Cozy Blanket From Recycled Materials

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About: I live in Colorado, and love making things from stuff I have around :-D.

When my little brothers transitioned from my parents' bed to their own toddler beds, we found that we only had two toddler size blankets, and one was on my sister's bed, so we needed at least one more! Thankfully it was summer, so there was some time to work on it, but we still needed it fairly soon, so I decided to try to make one from stuff we had on hand.

This project is made of old clothes, a mattress pad, and a couple of sheets; no new material was needed besides sewing thread!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a quilter. Any real quilter would probably be aghast at my methods. This is just me flying by the seat of my pants and figuring stuff out as I go along, and it worked for me so I decided to share it.

Step 1: What You Need

Materials:

  • Fabric for squares (old clothes, pillowcases, whatever)
  • Fabric for backing (this should be something bigger like a sheet, as big as or bigger than the desired size of your blanket)
  • Fabric for binding (something you can make long, narrow strips of, a little longer than the blanket)
  • Batting, I used a mattress pad (also needs to be at least the desired size of your blanket)
  • Sewing thread (don't want to run out partway through!)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Square ruler
  • A lot of pins

Of course, you could cut everything out with scissors and sew it by hand with a needle, but that would take so long... If you don't have a square ruler, you could cut a cardboard square the size you want, and use that.

Note on fabric: unless you're really experienced with sewing pile fabrics, don't choose that. That fake velvet looks so nice and soft, but all those little hairs are like a million little legs for it to run away with. Working with it was one of the most frustrating aspects of this whole project, and these are just basic squares! Fleece-type fabrics are nice and soft too, and much less prone to run away.

Step 2: Figure Out the Size and Number of Your Squares

Before you start cutting out squares, you'll need to know how many you need, and how big they need to be. Start with at least a general idea of what size you want the finished blanket to be. If you intend it to cover a bed, you can do an internet search for how big a blanket for that size bed generally is. Then divide that length and width by either the number of squares you want in each direction, to get the size of each square, or the size you want each square to be, to get the number of squares. Allow for a border on each side; mine was about an inch wide.

In my case, I was making a toddler/crib size blanket, out of 5" squares. So it was 11 squares long and 7 squares wide, for a total of 77 squares.

Step 3: Cut Out the Squares

Take the desired size of the square, and add twice your desired seam allowance on each side. You'll want at least a 3/8" seam allowance so it doesn't fall apart, but I usually use 1/2" because it's easy to calculate. So for a 5" finished square, I'd cut 6" fabric squares. Except for this blanket I used a handy-dandy square cutter, and just cut them all that size. Which turned out to be a little bigger than I thought; I though it was a 6" square, but it was 6 1/2". So I ended up with 3/4" seam allowances, which is a little excessive, but no big deal.

I wanted to make two matching blankets, so I cut out 154 squares; 14 squares each from 11 fabric patterns.

Step 4: Arrange Your Squares in a Pleasing Pattern

Lay your squares out on the floor or table, and move them around until you find an arrangement that you like. Since I had an equal number of squares of each fabric, I wanted to arrange them in lines of some sort, and finally settled on this chevron pattern. The runner-up idea was diagonal lines. You may want to arrange them in some other way, or distribute them randomly. When you've found an arrangement you like, stack the squares of each row in a pile, and set them somewhere they won't be easily knocked over.

Step 5: Sew the Squares in Strips

Now take one of the piles, and sew the first square to the second, right sides together. It's very annoying to finish a row, and find that one of the squares is sewn rough side out, and you have to rip out the seam and do it again. I did end up with a few of the denim ones sewn the wrong way... and chalked it up to "unintentional variation" because it's not that noticeable, and I didn't want to deal with it. Most of my fabrics were pretty much the same on both sides; if you use fabrics like that, it can make things easier, but do be careful that you don't get confused and end up with seams on different sides!

Sew the next square in the pile to that second square, and keep going until all the squares in the pile are sewn in one long strip. Then do the same thing to the other piles, and lay out the resulting strips to make sure they're still in order.

