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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DIY Wintry Wool Throws

Now that [most of] the gifts have been given and there are no surprises left to spoil, it's time to let you know what's been going on over here in Santa's wild workshop. First up: warm, woolly throws, made in shockingly little time from from fabric that we purchased during our romantic weekend getaway to New York City. I made three of these (well, two and a half so far) and used a different method to finish each one. The first two in the above picture, which were inspired by projects in Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts, were gifts for my parents and Jim's.

The embroidered throw is made from a loosely woven wool, so I frayed the edges and took advantage of it's geometric pattern by cross-stitching three rows of x's on one end. The second, intended for my in-laws' lake cabin, is a heavier, blended wool with a bright tartan pattern. I didn't want to undermine the punch of the fabric with embroidery, so I edged it with grosgrain ribbon for a more tailored, blankety look.

The third, which will eventually adorn our living room, was my test-case. I started a cross-stitch monogram on it, got the hang of it, and abandoned it temporarily for the more time-sensitive projects.

The most important thing for you to know about making these throws is that it's EASY. The sewing is very basic, and the embroidery is quite simple if you pick the right fabric (like a check or a plaid) because you can use its pattern as a template. See?

The only thing that I found to be a little bit of a challenge was the scale (you might remember that I am a BEGINNER when it comes to sewing, so negotiating a big piece of fabric under the machine isn't old hat yet). Overall, you get a lot of bang for the buck and the level of difficulty with this project. And, if you pick the right fabric and look, a wool throw makes a fantastic handmade gift for a man (which is a rare thing, indeed).

SO, are you ready to make one of these for your favorite January birthday buddy?

1.5 yards of wool (or more, if you prefer a larger sized throw), trimmed (if necessary) to straighten the edges. I bought wool for all three blankets at NYC fashion mecca Mood Fabrics, but for an extensive selection here in Atlanta, try Gail K. Fabrics. Be careful on price--I picked fabrics in the $18/yard neighborhood, but high quality wool can run up to $100/yard (yikes!).
Coordinating thread
Basic sewing supplies

For embroidered blanket:
Needlepoint yarn (I found mine locally at the Needle Nook)
Tapestry needle (found at the same place, but probably available at Joann's as well)

For ribbon-edged blanket:
1-inch wide grosgrain ribbon, long enough to cover all sides of the blanket, plus an extra twelve inches, just in case (I found that somehow I needed more than I'd calculated--for 1.5 yards of wool, I ultimately purchased 8 yards of ribbon)

To construct the embroidered blanket:

1. Start by making the fringe. Carefully remove threads along the cut edge of fabric until you achieve desired amount of fringe. Using your machine and coordinating sewing thread, zig zag stitch the entire width of fabric along the top of the fringe. This will prevent the blanket from fraying further.

2. If you desire, hem the selvage edges.  Selvage refers to finished edges that result from the process of weaving the wool. Sometimes the selvage is very attractive (you can see an example in the picture at the top of this post of purple selvage that I found to be to pretty to hide); other times it's kind of boring and worth covering up. To hem the selvage edges, turn under 1/4 inch and then 1/2 inch, pin, and sew along the inner edge of the hem.

3. To embroider, use a tapestry needle and embroidery yarn to cross-stitch three rows of x's. Use the checks or plaid of your fabric as a pattern and work one line at a time, making all stitches in the same direction first, then moving back across the fabric to complete the x's.

Apologies for the lack of pictures--my desire to get these done in time for Christmas trumped proper documentation.

To construct the ribbon-edged blanket:

1.Cut ribbon into four pieces equal to the length of each side of your fabric plus three inches (per length). Fold ribbons in half lengthwise, pin, and press.

2.  One by one, un-pin the two shorter folded ribbons and use them to sandwich the short sides of the blanket. Make sure that the raw edge of wool is all the way into the crease of your ribbon (my plaid wool made this easy to gauge--if you don't have such an advantage, it might be worth taking the time to mark the width of your ribbon on the fabric before the "sandwiching" step).

At the corners, unfold the ribbon slightly, fold the raw edge of the ribbon under width-wise, and re-fold lengthwise, so that the folded width of ribbon is flush with the edge of the fabric (don't be confused by the picture below--your ribbon edge should look like this, but your long-side edges should not have ribbons on them yet).

Sew the ribbon to the wool at the inner edge of the ribbon.

3. Repeat the process above on the long sides of your wool. When you get to the corners, you will find that your long-side ribbon edges will actually enclose the ends of the short-side ribbons. This time, your blanket should look just like this.

Using a needle and thread, hand stitch the corners shut.

If you're a novice like me, you will end up with seams that look something like this.

And your corners will look like this.

Voila! Done in three steps. 

Had I been able to find large enough boxes two days before Christmas, I would have wrapped these in brown kraft paper and tied them up with the wool scraps. Alas, I had to let that vision die, but I have a feeling that Target's gift box supply might not be so blighted if you check it out in January.

Here's to snuggling up next to the fireplace with a good book and a cozy blanket!

Happy Tuesday.


  1. I just saw your throws featured on One Pretty Thing and had to drop by and say how much I love them. Your photographs are fabulous as well. I bet everyone who received one loved it!

  2. love all the pretty wools you got. great gift idea.

  3. Beautiful! It's got the gears turning for next year's gifts! But, I might have to practice by making one for my family this year!

  4. Wow these are lovely, thank you for showing us how to make these.