Friday, March 27, 2015

Making Knit Blankets - Tutorial Part 2

This is Part 2 of Sewing Knit Blankets.  I had originally intended to include photos of the finished blankets in this post, but it ended up so photo heavy that I am going to give them their own post next week.  After Part 1 I had a few questions about whether or not this tutorial is for a double or single layer blanket; it is for a single layer.  I tried making a double layer blanket, but it wasn't as stretchy or light and didn't like it as much as a single layer, plus it was not fun to try to line up two layers of stretchy jersey.

So bear with me, there are a lot of photos.

The only thing that you really need for sewing knit fabric is a ball point or stretch needle.  I promise, it will make a big difference.  And if you have an issue with one brand of needle, you might have better luck with another.  Originally I was using a ball point needle from Joann's and had terrible skipped stitches so I ordered a pack of these off of Ebay and they sew like a dream.

Using a walking foot is not required but is very helpful, so if you have one I would recommend that you use it.  

Step 1 - Attach the binding
Starting in the middle of one of the blanket sides, leave a 10" tail of binding on the left and pin the raw edge of the binding to the raw edge of the blanket.  Pin pretty generously all the around, especially on the curved corners.
You can attach the binding with a straight stitch, but I found that I preferred a narrow zig zag stitch because it holds up to the stretch of the fabric a little better.  I like to use just under a 1/2" seam allowance.  
Stop about 10" from where you started.

Step 2 - Joining the binding
There is certainly more than one way to do this, but I like to join the binding the same way I would with quilting cotton.
Bring the left binding tail toward the center and cut about half-ish way across the opening.  It doesn't have to be exact, just eyeball it.
Fold the right tail over right where it meets the edge of the left tail.
Line up the 2" line on your ruler with the fold and mark.  I use my trusty Hera marker.  
Cut along the marked line.
Place the ends of the tails right sides together and sew along the diagonal.  This is a little difficult to illustrate with a photo, so I think it's best to just try it because once you see it, it makes sense.
Trim the seam allowance down to 1/4" and press the seam open.  Your binding should be just the right size.

Sew the binding down to the blanket.

Step 3: Pinning the binding to the back
Press the binding away from the front of the blanket.  It should have enough starch remaining from the previous steps that it stays pretty well.
Turn the blanket over and fold down to the raw edge of the blanket.
And then fold down to cover your seam from attaching the binding to the blanket.  Also, please forgive my chubby, swollen pregnant fingers.
And pin.   Your pins should look something like this from the back.
And this from the front.  You can see that since you used a little less than a 1/2" seam, the binding goes down a little further in the back.  This will help make sure you "catch" the binding in the next step. 

Step 4: Sewing the binding down
One frustration that I had with knit blanket tutorials out there is that they all tell you to use a straight stitch to sew the binding down.  I found this to not be the best option since the straight stitch has very little stretch.  The straight stitch also creates a little bit of a muffin top affect since knit fabric is a little chubbier than quilting cotton, ha ha.

I did try out a few different options and I will share them and leave that decision up to you, though I did end up with a favorite  

The stretch stitch.
This one looks kind of like a lightning bolt.  I set mine as wide and long as possible and it is definitely the stitch that holds up to the most stretch.  However, it is also very dense so it feels a little weird and it was pretty impossible to feed it through my machine without causing the fabric to stretch resulting in wavy edges.  I wanted to love it, but I didn't. 
The stretchy overcasting stitch.  I know that this stitch isn't meant for this type of task, but it actually worked out pretty well.  I don't think I would use it all of the time, but it is pretty stretchy and I thought it went pretty well with this print.
The kinda-long, kinda-narrow zig zag stitch. This one was my favorite. 
It holds up to quite a bit of stretch, is pretty quick, and has a really nice feel.  I also think it looks pretty great.   
Regardless of which stitch you use, your stitching will look better if you use matching thread.  If you have a matching polyester thread it will hold up to stretching a little better than the cotton, though I will confess that I have very few polyester options so I used several cotton threads.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.  I am excited to share the finished blankets with you on Monday, the Art Gallery knits are so gorgeous!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Making Knit Blankets - Tutorial Part 1

grammercy jersey knit receiving blankets
When I had my daughter someone gifted me a wonderful jersey knit blanket.  It was adorable, soft, and the perfect weight for year round use in Southern California.  When I had my son I was pretty new to sewing and was terrified of sewing with knits so I didn't even attempt to make my own version, but this time around I am determined to figure this out.

I have spent the last few weeks trying out fabrics, tricks, and methods and I am excited to share my findings with you.  Even after making a whole bunch of these I am no expert, so if you have your own tips or tricks to share I would love if you could share them in the comments.
While there are several tutorials out there with information on how to make knit blankets, I couldn't find one that was detailed enough for my novice knit sewing skills.  This tutorial assumes that you have some sewing knowledge but I have tried to be detailed.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

Choosing Fabric
There are several different types of knit fabrics, you can read more about them in this very informative post, but my personal favorite for this type of blanket is jersey knit.  It makes you feel like you are being wrapped up in the world's most comfortable t-shirt.  Knit fabrics can be a little trickier to find than quilting cotton, but Fabricworm and Fat Quarter Shop both carry a selection.

