panels to use.)
- Quilt binding, or make your own
- Underneath – shaggy layers, I used 3 pieces of flannel. Try with 3 or 4 layers.
- Basting spray
- Patience – lots of it
I wish I'd used a lighter color blue flannel on mine, but my choice was limited to what I could get, and I could only get this dark navy. Be aware that the color you have on the upper most layer will very much dominate what it looks like when finished.
Making those layers stick!
Dana had a lot of problems caused by her layers shifting while she sewed. She had a busy print to hide any mistakes but with my printed panel, mistakes would be obvious so I HAD to make sure those layers stuck together and didn't shift. I wasn't so worried about the flannel so I stuck those 3 together with a light spray basting.
I did half at a time, smoothing from the center out towards the edges.
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Always work outside with basting spray. No matter what you do, it will drift around onto the surrounding floor and some come with warnings about breathing in the fumes etc. I laid mine all out on the patio.
When it came to adding the top panel, I gave it a good spray all over, let it dry a little so it was a bit tacky, and then completely overdid it and sprayed it again. I thought at the time this was a solid idea and would prevent shifting, but I should have thought through the whole process first! Still, look how smooth it is. Perfect.
With everything (very) securely basted together, it was time to quilt. The layers have to be cut and sewn on the bias so I drew in a single line across the center at 45 degrees using a disappearing fabric marker. I made this my first line of stitches and then used a quilting guide set up with my walking foot to sew lines of equally spaced stitches about 1/2 inch apart. I used a white thread on the top and a navy underneath.
Now, let me tell you, I love to sew, but sewing and stitching are two different matters. This took a LONG time and it was not interesting. I had to take several ‘I'm going mad' breaks to get me through it. Listen to an audio book or something. Anything to stop your brain from turning off and making wavy stitches – it can happen! Also, don't do this in very hot weather because sewing for hours with a thick blanket on your lap is hot. Yep, its over 100 degrees here and I'm wearing a blanket.
Anyway, once it was done, I was happy. That top panel, in fact, none of the layers shifted even the tiniest bit and I managed to sew the whole thing perfectly without even the tiniest pucker. Hooray for the basting spray.
What did I just say? Hooray for the basting spray? Er – NO! There's nothing wrong with the product, its amazing. But my over liberal use solved one problem with the shifting, but now had caused me another. Totally my own fault.
The next step involved cutting down through all those sewn channels, cutting through carefully just the layers of flannel and leaving the cotton panel undamaged. Now that might have been easy if the two weren't glued together so tightly it was like they had been nailed. I persevered for about 90 minutes, gently using my scissors to prise the flannel away from the cotton, make a little snip, separate the layers, snip and so on. It was painstaking.
In 90 minute I had managed to snip my way through one small corner and my nerves were shot from trying to avoid poking my scissors through that front panel. There was only one answer – wash out all the damned basting spray. It's totally water soluble and intended to be washed out after use, so with all the quilting in place, I got myself a very big bucket and I hand washed the lot until it was nice and soft and I hoped most of the spray had dissolved away.
Relief at last. Yes, there were a few sticky patches left here and there, but mostly my scissors just slipped easily between the cotton and the flannel and it was easy to cut more confidently down those channels. Here's what it looks like cut – not too interesting so far.
If you have a go at this project, I really recommend hand washing after quilting to remove the basting spray and make it easier to cut those channels. Or, just use less spray in the first place!
Trimming and squaring up
It's interesting how if you buy 4 yards of fabric, all of which are said to be 44 inches wide, just how much variation you get in both width and length. My panel had a blue border printed around the outside of the print, but actually at the top the entire blue border was printed on the selvedge where all the little holes are in the edge of the fabric, and I had to trim that off. Hopefully no one will notice when the blanket is completed.
I trimmed off all the rough edges with a rotary cutter. The design on the panel made this easy to do.
Binding the blanket
I bought a quarter yard in this fun stripe which matches the panel because it should look good with the stripes going across the binding. I cut my strips 3 inches wide and had plenty with some left over.
However, with part of the quilt cut and then hand washed earlier in the process, part of the flannel was now already all fluffy and wavy. Sigh. So applying the binding wasn't quite as easy as I would have liked. I had to carefully use the tip of my iron to press out all that flannel flat again around the edges.
I sewed on the binding with the flannel facing up so I could keep it nice and flat as I sewed, then I turned over and hand stitched to the front panel. I think it looks nice and neat.
The magic happens
NOW, at last the blanket is ready for the magic. I already had a sneak peak when I washed it earlier, but was so excited to see how this would come out. I threw it in the washer for a delicates cycle – I admit I was worried the flannel would all fall apart and I'd open the lid to find a piece of cotton and binding and a load of fluff everywhere. Thank goodness, after all that work – it came out beautifully.
I really do wish I'd had a lighter blue for the backing, but I'm still delighted with it. I hope that the Mom To Be likes it as much as I do. My husband loves it and wants me to sew us a big sized one for the bedroom. I'm not sure I have the patience for that. That would work out maybe 6 times as big. 6 times as much sewing straight lines, 6 times as much cutting those little channels. It would give us 6 times as much snuggly goodness… It just might be worth it.