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A Trip Around the Wool

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I love the simple graphic design of a traditional "Trip Around the World" quilt. I have a thing for concentric shapes, plus it's just a bunch of squares so it's realtively easy to put together. I also love the Mary Flanagan wool felt that we carry. It comes in the best, most vibrant colors. Since it's felted you don't have to hem it, it won't unravel. This makes it ideal for applique and handsewing.

I have long had a desire to sew an entire blanket out of the wool felt. One day we got in a large shipment and I couldn't resist any longer. I picked 25 pieces in eight beautiful colors, practically cleaning out the shelf, and went to work.

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This project is entirely hand sewn. It's not difficult but, it does take a while. It's the sort of long term project that you can pick up from time to time, and when you're done you have the most beautiful, drapey, lovely, handmade object. I really love this project and I never get tired of looking at it. --Molly

MATERIALS

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25 assorted pieces of Mary Flanagan Wool Felt. Make sure you have at least 4 pieces of a few of them. Other than that just try to pick a nice contrast, some darks and some lights.
I used (clockwise from top):

  • 3- Spring Green
  • 2- Blue Spark
  • 4-Spring Rain
  • 3-Mexican Clay
  • 4- Straw
  • 4- White
  • 2- Wake Up Call
  • 3- Bright Pumpkin

You will also need three balls of Valdani embroidery thread. I used Natural.

CUTTING

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Cut Fabric

Cut all your wool into 4" squares by first cutting each piece into three 4" inch strips. Then cut three 4" squares from each strip. You will be able to get nine 4" squares out of each piece of wool. This is a job for your rotary cutter since it's important that each of these squares is as exact as possible. This way the blanket will come together neatly and squarely.If you need some guidance on how to use a rotary cutter, take a look at our Rotary Cutting Tutorial.

Organize Fabric

Keep all the squares of each color together. It will make your next step a lot easier.

LAYING OUT THE PIECES

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This part of the process is very fun, like making a big painting on the floor. Clear an area about 6 feet by 6 feet on your clean floor. (I also laid down a piece of fabric but this isn't necessary. I just didn't want to subject readers to my ugly linoleum floor.)

Start at the center and lay down your pieces in a diamond shape as shown above. I tried make sure that each new layer of the shape contrasted nicely with the previous one. For example, I never put Mexican Clay next to Bright Pumpkin because they are too similar.

Once your diamond layout is 15 squares tall and 15 squares wide fill in the corners to make a square shape. You will have exactly the right amount of squares so keep track of them.

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Most likely you will not have enough of some colors to make your way all the way around certain parts of the diamond. Not to worry! Just substitute like colors as you go. Once everything is laid out switch a few squares around so they are purposely out of place. This is what makes this blanket special and unique.  If you look at my final layout you will notice that there are many "misplaced" squares  but the overall graphic effect is not lost. Feel free to tweak  your layout as much as you want. I laid mine out 5 times before choosing this version.

PREPARING TO SEW

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Think of your quilt layout as a grid as shown above. It will first be sewn together in the vertical numbered strips. It will be very helpful later on if you take a picture of this layout and write the letters and numbers on it. The picture doesn't have to be pretty, it just needs to show the whole piece. (I took this picture standing on top of my stove with the layout on the kitchen floor!)

To prepare to sew:

  • Using a permanent marker, number fifteen small ziplock bags with the numbers 1- 15
  • Starting with Strip 1, arrange your squares into a stack like so: Pick up Piece A and place it on Piece B, place those two on Piece C... until you've picked up the whole strip Pieces A- O.
  • Keeping your pieces in order, with Piece A on the top, slip your stack into your ziplock bag numbered 1. Zip it closed and put it aside.
  • Repeat these steps for all fifteen rows.

Follow along with the pictures of me prepping Strip 2:

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Here I am stacking the squares from Strip 2 together. Square A is on top, Square B is directly underneith A, and Square C is being picked up.

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Here is Row 2 all stacked up, Squares A (on the top)- O (on the bottom)

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The stack goes into it's numbered ziplock.

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Here are Strips 1-8 bagged and ready to sew!

SEWING THE SQUARES INTO STRIPS

The Knot

First tie a simple sewing knot as shown below:

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Cut an 18" piece of Valdani thread and thread it onto a needle. At the end of the piece wrap the thread around your index finger so it crosses itself like in the picture above.

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Pushing against your thumb roll the crossed thread together off of your index finger.

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And voila- you have a little knot.

Sewing

You'll be sewing together Strip 1 so get out the ziplock with the number 1 on it.