Step 6: Sew the Strips Together

Take one strip and lay it on top of the next one, right sides together. Open each of the seams between the squares, and pin them in place (ironing the seams flat may make this step easier). Then sew them together. Do the same thing to pin the next strip to that second one, and keep going until all the squares are sewn together.

Step 7: Attract Attention From Any Nearby Kitties

Cats are very opportunistic creatures, and when they see this soft, blanket-like thing spread out, they will want to sit on it. It's just feline nature, from the big, grown-up cat to the little kitten.

Okay, so maybe this isn't actually a step, but I couldn't resist including it XD.

Step 8: Put the Layers Together

So now you have a patchwork thingy, but of course it's not very warm and comfy with just one layer of fabric, and all those exposed seams! So now we lay out the backing fabric, right side down, and the mattress pad on top of that. Then the patchwork layer on top, right side up. I cut the backing and padding to the same size as the patchwork to keep things simple, but if you want a border wider than your seam allowance (and unless your seam allowance is huge like mine, you probably do), you can cut them bigger. Then center the patchwork on the other layers, pin the edges securely, and sew a line at or within you chosen seam allowance, to hold it all together.

Step 9: Add the Border

There are many ways to add a border to a quilt; mine is not necessarily the method favored by professional quilters. But it was what I could understand, so here it is. To determine the width of your border strip, take the desired width of the border (in my case, 3/4", the same as the seam allowance), double it, and add twice the seam allowance, and about 1" extra to account for the thickness of the fabric and the extra overhang on the back. So for me, 3/4" * 2 is 1 1/2", so I add that to another 1 1/2" to get 3", and then another inch, for a total width of 4". Cut two strips of fabric that wide, and as long as the blanket, and two strips the same width, but a little longer (about an inch or two) than the blanket is wide.

Line up the edge of the longer strip with a long edge of the patchwork, right sides together, (with the ends at the edges of the blanket) and pin it in place. Sew it in place with the usual seam allowance (measured from the edge of the patchwork, not the total width if the blanket is bigger). Repeat with the other long strip. Then wrap the strip around the edge of the blanket, folding the edge inward. It should go a little past (by 1/8" or so) the sewn line on the back of the blanket. Pin it in place, and sew another line where the border and the patchwork meet ("stitch-in-the-ditch"). It should go through the border fabric on the back to hold it in place, while not being noticeable on the front.

Do a similar thing with the shorter strips, except their ends should overhang the edges of the blanket, rather than stop at them. After sewing the strip to the front, fold the ends over to hide the rough edges (see the fifth photo), before folding the strip around the edge as with the long strips. If desired, you can hand-sew the end afterward, to ensure the rough corner of the other strip is hidden, but I did not find this necessary.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

If you want, you can tie the quilt; just take a sharp needle with a large eye and a bit of yarn, and put the yarn in through the front and back up through the front at on of the corners, or through the center of the square, tie the ends in a knot, and cut it short. This should make a little knot on the front of the blanket. Repeat for the other corners or squares.

Another option is to sew a line along the edges of the squares, to make a quilted quilt.

I never got around to doing either of those things, and the blankets are holding up fine so far, even through the wash, so I'm not real worried about it. But now I have to always call it a patchwork blanket, not a quilt, because it isn't quilted :-P.

I did embroider the kid's name on one corner of each blanket, to personalize them.

Step 11: Enjoy the Nice Soft Blanket!

Those kids are such crazy goofballs XD. But as you can see, they're enjoying their new blankets!

Hope you enjoy this project, and if anything is unclear (this tutorial did spend a long time as a half-finished draft, so there may be something that doesn't match up), just let me know and I'll do my best to clarify :-). If you make a blanket, I'd love to see it!

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    2 Discussions

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    seamster

    16 days ago

    Hey, nicely done! The number one rule of making is: go for it and don't fear the (insert craft area name here)-snobs! ; )

    Going for it and just figuring it out for yourself is half the fun, to me at least. I'm glad you documented your process and shared it. Way to go!!