I am sharing a family tradition with you today. These cozy blankets are something I learned how to make from two of my lovely aunts. My aunts would make these as Christmas gifts and each Christmas, a different family would be gifted them. It was always so special when you were chosen for these blankets. I cannot say enough good things about them – they are the coziest and a favorite among friends. They last forever and wash up well. I still have blankets that are in great condition and are over 15 years old. To me, these blankets remind me of home and we have so many blankets around. My mom and I had made a lot for their campers, gave them as gifted baby blankets, at home, etc. You can’t have too many!
The blankets are simple and fairly straightforward, especially compared to quilting. I will walk you through the steps below. First – the supplies!
Side note: Sara has also made these and used less supplies than me. This is a good project for beginner sewers.
More information on supplies below
- Blanket frame: 4 posts (see picture) and 4 boards (1″ x 1″ x 60″)
- 4 clamps. I use these
- Thumb tacks
- Sewing pins such as these
- Sewing needles – need bigger needles in order to fit yarn through. I use these
- Sheets / fabric
- Scissors – preferably fabric scissors
- Sewing Machine
I was taught how to make these tie blankets using a frame so that’s how I continue to make them, however Sara has made them without (more below). The benefit of using the frame is that it stretches the fabric and batting tightly and together so that everything is cohesive. This prevents slack in the fabric in between ties. In my opinion, it provides a more polished finish to the blanket. (This is the perfectionist side of me showing) However, if you opt to not use the frame, it will not take away from the coziness or functionality of the blanket. It is just an appearance component.
Travis made the frames for me without following any specific plans. Here is a picture for reference if you choose to do this yourself.
The boards I have for this frame fit full size sheets without draping over.
Yarn is used for the ties on the blanket. I have tried various types of yarn and find the Red Heart brand of yarn is the best for this project. The nicer, softer yarn doesn’t hold up in the wash. An additional bonus is that this brand of yarn is relatively inexpensive compared to others. This yarn holds up well for years in the wash. Over the years I have quite the collection of different colors to choose from. I just wash all of my blankets on a normal wash cycle without problems.
Sheets / fabric
Depending on the size and purpose of the blanket you are making, you will need to choose the appropriate fabric. Mostly I use standard bed sheets. Flat sheets are preferred. However, to be more economical you can use a fitted sheet. This allows you to buy one sheet set – which is usually a cheaper option than two flat separate sheets. When buying a sheet set – there is also some extra work that goes into using a fitted sheet for the blanket. (more to come on this at a later date). As I mentioned, I prefer flannel because of the coziness of it it. However, I do have some cotton blankets as well.
For the tutorial in this post – I made a baby blanket. In fact, I was making many baby blanket for gifts this day. For baby blankets, I usually go to JoAnn fabrics or any fabric store. The width of the fabric panels lines up with the width of ‘crib size’ batting and sheets. I then have the fabric cut to the length provided on the batting.
At the end of this post, I’ve shared some sheets I’m loving right now. There are certain stores that sell flat sheets only – such as Company store.
Choose the correlating size batting with the size blanket you are making. If you are making a baby blanket – choose full size. If you are making a larger blanket, choose full or Queen, etc. There also different levels of loft in batting. Choose this depending on your preference. The higher the loft, the thicker the batting. For example, if I am making a baby blanket to be used as a floor blanket, I choose a higher loft batting, which results in a fluffier and thicker blanket. If I was making a blanket to be used in a stroller or car seat, I’d choose a lower loft batting. When making a larger blanket, I think about the purpose. If it is for my husband while at hunting camp in cold weather, I choose a higher loft and so on…
Note: Wait for sales
With all of the supplies mentioned, they will all go on sale at some point. Especially closer to the holidays. I don’t buy anything unless it is on sale, otherwise your supplies can add up quickly.
How – to:
Now that I’ve gone into lots of details on the supplies, here’s the how to:
Step 1: Set up
- Gather all the supplies:
- Fabric, batting, needles, yarn, pins, tacks, frame (if using), and clamps
- Maybe bloody mary’s 😉 (or coffee)
step 2: Prep the batting
A little trick I like to do is put the batting in the dryer before using – usually only 10 minutes or so. It makes the batting flatter and gets wrinkles out. This just helps make it more workable and easier to use.
Step 2: Tack the bottom of the blanket to the boards
Tack the bottom of the blanket, face-down, to the boards that will then go on the frame. It is important to pull the blanket tight in between tacks to get out any slack.
Note: Use pine boards – softer wood – and easier to push thumb tacks into. This can be a little tough if you’re a wimp like me.
