Thursday, November 7, 2013


To celebrate two years of dating, Josh and I decided to focus on creativity for our gifts instead of price. We made this decision because we have quite a few occasions where we give each other gifts and didn't want to feel like we need to be extravagant every time. So, for those holidays where we are both giving a gift at the same time (i.e., Anniversary, Christmas, and Valentine's Day), we will be setting a spending limit. For our birthdays however, we can get each other whatever we want. We figured this would be a good way to allow one fancy present each year (when only one of us is giving) and the rest will be moderately priced and very thoughtful.

So for our anniversary, we set the amount of $25 that we were allowed to spend on each other. We determined the amount about one month ahead of time to allow for adequate planning. The rules were that we could use anything we already had in our apartments and not include that in the cost, but anything we purchased had to stay under $25. It was quite the challenge!

I decided early-on that I wanted to make Josh something. I thought this would be a good way to cut costs and stay within my budget while also investing my time and creativity to convey how much he means to me. After some careful Pinterest browsing, I fell in love with the idea of sewing him a picnic blanket.

Josh brings out the adventure in me and we love to hike and travel and be outside (when it's nice) so I liked this idea because it meant something more than just being practical (though it's that too!). When I saw this blanket, I knew that was the one I would try to make. Unfortunately there was no pattern to follow, so I made it up.

If you want to make one too, here is how I did it step-by-step. It took about an hour of fabric shopping and about four hours of figuring out the sewing machine and actual sewing. I think it turned out really well, and Josh liked it a lot... well worth the time. Plus all the materials were only $24.86! Right on budget. ;)

DIY Picnic Blanket
You will Need:
  • 2 yards of fabric for side A (Note: the fabric at the store where I purchased it was about 3.5 feet wide and 2 yards is about 6 feet long.)
  • 2 yards of fabric for side B
  • 2 yards of strap material
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread in a coordinating color to your fabric
  • Sewing pins (can be reused for multiple projects)
  • Needle (for hand sewing on details if you desire)
  • Batting (I bought some on sale. It was polyesther and much larger than I needed, I cut it down to match the blanket. If you have a larger budget, the woman at the store recommended cotton batting as it may wash better)

Step 1: Clear your work space.
You need a solid, clean surface. I used my kitchen table as it's marble (Thanks Dad and Patti for letting me have it!) but I made sure to wipe it down first. You don't want any leftover breakfast on your blanket.

Step 2: Iron your fabric.
I almost skipped this step. Because I'm lazy. But then I remembered this was a gift and I didn't want it to look jankety. So I ironed it. Yes, it took about 20 minutes. Do it anyway. It's good to get the wrinkles out before you start and it will make the blanket look more professional. 

Step 3: Match up your fabric with front sides facing each other.
At this point you are going to put the outsides facing in and match up the corners. This way you can sew around the edges and then flip it inside out to have a pretty seam. Line up the first corner (you can always trim away extra fabric later if they aren't the exact same size).  

Step 4: Cut and finish your straps.
You have two yards of straps. Simply cut them into four equal pieces. Since mine were synthetic, I took a lighter and swiftly singed the edges to keep them from fraying. After burning they are just a bit hard on the end and will be durable.

Step 5: Pin your straps for sewing.
Working from the first corner you lined up pin the first side. You want to place the pins perpendicular to the edge of the fabric. Just make sure you go through both pieces to hold them together. As you begin to sew you will remove the pins and then use them again on the next side.

When you get to the location you want the straps to be (this is the tricky part... think about how many times you will fold your blanket before rolling it up - I said two , so I placed the two sets of straps in one quadrant of the blanket) pin each set on top of each other to the bottom fabric. Then pin the top fabric over top. You will in effect be sewing the straps to the inside of the blanket (which is really the outside). This will make sense when you flip it right-side out. 

Also, this took me like 12 tries and test flipping it in and out before I understood the placement. :)

Step 6: Set-up your sewing machine.
It looks innocent enough, but this is the step where I had to pour a glass of wine. I was all pinned and ready to go and the sewing machine took a few tries. First it wasn't starting. Then the bobbin wasn't threaded properly. Very complicated, but worth the effort. 

I used this tutorial on how to wind a bobbin and this one on joining the threads to get myself going. Please picture me under my table (because I couldn't get the arm of the sewing machine off) trying to figure out the bobbin in a full sweat. Now please laugh. 

Once you have it set up. Take a sip of wine, you deserve it.

Step 7: Sew sides one and two.
With the machine set up you are ready to sew! Sew side one (simple stitch) and remember to sew one inch, reverse, and then sew that inch again at both ends of the side. When side one is done, pin and sew side two. 

Be sure to stop and take an, "I'm sewing!" picture in between. ;)

Step 8: Add detail and sew sides three and four (leave about 18 inches open on side four).
I chose to add a J to the black side of the blanket in the plaid pattern. To execute this I drew a J in Sharpie on some of the extra fabric (the two pieces were different sizes so I had like two inches of plaid left on the last side), and had sewed it to the fabric.

If you are hand sewing it, you can just trace the letter normally (not mirror image) and sew it right on top. Note: This was "inside" from how I was sewing it since the side of the fabric I wanted to end-up on the outside was on the inside until I sewed all four sides and flipped it.

With detail in place, sew side three and sew side MOST OF side four. LEAVE 18 INCHES OPEN (read: don't sew that part) so you can flip the blanket inside out.

Step 9: Flip fabric inside out and cut batting to match blanket size.
Ok, everything is ready. Flip it, flip it good. Just turn it inside out. Then unwrap your batting and cut it to be the exact size of the blanket. This part was terrifying as it's hard to manage. Be strong young warrior, you can do it!

Step 10: Fit batting into blanket.
Shove the batting (now cut) into the blanket shell. This is an annoying step because the batting is finicky but be persistent until it is in and laying flat. It's exactly the same thing as putting a down blanket into a duvet cover. Match up the corners first and work from there. 

Step 11: Close seam on side four and sew batting into place.
Carefully pin the opening in side four closed and sew it together. Be gentle here, this part will be visible. Then go down each side about two inches in from the edge and sew the batting into place. You are basically sewing a slightly smaller rectangle inside the outer seams. 

Step 12: Fold blanket and marvel at your handiwork.
You are so wonderful and talented! You just made a blanket! And it stays together and is so cute!!! You go!


  1. wow, that is freaking crafty! love the glass of wine + sewing machine step. haha

  2. Haha at that point I was starting to get desperate! But it was worth it in the end. :)

    My mom asked if I was ever going to sew again. I responded with, "Well your sewing machine is already in my trunk, so no." Hah!

  3. Stephanie @Shades of Color ArtNovember 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I WANT THIS!!!! You should start selling them! I would definitely buy one from you! -.-

  4. Well if it didn't take me so long to make them, then maybe I could consider it. I'll let you know if I get any better at sewing!


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