Should you prewash knit fabric?  Yes.  The fabric will shrink a little.  I washed and dried mine with my normal laundry since that is how the blankets will be washed.  If you pull the fabric out of the dryer as soon as it is dry the fabric will be nice and pretty much wrinkle-free.

Preparing to cut the fabric
One downside of jersey knit is that the edges will curl up A LOT.
jersey blanket
If you are going to just be trimming up the edges, I highly recommend starching the fabric first.  And not just a little bit of starch, you want to spritz it thoroughly and then make sure to completely dry the fabric with the iron or the edges will curl back.  I really dislike the smell of spray starch and I didn't really want to invest in an alternative, so I found this great recipe for making your own starch.  It worked wonderfully.

If you have starched 3-4 inches from the edge, your new cut edge should still be nice and starchy. 
jersey blanket
Now if you are going to be making a cut from somewhere more in the middle of the fabric where you don't have to worry about the edge, save the starching for after you cut your fabric.  It takes a little bit of time and effort, but starching makes the entire process much easier.
jersey blanket
Choosing your blanket size
Since these Art Gallery knits are 58"-60" wide, you have some options for choosing your blanket size.  These are the options I chose, though you could go with any size.  
  • 36" x 45" - This is a great size for carrying in your diaper bag or using in the car seat or stroller.  You can get away with buying 1 yard of fabric and will have a little leftover (I will show you how I used my leftovers in part 2).
  • 54" x 58" - This uses a 1 1/2 yard cut and is great for kids or adults.  It takes advantage of the full width of the fabric.  My husband thinks I am crazy, but I have been sleeping with one.  It is seriously so soft.
Cutting the fabric
If you have successfully starched your fabric, cutting should be pretty similar to cutting quilting cotton.  I folded mine in half, selvage to selvage, and then cut to my desired size.  Once I had my fabric cut I used a dinner plate to cut a curved edge.  
jersey blanket
Cutting and making the binding
I was so pleased to see that Art Gallery has recently released solid jersey knit fabrics.  Since jersey options are more limited than quilting cotton, finding a coordinating binding is a little more challenging and their solid knits coordinate with almost all of their prints.  Of course you can also use prints for the binding.

Since jersey fabric is already stretchy, you don't have to cut along the bias.  Yay!  Starch the edges of the fabric and cut as many 2" strips as you need.  Once you have your strips cut, it's time to join the ends just like you would with quilt binding.
I found that my machine liked to eat the fabric when sewing together binding strips no matter what I did, so I like to start about half way across the diagonal and sew to the edge.
And then flip over to finish sewing along the diagonal. 
Trim the seam allowance down to 1/4" and press the seam open.

While you can try to press the strips to turn them into binding like you would with quilting cotton, I found this to be a waste of time because the ironed fold was barely noticeable by the time I actually got to sewing it on the blanket.
Instead I just pressed and lightly starched the binding flat so that the edges weren't rolled up.  

I hope you found this information helpful.  These blankets are my new favorite thing to make and I am looking forward to having them as quick-ish baby shower gift option.  Part 2 of the tutorial will be posted later this week or early next week.

Some of the fabrics in this post were provided by Art Gallery Fabrics at my request.  I have done my best to portray my honest opinions.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

RJR Cotton Supreme Solids Bundle Winner

Thank you so much for your kind words on my quilt.  The winner of the bundle is . . .
Congratulations Sarah!  I am off to send you an email right now.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What Shade Are You? Blog Hop & Giveaway

A few weeks ago RJR Fabrics contacted me to see if I was interested with working on a project using their solids.  I checked out their colors and was pretty smitten so I said yes.
RJR Solids Quilt
And they exceeded my expectations.  I mixed them in with some of the prints from Rashida Coleman Hale's new Mochi collection.  Since Cotton + Steel is actually a division of RJR fabrics, the RJR solids coordinate perfectly with the collections.
Blog Hop 2015 logo C small
The RJR Cotton Supreme Solids have a great selection of pinks (I think good pinks are the hardest to find) and my favorite is actually the neutral-y brown Driftwood color that I used for the binding.  It might not be cool to love brown, but I do, and Driftwood (color 297) will be filling a void in my stash.  
RJR Solids Quilt
The quilt looks more complicated than it actually is: each of the diamonds is made up of 2 triangles (so there are no y-seams) and I cut the fabric with my favorite triangle ruler.     

I didn't want the quilting to be too dense since the fabrics are incredibly soft and have a wonderful drape, so I quilted a diamond crosshatch.  The finished quilt has a nice, snuggly feel.

RJR has generously offered a giveaway of some of their beautiful solids.  
2015.03.20 C

the giveaway is now closed

To enter the giveaway just leave me a comment letting me know what you would make with these.  The giveaway is open to anyone in the US or Canada and cannot be shipped to PO Boxes.  The giveaway will be open until Monday March 23rd at 5pm PST.   

You can check out previous projects from the What Shade Are You? Blog Hop on the RJR Facebook page. 

