Two years ago I made a giant flag to show my support for the Wests Tigers using polar fleece material (Check out the flag in use in picture 2). My girlfriend absolutely loves the flag, not because of her love for the mighty Tigers but because it's massive (2m x 2.5m, about 6.5'x7') and warm - she often uses it during winter while lying on the couch, or out and about (picture 3).
I thought that I would make her a simmilar blanket, designed for use on the couch. The twist it has compared to any other blanket is that it has a hood built in, kind of making it a huge hooded poncho. After starting the project I came across this couch dress, which is similar in function, but mine just has a hood to keep you as covered up as possible (and it's a bit cheaper too).
The only tools required are a sewing machine and pins, the consumables are cotton thread (colour of your choice, will be hidden) and the polar fleece material (step 3).
Step 1: Design
The design of the blanket itself is of course non-critical - feel free to make it whatever size works for you.
The original flag I made was 2m x 2.5m (roughly 6.5' x 7'), because this was about the size I thought I would be able to wave around reasonably easily. "Testing" of this prototype of the hoodie blanket by my girlfriend showed that it was an excellent size for convering two people up close on a couch, and convieniently fits a queen sized bed perfectly for use as a spring/autumn (fall) blanket. Therefore I'll stick with a 2m x 2.5m size.
The flag used an alternating squares pattern of orange, black and white. The squares were 500mm per side. This seemed to make a faily pleasing design, so I went for the squares again, but I'll choose some different and a wider range of colours. Allowing for a 1cm wide hem around each edge, the squares end up being 520mm each side.
At this point I didn't have a set-in-stone design for the hood, just a general idea that it should go on the centre line roughly one square in from the end. This way when you've got it on and lying down it will still cover you from head to toe.
The hood will be cut with the squares adjacent to it.
Step 2: Material
I had previously used polar fleece to make the flag. This turned out to be a good idea because:
1 It's warm
2 It comes in a range of bright colours
3 It's cheap
4 It's stretchy/flexible
As you a working with the polar fleece, it will stretch, and stay into new shapes. This can be a bit of a bummer, because previously perpendicular sides will move out of shape when you are pinning/sewing them. On the flip side, it allows you to have a bit of 'slop' in the work, so if you need to make up a centimetre (half-inch) or so to get peice to align it will stretch.
I went to Spotlight for my polar fleece - it cost about $8 per linear metre of 1.5 metre wide material. Their stock is seasonal - when you go in November (i.e. heading into Australian summer) there wasn't nearly as good a range as there was heading into winter (i.e. start of footy season)
You'll need about 6 linear metres, depending on the range of colours and pattern you want. I got 1.25 linear metres of the only 3 colours they had to add to the left overs I had at home.
Step 3: Pattern
Using excel I played around with some patterns by filling in square cells with representative colours. The main picture is what I ended up with, I would have gone with the pattern in picture 2 if I had enough bright orange left over...
Step 4: Cut the Squares
I used the "relative error" technique to try to ensure the squares would all line up. I measured (twice) and cut (once) a 'template' 52cm x 52 cm square. I then used this square to cut out the rest. This way if one is off, they will all be off by the same out, and should help everything match up.
If you've got a laser cutter or something, go for your life.
Remember you don't need to cut out the two squares that will have the hood attached to them - wait until the next step!
Step 5: Hood Design
To design the in-built hood I traced around the hood of an existing hooded jumper. There are a few dimensions missing in the drawing, make them up so that your design is unique.
The hood will be sticking up between two squares, so the traced pattern will be located on the edge of two adjacent squares. I'm going along the centreline and one in, between the darker and light blue squares in the previous step.
I used some calico to do a rough draft to make sure I got the location of the hood along the edge right. The picture gives dimensions for the 'hooded' sqaures. The crosses show where to sew. There needs to bit a bit of a gap in front of the hood to comportably fit your head through, so only sew in 130mm from the corner, and doubled back and forwards a few times with the sewing machine to help prevent unravelling.
Step 6: Start Sewing
Start off sewing squares together. I found the easiest way was to sew the squares into rows of four, then sew the five rows together.
Start where you want - I found a corner was easiest mentally.
Place two squares on top of each other. Stretch or compress the material as needed to align the edges. Pin about 5 cm in along one of the edges.
I used a zig-zag stich with both stitch length and width on medium settings.
Step 7: Sew Rows Together
When you've got two adjacent rows assembled sew them together.
Lay one on top of the other, hem sides out. As far as possible align the egde and stretch/compress as necessary so that there is a good alignment at the corner of four squares. Pin down the whole edge about 5cm in.
Don't stress it too much if you miss by a centimetre or so, it's lost in the overall awesome-ness of the completed blanket.
By the time you get to the last row, you are holding a large row of material while feeding it through the sewing machine, stick with it.
Step 8: Finished!
Here's my finished blanket. Picture 1 shows me modelling it on my couch. Picture 2 shows it on my bed - works excellently as a blanket, and you don't notice the hole for the hood at all.
Update 25/12/2006 - Yep she definately liked it. Will update with pictures when we get back from holidays... meanwhile enjoy me modelling it.