Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Car Mat/Blanket Tutorial

Believe it or not, I am not a sewer.  I wish I could tell you what a baste stitch is with confidence, but I just can't.  So imagine my sweet husband's surprise when I decided to tackle this....

Car Mat/Blanket All Finished!!  Yippee!!

 I had the idea in my brain and went searching the Internet to see if I could find something as a jumping off point.  I hit the jack pot when I got here.  This was almost exactly what I wanted to do.  The main difference was I wanted curvy roads.  As you can see I found out really quick that to get all that I wanted on my little guy's blanket I had to compromise the curvy roads and race track for the greater good.  I am going to attempt to help any other novice (or not so novice) sewers out there that want to do something extraordinary.  Every time I show this, I get a huge wow.  Here's hoping my little guy feels the same way when I have it all ready and wrapped for his birthday in May (I know the clock is ticking away).

So you will need:
2.   Paper, stencils, pencils, ruler, erasers, and other office supplies
3.   Fabric scraps
4.   1 1/2 yards of a main base fabric (mine is the green corduroy)
5.   Lots of thread in all sorts of shades
6.   Sewing machine
7.   Heat n Bond (or whatever brand you use.  NOVICE POINT: This can be found in major fabric stores.  It is bought usually by the bolt [they have to cut it for you].  It is white and is the ironed on glue to keep your buildings in place while you sew them down. )
8.   Ribbon and Piping (Railroad)
9.   Buttons
10. Shoelace
11. At least 1/2 yard of black felt (roads)
12. Iron and ironing board
13. Embroidery machine (OPTIONAL. My mom has one so I used it, but I would have done it by hand if she didn't have one, or just left it out)
14.  1 1/2 yards of THIN batting if desired (I didn't use any)
15.  1 3/4 yards backing material (This is on the back.  The flannel for me.)
16.  Did I mention TIME (I have been working through this process since Halloween)

Alright, the pros to this project are you will be doing this for some time.  If you don't have everything all at one time, that is ok.  Work on what you can now, put it away until you can do more.  (In my case, when my budget allowed for it, or when something was on sale and I could get it then.) The cons are that it really isn't cheap especially if you don't have fabric scraps lying around because you are just getting into sewing or don't have the room to store all you would like.  I did find some ways to pinch a penny though.  My first tip is to go to the bargain bins at all of your major fabric stores first, then hit the local quilt shop.  I know you heard quilt shop and budget in the same paragraph.  I found a bunch of small squares (which were perfect for one building or some windows) for fifty cents or less!!  It is where all of my major building fabrics came from.  I spent about five dollars on all the building fabrics there and didn't even have to go to the bargain bins for anything else...SWEET.  The next con is that this sucker takes a lot of time.  My solution is planning, planning, planning.  I think I spent the majority of two or three months thinking, sketching, and laying out plans before I ever went shopping for material.

Speaking of sketching, it's your first step....Here is what I originally wanted my blanket to end up as.
See the race track that didn't make the cut?

As you can see it didn't really end up the way I wanted; as things went along some things just wouldn't work out.  You'll probably run into the same thing; relax, at least try to, and enjoy the process, if you can.

Once you have a rough draft start sketching the buildings first on paper and then on good, old card stock.  I found some great help on Google images.  Try typing in "school clip art" or "ship black and white," print it off and there is your fantastic pattern.  You could do a cave for dragons, or a scene from a favorite book of theirs, or even a sand castle (I thought of all this, of course, after I had already used every bit of space on his blanket.  Grrrrrrr.) If you need something pretty specific (the Willis Tower) type in "Willis Tower" and look at all the angles Google has and try your hand at sketching.  Get that ruler out ladies and gentlemen...It is your new best friend.
I have to admit that while I was working through this project I got asked many, many times what my scale was, and I had to say that I really didn't have one.  I know it sounds ridiculous, and it probably is, but I just eye-balled most of it. I knew Willis Tower needed to be the biggest so if the farm house was bigger than Willis Tower than it was too big.  Also, lay those card stock pieces on your base fabric so that you get a feel for the scale before you start cutting into any fabric. You can definitely do better than I did, let me know how it works out in the comments.

The Schoolhouse, Willis Tower, Fire station, and Hancock buildings next to their stencils.
My stencil for the roads is brown wrapping paper I got at IKEA a year ago. I rolled it out and cut three inch strips for the roads and 1.5 inch strips for the railroad.  It worked great!

Wrapping paper for road stencil.
Yippee, you have all of your stencils cut out of card stock, so now you need to move on to cutting out your fabric.  Get your building, fabric, and Heat-n-Bond ready.  IRON your fabric to your Heat-n-Bond FIRST.  I know you think it will save you money on the Heat-n-Bond to iron only the part you need for the building, but iron first, then cut out your building using your stencil.  SO MUCH EASIER!

Once you get each piece of the building cut out, set it with the rest of the pile and keep working until you get the buildings all set.  This will make it so much nicer to see on your base fabric. Don't iron anything until you have it all laid out.  If you don't you might find you made to adjacent buildings the same fabric or something just isn't working right.  

Once you get it all onto your Heat-n-Bond and set up exactly how you want it on your base fabric, pin away my friend.  I pinned everything down that you see in the picture above and then worked on one structure at a time.  Think through each structure BEFORE you sew.  For example:
The Pirate Ship and Lighthouse
In this corner we have--shore material, lake material, two light house materials, two ship materials, and six types of thread.  The shore HAS to be ironed down first, then the lake and hull of the ship can be ironed.  Before you can put on the sails however, you have to sew in the masts using the same stitch and thread you will use for the wooden part of the boat.  So I ironed, but didn't sew the shore and lake, but iron and appiqued in the hull and masts.  After the masts are in then you can iron on your sails.  I appliqued everything on with the appropriate threads.  AFTER the shoreline is ironed and sewn on THEN you can iron on your lighthouse and applique it on.  I appliqued the sails and lighthouse at the same time because both used black thread.  My sails sat ironed but not appliqued on for a week or two while I waited for the lighthouse to be completed.  The name of the ship I had embroidered just before I bound the blanket.

YOUR DOING GREAT!  I ironed on all of my buildings and then worked on applique for each one so I could easily move to the next building with the same thread if it was possible.  This will take a boat load of time, but it is worth it in the end.  See you on the next post for the rest of the information.

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