I first saw a blanket like this at a baby shower for a friend's first baby boy. Our mutual friend, Joyce, gifted it and I was so amazed she had made it! I hadn't seen anything like it and thought it had such a beautiful vintage feel. As I was composing my nesting list I thought about including a cut chenille blanket like this. It seems like something that would be a treasured heirloom. I was lucky enough to run into Joyce a couple months ago and ask her a few questions about the blanket and then I dove in.
I chose Amy Butler's home decor fabric, August Fields, in Tangerine/Wild Poppies. I LOVE this fabric! I have been thinking about it for months and wishing to come up with something to make with it. An August baby girl is the perfect opportunity... And these tangerine/coral/peachy tones look so beautiful with the linen and lavender I've picked for her crib bedding and eventual nursery.
The blanket is 45"x45", a generous size for using as a play mat and transitioning to a nap or lap blanket when she is older. Because I haven't been making blankets as much as other things for my girls I am thinking about making a couple for Audrey and Scarlett too, so as not to leave them out. I don't know if that's creative inspiration or insanity, but regardless I'll have to see where additional cut chenille blankets fall out on the priority list...
I couldn't find a tutorial online for a blanket like this so I've created one here (click below to jump). It's a really fun, if time-consuming process. I had to switch from a sewing to a quilting mindset to endure the rows of stitching and wondered if I shouldn't have gone with a 36" square instead, but I think the result is worth the effort.
Link to the Tutorial below by clicking on "Read More."
If you make one of these cut chenille blankets I would love to see photos! Please consider adding them to my Flickr Group.
UPDATE: If you like this blanket and you want to see my 2011 version, a Chevron Chenille Baby Blanket, click here.
To make an Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket you will need:
- 1 1/4 yds printed cotton fabric (high-quality quilting weight or home decor weight with a soft finish)
- 1 1/4 yds each of three coordinating cotton flannels
- A generous amount of thread (at least two full spools)
- 180" of seam binding (I used ready-made satin blanket binding, but making your own from the same printed or a coordinating cotton fabric would be beautiful too, and more vintage-looking--I want to try it on my next blanket)
- Olfa's Chenille Cutter tool is VERY helpful, but not absolutely necessary (you can just use scissors)
Select three cotton flannel fabrics that coordinate with your primary print. I found this a little tricky as I was shopping locally and didn't find the selection of colors I had in my mind. I was thrilled when I found this orangey polka dot--the print doesn't really matter on the flannel as long as the colors work since these fabrics fray to form the chenille.
**Note: I have never pre-treated my fabrics for these blankets, but I just heard a horrible story about some flannels bleeding and ruining the top print fabric, so pre-treating is a safe idea. Another thing to consider is that I've been told the higher-quality fabrics don't bleed...so that might make a difference as well.**
You'll need to cut your primary printed fabric and all three flannel pieces into something close to 45" squares (depending on the width of your fabric), BUT, leave the printed fabric slightly larger to create a margin that will make it easier for cutting the flannel later in the process. About 1/4" will do.
Stack your fabrics with the primary printed cotton wrong side up and the flannels on top of it, right sides facing up. Arrange the flannels in the order that appeals to you--I sandwiched my strongest color between white and pale yellow. Pin the edges to hold this stack in place, but realize that the quilting process will cause some shifts in the alignment, which is fine.
NOTE: YOU MUST SEW AND CUT THE FLANNEL ON THE BIAS FOR IT TO FRAY PROPERLY. To do this, first mark a diagonal line dividing your square in half (into two equal triangles). This will be your first quilting line and all other stitching rows will use this as the guide, so it's important to get it straight and exactly on the diagonal. These stitching lines will create "channels" for cutting the flannel chenille on the bias. A bonus is that the diagonal quilting is beautiful!
I used kitchen twine pulled taut to find the diagonal line between two corners of my fabric square, then laid down a cutting guide for marking the line with a washable sewing marker.