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sewing for Birthdays

In the spring it seems like my kids get invited to lots of birthday parties.  The kids love them, but I dread having to pick a birthday present for each kid.  I never know what kids already have or what they will like, so I have been trying to think of some handmade solutions for birthday presents.

My first thought was a tote bag.  I made this one for my son's friend Violet (who was turning 5) using  this tutorial.  I liked the pocket, but I thought the dimensions of the bag were a little weird and the strap was too long, My son was very excited to give her the bag and she seemed to like it.
sewing for birthdays - tote bag

The next weekend we had a party for my daughter's friend Sofia who was turning 7.  My daughter wanted to contribute to the fabric choices and had fun helping me pick out some rainbow-y fabrics.  It's hard to tell from the photo but the rainbow portion of the pillow is a pocket.  This pillow was quick and turned out pretty cute (at least I think so!) and I picked up a few more 14" pillow forms for future birthday parties.
sewing for birthdays - rainbow pillow
I am probably not going to have time to make something for every birthday part, but I do love how excited it made my kids about giving handmade gifts.  I also like that it required more thought and effort from them than picking something up off the shelf.  

Do you have a favorite handmade gift for kids?  I would love tot try out some new ideas for future parties.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Auction for Eleni

Rachel's blog was one of the first that I started following when I started quilting.  If you had the opportunity to interact with her you know that she is sweet, helpful, wonderful, creative, and kind.  I was heartbroken when I heard about the complications surrounding her daughter's birth and am so glad that the Auction for Eleni has been set up to help raise money for Rachel and her family.
I have donated a Fat Eighth bundle of Bonnie and Camille's Happy Go Lucky collection and there are more than 100 other fabrics and handmade items up for auction starting tomorrow March 14th at 4PM EST.  The auction will end on March 15th at 4PM EST.  You can find all of the details plus photos of all of the donated items on the Auction for Eleni Instagram page.

Additionally you can make a donation through Paypal for Rachel and her family by sending the funds directly to  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sending a quilt to be quilted

Warning: this post probably reveals how crazy I am.  I have debated whether or not to post anything about my first experience sending a quilt to be long arm quilted and have decided to post for two reasons: (1) I am interested to know if my experience was typical and I am just OCD and (2) I had never heard anything but positive experiences about using long arm quilters and I wanted to throw in my two cents. I apologize if this post is a little negative.

My Giant Giant Hexagon quilt is about 100" square and I knew that I wasn't going to be up to quilting it any time soon.  We are in the middle of remodeling our master bathroom and I want to do a few updates to our room as well, including the quilt on our bed, so sending the quilt to a long arm quilter seemed to make sense.  I requested an orange peel pantograph pattern and sent the quilt off with 108" wide Architextures backing and some batting.

I received the quilt about 3 weeks later.  Getting a quilt this size quilted is not cheap, my total after shipping costs was just over $200 (of course this rate is completely fair, I am just saying that it was a pretty major expense for me).

1.  When I opened the box I immediately noticed that the thread used on the quilt was darker than I expected.  In discussing the thread color with the quilter I told her that I had been thinking of a light gray, maybe a white, and I would leave that decision up to her.  Since medium gray is neither light gray or white I was not happy.  Apparently she thought that when I said I left the decision up to her she could choose whatever color she thought was best, but if she had run this color by me I would not have been okay with it.  I have a thing about dark thread on lighter fabrics and I am very unhappy with the way the thread looks on the yellow prints in the quilt.
2.  The next thing that I noticed was that the quilt wasn't trimmed completely.  Trimming and squaring up a quilt is pretty much my least favorite part of the process and one of the reasons I sent this out to be quilted was so that I didn't have to trim this giant quilt while 7 months pregnant.  Since the long arm quilter had said that part of the service was trimming the quilt, I was disappointed.  There was still 1/4" or more to trim all the way around the quilt and there were several places where the edge of the quilt wasn't cut straight.
3.  There were also places on the edge of the quilt where the quilt top was folded down into the quilting.  It wasn't by much - 1/4" or 1/2" - but this isn't something that I consider acceptable when I do my own quilting so I was surprised to see this.  The quilter said that it should just be enclosed by the binding - which it wasn't - but I don't want folded down quilting in my binding.
4.  The quilting was crooked in some places. When I complained about this the quilter said that this pattern is difficult to line up and it is normal to have it not be straight, but if I had known that in advance I would have picked a different pattern.
5.  It is pretty impossible to see from this photo, but the tension seemed to be a little off.  I don't know what is normal with long arm quilting, but I can see the knot from the stitches on the quilt top.
So am I completely nuts?  Overall, the quilting looks okay and washing and binding the quilt will take care of most of these issues and I know that these are little things.  I think the thing that that bothers me the most is that I worked so hard to be careful and precise with this project and there are so many things about the quilting that seem sloppy.

Once I calmed down a little bit I emailed the quilter.  She initially apologized and said that I could send the quilt back to her to be trimmed again.  I was going to do this until a couple days later she emailed me again and basically un-apologized.  At that point I decided that I just didn't want to deal with her any more so I will take care of it myself.

Are these experiences typical of sending a quilt to be quilted?  Have you ever had a negative experience with having a quilt long armed?
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