Small and soft; those are the requirements for a “lovie” – a cuddle-up-with-me blanket that is destined to become an instant favorite and a soothing companion for nap time, story time, or anytime a little soft security is needed. We originally worked with some adorable flannels from the Penned Pals collection by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. We loved the hand-drawn critters and the wide selection of colors: pink, yellow, mint, blue, gray, black, and white.
We’ve been chatting with Kelle about these flannels since the hot, humid days of summer when they first were announced, but as we transition from Fall into Winter, the timing is perfect for our own flannel feature. We chose six of the 31 flannel prints in four of the seven colorways.
The first Penned Pals collection came out in 2017 and was so popular, the decision was made almost immediately to offer a similar collection in flannel. Kelle added three new designs that weren’t available in the original cotton collection: bunnies, crosses, and kitties. We’ve used both the crosses and the bunnies for our lovie.
If you’re familiar with the world of Ann Kelle, you might notice that the hand-drawn art style of Penned Pals is different then Kelle’s typical drawing style. But she loves drawing animals and shapes and it was fun for her to mix things up. She’s quite well-known for her Girl Friends cloth doll series.
Brand new to sewing? No worries here. You can easily create this special blanket. The patchwork is made up of simple rows and quadrants that are interspersed with panels of a soft faux sherpa fleece. Though it is a member of the faux fur family, sherpa fleece has a lower, denser nap, which makes it easier to cut and stitch. We used a standard presser foot throughout and other than cutting with the stretch, we didn’t use any special cutting, pinning or stitching techniques.
Flannel usually has about a 4% shrinkage, and our yardage recommendations below take this into account. We’ve provided finished drawings with measurements as well as a full grid layout with a fabric key for the six Penned Pals flannels and the one sherpa fleece.
Around the entire outside edge of the finished lovie is a beautiful blanket stitch. For the best, look, this stitching should be done by hand with floss. This does take a bit of time, since you’re working your way around 150” of blanket edge, but it’s worth it. The hand stitching creates a bold finish that you really can’t duplicate by machine.
Since lovies take a lot of loving, they also need a lot of laundering. We’ve added four lines of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting through all the layers to insure the blanket won’t twist or shift in the washer and dryer.
Our lovie finishes at approximately 35” wide x 40” high.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional when working with thick layers; you can also engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed Flex™ system we have on many of our Janome studio machines
Fabric and Other Supplies
- All SIX of the flannel fabrics are from the Penned Pals Flannel collection by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. As mentioned above, we have accounted for some shrinkage in the flannel with the recommended yardage.
¼ yard of Fabric 1 – Penned Pals Gray Crosses on White
⅝ yard of Fabric 2 – Penned Pals White Dots on Black
¼ yard of Fabric 3 – Penned Pals White Dots on Mint
½ yard of Fabric 4 – Penned Pals Black Giraffes on White
½ yard of Fabric 5 – Penned Pals Gray Lions on Mint
½ yard of Fabric 6 – Penned Pals White Bunnies on Gray
- 1⅓ yard of 58”+ faux fur sherpa fleece or similar in ivory
- All purpose thread to match fabric for assembly
- TWO skeins of pearl cotton floss; we used black
NOTE: In the ingredients photo above, you’ll see more than two skeins pictured; we over-bought in order to insure we had enough for our prototype. For you project, two should be plenty.
- See-through ruler
- Measuring tape
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Yarn darners for hand stitching around the edges
- Straight pins
- As mentioned above, flannel does shrink, so make sure you pre-wash and dry it before beginning any cutting or assembly. Once washed and dried, iron each piece and remove lint. Flannel loves to shed; you will need to remove lint. Also remember to clean out the lint trap in your dryer.
- The Penned Pals motifs are not directional, so to make the best use of the fabric, we cut 6” high x width of fabric (WOF) strips, then sub-cut these strips into the appropriate blocks. If you opt to use a directional fabric, you may need to purchase additional fabric. Refer to the final block count on the illustrations below to determine yardage.
- Fabric 1:
Cut ONE 6” x WOF strip, then sub-cut into ONE 6” x 11” block and FOUR 6” x 6” blocks.
- Fabric 2:
Cut THREE 6” x WOF strips, then sub-cut into TWO 6” x 11” blocks and TWELVE 6” x 6” blocks.
- Fabric 3:
Cut ONE 6” x WOF strip, then sub-cut into FOUR 6” x 6” blocks.
- Fabric 4:
Cut TWO 6” x WOF strips, then sub-cut into FOUR 6” x 11” blocks and TWO 6” x 6” blocks.
- Fabric 5:
Cut TWO 6” x WOF strips, then sub-cut into EIGHT 6” x 6” blocks.
- Fabric 6:
Cut TWO 6” x WOF strips, then sub-cut into TWO 6” x 11” blocks and EIGHT 6” x 6” blocks.
- From the faux sherpa fleece, cut the following:
TWO 36” x 6” panels for the front
THREE 36” x 11” panels for the back
NOTE: Fleece stretches, so make sure to cut these strips with the stretch is going the short way (along the 6″ side). This makes seaming the fleece to the flannel easier and allows the stretch to assist in matching up the front to the back prior to the final stitch-in-the-ditch quilting through all the layers. With our fleece, this meant our five strips were cut horizontally.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Front patchwork of the upper and lower rows
- The assembly is standard for simple patchwork. Work with one quadrant at a time, starting with the six squares in the upper right corner.
