Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ANYONE CAN MAKE THESE TIE-QUILTED, FLEECE COVERLETS

I am always on the look out for thoughtful homemade gifts for special occasions. Tie-fleece blankets seemed to be a good idea that could serve for all age groups. And I remembered that I had seen several  styles for these blankets on the Internet when I made tie-fleece pillows for my grandchildren. A neighbor of mine was in happy anticipation of the birth of her first grandchild, and I decided to make something for the baby. I wanted a quick coverlet design for the baby - one that wouldn't take as much time as a knitted one (up to 30 hours to complete). Confident that the tie-fleece idea would work again for me, I went to the store and bought fleece yardage, one a solid green and the other, a lilac geometric pattern.
You'll get raves on these easily made coverlets.
Finding instructions for making fleece blankets wasn't hard at all. It seemed that every craftsy blog had posted or videoed on how to make this kind of covers. And the results that I saw were very attractive and cuddly.
It seemed that there was nothing complicated about it at all, and that all the makers have been so proud to design and give them as gifts. Even kids, of ages about 10 years and older, apparently have  learned to make them. 

The version I came up with was made entirely by hand without a sewing machine. It was fairly simple to make even on the first try. On the other hand, and now with the experience of my first one, I found that there are some common mistakes left out of most instructions. I'll go over some of these later. The best news is that this kind of blanket is very forgiving to minor mistakes.
Choose your fleece fabric
One blanket uses two pieces of fleece fabric - one for each side. You can use any fleece color/pattern combination you like.  The two pieces should be the same except for the pattern. So, be sure about that when you're selecting the thicknesses and textures.  
Fleece fabric is mostly economical. I've even seen it on sale for $3 or $4 a yard, and that's a real bargain since it tends to be about 45" - 48" wide.The rule of thumb for baby blankets is a width of about 30" and length of around 50". The coverlet I made was to be a crib spread and it was 36" by 45". To be on the safe side buy one and a half yards, each, of the print and the coordinating solid.  So, for $12 to $20 dollars you can make an attractive and useful gift for a baby. 
You can ask the attendant to cut the two pieces of fabric to the size that you want. That way you'll save yourself some time and not have to deal with leftovers.  But remember that the outer ties are going to take about 7 inches from each side of the blanket.
Purchase anti-pill fleece so that the blankets can be washed and dried with the regular laundry without becoming ugly. If the fabric doesn't say it's non-shrinkable,consider it to be so and wash and dry the material before starting.
In my search, I found that there are some environmental concerns with fleece (made of polyethylene terephthalate, polyester plastic, PET). So I decided to use  the polyester fabric I found on sale for a crib coverlet/spread with rather than for a blanket that would have direct contact with the baby. This PET type of fabric would also be great for a car seat coverlet. For those who want an all-purpose baby blanket, it would be best to search about for bamboo or cotton fleece, as those natural materials are better for babies. The cost of natural fabric is likely to be greater.

Materials

pair of good, sharp scissors
2 contrasting color pieces of fleece material
table for working (or be ready to sprawl everything out on the floor)
yardstick
2 shades of worsted-weight yarn (can be, like mine, from your leftover stash)
cardboard template, 7 inches long - with half inch holes
upholstery needle
large safety pins


How to make the coverlet
Step 1- setting up the pieces of fleece

Trim the selvages of the two pieces, if there are any, and straighten out the ends. The selvage is the rough edge along two sides where the weave is a bit different. Selvages aren't usually used. Try for a perfect rectangle. That may not be so easy because the material tends to be wiggly. Don't stretch or pull it. Just smooth it out. Fleece gives a lot and can be seriously stretched out of shape. Don't be over concerned about a few wrinkles. By the time the fringes are tied, it won't be noticeable if the pieces are a little off square. 

Make sure the wrong sides face each other - that's with the more polished sides out and the duller sides inside, just as you'll want it when its tied together. Use 12 or more safety pins to hold the pieces where you want them. Pinning the fleece together helps to keep the two pieces in place while you do the yarn decoration and make the cuts.
Step 2 -  the cuts for fringe
Place the patterned fleece on the bottom, and the solid piece on the top, so you won't be distracted by the pattern. Cut 1” wide slits around the entire edge, 7 “ long with a 7” square cut out of each corner. The fringe strips are cut parallel with each side of the rectangle. Lay the yardstick on the edge of the fleece and put a tiny dot with a washable marker just where you want to make the cuts. Cut both fleece thicknesses at the same time. Sharp scissors are a must. Don't worry about each cut being exactly one inch apart. Slight differences won't be noticeable once it's tied. Lay the template at a 90 degree angle with the side to know how far deep to make each cut. 

Step 3 - yarn decoration & inner ties
Use your template to mark the dots at 1/2" apart and running about 3/4" below the tie fringe cuts.  With the upholstery needle and a double yarn, make the decorative rectangle, passing through top  and bottom. Then, do the inner quilting ties at equal intervals, making sure to go through both layers and having about a 1/4" between the entry from the top side and the exit from the bottom side. Having a repeating geometric pattern will help you determine just where to put these ties without doing a lot of measuring.
Step 4 - the outer ties
Tie the two fabrics together at the edges. The knots should be made between pieces of fringe directly one above the other. Pay attention to how you tie so you won't miss one and then have to go back, untie and tie again. Do two opposing sides first and then the other sides. That way you can keep the rectangle in better shape. Be careful with the ties on the corners because they can be tricky, as you need to keep the right angles. Ties can be done using square knots or with a simple double knot - like the ones shown. Also it's easier if you tie every other fringe, then flip the blanket over to tie the remaining strips. That gives it a cleaner look.  

As you tie, the material may bunch if you are using really tight knots. Just stretch the blanket edge as you go to remove any curling or wrinkles. Try to make the knots loose at first and tighten them up later, as needed.

The results
Luckily for me, I received raves on the results of my first try. Time involved?  It took me about eight concentrated hours of work, given that I made a few mistakes that had to be corrected.  And, now that I've learned from my initial mistakes and hoping not to make additional ones, I'm confident that I can do the next coverlet even faster. So, I may really up the ante and make bed-sized coverlets for each of my three grandchildren.

Simpler versions of the crib coverlet - without the yarn decoration - should take four hours or less, depending on the overall size of the blanket. The results are quite acceptable and the blankets are soft, warm and cuddly. And don't worry about these coverlets being perfect. People appreciate the loving work in handmade items and don’t expect them to look like their commercial counterparts.
CREATE A PERSONALIZED, EMBROIDERED PICTURE FOR A CHILD
A RIBBON DECKED, TIE QUILTED PILLOWCASE AND A PILLOW HEADBOARD



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