Step 3: Place the boards onto the frame:
After the bottom is tacked down. Place the boards into the frame.
Then place the boards going in the opposing direction over the frame as shown. You will then clamp these boards together and tack the rest of the bottom fabric down.
Step 4: Clamp boards and finish tacking
When you tack the fabric to the other boards down, start in one corner and work your way out. This will bring all the slack to one end of the frame. From here, you can adjust the boards and re-clamp down. See photo above
Step 5: Place batting on fabric
Take your batting and place it on the fabric in the frame. You want to keep the batting about an inch in from the border of the fabric. When you sew the fabric together you want enough room to fold the fabric over for the seam. Almost always, there will wind up being extra batting on one side. Just cut off the excess to where you want it.
Step 6: Pin top fabric in place
Now your batting is lined up, place the top of your blanket on the frame and pin it in place. Similar to tacking down the bottom – start in one corner and work your way out. As you pin, pull the fabric to eliminate slack. It is rare that I have both the top and bottom pieces of fabric the exact same dimensions. Line up the two pieces of fabric as much as possible. Usually the bottom or one side will need to be altered after you’ve taken the finished blanket off the frame.
Step 7: Choose your yarn
If you haven’t yet picked out the yarn color, choose the yarn you are going to use and cut yourself a good size piece. Then thread it through your sewing needle,
Step 8: Start tying
Once your needle is threaded, you can start tying. All knots should be tied twice to avoid unraveling in the wash. If you use a plaid fabric, it is very easy to know where to put ties. You can line them up with the squares embedded into the plaid. For this blanket we chose a tree and tied all of those trees. Some fabrics have a very obvious pattern and it’s easy to find a pattern to put your ties on. You want your ties evenly spaced so that the batting doesn’t bunch up.
I typically get the yarn like this and go as far as i can. At the end, I start tying and snip the ends of the yarn to an even length.
This blanket was small enough that we could reach all the way around. IF you have a larger blanket, you may need to roll some edges in. Take the board that is on top and unclamp it, then roll it in to where the ties end. Re-clamp it, and repeat. (Next time I make a blanket, I will update post with this process)
Step 9: Take blanket off the frame
I didn’t take a picture of this step. Sorry! (Next time I make a blanket, I will add a picture). Anyways, remove all of the tacks, NOT THE PINS. Then you will have the blanket and all that’s left is the sewing.
Step 10: Re-pin the edges for the seams
Once the ties are done, fold all four sides of the blanket inwards to make a clean seam and re-pin the blanket to prepare for sewing.
Step 11: Sew the edges
Sew the edges and you’re done! I forgot to take pictures of this part too. You just sew in a straight line on the border of the blanket.
Making a blanket without the wood frame:
Sara jumping in here to add my two cents. I wanted to try to make a blanket myself when my daughter was a baby. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t have the frame or really any idea of how to make one of these blankets since no tutorials existed on the internet (shameless plug for our blog!). I had a blanket Katie had made and given to me as a gift, so I studied that and muddled my way through making my own.
Step one: Lay out your batting on the floor. Next lay out the fabric/flat sheet face up on top of the batting then follow by laying the second piece of fabric/flat sheet face down on top of that. Align all the edges of batting and fabric, trimming off any excess if needed.
Step two: Using straight pins, pin around all four sides, leaving about 1/2″ seam allowance.
Step three: Sew a straight edge around all four sides except leave about 2 feet open on one of the sides. If I have really thick batting, some of the fibers can jam up the sewing machine but *usually* works okay. Again, this is my rigged-up version without having any sewing experience!
Tip: snip a diagonal cut on the outside edge of the seam for all four corners – just don’t cut your stitches! This will give flatter corners when you invert the fabric in the next step.
Step four: Once all the sides are sewn (except for the 2′ open slit), you can essentially flip the whole thing inside out which puts the batting to the inside and your sheets/fabric right-side-out. The edges will look a bit fluffy, so for a cleaner look I then go around all four sides with a small seam allowance – anywhere from 1/4-1″ depending on preference. At this time, I tuck the open edges inward and close up the seam.
Step five: All your edges are sewn so the batting is pretty secure. It will not hold up well in the wash though – that’s what the ties are for. I will then, over a few nights’ span, cuddle underneath the blanket and work on putting the ties across while trying to use the pattern to determine where to put ties (like in Katie’s tutorial).
Some good flannel sheet sources:
If you have any questions – please post in comments! Once you get the hang of it, it really is pretty simple!