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Baby Blankets and Messenger Bags

Teri asked about the minky/flannel baby blankets. I am not sure I ever did a blog post on them, and even if I did, it has been a while, so I'll give the details again.

Google "mitered baby blankets" or "self-binding baby blankets" and you'll be rewarded with links to all sorts of tutorials and instructions on the net. (Missouri Star Quilt Company has a great YouTube video.) I actually used a pattern purchased at my quilt store, which was helpful because it had all sorts of lovely diagrams and extra hints and tips. You can make a very simple receiving blanket out of two pieces of flannel, which is a good place to start if you've never done one before or you've never worked with minky before. 

The instructions are pretty basic (sorry I don't have any pretty pictures):

  1. Cut a square of material for the front of the blanket. 
  2. Cut a second square of material for the back/binding of the blanket, making it 3" larger on each side. This will give you approximately a 1-1/2" wide binding on the front. 
  3. Pin the two pieces together with wrong sides facing. Here's the kicker: The sides of the squares are different lengths, so you will pin the front to the back starting 3" from the side of the back piece and end your pinning 3" from the opposite side. A lot of instructions will have you start pinning in the middle, working your way out to each side, but I found that this resulted in problems when mitering the corners. It's much more accurate to pin making sure you start exactly 3" from each side of the larger piece of fabric. You can ease any difference in while sewing the seam. (You did square your fabric by measuring the diagonals, didn't you?) 
  4. Sew with a quarter-inch seam starting a quarter of an inch from the beginning and ending a quarter of an inch from the end. Make sure you leave that quarter of an inch at the beginning and end. 
  5. Repeat for sides 2 and 3. The blanket is going to start looking pretty funny with some rabbit ears sticking out at each side. 
  6. On the fourth side, leave a 6" opening for turning. Don't turn yet. 
  7. You'll probably want to find a picture for this next part unless you have mad spatial skills and no trouble visualizing what is happening. You want to pinch one corner so that the rabbit ears make a triangle with a fold at the bottom. You should be able to see where your side seam started. You want to sew from the top edge down to the folded edge, and you want to sew such that this new seam is perpendicular to and right next to the side seam. This creates the miter on this corner. 
  8. Trim the excess, leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance.  (I always like to turn that corner out, first, and check to make sure I did it correctly before I trim.)
  9. Repeat for all four corners. Turn inside out. 

Adjust the binding so that it is even on all four sides and pin or clip in place. Use a zig-zag stitch to topstitch the seam where the binding meets the front fabric. This secures it in place. It should look something like this:

This is one project where I prefer to use my Janome 6600P over my vintage machines. Minky can be tricky to sew. It's technically a knit fabric. You're sewing a knit to a woven, so what is the appropriate needle? I've tried both microtex and ball point. I split the difference with a universal needle, which is blunter than a microtex but sharper than a ball point. I sew with the flannel next to the feed dogs; the minky tends to get hung up otherwise. I also use the Accu-Feed (walking) foot on this machine to make sure those layers stay together. When I topstitch, I use a stretch zig-zag (the minky will have to be against the feed dogs at that point, but it's okay.) 

The two pieces of fabric don't have to be squares—I have done this with rectangles, too, especially when I find minky remnants at Jo-Anns. Just make sure that the minky piece is larger than the flannel piece by 3" on each side. 

These seem to be well-received as baby gifts. I made one for our minister's daughter when she had her first baby about four years ago. She and her husband recently had their second girl, and posted a picture on Facebook with her wrapped in the same blanket I had made for her sister. They are soft and cuddly and easy to wash. (I always pre-wash all my fabrics, too, to account for any shrinkage.) 

And finally, when you are all done, CLEAN YOUR MACHINE. You would not believe the amount of lint that these fabrics produce. 


The messenger bag exterior pieces are cut out and labelled:

I think it's a good thing that I spend so much time reading over and familiarizing myself with a pattern before I make the first cut of fabric. I was reading this pattern and noticed that the instructions called for 1-1/2 yards of 60" fabric. That seemed like an awful lot to me. I buy my waxed canvas in one-yard cuts and didn't want to have to buy another piece, so I got out the calculator and started adding up measurements. I said to the husband that I was pretty sure a yard and a half was a gross overestimation of the amount of fabric required. By my calculations, I should have been able to cut this out from about 3/4 of a yard of fabric. Half of the pieces were cut using measurements ("cut a piece 8" x 17" for the front, etc.) and the other half were cut using templates. I wasn't overly picky about lining the template pieces up on the grainline; I don't think it matters that much in waxed canvas and I have never seen grainline markings on pattern pieces in other bags calling for waxed canvas. (Obviously, I didn't cut them on the bias.) I also cut two of each template and taped them together, because most of them called for cutting on the fold. I don't like to do that with waxed canvas. I get better results if I cut my template pieces from one layer. As it turns out, I was able to get every piece for the exterior of the bag cut from about 2/3 of a yard of 54" wide waxed canvas with just a handful of small pieces left over. I didn't cut the handles from waxed canvas because I am going to use webbing, but I still would have had plenty left for handles if I had wanted them. 

I get it—I used to write knitting patterns and trying to extrapolate the amount of yarn needed from one size up and down to all the other sizes is a guesstimate at best. I tended to err on the side of too much yarn. Nothing is worse than having a knitter call you up and start yelling because they bought the recommended amount of yarn and ran out halfway on the second sleeve and now that yarn isn't manufactured anymore. Of course, you also get the knitters who call you up and say that they don't know what to do with three extra balls of yarn and couldn't you have been more accurate about how much yarn was required because now they have all this yarn left over and they don't know what to do with it.


I need to run to town this morning, so I'll stop in at Jo-Anns and find something suitable for the lining for this bag. This is going to be a long-term project. There are lots of moving parts and I want to proceed slowly and deliberately. 

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Reader Comments (5)

Is this the bag of the month pattern? How was the dinner the other night? Any emergencies come up?

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoreen

Yes, this is the bag of the month club pattern. The dinner was amazing. Thankfully, we all got to eat without the pager going off. We had a lot of wind at our house, though. Blew down several trees in the neighborhood and our neighbor's shed fell down on top of some trailers she had stored there. Thomas is going to help her dig it out when the temps warm up a big. Right now it's still in the single digits.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

Thanks for the tutorial! I think I can actually make one now. Will pick up Minky and flannel this week and give it a go. Might try using the Necchi for it.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNotsothoreau

Thanks for your tip on LED fluorescent replacement tubes! I got a 2-pack at Costco today. Installed them in my basement workroom where I do all the cutting for the knitting project bags I make and sell. Wow! what a difference they make. I have one more fixture to replace tubes in. I think it will eliminate the need for a third fixture.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmilyJ-SW Michigan

Emily, we did notice that if you put them into older fluorescent fixtures (the ones in my office were put in in 1996), they will shut themselves off periodically. Likely they are overheating. Mine only stay off for 10-15 minutes and then come back on. Just be aware.

February 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

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