- Place the first two squares in each row right sides together. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the seam. We chain-pieced the two layered sets of squares.
NOTE: All the seam allowances on the blanket are ½” rather than the more traditional ¼” seam for patchwork. This is because of the thickness of the faux sherpa fleece. In addition, with the tendency of flannel to ravel, we wanted the additional security of the slightly wider seam.
- Press seam allowances towards the darker fabric.
- Place the final square in each row right sides together with the sewn block.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
- Place the two three-block rows right sides together along the inner horizontal edges. Carefully align all the vertical seams. If you followed the recommendation above to press the seam allowances toward the darker fabric, your seams should now “nest together” – the seam allowance on one row going in one direction; the seam allowance on the other row going in the opposite direction. Pin in place, and stitch together with a ½” seam allowance.
- Press this horizontal seam allowance down towards the lower row.
- Repeat to build the six square block as shown in the diagram in the upper left corner.
- Find the 6” x 11” rectangle in Fabric 4 that goes between these two quadrants to complete the upper row (Penned Pals Black Giraffes on White in our sample).
- Stitch the two quadrants to either side of the 6” x 11” rectangle. We found it best to place the 6” x 11” center panel on the bottom and the quadrant on the top so you can see and control the direction of the pressed seam allowances. The two final seam allowances should be pressed towards the center panel.
- Repeat all the steps to create the lower row, which is also made up of two six-block quadrants with a center rectangular panel.
Front patchwork of the middle row
- Find the seven 6” x 11” rectangles that make up the center front row. Stack them in order, following the diagrams above.
- Pin right sides together in order from left to right.
- As above, stitch together using a ½” seam allowance.
- Continue until you have the completed seven-piece center row.
Back patchwork of the two single rows
- Find the two sets of seven 6” squares that make up the two single rows of patchwork for the back of the blanket.
- Assemble in order, following the diagrams, the same manner as above.
Add the sherpa fleece rows to the front and back flannel patchwork
- Find the two 36” x 6” sherpa panels for the front.
- Pin the sherpa right sides together with each patchwork row.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
NOTE: We used our standard presser foot. The nap of the flannel “grips” to the fleece so we didn’t really experience any shifting of the layers. If you traditionally have trouble with thicker layers or different substrates, try a Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed Flex™ system we have on many of our Janome studio machines
- Find the three 36” x 11” sherpa panels for the back.
- These panels are exactly opposite the pattern on the blanket front. So, you will pin the two patchwork rows in between the three larger sherpa panels. Start by pinning the rows to either side of that will be the center sherpa panel. This way you can make sure the vertical seams of the two patchwork rows are aligned to either side of the sherpa.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
- Finally, stitch the remaining sherpa panels at the top and bottom.
- Pressing is still important – even with fleece. For these seams, as well as the front of the blanket, hold the iron a bit above and steam from the back with very little actual pressing.
Layer front to back
- Place the finished front and back panels right sides together. Make sure your rows are going the same direction across both the front and back.
- Along the side, line up the two back rows of patchwork with their corresponding sherpa rows on the front. The corner points should be aligned.
- Pin around the entire perimeter of the blanket, leaving an approximate 10” opening along one side for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around the entire outer edge of the blanket. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock the seam at either side of the 10” opening.
- Turn the blanket right side out through the opening.
- Using a long, blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner, gently push out all the corners.
- Steam the outer edge, turning in the raw edges along the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Before pinning or stitching the opening closed, first reach your hand inside the blanket to confirm the alignment of the seams. You need to line up the patchwork flannel rows on the back of the blanket with the sherpa rows on the front of the blanket. This is where the four lines of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting will run. Pin across these seams.
- Stitch in the ditch (eg. stitch right on top of the previous seams) along each of the four layered seams through both layers. As shown below, we again used our standard presser foot, but your could also opt to use a Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system.
- When all four stitch-in-the-ditch seams are complete, pin closed the opening used for turning. Thread the hand sewing needle with matching thread and stitch closed with a tiny ladder stitch.
Blanket stitch edging
- You’ll use a doubled strand of floss to create a blanket stitch edging for the blanket. The floss can be cut into 60″ lengths, threaded through the yarn needle, and then doubled and knotted. This is a longer length than you might be used to working with, but we had no issues with tangling and this length minimizes the number of times the thread has to be joined.
- Since the outer edge of the blanket is quite long, it would be rather time-consuming to mark for the evenly spaced stitching. If you’re a hand embroidery pro, no worries. But, we like the “ruler finger” technique to keep the stitches evenly spaced. Draw the marks right on your thumb, then simply slide your thumb along to maintain the proper spacing. Our stitches were about ¼“ apart and ⅜“ deep.
- Start the stitching at a seam.
- To make a Blanket Stitch, hold the loose yarn to the right of the stitch. Move over your designated amount (¼” in our sample) and take a second stitch, coming up within the loose loop of the yarn. Pull the yarn to tighten the stitch. Hold the stitch tight with your free hand and make another stitch. Slow and steady wins the race.
- At each corner, bring three stitches together to form a diagonal fan as shown below.
INSERT 2816-Photo 128
NOTE: If you are brand new to this type of hand stitching, take a look at our Color Block Poncho tutorial. We use the same technique and go into additional detail on the basic stitch as well as on how to join thread so you have an unbroken border.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever