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Archive for the tag “picnic blanket”

birthday blankets

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For a couple of Daughter #2’s friends turning another year older, I made lanyards and fleece blankets.

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What better way to celebrate than with high tea?! Happy Birthday girls!

birthday warmth

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Some of Daughter #2’s friends turn a year older soon, so we thought fleece blankets would make cuddly gifts. They can be left in the car to be available for soccer games and picnics or brought inside for use while TV watching and studying. Their high school colors are blue and white, so we chose fleece with some blue for the top layer.

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For the bottom layer, which wraps around to make the binding, we went with the usual heather gray for its ability to camouflage lint.

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These double-layered fleece blankets are easy to sew, wear like iron and are extra warm. I love when I get these mitered corners right–it’s so much easier with fleece than cotton! You can read how I make these blankets here.

fleece blanket with faux blanket binding

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In my earlier post on high school graduation gifts you can sew, I forgot to include fleece blankets. I am making some in college colors as presents for a few high school grads.

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The technique I use is simple. I buy 4 yards of fleece–2 yards of one color, 2 yards of another. After removing the selvages, I trim them both so that the bottom layer (the layer that will wrap over the top layer as the binding) is 2 inches larger on all sides (eg, bottom layer: 56″ x 72″; top layer: 52″ x 68″). I trim a 2-inch square from each of the four corners of the bottom layer as shown above.

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I then fold the bottom layer over the top layer by 2 inches, overlapping at the corners, and pin. I check my measurements all the way around with a hem gauge as I pin.

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I use a walking foot to sew the binding edge down, with the needle positioned to the left so it is close to the edge.

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With the needle in the needle-down position, I lift the presser foot at the corner, pivot, sew to the corner point, and backstitch.

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I trim this little triangle close to the stitching and get . . .

IMG_1869a nicely finished mitered corner!  I then turn the blanket and, beginning at the inside corner, sew along the binding edge down to the next corner. I repeat till all four sides and corners have been sewn.

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The result is a double-layered fleece blanket that is warm, washes and wears well, and can be used in a variety of ways: in the bleachers, on the sidelines, on a dorm bed, as a spare to keep in a car, or for a picnic. You could use sports team fleece and make one as a Father’s Day gift. And you could sized them smaller to make baby and children’s blankets.

Some tips:

  • gray fleece works great as the bottom layer–it doesn’t show lint as readily.
  • I have found that solids work best as the bottom layer. Fleece prints like the checkered fabric in the blankets above are seldom printed so that they are perfectly square–this is easier to hide on the top layer. If you do choose to use a print on the bottom layer, try to choose one with an all-over random pattern–it’ll mean less frustration for you.
  • fleece can be expensive, but if you look for sales and use coupons, you can get it at affordable prices.
  • be patient when cutting fleece. This is probably the most time-consuming step. I use my extra-large rotary cutter and often return to my cutting mat to trim to get the measurements right.
  • I like to fold over 2 inches for the faux binding, but you might prefer 1 1/2 inches or 3 inches–up to you. You will have to adjust the size of the squares you cut from the corners accordingly.
  • avoid stretching the fleece when cutting, pinning and sewing. Otherwise, the blanket ends up catawampus and askew diagonally, with the layers out of alignment–I learned this the hard way!
  • use a new needle for each blanket. Fleece is tough on needles and sewing machines. After each blanket I make, I use a Q-Tip to catch the lint in my machine.
  • use polyester thread. I was having a terrible time with skipped stitches and broken thread while sewing one blanket. Thinking my problem was with the thread tension, I looked online for a solution. A helpful soul mentioned that you should use 100% polyester thread when sewing fleece–ah ha! I changed my thread and problem solved.
  • use a thread the same color as the bottom fleece layer. The stitches then disappear into the fleece.

graduation gift ideas–part III: gifts you can sew

I have saved the best for last. I love to sew, so here are my favorite ideas for gifts to sew for graduates.

