A dear friend of mine asked if I could make a hand-tied flannel blanket for her sweet little boy for Christmas. She already had fabric picked out, a sweet Baby Yoda themed flannel. How could I say no?!?
Of course I would do that! BUT....I've never made one before. At first I was concerned that the end product would not be exactly what she was hoping for. However, well-made is better than nothing...even if it isn't EXACTLY what she wanted. At least that's what I told myself ; )
I also thought, why not share this process? I have many skills to draw on to figure this out, even though I haven't made this exact thing before.
We all can do more than we think, we just have to draw from what we DO know!
Good life lesson...
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Supplies needed for your hand-tied flannel blanket...
I was given a basic idea of what my friend was hoping for in her hand-tied flannel blanket; size, function, washability, etc. She also bought and provided me with the following:
- 5 yards of Baby Yoda flannel fabric (which was SOOOO cute)
- 5 yards of coordinating green flannel fabric
- 2 packages of Poly Fil Extra Loft Queen size 100% bonded polyester batting
- green yarn
- I ended up using Ecru Perle Cotton (size 8), instead of the yard provided.
Receiving these supplies was actually really helpful for one big reason outside of the obvious....it limited my choices and options!
Having too many options when determining HOW to make something, can make it overwhelming and much more challenging!
I received 10 yards of fabric and that is what I have to work with....each side will be made with 5 yards, duvet-cover style. Decision made.
I will use polyester quilt batting, double thickness. Decision made.
I will tie the quilt with yarn. Decision made.
See how great that is....I'm liking this process!
Determining your fabric needs...
10 yards = 85 W x 88 L
Using the 10 yards of fabric I was provided (5 yards for the front and 5 for the back), the finished blanket will be 85 inches W x 88 inches L. We will use a 1 inch seam allowance. There are 3 sewn seams across the width (88 inches -3 inches = 85 inches) and 2 sewn seams across the length (90 inches -2 inches = 88 inches), which is how we ended up with this finished size.
See the diagram to the right. The dashed line in the middle depicts the seam joining the two panels together. This forms one half of the blanket.
It is quite easy to modify the size of your finished blanket.
Below are two diagrams that visually depict different sized end products. These could be made using the same assembly process used in this tutorial, but with different starting fabric sizes. Each result in a smaller end product and require less fabric.
You could choose to use a smaller seam allowance as well. I chose to use 1 inch for several reasons (read below), but you could add some size back to your project if you use a 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch seam allowance instead.
8 yards = 57 W x 70 L (with leftover fabric!)
To create a finished blanket of 57 inches W x 70 inches L, you would need 8 yards of fabric (4 for the front, 4 for the back). Again, secondary to using 1 inch seam allowances, the original cuts of 60 x 72 result in a finished blanket size of 57 inches x 70 inches (3 seams across the width, 2 across the length).
The width of this blanket is wider than the WOF for flannel (44 inches), so you still need to buy the length needed to piece together the panels. This means that you only need about 16 inches of the width of your 3rd and 4th yard of fabric and you will have some fabric left over (about 28 x 72 inches). You could make a few throw pillows or pillowcase!
3 yards = 42 W x 52 L
If you wanted to create a flannel blanket without needing to piece together the panels, you would be limited to a width of 44 inches (the WOF of flannel).
To create a finished blanket of 42 inches W x 52 inches L, you would be 3 yards of fabric (1.5 for the front, 1.5 for the back). We are again using 1 inch seam allowance for the calculations (2 seams along width, 2 seams along the length).
This is a more efficient use of fabric than the version above. However, it's utility is limited by its smaller size. If would be perfect for a small child or as a throw blanket for a smallish person. I say that because it would NOT work for my 6'6" brother ; )
Project Plan: Pieced Panel + Pieced Panel = Envelope. Stuff Envelope. Quilt. Close Envelope. Done.
I decided the best way to proceed, was to make the blanket the same way you would make a duvet-cover. The only difference being that instead of leaving an opening that closes with buttons, we will sew the opening shut.
My basic plan involves making 2 large panels which are sewn together along 3 edges, creating an envelope. This envelope is then turned right side out, stuffed full of batting, hand-tied, and sewn shut.
Please pre wash your flannel!
