Introduction: Fleece Mermaid Tail Lap Blanket/Baby Sack, Any Size
This fun simple sewing project was inspired by a beautiful crochet pattern I found online. While simple and attractive it was time consuming to make. A young friend suggested I try making one with fleece and here we are. Two layers of fabric make this cool looking lap blanket toasty warm and snuggly. This is my first Instructables, so any feedback is appreciated.
I would consider this sewing project an intermediate skill level project, simply because fleece or velour can be difficult to work with on a sewing machine if you don't have a lot of experience. If you are a beginner, but are up to the challenge of trying fleece, or want to try it using flannel or a nice quilted material I'm sure this pattern is simple enough even for new sewers, and can easily demonstrate adaptability to the fabrics you choose. Just be careful about stretchiness. Both fabrics should be matched in their stretchiness and bias.
The simplicity of this design makes it easy to customize the size to fit anyone from an infant to a tall fat guy, just saying...
My directions will be for a moderately buxom adult mermaid of average height. My length is 45" (average fabric width) and width is 54" (1 1/2 yards). This left me needing about 2/3 of a yard of color 1 to make the tailfin. To custom fit your blanket, simply follow customizing steps and fill in your numbers. Any design modifications for the baby sack style is notes as "baby steps."
And now for some not so brief, but much needed warnings about fleece and velour.
1. Not all fleece has the same kind of stretchiness. Be sure your two pieces have the same kind of stretchiness.
2.Not only is it stretchy, but it is slippery when you put two layers together. While machine sewing, the bottom or maybe the top layer will want to slide out of place creating gaps in the seams. Don't be afraid to take a generous seam allowance or go back over a section that slipped.
3. When cutting make sure to never pull on the fabric or lift it from the cutting surface as the fabric will of course stretch and slip around resulting in an irregular or imperfect cut. Pinning layers together before cutting can help.
4. Fleece and velour are super fuzzy! Especially once you start to cut. Expect to get fuzz in your mouth and eyes but most importantly in your sewing machine. Best to start with a clean machine and plan to clean it when you finish. Depending on how fuzzy your fabric is you may need to clean it part way through the project too.
5. Using safety pins instead of straight pins can save some headache, especially where there are multiple layers of fabric.
6. The best way to stitch fleece or velour is using a Serger sewing machine or an overlocking or zig zag stitch on a traditional machine. A good firm hand sewing works well too for those who are inclined.
7. Do NOT try to cut fleece with two layers folded together! Either fold separately and cut or cut one and use it as a template to cut the second layer. This is especially important when cutting out the tailfin.
8. There are no take backs with fleece or velour when it comes to machine stitches. No seam ripper nor infinite amount of patience will pick out a bad seam so please practice on scrap fabric before you ruin your self confidence!
Step 1: What You Will Need to Get Started
-Two complimentary colors of fleece fabric 45" wide. Color 1, the outside color, takes 2 1/3 yards, color 2, inside color, 1 1/2 yards. For custom sizes, adjust to fit your needs. Your local fabric store can help you calculate yardage with this if need be. Just remember to include an extra 2/3 of a yard to color 1 for the tailfin.
-Serger sewing machine, overlocking stitch or zig zag stitch sewing machine
-matching thread* and darning or tapestry needle for hand sewing.
-Scissors or a rotary cutter
-straight pins or safety pins
-Measuring tape and yard stick
-fabric marking chalk or other non colorfast marking item like pencil or washable marker.
-for a baby, soft elastic to fit comfortably around the chest
*I chose to use threads that matched both fabrics,
top color in the needle, bottom color in the bobbin,
then used the thread that matched the inside layer
for decorative stitching on the tailfin.
Step 2: Measuring to Customize the Body
So far size sounds pretty vague, because this design allows for adaptability. Got some big hips? That's OK. Special little girl you're creating for? Go for it.
Start with measuring around your hips then add 5 ". You may not want to do it, but measure generously, it's a blanket you slip your feet into. You don't want a tight blanket. It's meant to tuck under your butt.
Baby steps: measure a little tighter and around the chest because it will be like a sack. Use this measurement where I use 54".
While standing, measure from just above your navel to the floor, or from just above the nipples to your toe tips while lying down if you are a baby. If this is longer than 45" you will need extra fabric. It is possible to find fabric that is 60" wide, so this is an option for the taller mermaid. Use this where this Instructables states (45").
Step 3: Cutting, Pinning and Sewing the Body
For convenience sake I will proceed with the numbers I used. You will substitute your own measurements. My generous hip measurement was 49". I added on 5" for seam allowances and adequate slack. Width equals 54". 45" is my length, you use what works for you.
