My daughter was a summer baby. Born in early July, she lived in a t-shirt and diapers for the first few months of her life; it was too hot for anything else. As the weather started to cool, though, I went in search of warm winter baby blankets that were both affordable and made from non-synthetic, breathable fabrics.
Wool was too expensive for us (and truthfully, it would probably be overkill here in Texas!), and I couldn’t find anything else that was made of natural fibers. As I sat staring at the pile of little cotton flannel receiving blankets she had been given as a newborn, it occurred to me that those blankets could be repurposed into a new larger and warmer blanket. I searched the web for a little how-to, took out my scissors, and went to work.
Reasons to Repurpose Those Receiving Blankets
Cotton flannel receiving blankets always seem to multiply in great abundance whenever a baby is born. In reality, however, I found them to be sort of impractical – too small for swaddling, too big for burp cloths, too hot in the summer, and too thin in the winter. They are practically begging to be repurposed into something else.
Even if you love and use receiving blankets, babies outgrow them rather quickly. You can save them for the next child, but if you’re like me, you had far more blankets than you ever needed. This is the perfect project to put some of those blankets to use. It can even become a treasured heirloom for you and/or your child as they grow up.
In addition, they are made of 100% cotton – a natural, breathable fiber that is gentle on baby. Yet the flannel is warm and soft, providing extra comfort and coziness. Here are a few tips for making a new warm winter blanket out of those tiny little flannels.
Things to Consider
1. Choose a few different blankets that complement each other in color and pattern. I used five different blankets. You can use as many or few as you want; it doesn’t really matter as long as you like the way they look together.
2. Decide how big you want your blanket to be. I wanted it to be big enough to actually cover up my daughter’s whole body for a few years, and then be used as a throw blanket later, for times such as getting cozy on the couch. My finished blanket is about 33 x 55 inches. Random size, I guess, but it’s fine – it doesn’t really matter too much.
This blanket is now three years old and well-loved.
3. Get out some graph paper (or Adobe InDesign) and sketch out your blanket. Assign an inch to each square on the paper, and fill in colors to represent the colors of your blanket, arranging them until you like the way it looks. My blanket uses a total of 15 patchwork squares: three of each pattern, arranged in three columns and five rows, and each finished square is approximately 11 inches wide.
You can make your squares as big or small as you want; there are no rules. I wanted maximum effect for minimum effort (since this was my first attempt at patchwork), so I chose to use large squares.
4. Decide what you will use for your backing. If you have an old sheet that you can repurpose, that would be perfect. Another old blanket or bedspread, or perhaps something from your fabric stash would also work well, as long as it is large enough, or can be pieced together to become large enough. I used cotton chenille; it is soft and warm, like flannel, but with a bit more heft to it.
Here you can see the cotton chenille backing on one side and the patchwork on the other.
Time to Sew
I am really not a seamstress, so for the specific instructions on sewing your blanket, I am going to refer you to the same tutorial I used (and have since used again and again). It is excellent – very clearly written and simple to follow. As I said, this was my first attempt at patchwork, and I was so pleased with the way it turned out. Find the instructions here.
Note: this project is not a quilt, meaning that there is no batting between the two layers and it is not quilted. It is simply a patchwork top with a solid chenille backing. You could always add a layer of cotton or wool batting in between the layers if you wanted something even thicker and warmer – but I have never done that, so I won’t be any help!
I love having this blanket for my daughter, and she loves it, too. Now that she’s three, she refers to it as “the blanket Mama made for me,” and it’s her first choice for cozy winter cuddle times. I also love looking at the squares and remembering the little babe she used to be.
Do you have an excess of receiving blankets? Have you ever used them for another purpose? Please share your ideas!