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personalized pillowcase–pillowcases are a go-to gift of mine to make. They are easy to sew–I’ve made dozens for birthday and graduation gifts. You can read more about how I personalize them here. I sew on the recipient’s name, but you could put on a graphic design, sorority symbols or a monogram–there are lots of directions to choose.

floor pillow–large pillows can decorate a bed and provide additional seating. I use 24″x24″ or 26″x26″ pillow forms, but you can make your own oversized pillow forms like Amanda Jean of crazy mom quilts (check out her technique here). She makes beautiful stuffed reading pillows that I find irresistible. I plan on giving her design a try someday.

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For a boy graduate, I made this pillow from old jeans. I had a friend embroider the recipient’s name with her machine.

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For a girl graduate, I made this pillow from interior design fabric samples.

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sprocket pillow–I wrote about these pillows in an earlier post. You can find the link to the Cluck Cluck Sew tutorial here. By choosing fabric that reflects the graduate’s favorite colors or interests, you can make it extra special.

t-shirt pillowcase–a friend recently asked me if I had any suggestions on how to make a pillow from a t-shirt. Great idea, especially for a young man! I looked online and found this quick tutorial that I think would work beautifully.

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doorstop–I know, this sounds like a totally bizarre gift, but it is perfect for an incoming freshman. For firecode safety and security reasons, most dorm room doors now have automatic closing mechanisms, which is good; however, with all of the doors closed, the opportunity for random passing-by-the-room getting-to-know-you encounters is nil. With the door propped open, the student can give the signal that drop-in visitors are welcome and friendships can begin. When Daughter #1 was a freshman, she requested a doorstop for this very reason. I hopped online and found this tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman–perfect! You can personalize it with fabric choices. I made the body of this doorstop for D#1 out of upcycled jeans for the sake of durability.

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picnic blanket–students love an excuse to be outdoors, and a picnic blanket gives them a cool place to hang out with friends. I have used this tutorial from Sew Mama Sew to make picnic blankets for both D#1 and D#2. This blanket is a very basic tied quilt, so it is easy to assemble, but you could certainly quilt it if you wanted. For the daughter in college it does double duty: when not being used for an outside place to sit, it is draped over the chair in her dorm room to hide the dirty upholstery! For my younger daughter, her blanket has gone to the beach and has been handy for sitting on cold stadium seats.

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Rather than tying it, I do a close zig-zag stitch to tack the layers together. Because this blanket gets lots of wear and tear, I use busy fabrics that won’t show stains readily.

Two other riffs on this same idea to check out, both from Sew Mama Sew: a stadium blanket made with t-shirts and a fleece backing and a picnic quilt made with fat quarters.

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garland–I have used this tutorial to make fabric garlands to decorate a dorm room. This scalloped shape is pretty, but I have also seen them in a pennant shape, which I like too and would work better for a guy grad. Again, I personalize through fabric choices. I fussy-cut from US map fabric to show their hometown and the location of their school, and I use fabric that represents their interests and their hometown sports teams (Go Cards! Go Blues! Go Rams!).

lanyard–though I haven’t made a lanyard yet, this idea has garnered the approval of D#2. My kids and their friends like to hook their school IDs and keys on lanyards that they then have hanging out of their pockets–it’s some kind of fashion statement, I suppose. I found two tutorials I like (here and here), which have straightforward instructions and easy-to-follow photos, and I plan to make several this year. I am thinking about bright modern fabrics for girls and upcycled men’s dress shirt fabric for guys. (I have read that this particular style of lanyard should not be worn around the neck for safety reasons since there is no break-away closure. It would be easy to modify this design and add a Velcro or magnet closure if desired. Since my kids just shove them in their pockets, I will make as instructed in the tutorial.)

eye mask–another untested (by me!) but clever idea is an eye mask. My college kids have no trouble sleeping day or night, but sometimes roommates insist on turning on the lights to study at 2 am. What is an exhausted college student to do? I came across this pattern and tutorial from The Red Kitchen and think it would be a terrific gift for a college student. Once again, fabric choices can be tailored to the tastes and sense of humor of the recipient. Packaged with foam earplugs, it would make a great sleep-themed gift.

Well, that’s that. If you have any ideas to share, please do. I am always looking for more!

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