Dog Blanket

Mr. Stink Dog and his partner in crime are not used to wood floors. He's a talker anyway, but Husband believes that when he grunts as he sits down on these hard floors, it means that his hips are hurting him.

Awhile ago, I used a bunch of fabric from a dead comforter cover to make a little blanket for the dogs. There was still a bunch of fabric left over, taking up room in one of my sewing bins, so I set about making another, one that would be thicker and warmer. One 50% off JoAnns coupon later, I was armed with crib-sized high-loft polyester batting and a crazy plan.

This quilt could be bigger than the last, based on the size of the batting, which was 45" x 60". I found the biggest intact piece of fabric that I could, and was surprised to be able to get a whole side out of it.

The second side had to be pieced, which was difficult to do with such big pieces. As before, I wanted to patch up some little holes or weak spots (proto-holes) in the fabric, but sewing patches through all three layers of quilt seemed more difficult this time, because of the high-loft batting. This was also an opportunity to add a bit more padding, as well as to use up bits of batting I've been squirreling away for years.

I covered pieces of batting (or in one case, thick felt) with pieces of fabric cut about 1/2" bigger all around, folded the edges under, and used a zigzag stitch along the edge to attach them to the quilt top and bottom in the right places.

I really liked the way this came out, all zigzaggy and patchy patchy.

Then it was time to rassle with the batting. I was excited about the batting, because it was going to produce a comfy, super-warm quilt. Getting it out of the package and unrolled was about when I started realizing that high-loft polyester batting is evil.

I set everything up in order (bottom layer face-up, top layer face-down, then the batting), trimmed the last edge of the pieced side along with the batting, and things started to seem to go off the rails at this point.

Eventually the three layers were pinned together.

High-loft batting probably is easier to work with when it's sandwiched between a couple layers of fabric as in a traditional bound quilt. The envelope construction was probably faster than binding would have been, but it was painful. Unless I pushed all the fibers down under the foot, the edges of the foot would catch on the top bit and pull the batting apart. And the pins basically disappeared into it. Bleh.

Left a turning hole, turned it right-side out (also easier said than done), and hand-sewed the opening closed.

Then I machine-sewed around the edges, about half an inch in, which was not the most successful maneuver because the main seam isn't anywhere near centered, but at least the edges were tacked down. It was at this point that I started aiming a bit lower for the project, because the unpleasantness of accepting a less-than-perfect-looking edge seemed a better alternative than ripping it out and doing it again.

Then. Oh, then.

The first quilt I'd quilted by sewing patches through, quilting random squares over the plaid pattern here and there, and then quilting a couple straight lines from one edge of the quilt to the other. The name of this game, I thought, was getting the quilting done quickly because the floors are getting pretty cold and Mr. Stink Dog shouldn't have to endure hip pain all the time. So I started to just quilt a straight line from one end to the other, and quickly learned why tying is recommended for high-loft batting quilts.

This stuff slides all over the place. Even with a walking foot and pins everywhere, this stuff shifts.

So I ripped that out and regrouped. Decided to quilt small squares in the plaid pattern. Pinned appropriately, then fought with the first five or so squares because getting to the outer edge of the quilt required having the rest of it bunched up between the machine and needle.

Then I took a break to price middy-arm sewing machines and dream about a mythical sewing machine that's not on a frame, but is just a bit wider. Got smarter and started quilting half a square at a time, so that I could always be working on the outer edge. (This did leave me with four thread ends to deal with instead of two, but the effects of that were less immediate than the unpleasantness of trying to jam the quilt into the machine to do all four sides in one go.)

After doing a bunch more squares, I quit for the night. The next night I did a bunch more, and quit again, baffled and enraged that I wasn't done with the damn squares yet.

Then the next night (that I worked on it... I may have taken an angry break), I finished the damn squares. Held it up triumphantly and immediately saw that it wouldn't be a sufficient amount of quilting.

That's when I decided that regular tying, rather than the modified tying I'd made up (quilting independent little islands) would be the way to get this finished and quilted sufficiently to maybe keep its shape for a while. So, with three strands of embroidery thread and over the course of many, many episodes of House, I put ties at most of the intersections of the plaid that hadn't been quilted around and other random places that seemed to not have enough quilting near them. I alternated tying and securing/burying the ends of the quilting that were just everywhere. I probably could have tied several more points on the quilt, but I'd been feeling done with the project for a while, so I called it quits.

Usually when I finish a project, I'm pretty excited to have this new thing and proud to put it to use. When I finished this one, I was just gleeful to not have to work on it anymore.

It was gratifying, though, when both dogs, given the opportunity, laid down on it immediately. Stink was disappointed that it did not come with a turkey dinner, including stuffing, cranberry sauce, three vegetable sides, and home-baked rolls, but he'll get over it eventually.

The worst part of this story is that while I spent hours watching House and tying it, I realized how warm and delightful this blanket is. And I kind of want to make one for the humans. Maybe if I just start with the plan to tie it, the unpleasantness won't be a surprising unpleasantness.

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