Checker This Out

Probably the biggest challenge of my crafty Christmas has been coming up with gifts appropriate for the guys in my life. And of that category, the next challenge was coming up with something for little boys — specifically, my almost-7-year-old nephew. Last year, I made him a cool knight’s cape and shield, so I really didn’t want to make him any dress-up stuff for this Christmas.

And then … epiphany. I remembered a neat play quilt I saw on the floor at Intown Quilters. I hadn’t looked at it too closely but I did notice that it featured a checkerboard, complete with fabric checkers. (I found out later from Sarah is that it’s a free pattern from Michael Miller Fabrics, Checkers in the Garden.)

To make your own checkerboard blanket, you’ll need three fabrics. I think I bought one yard of the main fabric (used for the border  and the back of the blanket) and a half yard each of the other two fabrics (used for the checkerboard and the closing straps). You also need fusible fleece (my piece measured 26.25″x26.25″) and Velcro (I bought a package with three sets of pre-cut squares).

Using your rotary cutter and ruler, cut your two fabrics for the checkerboard into four 3″ strips. Set the excess fabric aside.

Lay out your fabric strips, alternating the two fabrics. Stitch together with a 1/4″ seam and press all the seams in the same direction. Use your rotary cutter and ruler again to cut eight 3″ strips across  your sewn striped panel.

Pick up every other strip and turn it to the opposite end so that you form a checkerboard pattern with the strips. Sew the strips together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams in the same direction.

From your third (main) fabric, cut two strips that measure 3.5″x20″ and two strips measuring 3.5″x26.5″ (before cutting, you may want to measure your checkerboard to make sure the numbers are correct for your project).

Match the long edges of the 20″ strip to the left and right sides of your checkerboard, then sew together with a 1/4″ seam. Press the seams toward the border pieces. Next, match the long edges of the 26.5″ strips to the top and bottom edges of the checkerboard and shorter border pieces. Sew them together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams toward the border. Set aside.

Use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut two 3.5″x12″ strips from one (or both) of your reserved checkerboard fabric. Match the long edges of one piece, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4″ seam. Position the seam in the center of the tube and press open. Repeat with the other strip. Put the sewn tubes on your cutting mat and use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut 4″ from one end of each tube. Sew closed one end of each of the four pieces, then turn each tube right side out and press.

Place one short and one long tube together, right sides together, and match the raw edges. Baste near the raw edge. Set aside.

(Before cutting these next pieces, measure your bordered checkerboard to make sure the numbers match your project.) Cut one piece of fusible fleece and one piece of your main fabric to 26.25″x26.25″. Follow the fusible fleece directions to adhere it to the wrong side of your bordered checkerboard.

Next, lay the fleeced checkerboard right side up on your worktable. Grab the pair of attached tubes and place the first pair so the inside edge lines up with the right edge of the second row of checkerboard. Pin in place (the raw edges of the tube should line up with the raw edge of the border). Place the remaining pair on the opposite side of the checkerboard, with the inside edge lined up with the left edge of the seventh row of checkerboard. Pin in place, then baste both straps to the border.

Place your main fabric square (the one that allegedly measures 26.25″ square) with the right side on the top of your checkerboard. Pin together and sew with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 4″ gap on one side (no more than 2 inches from any corner) so you can turn your board right side out. Trim the corners, making sure not to clp into the stitches. Pull the fabric right side out through the gap, then press, making sure to turn under the edges of the gap. Topstitch around the perimeter of the blanket, close to the edge. (Be sure to move the straps out of the way as you topstitch!)

Measure over 3/4″ from the edge of the shorter strap and pin one of the Velcro tabs to the piece, then stitch it down. (The seam of the tube should be on the underside of the strap.) Repeat with the other shorter strap. Repeat the measurement and Velcro application with the longer strap, except you’ll need to sew it to the seamed side (and make sure that you pair up the hook and loop pair appropriately, or else the straps won’t hold closed). Now you’re done! You can roll up the checkerboard and fasten it closed with the straps.

I made my checkers by tracing 2.5 inch circles on a piece of fleece, then embroidering a crown (the design came with my Babylock Emoré)  in each circle (actually 12 crowns on each of two colors of fleece). I stacked the embroidered fleece on a sheet of plain fleece, then sewed within the circle to secure the pieces together. I used the traced circle as my cutting guide for each checker.