I took a poll among some of my younger mom-friends and a snuggly baby blanket was definitely a favorite baby shower gift. Combine that with it not being size dependent the same way clothes are, plus something I could make from what I had on hand, and the Snuggly Hooded Baby Blanket was born!
I might have made it larger, but decided a leftover piece of polar fleece I had was just large enough. By the time I added the hood, it actually seemed like the perfect size for a blanket that might morph into a superhero cape as the boy grows. The polar fleece – flannel combination makes it very substantial and it should lay nicely over a sleeping baby. (click on any photo to enlarge or see a slide show of all photos)
The polar fleece was large enough to cut out a very nearly
- 30 inch by 25 inch rectangle.
It looked a lot like a size that might fit well over a carseat or stroller, too. The polar fleece was the limiting factor, so I just put it on top of the flannel and cut a matching piece. Neither the flannel nor the polar fleece had a wrong side, but in most cases care would need to be taken at this point to lay the pieces WRONG SIDES together.
The simple fish design on the polar fleece was perfect for using as a quilting template to hold the two layers together. I have not done a lot of quilting, but I have done enough to know a few important things.
- Start the process from the middle of the pieces. No matter how evenly or tightly you think you have pinned the layers, there will be some movement. This can be dealt with if you are working outward, but won’t be nice if you end up with a bulge in the middle.
- For machine stitching, don’t attempt a shorter stitch length than you would use for topstitching. I like something a bit longer than for a normal seam, but shorter than a basting stitch.
- Go easy on the presser foot pressure. Too much pressure from either side will make layers feed unevenly.
- Don’t pull and stretch the fabric to get around curves. If you can’t get around a curve smoothly, lift the presser foot and adjust the angle of sewing a touch to continue.
- Arrange pivots of corners so that the needle is left in the fabric while you lift the presser foot and turn the fabric to the new direction.
- Start and end stitching on a relatively straight section of the shape. This makes back or stop stitching to reinforce the ends blend in better.
- Choose simple outlines to quilt. Don’t try to reproduce every line in the design.
I chose a few fish spaced around the polar fleece and pinned on each long side of them, through to the flannel layer. As mentioned above, I started with fish that were closer to the middle, gently smoothing the fabric as I went. When I had done that, I went ahead and pinned the outer edges, to help hold the layers in place, knowing it was likely I would be adjusting this when I got done. After stitching a couple fish, I decided the peripheral pins were poking me too much, so I basted the edges together. When I was done with the fish, I did have to remove the basting on two parallel edges to make it all lay right.
Covering the edges of the blanket was the next step; and one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to have to deal with mitering corners for this. I decided I could cover the two longer edges first, then work with the perpendicular binding edge pieces to cover all raw seams. I toyed with the idea of using a wide ribbon or buying some of that soft, shiny blanket edging that kids love so much, but realized making the edges out of flannel would be pretty easy and cost effective. It was a plush flannel, so it should be comfy in its own right, too.
Eyeballing it, a 2 inch border in the same flannel I had used for the back seemed like a pleasing proportion, while also adding a touch more size to the blanket. I also needed enough on the ends to encase the raw ends and end up with neat corners. Adding enough for ½ inch seam allowances, that meant I should cut
- two strips 5 inches by 36 inches
- two strips 5 inches by 31 inches
Somehow, I still needed to trim a solid inch or more off of the raw ends of the long edges that I was covering up, but better that way than the other. The photos tell the story better, but I will describe some as well.
With edges as even as possible, I pinned the two long binding pieces to the two long edges. After sewing them together with a regular stitch, I finger pressed the seam to the binding and topstitched the seam allowances to the binding piece. My experience with polar fleece is that it will never lay well unless stitched in this way. I wanted to the blanket to have a more finished look to it and this would help. I also continued this stitching up into the ends, to hold the fold over.
Now, it was time to press the other long edge of the binding over about ½ an inch. With that done, I pinned that very fold over the seam line of the binding, just slightly over the stitching so that I could stitch in the ditch on the polar fleece side. I ended up both stitching on top of the top stitching that held the first seam flat, and stitching in the ditch. This made the flannel side of the blanket lay better and look better. I could have taken more time and/or put the binding on with hand stitching to make it all perfectly lined up, but the colors and design on the flannel made it all blend quite well without that extra effort.
Attaching the shorter binding pieces was done the same up until I got to the very ends. This is when I decided just how much to trim off of the longer edge’s binding, so that I could work with the corner more easily and it wouldn’t be too bulky. Then, I folded the ends of the final binding edge under so that it was even with the other binding, creating a square corner. I did the same stitching to secure it all, plus some stitching on the very end of the binding to keep the ends from working their way loose. I didn’t bother to go all the way to the corners, which meant I didn’t have to struggle with the machine needle going through the very thickest seams.
There are hood patterns in lots of patterns. I went with sizing down the hood from a poncho pattern sized for 5-6 year olds. Based on the variations between the lines on the already multi-sized pattern, and the knowledge that head size can vary a lot for toddlers, I cut it down very moderately and cut the pieces out of flannel. Another time I might experiment with making a reversible hood, one side flannel and one side polar fleece, but for now I went with not making it too heaving for baby heads. (I will work on making my pattern available.)
The two sides of the hood needed to be sewn together. I also zigzaged that seam and topstitched it. Then, I hemmed the front edge of the hood with a narrow hem.
Since the hood was an idea I came up with after getting the other parts of the blanket done, I had limited options for sewing it to the blanket.I went with sewing it near the edge of one short end of the blanket, centered. I zigzagged this for reinforcement. Then, I cut a one inch strip of polar fleece slightly longer than that seam and pinned it centered over the raw edge. I basically edge stitched that strip down, creating what I think is a much softer neckline for baby/toddler. Since polar fleece does not unravel and trying to fold them under would have been bulky and troublesome, I left the cut edges as they were.
The final touch was to make a pocket. How many times have you been holding your baby all bundled up and needed to stash something quickly? I cut a pocket out of polar fleece and lining for it out of the flannel. I sewed it together, leaving about a 3-4 inch space on the bottom open for turning.
After finger pressing the seam flat a bit, and pinning the open edges with seam allowance folded in to match the lines of the bottom of the pocket, I pinned it to a side location on the blanket. I tacked at the first upper corner, continued around the edge roughly ⅛ inch from the edge of the pocket, then tacked the other corner. I was very pleased.
The blanket felt so plush and snuggly that I was tempted to keep it! I would estimate that it took me a solid 5 hours of sewing, including cutting things out, but there were so many brainstorming interludes that it is difficult to say for sure. So, although the materials were no extra cost to me, being all leftover from other projects, the time factor makes it nearly a $100 blanket if I allot myself a basic wage. I bring this up, mostly to myself, because at first I was thinking I was “just” making the mom-to-be a blanket. Now, I feel I have given her something very special.
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