A hand-cut chenille blanket: Tips from a newbie

Inspired by a heirloom cut chenille baby blanket tutorial posted by Aesthetic Nest, I decided to finally try my hand at making a “quilt” for some friends of mine who recently had a baby. Making a quilt, has been on my to-do list for many years now and although not a quilt in the true sense with any piecework involved, it still qualifies as a quilt by having layers of fabric sewn together. What appealed to me is the tactile texture of the hand cut chenille and style that seems to really follow the vintage aesthetic of the gift recipients.

Three different flannel colors of blues and a green were used, pulling colors from the printed fabric. The top printed cotton fabric was backed with another solid yellow cotton fabric and the flannel layers were cut with a pair of fabric scissors. The quilting was sewn at a 45 degree angle at every 1/2″. A small salad plate was used to create the rounded corners.

Top fabric: Cotillion Calyspo by Richloom
Bias fabric: Floral Stems Green by New Traditions

Tips from a Newbie

Here are some tips if you are NOT using a walking foot.

  • Baste as well as you can. I used safety pins and hand basted the entire quilt along the diagonal every few inches working from the center outwards towards each corner. Sew the same way, working from the center outwards.
  • Mark about every inch or more, particularly if sewing straight is not your forte. Even if it is, it can be tricky (at least for a relative sewing novice like me) because of the bulkiness of the quilt.

General tips for working with a large sized sewing project.

  • Push the sewing machine back a foot away from the usual working distance.
  • Keep the ends of the piece level with the sewing surface as much as possible. Place stacked books the back of the machine as needed to keep the fabric closer to the level of the sewing surface. Roll any extra fabric in front of or behind the sewing machine and adjust periodically to make sure that the fabric is feeding straight and also to keep it from weighing and pulling the fabric down. I rolled it like a cinnamon roll or in an S-shape.
  • Place the sewing machine at the long end of a table so that the entire piece can be pushed through and won’t be pulled to much by being weighed down.
  • Keep the sides (on the left and right of the needle) rolled up and on the sewing surface level as well.

(After this picture was taken, I shifted the machine to the end of the table to help reduce the fabric from dropping over the edge while sewing as recommended above.)

I made my own bias tape (tutorial) and ironed the initial folds using the pin method.

The bias edge was sewn and ripped a number of times. In the end, it didn’t look at all close to perfect, but just let it be. Initially, I forgot to use the walking foot that I eventually purchased (after the body of the quilt was completed), and it really made a difference. To have it visually clean as possible, I would hand stitch one edge of the bias tape next time.

Conclusion

Even with all the efforts to work without a walking foot, I would highly recommend using one if possible. In the end, the fabric shifted quite a bit and I had some issues getting the stitching consistently in 1/2″ increments. The fabric shifting also resulted me in having to cut the blanket slightly smaller than the maximum width of the fabric. The ideal dimensions would have been maximized at 45″x45″ (pre-washed), but one of the flannel sheets was a bit too narrow and shifted so that I had to cut it down.

Approximate post-washed dimensions: 38″ x 38 1/4″.
The puckering on the top fabric is the result of the fact that I chose not to pre-wash the non-flannel fabric.

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