This is my new favorite handmade gift to give at baby showers because they're easy, take less than an hour, and are the kind of gift my friends will actually get to use.
The first time I made one of these swaddle sheets to a friend she made fun of me –"Gee, do you think it's big enough, Crystal?" (we're good friends and we talk to each other like sisters–you know, rudely). I laughed back. I'd thought the same thing when my mom had made one for me a month earlier. I reassured my prissy friend. "You'll be thanking me. That thing is going to be more useful than you think." Sure enough, three years later when we met up at the beach for a mini-vacation and she now had a second baby in tow, it was in her bag.
In fact, it's the size and weight that makes this swaddle blanket very practical. It's most useful for swaddling when Baby (quickly) grows out of all the other napkin-sized blankets. But I've also found it useful as an infant carrier drape, a crib sheet in a pinch, and as a sort of curtain thrown over the side of the playpen when forced to sleep in the same hotel room as the baby.
This post is for the swaddle sheet, but if you have an extra twenty minutes, try the burp cloth and make it a set. Print a "How to Swaddle" diagram like this one and tuck it into your gift, or pair the blanket with the popular Happiest Baby on the Block book. Your friends will be so impressed with your creativity (unless of course, you've set the bar too high at previous showers by showing up with some intricately crocheted baby sweater or something).
- 1 1/4 yds solid color flannel
- scraps of coordinating fabric for applique OR store-bought iron-on applique
- matching or contrasting thread (use a bright thread to make your zig-zag stitches stand out and add interest, or hide them with a matching thread)
1. Square off raw, cut edges of the flannel with your rotary cutter.
2. Clip the four corners as shown (figure a). Don't lob off the corners too drastically; we're talking 1/2" or so – just a nip. Another technique is to fold them down and press.
3. Fold each edge down approximately 1/2" and press (fig. b). [If you are worried about possible fraying, cut or fold the corners down a wee more and fold each edge down twice]. Your corners will appear mitered.
4. Using your machine's zig-zag stitch, sew close to, but not over, the raw edge. Do this for all four sides. Now zig-zag over the "mitered" corners (fig. c) and secure them with a backstitch. (Be sure to clip all loose threads as close to the fabric as possible to prevent winding around little toes and fingers.)
5. Applique: Using a cup or cookie cutter or some other object as a stencil, use a water-soluble marker to trace a shape onto the coordinating fabric ( I like to use a grouping of three different-sized circles). Cut and pin in place to the bottom right corner of your swaddle sheet – or wherever you think it looks best (if you happen to have quilt basting spray or stitch witch, this is also helpful in keeping your shapes down while you sew). Use your zig-zag stitch (isn't it handy?) to sew your shape in place. OR If you don't want to get this fancy schmancy, you can also use an iron-on applique. Just be sure to secure it with several stitches after ironing.
And you're done!
NOTE: Since writing this tutorial a few have commented on variations for sewing, including doubling up the flannel. One thing worth noting is that the practical thing about this blanket – particularly for swaddling – is its light weight. Doubling the flannel makes the wrap significantly warmer when swaddled.
If you don't prefer the hemmed edges and sharp corners, but you don't have a surger to make the overall appearance neater, try bias tape around the edges, as one commenter suggested.