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Maybe it's the charm of the variety of colors and patterns you tend to find in older quilts. Or maybe sitting on something made during a time when life was slower paced makes you stop and wish for some of that slower pace in your own life. Whatever the reason, the task of finding an old quilt can quickly put an end to any ideas we have of the magical qualities such a quilt can add to our picnic experience. Even if we happen to find one, chances are it will be very pricey.
Making a quilt is always an option but purchasing material for one can still be expensive, especially for something that's being made specifically to be laid on the ground and have food eaten over it. Bed sheets, however, are a very inexpensive alternative to fabric you purchase off a bolt. And being that they are such large cuts of fabric, it can make your job as simple as sandwiching some quilt batting between 2 sheets with a vintage pattern, sewing them together, and using a tied finish to hold the layers together.
I wanted to have some of the charm of a cathedral window quilt but, again because of the plans I had for it, didn't want to invest all the time in making one. I found a couple of tutorials for an easy alternative that gives you a similar look. Still not wanting to invest the time in completing an entire quilt made of the squares I just did a small section in the center of the picnic blanket with them. I constructed the base of the blanket from 2 twin bed sheets and the base for the"cathedral window" squares from a third twin bed sheet.
To create the squares, begin by cutting 45 circles from a turquoise bed sheet using the 5.5 inch Fiskars Super Size Circle Template and the 8" Razor Edge Scissors.
The next step is to create a pattern for a square that just fits inside the circle. Using the Fiskars Desktop Rotary Trimmer, cut a square, from chipboard, that is slightly under 4 inches . Use this to trace a square in the center of each circle. The intersections of the square should not rest outside the edge of the circle.
Pinning the pieces together properly takes a bit of time but is necessary for everything lining up properly in the end. Using the grid on the18 inch by 24 inch cutting mat, align the traced lines on one circle (face down) with the lines on the mat. This is easiest to do by folding back the top and bottom of the circles as seen in this photo and sliding the circle around until they are aligned with the grid.
Lay a second circle on top of the first circle, again aligning the traced lines with those on the mat. The lines on the two circles are now aligned. Pin the circles together.
Stitch along the traced line.
Open the circles and press the seam flat.
You'll create a strip that looks like this.
And then you'll sew the strips together to make a section that looks like this.
Using the 45mm Comfort Grip Rotary Cutter and the 3.5 inch x 18.5 inch Acrylic Ruler, cut 45 squares, measuring 4 7/8 inch, from a variety of fabric scraps. Center them in the circles, under the flaps, and then stitch them in place by sewing along the curved edges of each flap. I want my picnic blanket to look worn so I used a straight stitch which will allow the edges to fray. You can use a zig-zag stitch over the edges, instead, to prevent fraying.
If you're going to make a complete quilt from these squares, you can add a square of quilt batting under each square of fabric.
When attached to the picnic blanket at a later stage, your completed panel of circles will look like this!
Now you can finish the picnic blanket by taking two twin size flat sheets and a layer of quilt batting and layering them quilt batting, bottom sheet (right-side up) on top of that, top sheet (right-side down) on top of that. Pin all the layers together around the perimeter. Make sure to smooth all the layers out before pinning. Sheets aren't always square so don't just align the edges. You may have to do some trimming along the edges.
Stitch around the perimeter, reverse stitching at the beginning and end of your stitching and leaving a 12 inch turning opening. Slipstitch the turning opening closed. Next, topstitch around the perimeter of the blanket, 1/2 inch from the edge. If you want your thread to match both your top and bottom layers, use a color to coordinate with the top to thread the machine and a color to coordinate with the bottom in your bobbin.
Center the panel of patchwork circles in the center of the quilt, pin it through all 3 layers (lots of pins to help keep it from shifting during stitching!) of the blanket and stitch around the perimeter of the panel.
At this point, you can either machine stitch a simple pattern (a grid or straight lines, evenly spaced will work) over the picnic blanket to hold the layers together. Or you can "tie" it by using embroidery floss to create stitches to hold the layers together. Simply insert a threaded needle through all 3 layers of the picnic blanket, push the needle back up through all three layers right next to the point where the needle came through the back side, and tie the two lengths of floss in a knot, cutting them to leave 2 tails. Do this in a grid pattern over the entire picnic blanket.
If you want to add more of a patchwork look to your picnic blanket as I did, prior to layering and stitching the top, bottom, and batting together, you'll need to replace part of your top sheet. I used scraps of material left over from other projects and some fabric I got at a yard sale for next to nothing. You'll cut panels to the desired sizes, keeping in mind the width of them when pieced together can't be wider than your top sheet. Make sure you allow an extra 1/2 inch on each side of your panels as you're cutting them for seam allowances.
Once you have your panels all sewn together, measure the panel from top to bottom. This measurement, minus 1 inch to make up for seam allowances, is the amount you'll cut from the top sheet. You'll do this for both ends of the picnic blanket. Pin and stitch the panels to what is left of the top sheet using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. From this point, assemble the picnic blanket starting at the above step where you layer the top and bottom sheets and quilt batting.
To hold together the layers of a picnic blanket pieced together this way, you can simply top stitch right next to the seams of the pieced panels or use one of the methods described in the above steps.
When finished, I had a picnic blanket for a right around $25! And that low cost for adding some of the charm of an old quilt makes me believe my picnic days will now be even more relaxing.
3 flat twin bed sheets
Quilt batting to fit between 2 twin bed sheets
Fabric scraps and a scrap of chipboard (if creating a patchwork design)