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How-Tuesday: Raise the Flag Picnic Blanket

May 22, 2012

by thelongthread handmade and vintage goods

Ellen Luckett Baker is author of The Long Thread, where she writes about her adventures with sewing, crafting, and kids. Her book, 1, 2, 3 Sew, was recently published by Chronicle Books and her debut fabric collection, Quilt Blocks, is now available. You can find fabrics from this collection right here on Etsy.  Ellen lives in Atlanta with her husband, two daughters, and a growing number of pets. Currently she is working on her next book, 1, 2, 3 Quilt, scheduled for publication in fall 2013.

With bright colors and simple construction, this patchwork blanket will help you get excited about summer. Take it with you to the beach, pool, or park. The basic construction will introduce you to a few quilting techniques, but without binding or top quilting, the simple pattern is easy for those new to sewing. This blanket features the bright, geometric designs of my new fabric collection, Quilt Blocks, which is inspired by the timeless designs of quilts, but with a modern twist.

These instructions use three pieces of fabric sewn together to form the backing, but you can also use a vintage sheet or, if you are a more experienced sewer, you could use waterproof fabrics for the backing for added function and durability. For the flags, you may choose to use 20 different fabrics or make them all the same. I used 12 different fabrics, with most of them repeating.

4 yards backing fabric
2 yards white cotton fabric
20 fat quarters printed cotton fabric
½ yard striped cotton fabric”

Finished dimensions: 72” x 64”
Seam allowance: ¼”


1. Cut fabric and batting. You will need to cut the following:

  • 10 ½” squares of patterned fabric (cut 20)
  • 6” squares of patterned fabric (cut 20)
  • 6” squares of white fabric (cut 20)
  • 15” X 4” white fabric (cut 16)
  • 4 ½” x 64 ½” striped fabric (cut 3)
  • 72 ½” x 64 ½” batting
  • 16 ½” x 64 ½” backing fabric (cut 2)
  • 40 ½” x 34 ½” backing fabric (cut 1)

2. Make half-square triangles. First, you will need to form a set of half-square triangles for each flag. With a 6” patterned square and a 6” white square, place the fabrics right sides facing and mark a line down the diagonal using a pencil or pen. Stitch ¼” from this line on either side, as illustrated in fig. A. Cut down the center, open the square, press and trim if needed. Repeat until you have sewn all twenty sets of squares together to form forty half-square triangles. Press the seams to one side.

3. Sew half-square triangles together. With like fabrics together, sew one half-square triangle to another, with right sides facing and white fabrics together. See fig. B. Repeat until you have twenty joined pieces. Press the seams open.

4. Finish flag pieces. Sew the joined half-square triangles to the 10 ½” squares, with right sides facing. Be sure that the center tip of the white triangle is facing towards the patterned square. See fig. C. Press the seam towards the square of fabric.

5. Sew flags together. Next, you will join the flag pieces to form the four columns of the blanket. Start with a flag, then sew a 15” x 4” white piece to it. Next, sew another flag to the other side of the white piece and continue until you have a column of five as shown in fig. D. Repeat until you have sewn four columns, with five flags in each. Press all the seams toward the darker fabric.

6. Sew striped fabric between flag columns. Sew one long, striped piece of fabric (4 ½” x 64 ½”) to one column of flags, with the solid side of the flags facing the strip, as if they are on a flagpole. Next, sew another column of flags to this strip, this time with the tips facing the strip. Repeat with the next striped piece. When you reach the final striped piece, face the flags away, with the solid part of the flag along the striped fabric. See fig. E. Press seams toward the darker fabric. Press the finished patchwork top.

7. Make the backing. Sew the three backing pieces together as shown in fig. F. Press the seams open.

8. Sew the blanket together. Lay the quilt batting out on the floor and tape down the corners. Place the backing fabric with the right side up on top of the quilt batting. Then place the patchwork top right sides down next, so that the right sides of the fabrics are facing one another. Adjust and/or trim if needed to make sure that the edges of all three layers are perfectly aligned. Pin around the edges. You may want to use safety pins around the edges and in the center to secure the fabric. Carefully move the pinned fabric layers to your sewing machine. Sew around the edges with a ¼” seam allowance, being sure to catch all three layers as you sew. Leave a 12” opening in the center of one side as shown in fig. G.

9. Finish and top stitch. Pull the blanket’s right sides out through the opening in the side. Carefully poke out the corners and then press all edges flat, being sure to press the edges along the opening so that they are ready to be sewn together. Pin the opening closed. Topstitch along the perimeter, ¼” from the edge to secure the batting and close the opening. You may choose to finish the blanket with hand-tied knots or simple quilting.

Thank you to Ellen Luckett Baker  for sharing this project with us. For more sewing projects like this one, check out 1, 2, 3 Sew, available from Amazon and your local independent bookstore. If you make your own picnic blanket, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

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