Tutorial: Hand Cut Chenille Blanket for Baby Bee

While S was up in the attic building up the floor joists and laying plywood flooring I made a second baby blanket for baby bee. For this one I used a technique for a cool hand cut chenille backing that I saw and fell in love with on a few blogs recently.
The front is a cute momma and baby bird print that I stumbled on at fabric.com and couldn't resist. The back is hand cut chenille made from three layers of cotton flannel - one navy, one white and one with a blue, teal and yellow pattern. The entire blanket is bound with a thicker binding that I made from double brushed flannel that I had leftover from making a gazillion burp cloths this summer.
The whole process of making the chenille was really cool, definitely something I'll try again. Feeney approves:
Want to make your own hand cut chenille blanket? It's a little time consuming, but very easy.

First choose a cotton fabric for the blanket front that you love - this is the piece you'll see in its entirety, so it's worth splurging a little on a pattern you'll love forever. Then choose three our four coordinating 100% cotton flannel fabrics. It doesn't matter if the flannels are solid or patterned, unless you use a pattern for the top piece of the flannel sandwich, the pattern will become obscured.

I wanted a square blanket so I bought 1.25 yards of each fabric to cut to 44" square. You could use one yard of each and cut to 36" square, but you'll want to keep in mind that the whole quilting process makes the fabrics shift a bit so you'll end up losing a couple inches when you trim the blanket at the end.

You'll also need at least two spools of coordinating thread. I wanted my thread to blend in with the blanket so I used white on top with a dark blue bobbin. I used two nearly full spools of thread for a 44" blanket.

One - Sandwich the Fabric Layers
Sandwich your fabrics together with the cotton front face down, the inside piece of flannel face down, if it has a right and wrong side, and the subsequent pieces of flannel face up. The top piece of flannel will be the one you see the most, so make sure it coordinates well with your cotton front. I was going to use the white flannel on top, but realized I'd just be creating more laundry for myself, so I chose the patterned fabric and stuck the white in the middle.
Two - Pin the Fabric Layers
Using lots and lots of safety pins, pin all layers together, while smoothing out any bumps, lumps, and wrinkles. There's no such thing as too many safety pins in this step; I stopped when I ran out.
Three - Mark the First Sewing Line
Using a fabric pen, mark one diagonal line running from one corner to the corner across from it. All of your sewing lines will be based on this line, so make sure it's as straight and accurate as possible. I used a yardstick to make my line, but you could also use a piece of string or yarn pulled taught.
Four - Sew the Channels
With the front of your fabric facing and the flannel side down, sew along the line you marked in step three. Then working from either the right or left of your first line, sew parallel lines every 1/2". To make even lines it helps to move your needle to the left or right far enough that your pressure foot lined up on the last line sewn makes a 1/2" guide. I eyeballed my lines, but in hindsight it probably added time.
Continue sewing parallel lines until the entire blanket has been quilted - this step took me about three or four hours. Remove safety pins as you come to them and try to smooth the layers of fabric as you sew as best you can. Don't worry if the flannel pleats a little here and there, you won't notice once you cut the chenille, but you want to make sure to keep your top smooth and crease-free.

I have these quilting gloves called Machingers that have sticky-ish fingers, which I thought made the quilting a little easier. Definitely not necessary, but cool to have if you quilt regularly.
Five - Cut the Flannel
For this step you can either use fabric scissors or a chenille cutter. I invested in a chenille cutter for my stash and don't think I'd be comfortable using scissors, but if you do use them, just be very careful to only cut the flannel layers.

Place your blanket flannel side up on a solid work surface and carefully cut all of the flannel layers in the channels created by your quilting. Be very careful not to cut the cotton front.
I used a pair of sharp scissors to make little starter snips so I wouldn't accidentally catch the cutter on the front fabric. It made the whole cutting process go much faster since I didn't have to lift the edge of the blanket to carefully line up the cutter with the layers at each channel.

Six - Fray the Flannel
Throw your blanket in the wash for a quick cycle and then in the dryer to get all the little edges of flannel to fray and fluff up into chenille.
Seven - Finish with Binding
I decided to use flannel for the binding on this blanket, mostly because I had just enough teal flannel that matched the small birds in my stash. You could use anything, including store-bought binding tape. I made my own binding tape, by folding the folding my long strip of bias strip in half and then folding it in 1/2" again on both sides, making the back ever so slightly longer than the front (this makes it easier to make sure you "catch" the binding when you're sewing from the front. Instead of finishing the binding with hidden seams like I would have if this were a hand-pieced, quilted masterpiece, I followed these quick and easy steps.

First, starting at the bottom, center of the blanket, leave a several inch long tail and slip the binding over the edge of the blanket, making sure the slightly longer side of the binding is at the back.
Pin every few inches. At the corners, pin all the way to the edge, line the point of the blanket up to the edge of the tape, turn the tape and pin it an inch or two down the next edge.
Then create a mitered corner by folding the left side of the tape up and pinning the right side all the way to the left edge.
Fold the left side down so it forms a nice, neat point. Adjust the fold underneath, if needed to match the inner corners of the tape. Pin on the mitered fold at the front and back (just make sure you remove the back pin when you're sewing so you don't break you needle)
Continue all the way around the blanket, leaving a several inch long tail at the end. In the photo above you can see where I marked a curve at the edge of the blanket. I was going to make a curved edge blanket like the satin trimmed minky quilt I made last week, but decided at the last minute to go with mitered corners instead. If you want rounded corners then follow the instructions here and skip these instructions for mitered corners and just ease the bias tape around the corners.

With the front, non-chenille side of the blanket facing, sew around the entire blanket very close to the edge of the binding, making sure that the back side of the binding is catching. I used my machine's blindstitch foot since it has a guide bar that helps make a more even narrow seam.
When you reach the end of the binding, overlap the ends slightly, folding the top under to conceal the cut end and continue sewing to secure the ends in place.

Admire your very cool new blanket and then share a link to your photos, below.

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1 comment:

  1. This tutorial is totally blowing my mind! We just redid our sofa and we need new throws. 2 out of 2 four legged creatures in the Gradenfreude household demand chenille. I had no idea I could make my own! Thank you so much!


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