I just gave in

foodnbooty-071.jpgI need to confess that I have a passion for picnic blankets. Up until a few days ago I have tried to reign it in and keep it from getting unwieldy. Then suddenly, in a flash of insight I thought “why not? why not just let it rip!” So I got out the two quilt tops that have been languishing around our house and decided to tie both and then make more. After all, I always save obscure fabrics that I don’t really love with the intention of making them into picnic blankets. Then I stop myself with concerns about how many picnic blankets one family really can use, and why when I see fabric do I always thinking large disorganized quilts? Well, it has been decided. No more resistance, just indulgence. My kids love to play with the one finished one that we actually use, I’m sure they could find room in their lives for a few more. I am starting to see a big stack of ridiculous blankets piling up somewhere – we will need storage. We will also need to cover a whole range of different textures and weights. One from my childhood had huge squares of denim with some other prints I vaguely remember tied with orangey red acrylic yarn – the first picnic blanket I ever loved.

I started my new mission with a quilt top I couldn’t resist at a yard sale several years ago and just rediscovered in storage. My love had not waned – it is a beauty! As I started to tie it I felt a strong kinship to that quilt’s maker. Like myself, she must have been strangely compelled to make blankets out of pieces of unattractive fabric. I think she probably even saved the olive/mustard/and brown faux bois sheets for just such a cause. The pieces of kitchen curtains also must have joined the pile of “lightweight cottons destined for grass stains.” I think at one time she meant to organize her quilt. There are three nine patch blocks in the middle of the quilt, very orderly. But then new prints join in, rows get uneven. You can almost hear the loud hum of some old metal singer, cruising at high speeds. This quilt took on a life of it’s own, was no longer constrained by traditional bedding sizes. It got huge. I imagine that is why it never was finished. Perhaps it’s maker realized that the sheet she was going to use as backing got cut up and caught in the piecing. Either way, it is only a beginning for me. If you think of quilting as a culinary endeavor, you can take this as a public announcement that I am about to open up a chili-dog stand.

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16 thoughts on “I just gave in

  1. “If you think of quilting as culinary…”

    I don’t quilt, but I crochet, and I do confuse the words pattern and recipe at times. I think they should be interchangeable!

  2. So. . .Do you think a picnic blanket would be a good first quilt? Like an experiment, a way to practice or learn how to quilt, if one never has, wants to, has just learned to sew, and loves to picnic? I’ve just made aprons and bags, and I LOVE it. Sewing useful things is really addictive!

  3. What a great idea for my oldest daughters, 10 and 8! They are always sewing little “pillows” from fabric scraps and stuffing them with toilet paper. (These pillows are everywhere – but intended primarily for their dollies and stuffed friends.) I have 2, or maybe it’s 3, huge bins of scrap fabric that I *know* will come in handy someday…. you have just provided inspiration! Thank you, thank you!
    And – what a beautiful picture of your fabrics – thanks for sharing!

  4. We are going to be spending quite a bit of time outside this summer as my husband will be playing softball. A picnic blanket might be very handy to have! But, I have little idea of how to make one. Could you give a few pointers? I think I could do the patchwork part, but is it lined with anything? Have anything ‘filling’ it? Does it need to be a certain size?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

  5. You can almost hear the loud hum of some old metal singer, cruising at high speeds. 😀 I love it!

    What fun! Thanks for the fun project idea. What a perfect project to kick off summer! Bring on the lemonade! :-)

  6. Mrs. Young-
    I think a picnic blanket is the ideal place to start quilting.
    I would not, however, recommend that you do hand quilting, or anything more intense than tying. In the picture I posted, the middle quilt was sort of hand embroider/quilted with yarn needles and thick cotton crochet thread. While it is cute, it is too much work for a picnic blanket. If you want to hand quilt, I would invest the time (not that much anyways) into the piecing, and the money into the fabric to make it an heirloom kind of a thing, (not what you use to build backyard forts!)

    Joanne-
    Here is what I do (if any of you serious quilters are gasping, please post your own tips!) After I have the top made (any size you feel, although figure out your backing fabric- if your top is too big you may need to piece the backing), I lay the backing out on the floor and smooth it out. Then, I unroll a bag of quilt batting which I bought with my 40% off JoAnns coupon. A tangent: use whatever batting you want. A high loft polyester could make a fun and fluffy blanket, but I usually use a cotton batting. Do remember that if you want this to be a really functional picnic blanket, you will be packing it around, so thin batting is the most portable and foldable. Then, I lay the quilt top of top of that. Smooth it out well. I then crawl all over the thing pinning all three layers together with basting safety pins. Using a sharp yarn needle, you make a small stitch through the intersection of blocks, and tie the yarn in a knot. To save time, don’t cut or tie the yarn until you have done a whole row. Then, go back and cut the yarn in the middle of it’s little “travel”, and tie. When you are done tying, trim any excess batting and backing that are hanging out, and finish the whole edge with a bias tape (store bought, or homemade. If homemade, it doesn’t really need to be bias as it is all straight edges. You could also fold the backing over and topstitch all around the edge. Whatever floats your boat.) Hope that makes any kind of sense!

