Sunday, August 08, 2010

Baby Blankets of DOOM

So this story starts off with me admitting that sometimes I have a remnants problem. Remnants being little bits of fabric or trim or whatever is left over when you've almost used up almost all the bolt or the spool or the skein.

Part of it is the thrill of the hunt, that I have discovered Something Valuable! that would otherwise have been thrown away. And! It's! On! Sale!

I really do get a little jolt of happiness when this happens. I think this might be partly genetic. You laugh, but one of my grandfather's hobbies was competitive shopping; I kid you not.

Another part is that my tastes could kindly be called eclectic. For example, sometimes when I go out to dinner I can't decide on any particular food and just order multiple appetizers (tapas places are fantastic at enabling this behavior). I like scrap quilts and collage and especially the idea that lots of disparate parts can be brought together to make a whole more fabulous than its parts.

Any other parts probably require therapy and therefore I refuse to admit them.

ANYWAY. Fabric Depot can be a dangerous place for me. One time I spotted about a yard & a half cut of white plush Minky. If you aren't familiar with the Better-Living-Through-Chemistry wonder of Minky, it's that polyester microfiber fleece, the really soft stuff. It's woven or some magic construction, so it doesn't unravel or fray (although it does roll a bit). This was a piece of the shag carpet kind.

Somehow I thought it would be a good idea to own this piece of Minky and bought it at its fabulous price (win!) It then proceeded to sit in my closet for oh, 5 years or so. I didn't want to throw it out but I didn't know what to use it for.

Recently I had 2 new nephews come along, and one of my ideas was that I could make them blankets! Out of the Minky! Yay, something useful and soft! I googled around and found a couple of tutorials on making Minky blankets. This didn't sound so bad. The latter warns about the Minky slipperyness, so I resolved to pin assiduously.

I, ahem, went out and bought more fabric for the backing, some baby satin in this big polka dot print. Nephew #1 got brown + blue dots, and nephew #2 got brown + green dots. Hey, I got it during a sale, so not so bad. Also I owned no baby satin so of course I had to buy some (I probably could have saved myself pain and grief and money just using some of that pile of cotton I own).

I have no pictures of blanket #1. This is blanket #2, and from a camera distance, it doesn't look half bad. That's because the puckered edge is folded under, and you can't see the stitches I ripped out from one side, and the slightly lopsided mitered corners.

See, I thought this would be easy because I've sewn a lot of cotton and thought how hard could it be? HAHAHAHAHAHA
Not only did I have slippery minky to cope with, I'd backed it with polyester satin. POLYESTER SATIN. Could there be any more slippery than that?

Blanket #1 I pinned out on a bed. That was a mistake. I did pin it every inch. Yes, every inch. It took me all day to make that blanket and I have no pictures of the puckery ugliness of those seams. The corners are embarassing. I really ought not to have sent it, but I am ashamed to admit I did and hopefully my sister-in-law will forgive me. It's soft and machine washable and not likely to fall apart any time soon, so it's got that going for it.

Blanket #2 I got wise and pinned out on a HARD SURFACE, straightening out the backing as much as possible. It still took over an hour to get the sides pinned over (I went with tutorial #1 with the big ol' satin border, since I had more satin than minky.) There was another hour or so getting those mitered corners so they didn't suck (so much. I didn't get them perfect, ever).

Again, I pinned it every inch, oh yes I did. Tutorial #2 was using cotton as a backing which probably stabilized things a bit, so even though she says you don't need it, I hauled out the walking foot. I haven't had much practice with it, since I'm still trying to get around to teaching myself machine quilting. I hoped the learning curve was small. Fortunately it was really easy to use and did just what I needed.

There were many pins.

Really, many many pins.

This one did go a lot smoother, especially along the long sides, which didn't stretch or shift as much. I didn't pay enough attention to underneath on one of the short sides and ended up with puckered on top and double layers on the bottom. That's the side I ripped out completely (and I will second Tutorial #2's observation that picking stitches out of minky (or baby satin) is Not Fun.)

So that my "if you can't be a good example, at least be a horrible warning" experience might be helpful to someone:

1. Do yourself a favor and use a walking foot.

2. That said it still puckered a bit on the short edges.

3. When they suggest pinning every inch, they mean it.

4. When you set out the layers to pin, do it on a hard, flat surface, and be sure you're not pinning up extra folds of fabric from the back.

5. Tutorial #1 is nice but I decided to go with a double stitch line. I didn't like how the edge popped up so much with a single line near the edge, and it's harder to do. Much easier to fold over a BIG seam allowance underneath (probably 5/8"? I eyeballed it), stitch a first inner line about 1/2" in from the edge, and then stitch another line an 1/8" or so in from the edge.

6. If you do do a double line, beware, as the satin likes to edge up through the opening in the presser foot and then it puckers and doubles and you cry a lot. I used a seam ripper and my fingers to keep it flat, stopping and straightening it when necessary. Sew slowly.

7. I should mention that anyway. SEW SLOWLY. It's too easy for the layers to shift, even with all the pins.

8. I guided with my right hand, SLOWLY, and kept my left hand under the blanket, making sure that the back was kept smooth. This helps to avoid having to rip out a whole side when you accidentally trap a couple of folds on the back into the seam and can't live with yourself until it's fixed.

9. And last but not least: Don't prewash the minky with anything else, except maybe the satin. It pilled like crazy on the back, and you could feel it through the satin. Another hour I spent was shaving the minky. Ha, that sounds like some horrible euphemism.

The funny thing was that once I'd spent another few hours ripping out that side and restitching, I actually feel like I'm a much more skilled minky blanket sewer now. #3 would probably turn out great and take half the time. That would require me to actually do a #3 and I don't think that's going to happen. I am sticking to cotton for now.

Hey, those stitch lines don't quite meet!


Anonymous said...

Hey, I think you deserve a hearty round of applause for finishing both blankets! Many of us would have given up in frustration halfway through #1. Good job!

elizabeth said...

Hey! I just got the same machine! :o) Kudos to you for finishing, they look SOOOO soft!

Michelle said...

Holy Crap I love your machine! What a beauty. And the blankets are sweet.

Cookie said...

"...shaving the minky."

I'll be in the naughty corner if you need me.


Kristen said...

Cookie beat me to it.

Carrie #K said...

The blog title so should have been "Shaving the Minky".

Yay on finishing two of those! Eh, kids, they'll like it anyway, they tend to fall into the "does it itch" fashion sense. (Which, oddly enough, is where my fashion sense is.)

You did a great job! I'd've probably doused it in gasoline and lit it on fire.

Carrie #K said...

The blog title so should have been "Shaving the Minky".

Yay on finishing two of those! Eh, kids, they'll like it anyway, they tend to fall into the "does it itch" fashion sense. (Which, oddly enough, is where my fashion sense is.)

You did a great job! I'd've probably doused it in gasoline and lit it on fire.

Amy Kraft said...

I don't know WHAT happened to your feed in my RSS reader. I can't believe all of the goodies I've been missing out on. But now I feel caught up. That, and, you know... getting to visit with you in person.

I felt it apt to comment on this post because we love this blanket so much!