So. It's three days before the big day. And you have just discovered that your (daughter / brother / mother) has invited their (new significant other / best friend / great aunt Tillie) to spend the holidays with your family. You, being the glorious self-motivated, organized person that you are, finished the gift shopping weeks, nay, months ago. They are wrapped and ready to go. But... (there's always a but...) you do not want the newcomer to feel left out. (Alternately: Your husband decided to tell you on Tuesday that his office was doing secret Santa. On Thursday.) You now need the perfect gender neutral, inexpensive yet stylish gift, and you would rather walk over hot coals than spend today in the mall. Amazon cannot get you what you want, in time. Feel anxious yet?
( this is what I will show you how to make today)
Calm. Take a big deep breath. We've got this covered. Literally.
A few times in the past, I've managed to find myself in much the same situation. And I *think* I've finally come up with the perfect response - a quilted scarf. It is almost infinitely variable, can be made in as little as an hour, and if you're as thrifty as me, it can cost you only a couple of dollars, depending on how you want to do it.
At the base of it, all we're really going to do is make a long, thin table runner. So you get to make all kinds of fun choices, based on your needs and your desires, what you have on hand, or the final look you want. Pick an idea, and run with it - here are just a few of the choices you can make.
First, you can decide how plain or fancy you want it. Realistically - what do you want to show off? Do you want to show off your perfect, perfect piecework? Have you been working hard on applique this year and want to show that off? Did you finally get your free motion quilting down pat? Do you have scraps left over from your very favourite project - ones that you want to see a little more often? Or do you need the fastest. easiest. cheapest thing possible just to get something done as. soon. as. possible and you're going to barricade yourself in your sewing room until it's done? All of these are valid choices - pick one for each scarf you're going to make up, and we'll move on to the next step.
We need to decide what size we want the scarf to be. Through trial and error, I found that the unfinished width that works best falls between 6.5" and 8.5" Anything within this range is perfectly acceptable - there are very few hard and fast rules here. Write that number down, for each scarf you're going to do - for simplicity's sake, I'm going to use 8.5" as my example. Next, you can decide on length. The most inexpensive way to do it is to simply use the width of the focus fabric - somewhere between 42-44". For me, this is the perfect length - it's enough to go over the back of my neck, where I get cold, and tuck into my coat. You might want it twice as long, or another length entirely. When I make them for other people, I hand them my measuring tape and tell them to hold one end, and to wear it like a scarf - the right length will be from their right hand, to an even point on the other end (this can be 60, 70" if they like to wrap it twice around their neck and then have it hang low.) There is no right answer - just write down whatever one you're going to use.
These measurements form the dimensions of your "top". For the "back", any plain fabric will do. Muslin, if you've got it, plain broadcloth, a co-ordinating print, or my favourite, Kona cotton. If your budget is tight, you can use scraps left over. Its size will be the exact same as your "top". (Trying to do both sides pieced, or one applique and one pieced is really tricky - not recommended.)
So now we're going to revisit our options, and see what we can do.
First: A note on colours. The *only* recommendation I have in this regard is not to use white. Unlike quilts, this will spend a lot of time rubbing right up against your skin, your hair, makeup, who knows what. White turns dingy looking really fast under these conditions.
Piecework - Pick 2 blocks - one for each end. These can be as fancy or as simple as you choose - I really like the look of sawtooth stars, trees, and crazy-quilt style - but these are just my taste. You can use one or two of 'em on each end, and then just fill the gap between them with plain or co-ordinating fabric to make it whatever length you need.
Applique/embroidery - choose your design and apply it to either end, treating the short edges of the scarf as the bottom of the design. (hint: there are so
Free motion quilting - simply pick a fabric, and have a really nice thread on hand - something that you want to show off. (I like using highly contrasting thread & fabric, like bright red on black, green on red, etc.)
And finally, for those that need the cheapest, fastest possible: Pick two fabrics - one patterned, one plain. You want them to be at least 45x6.5 - 45x8.5 is better. This is a great place to use up your stash (hey, you can give Great Aunt Tilly a scarf that matches that quilt you made her!) or to take advantage of a good pre-Holiday sale. (The fabric store isn't the same as the mall. It just isn't :) Because you're using just a quarter of a yard, you're looking at a few dollars, tops, for the fabric.
Now, we choose our batting. You might live in Florida and not want any batting. You might live in Cold Lake and want three layers of wool. Again, choose which is best for you or for the recipient. If you're somewhere in between, a simple layer of flannel is perfect. For this project, I used a 100% cotton, no scrim, low loft batting. (I don't recommend "puffy" batting, though, unless your quilting is going to be very dense.) If you've done a lot of quilts this year, you've probably got scraps that are perfect- use your favourite joining technique to build them up to the right dimensions. If you don't have scraps, a single package of "craft" size will do between 2 and 4 scarves, and is, again, very inexpensive, especially with a coupon. There's no rule that says you have to have batting in any case, so if you don't have it, don't sweat it - the scarf will still be warm.
Finally, we're going to choose how we want to finish it. There are really only 2 choices - using the "birthing" method, and using binding. If you want to do this quickly and cheaply - go with the birthing method.
The walkthrough below is an example of how to make one inexpensively, quickly, and easily - and have it look really, really good. It took much longer to type out the instructions and take the photos than it took to actually do, and once you've done one, you know how to do lots! If you run out of oomph and need inspiration, check out the Quilt Index. They have a *huge* visual database of quilts, and for ones from specific areas (like Canada, Australia, or Germany), see here.