  7. I have some lovely material that will be perfect for this and I’m now very much looking forward to getting started. Thanks for your help!

  8. Your photo is inspiring. Those bright colors just make me want to sew! And this topic is especially pleasant after a couple of heavies!

    Here’s a cheap “batting” idea: The last two quilts I made were for two boys. I used old flannel sheets as batting. They each had some worn spots. This worked because the quilts were smaller than standard twin. I made them smaller so the boys could handle them better and their little bodies don’t need such big blankets.

    My 13-yo daughter and I took a quilting class together last winter and learned about rag quilts. In class, we made flannel baby blankets, but the same method was recommended for today’s topic: picnic blankets.

    So now we are setting aside 7 inches squares of denim and home decorator fabric. In the class, we used 8 inch squares of flannel, but 7 inches works better when cutting up old blue jean legs. I am also planning to use other old clothes and whatever I can find as middle and back layers here, too. (To make it water-resistant, you could use an nylon shower curtain as a middle layer. Vinyl might crack with machine washing.)

    The method:
    Each square should be two or three layers thick. Taking one square, with all its layers, to the machine, stitch from one corner to the opposite corner. Do it again, stitching an X. Repeat with each square.

    Then lay squares out on a large surface just as you want them to be when the blanket is finished.

    Put two squares together, BACK sides together. Sew along one edge with 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch seam allowance. Sew each row of squares, then sew the rows together.

    Stitch around the perimeter of the blanket, 1/2 inch from the edge. The raw edges will fluff up in the laundry.

    There’s so much string and fuzz when washing these blankets, that the teacher suggested we wash them at a laundromat in their commercial machines.

    These blankets are fun, simple and great for using “what I have in my hand.” And I hope these instructions are clear.

  9. Great ideas from Helen! I just thought I should mention that if you are going to tie a quilt, old sheets can be very difficult to get a needle through, and if you want to use a shower curtain you should test it with your needle to see if you get it through before you assemble everything and find that you can’t!
    Cathe- me too! That’s why I assemble mine with such reckless abandon – no part of me is screaming “but that’s an heirloom!”

  10. I don’t think you can ever make too many quilts–they are a small part of your legacy, and if, Lord willing, you are blessed with many descendants, each of them will probably want a quilt for their family.

    I just know this based on precious quilts we have inherited from great ladies of the past. There still aren’t enough!

  11. Yes, Lizziejank, I forgot about that–it was tough to get the needle through the flannel sheet. I used a nifty little rubber circle purchased at the fabric store.

    I do not recommend using teeth! I have two tiny needle-sized nicks in my front teeth which the dentist was able to smooth to near invisible. Not without some tsk-ing.

  12. Lovely idea, Lizzie. I’m now busy thinking of what I could possibly sew into a blanket :)

    Anyhow, I just want to echo Mrs. J. Blankets make wonderful heirlooms. My grandmother makes lovely quilts by hand, which I know various relatives hope to end up with. But even her “mere” knotted, old, machine-stitched blankets that don’t have the most beautiful fabric squares are loved. My mom and I would be glad to have one like my brother does (and in some ways I might prefer it to the more decorative quilts, since I might not be willing to use the “best” ones!). My uncle kept his from childhood until past when he married at about 30. His wife said he would wrap the blanket, by then said to be in shreds, about his face as he slept. I’d love to someday give each of my own children their own adult-size blanket made by me. Thank you for the inspiration! And now about that fabric . . . 😉

  13. Embroidery floss is good for tying as well.
    My mom used to assemble the quilt like this. First she would lay the batting, then the back (face up), then the top (face down). Then she would sew all the way around excepting 6 inches or so. Turn it right side out and tie. Atleast this is what she did on our scrap quilts. Not at all like a book would say, but fast and sturdy, perfect for a picnic quilt.

  14. I just wanted to say that I am really enjoying these posts! I haven’t sewn much (just a pillow, and some clothing repairs. So I appreciate these simple instructions and ideas) but I bought a sewing machine last year, and what with marriage and getting our new house settled haven’t used it much, but this is inspiring me to get my Singer out again!
    Thanks for all the great recipes and photos and sharing your inspirations, Lizzie and everyone! I just love reading this blog, and appreciate your zeal for God’s world in everything you do!

  15. Since you have so many and wonder how many picnic blankets a family can have, can I buy one off you? :)

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