Thursday, January 16, 2014

DIY Tutorial: baby washcloths and burp cloths

It's pretty nervy of me to post, of all things, a sewing tutorial. Knitting? Fine! Crochet? Sure, okay. But sewing? I could dedicate a whole other blog to my sewing mishaps and poor encounters with sewing books, teachers, stores, and patterns.

Then again, maybe that's the best qualification of all: I persevered, and I figured out that yes, even I can sew something! And it turned out well!

It turned out so well, I couldn't stop.

This week, I've made a whole stack of washcloths and burp cloths:

There's even more than what's shown here! And all for not much money. If you're smart with your JoAnn coupons, you can get some excellent deals. All the material used for the above cost me less than $10. Considering that these washcloths (and burp cloths) are higher-quality than what you'll typically find pre-made in the stores, it strikes me as a great deal.

Materials to make three washcloths, or two washcloths and a burp cloth:

sewing machine
1/3 yard of cotton flannel
1/3 yard of terry cloth
coordinating thread
sewing machine
your preferred method for cutting, trimming, measuring, etc. - (rotary cutter and mat, scissors, your teeth, whatever)

Let's start with the washcloths.

Step one
You need a square. I recommend 10" x 10", which will turn out as a 9" x 9" finished washcloth.

I would really like a rotary cutter and one of those self-healing mats, but I don't have those yet. Instead, I make my own paper patterns with wrapping paper. (I used some scrapbooking supplies to make sure it was perfectly square. Try a T-square or just trace an existing piece of paper if you need help getting it square.)

Cut out the paper pattern using paper scissors and pin it to your fabric. Cut the fabric around the edges. Do this once for your terry cloth, and once for your cotton flannel.

Step two
Pin the two pieces of fabric, wrong sides together. (Terry cloth doesn't really have a wrong side, but you get my drift.)

On one side, use two pins to mark what will be a gap when you start to sew. For a washcloth this size, make it two or three inches.

Step three
Sew around the edges, remembering to leave that gap open. I used a 1/2" seam allowance.*

Step four
Trim the corners.

Step five
Turn the washcloth inside out. Use a pencil, chopstick, or other suitable pointy thing to make sure those corners are really corners and not bunchy messes.

At this point, some people might choose to press the edges; I chose not to, because it's a washcloth. Either way, look at the gap that you left when sewing together the two sides. Either press or pin the fabric into place so that the rough edges are tucked inside at the same seam allowance.

Step six
Sew around the edges. I used a 3/8" seam allowance.* Remember to backstitch at the end to secure your thread.

And you are done!

(In one sewing blog post I read, the author said, "And walla!" Which, bless her heart, made my insides curdle. Jerk-snob that I am, please know that the spelling is "voila," and you do pronounce the "v".)

I made five of these before I started thinking, "Hmm. Hmm?"

I thought we might need some burp cloths. And I had enough length in my fabric left to do one of those.

To make a burp cloth, adjust your dimensions. I cut a paper pattern that was 8.5" x 18". (Why 8.5"? Because that's a piece of standard printer paper, which made squaring off the paper easier. And the 18" seemed right for my shoulder.)

From there on, it's pretty much the same. I decided to teach myself a slightly new skill and go for some rounded corners on the burp cloth. To do so, I used a drinking glass (highball, to be exact) and traced around the base at each corner to get a nice curve:

I think some people do that directly on the fabric, with a rotary cutter.

If you choose to have rounded corners, remember that instead of trimming the corners before turning it inside out, you'll cut notches into the curve, like this:

Have fun mixing and matching fabric patterns!

I've already gone back to the fabric store and spent another whopping $10 to buy enough fabric for several more burp cloths, washcloths, and even a bib or two.

No go forth, and make terrifically awesome baby shower gifts, or charity gift bags, or supplies for your own offspring, or heck: pamper thyself. Happy crafting! These really are a blast.

* Me and seam allowances: I'm not good with the narrow seam allowances. 3/8" was kind of an achievement for me. Go narrower, if that's what you'd like to do.