First, we choose our fabric. This is one from my Christmas bag - but it's in French, so it isn't particularly "holiday-ish" and I just love the gorgeous deep taupe.
Start by trimming off the uneven edges, and then cutting it to your specified width. The ShapeCut makes this really fast, and easy - I cut it to 8.5".
Then trim off the selvedge. Some fabrics now come with decorative edges right before the selvedge - if you like this, then leave a 1/4" margin of the selvedge there - on this project, you're not really matching seams, so it doesn't matter. You'll see later on how pretty it looks.
Repeat the step with the backing fabric, trimming it to width and then cutting off the selvedges. (I used black, which didn't photograph well.) Don't worry about the length in this step - it's okay if the top and bottom don't match. We'll fix that in just a second.
Start by folding both the fabrics in half, matching the short ends. Finger press the fold - you'll need it a few times, but you don't want something that's really set in, like an iron would do. If you're doing traditional binding, skip the next few steps. Baste it as you would a regular quilt, quilt your design in, and then trim as desired - easy peasy!
Now a tricky bit. Rather than having to fuss about length - especially if you're using 2 widths of fabric to make a really long scarf - match the folded middles (or, if you're using 2 widths, the folded seam, and let the other ends just be uneven, as in the photo above. Put the shorter fabric on top, and line a ruler up with the edge - trimming the longer so that they match. If you *do* have a set length - say 72.5", then feel free to measure and trim up as you will - the end result is that you want both fabrics exactly the same size. (This is less important if you are using traditional binding, as you'll be able to trim after the quilting.)
Put the fabric right sides together, and put pins in each end, perpendicular to the long edges and parallel to the short ones. The reason for this is that even with the best sewing machine, you need the edges to be just the same. We're going to baste it first, before we add the batting.
We want to stitch the whole way around, an eighth of an inch away from the edge. Because this is a temporary, tacking stitch, set your stitch length to its' maximum setting, and if you have an edge-stitching foot, now's the perfect time to break it out. If you don't have one, the only thing you really want is "less than 1/4"." A bit less or a bit more than 1/8" is just fine - eyeball it. This step is extra important if you've decided to piece the top like a normal quilt but are going to use the birthing technique. Unless you've used a border, you'll want to use this to hold the piecing together evenly as you sew the batting on. Because you're using a long stitch, the machine *will* move fast through this, so hang on!
This is what the stitching looks like. I'm using darker thread for contrast, but you'll probably want to use something co-ordinating.
Go back to your finger-pressed line, and mark it with a pin. Then, lay it out on your cutting mat, and mark 2" away from the pin in each direction. These are your start-stop points, so you can eventually "birth" your scarf.
Cut your basting stitches between the pins - just use a plain old seamripper. This'll give you your gap.
Take your batting and trim it to the same width as the other fabric. Again, don't worry yourself over-much about the length. If you're using flannel, do the same thing - if you're not using batting, I'll tell you how to proceed as we go.
Using the same technique we used before, trim the batting to the right length. Lay the fabric and the batting together, with the "back" up against the batting.
Ahh, basting. This is less urgent if you're using flannel, but you may want to use straight pins to keep everything from being stretchy. Baste near the edges, using your favourite technique, about a fist width apart. You just want to make sure you don't stretch either one as you go along, and keep the ends lined up. I used small curved basting pins.
*** Important: Remember to re-center your needle, and shorten your stitch length back to its regular length. Also, make sure you're using a thread that co-ordinates with at least one of the fabrics.
Take out your walking foot, and, line the quilt up against the 1/4" mark.
If you're NOT using batting, welcome back! You need to do this step as well, but without the batting, and you can just use a regular foot. Start sewing at one of the pins we used to mark the edges of the opening, and backstitch a few times to make it extra secure. You can do the batting on top if you want, too - I just used the fabric on top for photo purposes. Go all the way around, keeping your stitching 1/4" from the edge. Stop at the other pin, backstitching again at the end. You want to make sure that while you're turning the scarf right side out, your stitches aren't coming undone.
Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut ONLY THE BATTING around the outside of the stitching. This is a bit fiddly, and probably takes the longest of any step in this. I haven't come up with a good way to do it faster. If you didn't use batting, or if you only used flannel, you don't strictly need to do this step.
You should have something like this when you're done. Cut the corners of, leaving a bit of room between the cut and the stitching (otherwise your corners will have holes in them, and that's just not awesome.)
Using the gap you left, turn it right side out, poking out the corners with something pointy but with a rounded tip, like a chopstick. (See the pretty selvedge detail?!) Fiddle the edges all the way along so that the edge is fully separated. You might see bits of the stitching - that's ok.
Once you've got it turned and laying flat, stitch a tiny bit (1/8" or so) away from the edge. This helps reinforce the edge that will receive heavy wear. It also lets you fold in the unsecured fabric at the "gap" in the middle, without having to handstitch (but if you'd prefer to do that instead, go nuts.)
Congratulations! You're done! Technically, you don't even *have* to do anything from this point, if your scarf width is less than the quilting width listed on the batting (this'll be on the package. If you don't have the package, check the manufacturer's website.) It will still lie flat because of the edge stitching. If you feel like it, though, quilt it however your heart desires, using whatever technique you like - hand, walking foot, free motion. (If you're not using batting, but still want to quilt it, I really recommend hand quilting - it looks *so* pretty) I just did simple lines on this one, underlining the words printed on the fabric. Label it if you want to (and if you have time... I've finished these mere minutes before guests show up), then wrap and give!