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Step 1:Pull your thread through 1/4" in from a corner of Square A.

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Step 2: Turn Square A (yellow in this case) around so the knot is at the back and in the upper right hand corner. Place Square B (light turquoise in this case) against Square A so the knot is in the middle of layers. You will sew the squares together from the front.

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Step 3: Put your needle in between the two squares and through the back of Square B, about 1/4" below it's top edge. Pull your thread through but don't pull it too tight.

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Step 4: Now turn your needle around and put it in-between your two layers. Stick your needle into Square A from the back, about 1/4" to the left of your first stitch and also 1/4" from the top edge of the fabric. Pull your thread through.

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Step 5: Now do the same thing to Square B. Turn your needle around, put it in between the layers, and stick it through Square A 1/4" down from the top and 1/4" to the left of your last stitch. Sew along the seam with this "fish tail stitch" by repeating steps 4 and 5 until the end of the side. It should start looking like the picture below.

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When you're done with the seam flatten out the 2 squares as shown below.

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and pull your thread through to the back.

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Flip the whole thing over and tie the thread to itself a few times to create a little knot. Pull the thread through a few of the back stitches. Try to hide the thread in the loft of the wool a little but make sure it doesn't show through to the front of the piece. Snip the end

Square A and B should be able to lay flat, right up against each other's edges like so:

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Repeat the sewing steps to sew the whole strip together. Make sure to sew them in the proper order (sew Square B to A, C to B, D to C etc).

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SEWING THE STRIPS TOGETHER

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Once all your strips are sewn together and bagged it's time to sew the strips together.

Take strips number 1 and 2 out of their bags.

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With the right sides up, line up the strips. Refer back to the picture of your layout to make sure that the strips are properly aligned.

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Pin the strips together with their wrong sides together. Be thorough with the pins and make sure to secure the corners well.

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After they are pinned all the way together you can start sewing.

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The strips are sewn just like the squares were sewn together earlier. Remember that you're sewing on the right side of the fabric.

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When you get to a corner, move your needle  diagonally from the front square to the back square and then keep going as shown in the pictures above.

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When you get the end of your thread tie a knot on the wrong side of the seam and hide the thread end, just like you did when sewing the squares together.

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Sew all the strips together in this manner. The easiest way to do it is to sew Strips 1-5 together, then separately Strips 6-10 and Strips 11- 15. Then sew the 1-5 chunk to the 6-10 chunk and lastly sew on the 11-15 chunk.

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Here is the wrong side of the finished blanket. You can see all the knots and ends but I think it has a certain charm.

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And here I am all wrapped up in my creation. It has such a wonderful drape and softness, I wish I could wear it out of the house!

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9 Responses to A Trip Around the Wool


  1. molly says:

    this is beautiful. i just might have to try this one!

  2. kathy says:

    Beautiful! And a very thorough tutorial. I may give this a try – thanks for the inspiration!!

  3. dorit says:

    I can't find the link for the felted wool. Any chance I can get the correct link.
    Thanks

  4. purl bee says:

    Hi Dorit-

    Thanks for the comment. I fixed the wool felt link in the story. And here it is again:

    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/6420-Mary-Flanagan-Felted-Wool

    Enjoy!

    – Molly

  5. Kate says:

    Hi! I love this. Can you recommend care
    instructions? Thank you :)

  6. purl bee says:

    Hi Kate-

    This should be handwashed and hung dry or dried flat.

    Thank you for your question!

    Molly

  7. Kat says:

    This is a gorgeous blanket. I want to try it in baby blanket size. Is there an easy way to modify the size/quantity/pattern and materials? I suppose I could just do it to 1/4 this size and draw out a smaller version? If felt isn't a preferred material for babies, what could be an alternative? I read here that felt is good because there is no need to hem, no unraveling.
    Thanks!
    Kat

  8. purl bee says:

    Hi Kat-

    Yes, you could just buy 1/4 of the materials and cut 1/4 of the squares and lay it out in the same way.

    Wool felt isn't great for babies but unfortunately this pattern needs a material that doesn't fray in order to work. You could line the finished blanket with flannel to make it more baby friendly.

    Thanks so much for your questions!

    Molly

  9. Lily says:

    I love this! The colors are very cute & playful. This would make for a great baby play- mat/ blanket. I have been looking for a project like this for a while and was wondering, could you create a palette of pink, lavender, darker purple, white, or blue for a bit more feminine touch? I think it would be really fun in lighter brighter tones.
    Thanks to the Purl Bee for creating THE BEST craft website ever!!!!

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