Here is the tutorial I promised! When I first started making blankets I really struggled with sewing "Minky" (which is a super-soft, fleecy material, sometimes seen written as "Minkee").
Why is Minky so difficult to deal with? Well, it is slippery stuff. It stretches and slides and is basically a pain in the neck if you don't tell it who's boss! I had a few cursed attempts in which much swearing and ripping of stitches occurred. For the record, ripping out stitches in Minky is not fun.
Anyway, Google and the Etsy forums helped answer my questions (as in, how do I sew this stuff without throwing my machine out the window?). I did find a lot of info. Yet first and foremost, NO you do NOT need a walking foot! Many swear by them for Minky blankets, but I am here to tell you it is not necessary.
What is necessary, however, are pins. And lots of them.
Here are the basics...pretty straightforward but I figured I'd cover all of the steps for any newbies to sewing!
1. Cut your material. I like to cut my cotton (print) fabric about 1" beyond what I want my finished dimensions to be. I use a rotary cutter and mat so this is simple to do. I'm less exact when cutting my Minky, just make sure it is slightly bigger than your cotton print.
2. Lay the Minky down (I usually use the carpeted floor, it is less slippery than a table), right side up. 3. Place your cotton print so the right side is face down on top of the Minky. Line up your edges and make sure the pieces are similar in size. It is OK if the Minky is larger than the cotton print, because you will use the cotton as your sewing guide.
4. And now dear friends, let the pinning begin! I start on one side, first pinning each end and the middle. Then I place a pin in the middle of each section and I keep adding pins until they are 1 to 1.5" apart. Seriously, you need that many pins. Don't worry, it won't take as long as you think!
5. Once you finish that side, continue pinning the other three sides until the entire blanket is pinned, like so:
6. Time to start sewing. Because you have placed so many pins this will actually be pretty easy! Make sure to use a nice cotton or all-purpose thread, have your stitch length set to a medium length, and tension should also be at a medium level. Nothing fancy required. Just patience and a slow foot on the pedal. I like to start sewing between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way down on the first side - this will allow for an easy spot to leave open so the blanket can be turned inside out after it's sewn. I have tried to show in this next photo about where that would be:
7. As I said, GO SLOW. Having to stop to take out each pin will assist you in this! Try not to sew on top of your pins (easier said than done, I know) so your needle doesn't break. I like to do a 1/4" seam allowance, using the edge of my cotton print as my guide. Sew all the way around, stopping before you reach your beginning point - otherwise you won't be able to turn it! I leave about a 5" opening.8. Trim any edges of Minky to eliminate bulk from the finished blanket. I find it works well to pull it out of the way as I trim. Make sure your scissors are sharp!9. Now, turn the blanket right-side out. Here you can see the opening in the side.
10. Next, get your iron nice and hot. Fold in the edges of the opening and press in place. Then pin the opening shut so it doesn't slide! Continue pressing the entire blanket, making sure to give the edges a nice crease.
11. Finishing touches - you are almost there and the hard part is most definitely over! Topstitch around the entire perimeter of the blanket. I try to keep my seam allowance at 1/4", though often it is a little less when I am stitching the opening - I want to make sure I'm catching the folded-in edges of the cotton and the Minky. But it doesn't have to be totally perfect - what baby cares about his or her topstitching? Keeping it straight is most important here. Remember that you are stitching through pretty thick stuff, so a little (gentle!) pulling on the material as it goes under the presser foot may be in order. If you had a walking foot, you wouldn't need to do this.
12. Congrats, you're done! No swearing or throwing of the machine out the window was necessary. Mission accomplished! BTW, I would love it if you follow this tutorial...please let me know and send me a picture of your finished blanket!
Update 3.17.09 - Here is a shameless plug...I just opened a new fabric store on Etsy this week...so if you're in the market for some cool fabrics to try out, you can check me out at iCraft! (Including the orange dot print pictured above). Thanks, and enjoy!