A different creative project each week…from children's parties to sewing curtains

Monday, 1 July 2013

patchwork blanket

Here is the picnic blanket that I have spent this week making. I have really enjoyed the challenge of making it, but a challenge it was!

Enjoy the blog and hope you feel brave enough to make something like this for your summer picnics!

I found these three pieces of material in a discontinued basket in Hobby craft and I love them. They were only one meter lengths each so I needed a project that wouldn't need more. 

This was supposed to be a simple patch work design, which certainly began that way.

First I cut two squares of fabric using a cardboard template. Then two rectangles (double the square template). And that quickly I was ready to begin sewing. I pinned the two squares together and sewed down one length leaving a 1cm margin.

I am not known for making extra work for myself, so ironing and pinning are not high on my list of priorities. So do listen to me say that ironing and pinning are essential to the success of patchwork! Do it!!!

Open the squares and iron the margins to make a neat crease. Then pin the the first rectangle to the two squares facing the two fabrics. Sew down the length of both squares to join the three pieces of fabric.

Again open the fabric out and press them with the iron.

At this point you should have a square of fabric. Now place the second rectangle (faced down) onto one of the edges of the square. If you, like me, are only using three patterns of fabric do make sure the colours you are using do not edge onto one another. See my pattern (below) to demonstrate how the colours can be laid out.

Use your square cardboard template as a guide to measure the width of the next colour fabric. You should make this rectangle as wide as the others but this time it is three lengths long. Repeat the above process by pinning this rectangle against the longest edge on your pattern, then sew and press. 

Repeat this process until you have a size that you are happy with. My finished square is 75cm long and wide. 
I repeated this pattern four times so had four squares each measuring 75cm. What made my work hard was not having the same amounts of fabric to repeat the pattern exactly, so two of my squares (top right, bottom left) are the same pattern but changing the fabric order). This is what flummoxed me, as the order must be the same for the finished blanket. It is worth drawing out four squares on a paper, cutting the out and working out the best order for your finished blanket. Or just repeat the same pattern on all four squares which will make a better finish than mine!

Carefully I sewed the large squares together with the same 1cm margin I have used on each small squares. Don't forget to pin and press in order to get complete accuracy.

When working with much larger quantities of fabric the margins for error are greater. It is easy for fabric to lay a little skewed meaning that the fabrics are unlikely to meet at other points.

It really is worth your time making sure that things line up properly at this stage!

Now I use a 150cm piece of fabric from IKEA. I find IKEA fabric much firmer to use than average cottons and therefore they make a good backing for a blanket like this. It is also very cheap at £6 a meter.

Lay the fabric faced down on the floor.
Next add a piece of fleece. I bought this white fleece from Yards Ahead for £7.50. It is the first time I have used fleece instead of wadding and I much prefer it. It gives you a thiner yet firmer feel than wadding and is much easier to work with. It can also be bought in 150cm width which is unusual for wadding.
Here you can see I have laid the fleece onto the backing fabric and then pinned the patchwork onto the top. Lots of pins all over the blanket hold all three layers in place.

Now you are ready to quilt it all. Sew around the edge of the patchwork and then down any of the seams on your patchwork.

I sewed down the middle cross, and then around the sides. You can do as much as you like.
Once you have sewed around the patchwork trim off the excess fabric from your backing and fleece. Take the edge to 5mm of the stitching.
My strong advice to you now is to buy Bias Binding. It is cheap and will save you a lot of hassle. I didn't do this, so beware, learn from my mistakes!

I used four lengths of the backing fabric to make my own bias binding. Each piece must be slightly longer than your blanket and 15cm wide.

Begin by ironing each length in half making it only 7.5cm wide. Then cut a piece of cardboard 6cm wide and iron the fabric around it on both sides.
You can just make out on this photo the crease in the middle and the two sides that have also been creased towards the centre.

Even my instructions are confusing…save yourself the hassle and BUY BIAS BINDING!!!

Open your binding and lay it under your blanket with the centre crease running alongside the edge of your blanket.
Fold the edge up along the adjacent side making a triangle shape.

It will be easier to do this if you are using shop-bought bias binding because you can use one long length rather than four pieces as I am.
 Now fold the side of the binding over to make a perfect corner. Pin into place.
Turn the edge of the blanket over to reveal the back of the binding.
Then fold this corner into line, flip the blanket over and pin into place. Repeat on all four corners pinning each edge as you go.

Once you have done this with all four edges and corners sew them into place. On occasions you will be sewing through 7 layers of fabric so go carefully around the corners especially.

This project is not a quick one. I think mine took about 6 hours (would have been less is I used shop-bought bias binding!!!), though I am hoping it will last for many years and be a lovely addition to any summer picnic.

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