Since we are using flannel, a VERY important first step is to pre wash and shrink the fabric! It WILL SHRINK...best get that out of the way before it's all put together. If you skip this step (when using flannel), you will get a "wonky" blanket after the first wash. I don't know about you, but that's not what I'm going for!
After this step, I ironed all 10 yards to remove the after-washing creases and folds.
Split 5 yard cuts of fabric into two equal pieces...
Next, it's time to cut the 5 yard piece into two 2.5 yard pieces. When working with long cuts of fabric, I find this easiest to do on the floor.
I folded the piece in half along its 5 yard length, and cut along the fold. This is an easy way to split a long cut of fabric into two "equalish" pieces. Obviously this will not be perfect and the end result will not be square, but it's a good starting point.
I used the exact same process for the solid green flannel fabric, dividing it into two 2.5 yard long pieces of fabric.
Sew together your 2.5 yard cuts into panels
Lay the 2.5 yard pieces of flannel, right sides together.
Make sure to carefully align the edge of fabric on which you will be sewing the seam, to create one of your large panels.
Inspect the selvage edge. If the selvage edge is extra wide (over 1/2 inch), it may be best to cut it off. I did not cut off the selvage in this case, because it was not overly wide and would fit inside my chosen seam allowance (1 inch). However, there are many times that I choose to remove the selvage so that it didn't "show-up" in my finished seam unintentionally.
If you choose to remove the selvage....I HIGHLY recommend cutting it off using your sewing shears and cutting carefully by hand along the selvage line.
Using a rotary cutter for this makes me nervous....the alignment must be perfect or you will be sorry!!!
Determine how large to make your seam allowance
Since this project is so large, and I did not want to remove the selvage, I decided to use a larger seam allowance of 1 inch. It also keeps the math easy peasy.
In order to keep a straight seam and consistent seam allowance along the long length of the blanket edges, I marked the throat plate of my machine with painter's tape. This is a handy trick that I use on occasion for projects like this. I measured out 1 inch from my needle position, and placed painter's tape on my machine in that location. That allowed me to use the tape as a guide and sew my straight seam quickly and accurately by keeping the edge of my fabric (the blanket edge) along the edge of my painter's tape.
It works really well!
Repeat with your second fabric
Sew a straight stitch, using a 1 inch seam allowance, along the length of the flannel piece. Joining these pieces, right sides together, creates the first of your two panels.
Repeat the same process for the solid green flannel fabric. This will become your second panel.
Square up the ends of both panels
After sewing the flannel pieces together to create your 2 panels, you will need to square up the ends.
The easiest way to do this with large cuts of fabric, is on the floor. Place your cutting mat on the floor under the fabric and square up the end using your rotary cutter and ruler (as shown left).
If you need a refresher on using your rotary cutter and ruler to square fabric, see my post How to use a Rotary Cutter to Square Fabric.
Fold and press opening edge on both panels
Before joining the two panels together to form the envelope, I thought it best to turn under the edges which would be along the opening edge. The edge will be sewn shut at the very end, but first we need to insert the batting into the blanket through this opening.
In my experience it is much easier to sew openings closed (using your machine or hand) when they are pressed and folded neatly.
I folded and pressed the edge of one side (along the width) under 1 inch.
Repeat same process for the green panel.
Sew two panels together
Now we can finally sew the two panels together!
Place the two prepared panels (one solid green and one Baby Yoda) right sides together.
The center seams should align themselves nicely, since both fabrics are flannel and the same width (shown to the left).
Pin along the 3 sides that are not folded under and prepare to sew together.
The folded and pressed edge will be the opening we will use to turn the blanket cover right side out and insert the batting.
I sewed the two panels together using the same 1 inch seam allowance.
Trim corners off at an angle. Be careful not to clip into the stitching! This very helpful trick is used to reduce bulk in the corners and helps create crisp and neat corners after turned right side out.
Now it's time to turn our newly created envelope right side out.
Use your turning tool (chopstick, mechanical pencil without lead, point-turner tool) to poke out your corners.
Prepare your batting...
This is the point of the project that I really didn't know what I was doing! That's partially true...I had never hand-tied any blankets or quilts prior to this, so I had to learn as I went along!
I knew that I needed to use the two layers of the batting provided to me. I layed out the batting and cut it down to the size of the envelope that I created, leaving an extra 2 inches of length.
Too much is always better than not enough!
