I like to make things. Crafting gets me out of my head. It gives me tangible evidence of my accomplishments. It provides me with a creative outlet, makes for affordable one-of-a-kind gifts, and sticks a thumb in the eye of the consumer culture. I particularly like to make things for little people. For one thing, they’re smaller, so their stuff is usually smaller, and smaller = faster. Plus, these first gifts that someone made just for you are so special. These are the things that become family heirlooms.
I recently made a baby blanket for a special little someone. I had some wool felt on hand, and it called for something colourful. A hot air balloon seemed just the thing. You can see how it turned out, and make one of your own, by reading on.
How to Make a Balloon-y Blanket
- 2 – 30 x 36″ pieces of fabric for the blanket (I used organic cotton flannel)
- fabric odds and ends to create the design with (I used wool felt)
- co-ordinating thread
- black embroidery floss
Plan out your design by sketching it on paper. This will serve as your pattern. If you want to duplicate my blanket feel free to use my pattern, which filled most of an 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of paper (click to enlarge).
I used five 8″ long fabric strips to make the colourful stripes on my balloon. The outer two were 1 3/4″ wide, and the inner three were 2″ wide. Before I cut them I measured their width using my ruler, and ran my scissors along the edge to score the felt. Then it was really easy to just follow that score and cut a straight line. I also cut out a 3/4″ square piece for the basket, and a 1 5/8 x 3/4″ piece in purple for the balloon skirt. (I looked up hot air balloon terminology online, can you tell?)
(Note: I made a 7 1/2 x 8″ square using my fabric strips. If you used fewer colours, or created a different design, you would just need to make sure that it was 7 1/2″ x 8″ once it was sewn together, accounting for seam allowances.)
Scoring the felt
Working from left to right, I pinned the felt strips with their wrong sides together, and sewed along the long edge, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Once all 5 pieces were together, I trimmed the seams, leaving about 1/8″ of fabric. If you were using a fabric that may fray, like cotton, I wouldn’t do the trimming. Instead I would press the seams open so that you end up with a flat square. Once my square was finished, I cut out my balloon shape using my pattern.
Next, I took my purple skirting and sewed it along the balloon’s bottom edge, wrong sides together. I trimmed the seam in the same way I trimmed the others.
I used the seam side of my balloon as the wrong side, although if you’re using felt you could go either way. Since it won’t fray, it might look sort of cool to have the seams exposed. The choice is yours, but you have to decide because next you’re going to pin the balloon, wrong side down, to the right side of one of your blanket pieces. I decided to put mine near the top, so that it would look like it was floating.
If I use a fabric that may fray, I use a tight zigzag stitch to sew my work to the blanket. You want the outside of the zigzag to just catch the outside edge of the balloon as you sew. Since I was using a non-fraying fabric this time, I used a regular straight stitch, about 1/8″ in from the balloon edge. You can see examples of both here (click to enlarge):
Next I sewed the basket about 3/4″ below the bottom of the balloon, roughly aligned in the center. At this point, I decided the blanket needed a little something extra, and cut out a couple of small, fluffy clouds using light blue felt. I pinned those right side up to the blanket, and sewed them in the same way I sewed the balloon.
Now I got out my embroidery hoop. I used three strands of embroidery floss doubled over to create the ropes. What I mean is, I took three strands, threaded them through my needle and knotted it at the bottom, because that’s how I did it in grade 3 when we cross-stitched Mother’s Day gifts in school. It might not be the best way, but it works, and I am not picky. Anyways, my point is that in the end I used six strands altogether. I sewed four ropes from the bottom of the skirting to the top of the basket.
At this point, the heavy lifting was done and I just had to sew the blanket together. I pinned the two blanket pieces right side together, and sew around all 4 edges, leaving a 5″ gap. I used a 5/8″ seam allowance. In a nod to diligence I trimmed the corners on the diagonal, being careful not to cut through the stitches.
Feeling very close to completion, I turned the blanket right side out. If you felt like doing the right thing, you would press the blanket. I did not. I may be a bad example. I just topstitched around the entire blanket, 1/4″ from the edge. This closed up the 5″ hole that I used to turn the blanket right side out. Then I topstitched again, approximately 1 1/2″ from the edge.
If you’re playing along, lay out your blanket and admire your work. You’re done!
If this is kind of your thing, you might want to check out my other super-fun craft projects and recipes under the Making Stuff menu header. We can jump on the handmade bandwagon together!