Friday, September 9, 2011

{Sewing How-To Series} Sew a Straight Line & Turning Corners with a Baby Swaddler Tutorial

Are you ready to get sewing?!  Have you dusted off your old machine, borrowed one or gave in a finally purchased one of your own?  Do you have all your tools ready?  Then let's get started!

I won't take time going over the basics of turning on and threading your machine or bobbins, since every machine is different.  The best thing to do is sit down with the manual for an evening and learn to set it up.   And if you don't have the manual your for machine, you can most likely look up the manual online! How awesome is that!

So to learn to sew straight line is one of the first things you want to accomplish when you begin to sew, and I figured what better way to do that, than to make a baby blanket.

When my son was born, I had the little store bought swaddlers that must be a mere 20" square.  One little wiggle or leg kick from him and he was instantly unswaddled.  Those little blankets quickly became, changing pads instead.  That was about all they were good for.

So when I had my daughter, my mother inlaw sewed a few "large" swaddler blankets for me.  They were the perfect size.  So I thought, since Marybeth's little girl is arriving in December, she needs a nice warm swaddler in pink!

This will teach us a very simple and basic technique that you can use for many projects, and it's the perfect way to practice sewing straight lines and turning corners.  So gather your supplies:
-Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat (which is what I'll actually be using to cut)
-matching thread
-sewing machine

First trim off the salvedge edges of the fabric, which is usually a littler rougher and often has writing on it.  Now it's time to make your square.  I used the width of my fabric which was 44", so I cut my length to 44" as swell.

Now you have a perfect square.  Time to head over to your iron.

I love this handy little instrument.  I believe it's called a sewing and knitting gauge.  I use it all the time when folding over hems.  They usually come in sewing kits, but you can purchase them separately as well.   Using this I know my hem measures the same length all the way around.  On our blanket, we're going to fold a  1/2 inch all the way around and press it with our iron.

Now that you've gone all the way around once, you are going to fold a 1/2 inch all the way around again.  Now your raw edge of the fabric is neatly encased in your pressed seam, so it won't ravel.  

Once you've finished ironing around the entire blanket the second time, you should have corners that look like the picture below.  Feel free to stop here and begin sewing.  If you want a little more professional, snazzy look, I'll teach you to miter your corners.

Open up your corners.  You'll see the marks, like a grid, of your pressed seams.

Fold the corner in at a 45 degree angle so that the point touches the bottom of your grid.

And then fold it down one more time to that point.  Be sure to use your iron at each fold, to help is stay.

Now we'll fold our sides back in and press them down.

And the last fold bring the edges together in a nicely finished mitered corner.
Now let's get sewing!  (I bet you thought we'd never get over the sewing machine!)

To help you sew a straight line, line of the edge of you fabric with a mark on your sewing machine.  Here, I am using the edge of my presser foot as my sewing guide.  The way my needle is positioned, it's giving me a 1/2"   seam allowance.  I like to start sewing right in the middle of one of my edges.  Don't forget to back-stitch after your first few stitches so they don't pull out.  Back-stitching is using the reverse button on your machine to sew backwards 2-3 stitches, to lock the stitches in place.  You'll do this at the beginning and end of most lines you sew.

Sew along at a pace you're comfortable with, using your hand to keep the fabric feeding in smoothly and straight   Don't tug or pull your fabric though.  And use your guide to make your line nice and straight.

Once you reach the corner, stop.

Lift your presser foot, with the needle in the down position, so the the fabric pivots only.

Lower the presser foot back down after you turn it, and keep on sewing all the way around your blanket.  Use the same turning technique at each corner of your blanket.  

I like to use pins to keep my corners lying flat.  But be sure to pull the pin out right before you sew over that area.

Back-stitch when you get back to where you started, to lock your stitches in place and you're done!  You have a beautiful baby blanket, with perfect mitered corners.

And it's HUGE!  Perfect for swaddling that sweet little lady up!

What a lovely and simple gift!

You can use this same technique to make dinner napkins.  Sew4Home gives a great drawn visual of  mitered corners in their dinner napkin tutorial here.  

Have fun and get sewing!