Baste 2 layers of batting together
After the batting layers were cut to size, it was time to figure out how to stuff them into the envelope. It was not going to be an easy task!
I decided the best way to keep those two batting layers together during the insertion (as well as after it was assembled and being loved), was to baste them together. Now I probably could have used quilt adhesive to do this, but preferred to baste together with thread since I prefer to avoid chemicals when possible.
Nothing super fancy here....as you can see to the picture above to the right. I hand sewed a basic X by hand in several places around the two layers of batting, along the edges and a few spots in the middle. No one will see this....it will be buried inside the blanket. But it will do the job of keeping the two layers of batting together during insertion and quilting.
Insert batting into envelope
After the batting was basted, it was time to insert it into the envelope.
I'm sorry I don't have any super helpful tips for this. I took the opportunity to use all four members of my family to feed it into the envelope.
I could have done it myself slowly and carefully, but didn't have the time or energy to make that happen. Remember I had a Christmas morning deadline to make and I WAS NOT about to disappoint my friend or her sweet little man!
My best tips for this process:
- Don't let the edges curl up on you while inserting
- Make sure the edges and corners are ALL THE WAY IN and where you want them to be
- Find an extra set of hands to help you if possible!
Hand tieing 101:
After the batting is inserted and smooth, you might need a beverage break!
Now it's time to hand-tie your blanket...
I used a few references from Pinterest to determine how best to hand-tie, and took away several tips.
- Yarn is a real pain in the butt to use.
- How you tie the yarn is the most critical part in keeping the blanket together!
- The number of ties, or spacing of your ties, is determined by the batting used.
After reviewing and reading about hand-tieing, I decided to use perle cotton instead of the yarn that I was provided. It is easier to work with, less difficult to sew thru the layers and the resulting "knots" are smaller and less bothersome in the finished product.
I was pleasantly surprised how quick and easy the hand-tieing proceeded, once I figured out what I was doing!
I used ecru colored perle cotton (size 8), because it's what I had on hand at home and knew I WASN'T going to have success with the traditional fat yarn.
Thread a large-eyed needle with the perle cotton thread and pass it thru all the layers of the quilt. It is important to leave a piece of thread about 6-8 inches long and then cut from spool. Tie a tight knot, right up against the fabric, right over left. Repeat by tieing a tight knot, this time left over right. Cut off at your desired length. AND THAT'S IT!!!
You can see in the picture above that I made little x shaped stitches because I wanted it to be secure and hold well. Obviously, the perle cotton is not as thick as regular yarn. I chose to add the x shaped (vs a straight - ), because I wanted it to be durable for everyday use by young children (you know, it will get beat up)!
Repeat like a bazillion times. No really, I probably tied knots in this fashion every 6 inches vertically and horizontally. I also reinforced the edges of each side, tieing within 1 inch of each edge in 3 to 4 places along each side. I did not want the edges to shift inside the blanket with washing, and thought that a few more ties would make it more durable.
When in doubt, add more quilting or ties!
Close your envelope...
After I finished hand-tieing the blanket, it was time to finish the opening. I could have machine stitched across the opening, but decided that I would rather hand stitch it closed. There was no other visible machine stitching on the finished blanket. I really didn't want to add topstitching anywhere else on the blanket because it would detract from the tied quilting.
You could totally sew a straight stitch across the opening using a 1/2 inch seam allowance and call it a day!
I'm a wee bit anal retentive and decided that it would look better being hand stitched closed....so that's what I did.
Hand stitching opening closed...
I am not going to go into detail regarding how to hand stitch. I provided a basic overview in my post Handwarmers: A Quick & Easy Tutorial. There are several really good tutorials available from my fellow sewing bloggers that have been done really well, so I will share those with you. No need to reinvent the wheel if not necessary!
Isn't it so sweet! It has a really nice weight from the double layers of flannel and double poly batting.
I am also really glad that I choose to use the perle cotton for hand tieing instead of the yarn. The knots are much smaller and less intrusive, AND it was much easier to complete, since standard yarn does not play nicely with my sewing supplies and fabrics!
The icing on the blanket cake, was the smile on little man's face when he opened it up on Christmas morning! My friend was kind enough to share a picture of his beaming little face.
What a great reminder of why we embark on these projects and how awesome it feels to share your time and skills with those we love!
Christmas Blessings, Happy Holiday Wishes and Prayers for a better 2021 to you all!