Introduction: Travel Bag, Blanket & Pillow
Fleece is my favorite fabric for winter sewing projects. Besides being warm and soft, it's inexpensive, readily available, and doesn't fray. It comes in a 60 inch width which is perfect for a cozy lap blanket. For this project, I use fleece to make a zippered bag which holds a lap blanket. Turn it over, and the unit also makes a soft pillow.
I made it for road trips in our 1929 Model A Ford that my husband restored. Since cars from that era don't have heaters, sometimes it can get pretty cold. Brr. Our coupe is small, so I needed something compact that could hold more than just the blanket. I gave the bag 2 pockets and a side loop for a water bottle.
This project has 2 parts.
- Fleece blanket with mitered corners
- Zippered bag/pillow with handle, 2 pockets, and a side loop
You will learn
- How to sew a zippered bag
- How to sew a mitered corner
- Best practices for sewing with fleece
Runner Up in the
Sew Warm Contest 2018
Step 1: Supplies & Materials
What You'll Need
- 2 1/8 yards solid color Blizzard fleece
- 2 18 inch or larger zippers (not metal)
- Rotary cutter & cutting Mat
- Cutting ruler
- Sewing clips
- 2 inch template
- Erasable marking tool
- Sewing Machine (I really do love my Janome Horizon Memory Craft 7700)
Tips & Comments
- I choose Blizzard fleece because I find it has the most cushion. It also tends to be less stretchy and is easier to sew than some of the other fleece types available. However, any soft fleece will do. A solid color is recommended for this project because the blanket uses the wrong side of the fabric for the mitered corners
- If desired, use a contrasting thread color for blanket stitching.
- The 18 inch zipper size is larger than the finished piece. This project uses a technique that doesn't require a zipper foot. After it is sewn, the unused portion will be trimmed. It only works with a plastic zipper.
- I made a 2 inch template out of cardboard. It measures 2" x 11". It will be used to mark the edges of the blanket.
Step 2: Cut Fleece
If I win the lottery, I will have a big sewing room with a large cutting table. In the meantime, I make do with what I have. When cutting, I either use the floor or my kitchen table. I'm guessing you have the same set up. Just make sure you cut off the selvages and square off the ends. The blanket is a square and the bag is a series of rectangles, so a ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat are ideal for this project. Alternatively, you can simply mark the pieces with an erasable pen and ruler and then cut out with scissors.
Here is a cutting diagram. I designed it so there is little waste. I recommend saving the scraps to practice sewing on the fleece.
- Trim selvage edges
- Identify right side of fabric
- Cut fabric according to cutting diagram.
Tips & Comments
- The sizes indicated are approximate due to the various size of selvage edges.
- Use a sticker or painters tape to mark the right side of each cut piece. Since it is a solid color, it might be difficult to tell which is the right side. You can tell the right side from wrong side on fleece by stretching the edges. The side that rolls inward is the wrong side of the fabric.
- Use a sticker to mark each cut piece (bag back, bag top front, bag bottom front, pocket).
Step 3: Sew Blanket Corners
When designing this project, I first thought about using packaged blanket binding to finish the edges of the blanket. However, I wanted to keep the costs down and I wanted to take advantage of the raw edges of the fleece. I remembered a technique that I learned to finish the edges of fancy linens such as napkins and table clothes with folds and mitered corners. I adapted the technique for fleece and was thrilled with the results.
- Work a corner at a time and do the following.
- Fold in 2 inches on each of the two edges that make the corner
- Put a pin in the corner point
- Put a pin at each edge
- Undo the folds
- Match the pins at each edge
- With a ruler and erasable marker, draw a line from the point to the matched pins
- Remove pins used for marking
- Pin in place
Tips & Comments
- Due to the loft of fleece, it is necessary to set your stitch length long. With thinner fabric, a setting of 4 or 5 would be tool long and pull out. This isn't the case with fleece. Longer stitch lengths will result in fewer puckers and less stretching.
- When sewing, start a few inches in from the edge and backstitch to the edge. This will help your sewing machine and prevent bobbin tangling.
Step 4: Sew Blanket Sides
Now that the corners are complete, it it time to mark and sew the sides.
- Use the 2 inch template to fold and pin each side of the blanket.
- Use your extra fabric to test out a few of your favorite stitches on your sewing machine.Remember to test with a long stitch length.Practice pivoting on corners so the corner stitching looks tidy. Pick your favorite.
- Use your chosen stitch to sew down the 4 sides of the blanket.Since fleece does not have a raw edge, you can sew directly on the edge. Use a see-through pressure foot so you can see the edge as you are sewing.
- Trim thread. Your blanket is now complete.
Tips & Comments
- Use a contrasting thread if desired to highlight the decorative stitching.
- Fleece is easily melted with an iron, so pressing isn't recommended. If you feel the need to press, use a cotton press cloth and low iron temperature. When I made my first blanket using this method, the edges curled in a few places. I used the low temperature iron and press cloth trick. This mostly worked. I then washed and dried it and the curling went away completely.
Step 5: Sew the Bag Zippers
I avoided zippers in sewing projects until I learned this technique. You don't need a zipper foot. Instead, you just sew next to the ridge of the zipper teeth. This gives you a straight seam and an exposed zipper. It works great with a contrasting zipper color.
- Refer to the steps below to sew the pocket zipper. Since there is just one fabric piece, it will create a tube. Turn inside out.
- Refer to the steps below to sew the front zipper.
Sewing the zipper
- Lay the zipper of your table right side up.
- Center fabric on top of the zipper right sides together. Pin.
- Set your machine to the longest stitch possible.
- Move your needle to the far left.
- Sew with the pressure foot touching the ridge of the zipper teeth. Since the zipper is longer than the width of the fabric, the metal parts of the zipper are out of the way.
- Sew to the end of seam. Backstitch to secure.
- Repeat steps 1 to 6 for the other size of the zipper.
- Sew plastic teeth to secure ends.
- Trim zipper ends.
Step 6: Make the Handle and Loop
The handle and loop are made out of the 2" x 13" strip.
- Make a tube by folding in half lengthwise.
- Sew with a 1/2 inch seam allowance along the side.
- Use your favorite tube turning technique to turn inside out.
- Cut at 8 inches. This will give you a 8 inch piece for the handle and a 5 inch piece for the side loop.
Step 7: Baste Handle, Loop, and Pocket to Bag Front
This step will secure the handle, loop, and pocket to the front of the bag.
- Lay the front piece right side up.
- Pin the handle on the top. Measure 5 inches from each end.
- Pin the loop on the top right of the bag about 2 inches from the top.
- Position the pocket loop so the zipper is about 2 inches from the top fold.
- Pin the pocket in place.
- Baste pieces in place using a 1/4 inch seam.
IMPORTANT! UNZIP BAG ZIPPER BEFORE MOVING ON.
Step 8: Sew Front to Back
The bag is almost complete. This step is simple, but you may want to use your walking foot for this one. There are a lot of lofty layers to sew. Or . . . you can use a serger.
As a reminder . . . make sure your bag zipper is unzipped mostly. This leaves an opening so the bag can be turned inside out.
- Pin front to back. Right sides together.
- Sew each edge of the rectangle with a straight stitch.
- Repeat with a zigzag stitch. This finishes the edges and strengthens the seams.
- Turn inside out.
Your bag is now complete.
Step 9: Next Steps
After I figured out that fleece was for more than just blankets, I started playing with embellishments. Applique is a great great way to customize your project. It makes a great gift for kids. Have fun with this simple and useful project.
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