Begin by measuring down the selvage edge of the fabric 54", then down the folded side, mark a straight line, cut. Repeat with second piece.
With right side of color 1 facing in, find center point along the 45" side. Stitch from center point to outer edge. Repeat with color 2. You should have two tubes which are closed halfway up one side.
Baby steps: you will not make a center back opening. simply sew all the way up the side.
Turn color 1 right side out and slide it inside color 2, right sides together, lining up seams (pic 1). This will be the center back seam. Pin and sew around the large opening, creating a V at the center back. Reinforce V with a straight stitch.
Baby steps: skip references to the V and sew around one end to make a tube.
Carefully trim the bulk from the V at center back, cutting close to stitches. Turn right side out. Shake and smooth it to settle the two layers together. Press with a cool iron to make V lay smoothly if needed. Top stitch around the opening if you choose.
Baby step: After turning, run a length of not too tight, soft elastic around the chest inside the layers then topstitch to hold in place.
Keeping inside and outside layer, center back seams and open bottom edges all lined up, baste around the bottom opening with double layer thread and a darning needle, through both layers to make a drawstring. Lay the body front facing down and center back in the center in front of you (pic 2). Use pins to mark the left and right edges. With the yardstick lined up to center back seam, cinch in evenly until it measures 12" across**. Space the gathers out evenly. Tie the draw string to secure it.
Step 4: Creating and Attaching the Tailfin
First of all, please forgive my beat drawing!
Second of all, this section is really about artistic license. If you are making a mermaid tail, you have an image in your mind of what your tailfin looks like. This one is fishy looking, but halfway through I thought, "what about something more mammalian like a seal or whale has?" So use this shape if it fits your image, or use your own idea.
Using color 1, cut 2 pieces 24"x14".
Baby steps: For an infant's tail I would try 8"x4"? Use your best judgement to get a good proportion. My babies are bigger than me so no size reference here. Whatever works best for you please show it off!
Working with only 1 layer, fold in half (12x14), then draw a curving line beginning at the fold. Make sure to firmly brace the fabric while cutting it, or the tailfin may not be symmetrical. If you are happy with the curve once cut, lay it on top of the second layer, wrong sides together, and use as a template to cut layer 2.
Mark lines where you want decorative stitches on your tailfin. To make the lines on my tailfin I used the narrowest zig zag stitch my machine makes and simply spaced them evenly starting at the center. I used thread that matched color 2 so the contrast pops, but again...artistic license. What looks best to you? To save yourself some heartache please practice this on double layers of scrap fabric before you attempt it on fleece. Remember, there's no picking out wrong stitches with fleece or velour!
Stitch from the straight edge toward the curved edge. Be both careful and creative with feeding the fabric through the sewing machine. Pulling while it gets stitched causes the fleece to ripple, which looks cool on the curved edge. Create this effect by pulling just as you reach the outer edge. I chose to finish my curved edge with a decorative scallop stitch and pulled the fabric a bit doing that to give my edge a ripple. This stitch I started at the center and worked toward the outer edge to enhance the tail shape.
Baste another drawstring across the straight edge of the tailfin. pull it in to measure 12" across. Making sure to have the front side of the tailfin facing the front of the body, slide the tailfin inside the gathered end of the body. Adjust gathers evenly, line the tailfin sides up with pins marking the side seams, and center tailfin with the center back seam. Securely pin all layers. Measure and adjust drawstrings to make sure the tail is still about 12" across. (pic 4)
**Baby steps:Whatever width you found looks best, plan to cinch the body and the tailfin in to half the original width. 24" pulls in to be 12", so yours will be half in the same way. Make sense?
Unless you have a heavy duty sewing machine that can handle a huge bulk of fabric, or chose to use less bulky fabric, you will need to hand sew across the tail section. A tapestry needle or darning needle works best. Use heavy thread or at least double layers of all purpose thread here. Feet will be pushing on this seam so it needs to be strong.
I chose to take a deeper seam allowance here, so the pink inside layer showed. The gathers gave it a nice ruffly look and complimented the contrasting stitches on the tail.
Once finished I found the tail was a bit wider than I hoped. Using a length of quilting thread I basted one last drawstring across the tail, pulled it in to again, measure about 12", and tied it off securely.
Lastly, remove any drawstrings, other than the final one, that are showing. Slip yourself inside and relax!
Sailor Beware the underwater beauty lounging on yonder couch!
Hope to see more creative takes on this idea.