Monday, September 17, 2012

Simple Personalized Cotton Baby Blanket

I love living in Southern California. The weather is pretty constant year-round, even if the ocean is often on the chilly side. There are several weeks in the summer that get really hot though. It doesn't last long, well, compared to my childhood towns in Louisiana or Tennessee. The coastal heat is far more tolerable than the muggy, humid heat that the South bears.

Having an infant through the summer can be difficult when it gets hot (although I'm sure being pregnant through the hot summer is probably far more miserable). We had a challenge with nap time for Graham in those hot weeks since we didn't have air conditioning. Graham needed to be swaddled, but all we had were cozy flannel blankets. He slept like a furnace as it was, so being swaddled in a warm flannel blanket was just more than I was willing to let him do when the temperature reached 90 degrees some days.

I found some plain cotton fabric and decided to make him a few simple blankets out of it. He still slept warm, so we'd swaddle him and then take a spray bottle filled with water and just spray the blanket down until it was pretty soaked. That kept him cool on the hottest days and he napped pretty comfortably.

Recently, however, I went to get him out of his crib and he had rolled over from his back onto his stomach. It was time to throw swaddling out the window. Surprisingly, it only took two days for Graham to adjust to not being swaddled during sleep time. He's always been a pretty good sleeper. Well, not at sleeping through the night, but when it's time to nap or go to bed he generally lays down quietly and goes right to sleep without a fight. Sometimes he'll lay there and just talk to himself for a few minutes before drifting off, but he does typically fall asleep very well. We did start from day one to establish that habit and so far it's been working out really well.

Anyway, Graham loves his cottong blankets. Sometimes if he's tired and he gets a little fussy, I'll stick his pacifier in his mouth, hand him his blanket, and he'll wad it up around his face, close his eyes, and immediately go to sleep. I find it amazing that he can sooth himself with the right couple of things. He's really an incredible baby boy.

So back to these blankets I made. I'm not a fan of hemming things--dresses, skirts, pants (well, pants aren't so bad), I just get bored of hemming things. I find it so boring. Turning under the edges of a blanket are exactly the same thing to me and I did not feel like doing that for these blankets.

So I got creative.
And then I got more creative.
I ended up with a decorative edged monogrammed blanket.
And I love it!

Here's a tutorial on how to do it yourself.

woven cotton broadcloth or cotton gauze fabric
accent colored thread
sewing machine

First, tear it down to size. Literally, you get to tear the fabric. Determine the size you want it to be, make a snip where the size will be right, and tear the fabric tdown to the length you want each side to be. You'll get a few stray threads coming off the edges, so just pull those off and continue on.

Here's a quick lesson on fabric. When it's made, the individual little threads are supposed to cross eachother at 90 degree angles. This is called "on grain." However, with dying, printing, and winding fabric on spools or bolts, those 90 degree angles usually get contorted and rarely stay 90 degrees, which is called "off grain." If you've ever had a t-shirt that has a side seam that doesn't go straight down your side but ends up curving around to the front or back, you've experienced this annoying phenomenon. Before the shirt was made they didn't get the fabric back on grain and there's no way it will ever lay flat or straight.

So when you have a woven fabric and you use this tearing method, it actually rips all the way down a single thread and then you can pull and stretch the fabric to put it back on grain and get those 90 degree angles back. But if I'm just making a blanket I'm not going to bother with the latter part.

Next, finish the edges.I have a few decorative stitches on my sewing machine, so I picked one and went with it.

I used stitch number 4 for the edges, and number 15 for the monogrammed letter.

I stitched about an eight of an inch from the torn edge, leaving some fringe around the outside of the blanket. Then pull off any threads that are parallel to the edge, leaving the nice fuzzy fringe-like threads.

You can leave it like that, or you can add a cute monogrammed letter to one corner by following the next steps.

Write or print the correctly sized letter(s) you want on a sheet of paper. I did a lower-case letter g for Graham's name. (And I used an expired coupon because I didn't want to waste a whole sheet of pretty new paper.)

Pin the paper to the blanket where you want it to be monogrammed. (You see where this is going, don't you?) If your fabric is sheer, you can pin the paper underneath the fabric, but of your fabric is not very see-through, you'll want to pin the paper over the top of it.

Pick the stitch you want to use. (I like the triple straight stitch setting on my machine.) Slowly sew along the line of the letter on the paper, stitching through both the paper and the fabric. Use your hand wheel more than your foot pedal so that you get your curves and lines precise. Leave your needle down and raise the presser foot when you need to turn your fabric for more dramatic curves, putting the presser foot back down each time you begin to stitch again. It only takes a few minutes to do a single letter if you do it carefully and slowly. Be sure to backstitch or leave extra thread for hand knotting at the beginning and end of each line you sew to keep the thread from unraveling.

Carefully tear off the paper once you've finished stitching on it, making sure not to pull out any of the stitching.

And voila!

An adorable personalized baby blanket!

The possibilities for this technique are pretty endless. You can use it on clothing, on quilts,  for wall decor, etcetera. If you decide to try this, please let me know! I'd love to see the ideas and projects you come up with!

I'm also planning on making and selling a few personalized blankets like this soon. Check my Etsy shop in the coming weeks to see what will be available!

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