Then the real fun begins: the quilting! Stitch down your center line from corner to corner. This is where it really is helpful to be able to sew a straight line! But, if the stitching lines aren't perfectly straight that is OK in my mind, because this is a handmade blanket after all. I marked and sewed this first line on the flannel size of the fabric stack. You'll find the fabric doesn't shift around too much, remarkably, which is nice, but by the end your neatly stacked edges will be a little off kilter due to stretching and shifting, but that is easily cleaned up later.
After completing your first stitching line you will stitch parallel lines 1/2" apart until the fabric is completely quilted. Use your sewing machine pressure foot as a guide to keep these lines parallel and equal distance apart. I would recommend stitching these subsequent lines on the printed side of your fabric stack since these rows of stitching will show (the stitching will be covered by the chenille on the reverse) and you'll avoid bobbin/tension mishaps, which could show on this side if you stitch on the flannel side. (Hope that makes sense.)
Be prepared to spend a few hours stitching. I estimate it took me about four hours to complete all the quilting. As I said above, it helps to think of this as "quilting" rather than the more instant-gratification "sewing." When this step is finished the blanket already looks so beautiful! Note that the edges of the fabric aren't as neatly aligned now. Trim the flannel a bit where it is really uneven (but don't trim the margin on your printed fabric!) to make the chenille-cutting process a bit easier--this really only applies if you are using the Olfa Chenille Cutter.
Now for the cutting. This part is much quicker than the quilting, especially if you have one of these handy tools. Start at one edge of the quilted "channel," grasp the margin of printed fabric, and slide the cutter through all three layers of flannel. This Olfa cutter has different widths to make a center cut easier, and spares your hand the cutting motion, but you can accomplish the same thing with scissors: just cut down the center from one end of the channel to the other being careful not to cut the printed fabric. (Fortunately, the chenille will hide any slight imperfections in cutting.)
One of the nice things about this project is that it looks pretty fun at each step of the way. I love the look of this cut flannel!
After all the flannel is cut, trim the edges of your blanket and "square up" the blanket if needed (fold diagonally and trim excess to make it square). I used a self healing mat, rotary cutter and guide for this but scissors work fine too.
These straight, clean edges are important for binding the blanket.
One of the details I love about this blanket are it's rounded corners. To create these use a guide to trim off one of the corners. (I grabbed a small plate with a curve that seemed about right to me but of course there are many handy curve/circle templates out there, I just don't have any in my sewing toolkit.) Trace and cut or mark with a washable sewing marker and cut.
Use this first rounded corner as the template for the other three so that all four match.
Next is the seam binding. I used packaged satin blanket binding, which happens to be the perfect length. For a 1/2" binding you'll need a 2" strip of satin binding so this ready-made satin binding needs to be cut in half lengthwise, along the fold. (If you choose to use cotton fabric bias tape/binding and are making your own see this great Portabello Pixie tutorial.)
Then you need to fold and iron the satin to create the double fold binding. I do this by first folding in half, then opening up and folding the two outside edges inside along the center fold and pressing again. I have to say this was a bit of a pain with the satin. I was really wishing for one of those handing bias tape making tools! I found it easiest to lay down my iron and pull the folded satin under it rather than trying to move the iron along--you might try that, but only if you have a burn-proof ironing board cover!
You'll now have a double-fold binding to bind the outside edges of the blanket.
Slide the binding over the edge of the blanket to cover the raw edges and pin. Use more pins on the curves to ease the binding in place. Then top stitch the binding in place, as close to the inside edge of the binding as possible while catching both edges. This is a bit tricky--I wasn't able to get the top stitching line as close to the edge as I would have liked. For those true perfectionists, you may want to bind differently by unfolding the binding and sewing right sides together, raw edge even, on the first fold line, then folding the binding over the edge to the other side and either hand sewing or top stitching in place. If top stitching with this method it would still be a bit tricky but perhaps a better result.
Here (above) is the nearly finished blanket: quilted, cut, and seam bound. Now you throw it in the wash to fray the flannel and create the chenille. I washed mine on the warm/cold setting with just a little detergent and then threw it in the dryer.
Isn't the result amazing? I love those lines of chenille! And I expect they will only get more frayed and fluffy with years of use and washing.