So recently, when I heard that a six-year-old family member needed some new bedding, I saw an opportunity for a fun and simple sewing project.
Below I describe in detail how I did this project. As my editor (husband) pointed out, it’s a bit long and drawn-out. So, if you’d rather just see the final result, scroll down to “The Result” near the end of this post.
Choosing The Fabric And The Project Design
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First, I cleared the idea with the youngster’s mom. Then I started the project the way I begin all my sewing projects: By rushing off to the fabric store with only a half-baked idea of what I was going to do or how I was going to do it.
What I knew at that point was that I wanted to make a flannel bed cover of some sort with a coordinating pillowcase. I wanted to use flannel because it’s warm and soft – and it’s usually on sale after the holidays. I also knew that, although I adore quilts, I did not have the patience, skill, or desire to actually make one. I wanted to make something like a quilt, only easier. So I decided to make a coverlet.
At the fabric store, I carefully selected some adorable, coordinating fabrics that I loved. Then I put them all back and chose fabrics that this particular six-year-old kid would like.
I came out of the fabric store with planets, kitties, and plaid. The coverlet would be reversible with planets as the primary fabric on one side and kitties on the other.
I was in love with the white plaid fabic at the top of the stack, but there wasn’t much left in the store. I bought what they did have and hoped I could somehow make it work.
Altogether, I bought about 12 yards of 42″ wide flannel and about 5 1/4 yards of this 45″ wide batting. The flannel is cotton Snuggle Flannel from Joann Fabrics. To me it seems softer than some other flannels. And, as I learned later, it’s even softer after laundering. But the patterns are printed on the fabric – not woven in. So this is not high-end flannel. And the patterns are not always printed squarely on the fabric. This meant I’d have to do a little tweaking to make the patterns line up and also keep things straight.
This tutorial for making a flannel blanket was a very helpful starting point, and I did end up using most of the tips there. But the tutorial is for making smaller throw blankets (about a 40″ width), and I was going to make a twin-sized coverlet that needed to measure about 70″ X 90″ when finished.
But really how difficult could it be? We’ll get back to that question later.
Preparing The Flannel
I did a little research and watched videos on how to prepare flannel for sewing. If you’re planning to work with flannel, I highly recommend doing this.
One important thing to note is that flannel shrinks – a lot. So I washed all the fabric in warm water and machine dried it so that it would preshrink. I put a towel in the dryer with the fabric to keep it from wrinkling because the next step is, of course, pressing the fabric. Flannel should be carefully pressed as opposed to being ironed.
I had yards and yards of fabric, so I confess that I did not press every bit of it. Placing a clean cotton cloth between the fabric and the iron, and misting with a bit of water first, I just carefully pressed out the main creases and folds. I figured that would be enough since my final goal was a casual, soft look.
Flannel tends to fray. It can also bunch up in the sewing machine. I eased the tension on my machine a bit, and I used a slightly longer stitch length than I normally do. It is also recommended to use a walking foot when sewing flannel. I didn’t take this extra step, but I’m happy to say that, in this case at least, I didn’t have any trouble with the fabric bunching.
But before sewing, I squared my fabric by ripping it. Predictably, the flannel frayed a bit when I did this, but I always prefer to square my fabric before working with it.
The Project Begins
Making a template on the living room floor
Since this was such a huge project, the easiest way I could think of for measuring out the fabric, planning the pattern, and piecing it together was to mark out the finished dimensions on the living room floor.
So, I cleared away and cleaned a large area on my living room floor. I carefully measured a 70″ X 90″ rectangle and marked the corners and the middle of the rectangle with blue painter’s tape to create a template. Then I re-measured to make sure I hadn’t messed up. Since the tape had a one-inch thickness, the inside of the tape template would represent the finished dimensions of the coverlet. The outside area, although just a bit too wide to represent the coverlet’s unfinished dimensions, would still serve as an approximate reference point.
The biggest challenge of working on the living room floor was convincing our cats that this whole setup wasn’t solely for their amusement.
Every time I turned my back for a split second, something like this was happening.
But the cats were ever so helpful in that they eliminated any doubt that I’d have to launder this project again once it was finished.
Cutting and Sewing The Fabric Pieces
I started with the cat fabric. The fabric, before pre-shrinking, was only 44″ wide. I needed a 71″ width. So I sewed two pieces of the cat fabric together, making sure to line up the pattern.
Then I measured, cut, and sewed together two narrow pieces of the white plaid fabric (just enough for an accent border since I didn’t have much of that fabric) and sewed it across the top of the cat fabric. I just tried my best to keep the fabric patterns matching and lined up, but it wasn’t perfect.
Then I placed this fabric piece, consisting of the four sewn-together panels, over the template on the floor and, using a large straight edge, I marked and cut the fabric to the 71″ width and the 91″ length that I needed.
Then I pressed all the seams open.
Then, using the planet fabric and the orange plaid fabric, I employed a similar method for what would be the reverse side of the coverlet: I joined panels of fabric together and then measured, marked and cut so that I had a 71″ X 91″ piece of fabric. And then I pressed the seams.
Cutting And Basting The Batting
The batting had a 45″ width so, using a straight edge, I cut two 45″ panels to the 91″ length that I needed and placed them on the template side by side.
I overlapped them in the middle by about an inch and pinned it. Then, since this would be too cumbersome to push through my sewing machine, I hand-basted the two pieces together where I had overlapped them to create the width I needed. As you’ll see later, the hand basting was only the first step I would take in making sure that the batting wouldn’t shift inside the coverlet once it was finished.
Then I cut the batting to the 71″ width that I needed.
Pinning It All Together
I carefully placed the two 71″ X 91″ fabric panels, right (good) sides together, flat on the floor. I made sure to eliminate all creases and wrinkles. So, I had the two good sides on the inside facing one another. I placed the batting on top of this, and then I pinned the edges of the three pieces together.
I’m making this sound easy, but this was the most difficult part of the project – pinning these three huge pieces together without anything getting creased.
So, this is a good time to get back to that question “How difficult could this project really be?” At this point, the project seemed doomed to failure. I was starting to regret ever taking it on.
Sewing The Perimeter
Finally I was satisfied with the pinning and I took this giant project to my sewing machine. Using about a half-inch seam allowance, I sewed around the perimeter of the coverlet, making sure to backstitch at potentially vulnerable places like seams and corners. I left part of one side open and unsewn so that I could easily pull the fabric right-side-out later.
Pulling It Right-Side-Out
Then I reached inside the unsewn area, between the two fabric pieces, and carefully reversed the coverlet – pulling the whole thing right-side-out. Now the good sides were facing out and the batting was inside sandwiched between the two fabric pieces.
Reversing it was like a mini-reveal of how this project was going to turn out. I held my breath and hoped for the best. And it actually didn’t look too bad.
Pressing and Pinning
I pressed the perimeter of the coverlet to give the seam a neat look. When I got to the unsewn area, I tucked the fabric inward and pressed it so that the unsewn area looked neat and finished like the sewn area. Then I pinned it.
The Finish Stitch
I used a zigzag stitch around the entire perimeter (about a quarter inch from the edge) to seal the unsewn area and as another measure in securing the batting.
It also gave the piece a cute, finished look.
Securing The Batting
This coverlet was going to be for an active little kid, so I wanted to make sure the batting wouldn’t shift. So I used another tip I found in this tutorial: Adding hand-tied knots to secure the batting. Once again placing the coverlet on the floor, I measured out and put a small hand-stitched knot at every share foot. I used a strand of embroidery floss for this. I made sure the needle went through the batting and picked up the fabric on the opposite side of the coverlet.
I quadruple tied each knot to make sure it would not unravel.
Once I was done, I could barely see my work in the overall look of the coverlet – which was a good thing.
I made a simple pillowcase using this method but with a few changes – mostly for the sake of preference – including making the pillowcase reversible.
With my heart in my throat, I put the entire finished project through the laundry, this time on delicate because it’s recommended for the type of batting that I used. I tumble dried it on low and then took it out immediately so that it wouldn’t wrinkle.
It came out luxuriously soft. The only glitch was a little bunching at the hand stitches that I’d added at the end, but that is barely noticeable.
I’m very happy with the result. It isn’t perfect, but I’ve convinced myself it doesn’t really need to be. After all, it’s just kids’ bedding – not world peace.
It’s reversible and interchangeable for lots of fun options.
But does it actually fit a twin bed? I tried it out on half of my king-sized bed and it fit well. So I think it will be fine on a twin bed.
It’s so wonderfully soft that I’m gearing up to make a king-sized version for my own bed. Just kidding! I’m pretty sure it will be a while before I tackle such a huge project again.
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