Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stamped Gauze/Muslin Snuggle Blankets

When the clever girl was born, I received a couple sets of "muslin baby blankets" that have since become treasured objects in our home.  We call them "snuggle blankets" and we always have at least 2 in her bed, one at school for naps, and one in the car.  Thus, there was no question that "Button" would need his own set of snuggle blankets.  No baby can be without!

Instead of purchasing them (they can be fairly expensive) I decided to make my own.  That's just how I roll, as you have probably figured out by now!  I read a tutorial that Dana of Made created, and got inspired.  I knew I wanted to make 8 blankets (that is the number the clever girl has), and I wanted to dye half of them.  The next consideration was decorating them.  Should I applique something onto them?  Hmmm...  Then I thought of using stamps and fabric paint.  Decision made.  That is what I would do.  I wouldn't say that stamping them is faster than applique - they both take some steps to complete, but I like how my stamped blankets turned out!

To make your own gauze/muslin blankets, you need about 1 1/4 yards of fabric per blanket.  I purchased my gauze material at Joanns.  I had read that this gauze was not as soft as some others, but I didn't feel like taking the chance of ordering online and thus not being able to feel it at all before purchase.  To be honest, it isn't as soft as the clever girl's blankets, but then her blankets have also been washed about a zillion times, so that could be a factor.

Anyway, with that gauze fabric, cut it into a square that is approximately 45-inches by 45-inches.  You need to finish the ends somehow.  This could mean that you carefully fold under 1/4 inch, press, fold under another 1/4 inch, press, and sew.  Or it could mean that you eyeball it and just turn the hem under two times and sew.  I realized that Ruby (my sewing machine) came with a rolled-hem foot, so I thought I'd give that a try.  Seriously, this foot is incredible.  You put the foot on the machine, roll the hem yourself a tiny bit at the beginning, and then the foot just picks up the material itself, rolls it into a tiny hem, and stitches it!  It is amazing.  Regardless, finish your blanket edges however you like (though I highly suggest using a rolled-hem foot!!)

Decision time - do you want to dye your fabric?  I did, so that is what I did next.  I had purchased a bunch of different colors of Rit Dye for this project, so I went a little dye crazy.  I did an internet search to determine the best way to achieve good color with Rit Dye, and did the following:
  • Double the amount of dye per pound of dry fabric.  The suggested ratio is 1 lb of fabric (approx. 3 yds) per 1 package of Rit powder or 1/2 bottle of liquid, and 3 gallons of water.  I used 1 package of the powder or 1/2 bottle of liquid with around 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of water and more like 1/2 pound of fabric (or less).
  • Use super hot water, at least 140F.  I heated water in my tea-kettle and in the microwave so it was as hot as I could get it.
  • First dissolve the powder or liquid in 2 cups of hot water, then pour that mixture into the rest of the hot water. By the way, you want to dye the fabric in something that you will never again use for food.  I used a big bucket. 
  • Get the fabric totally wet before putting it into the dye bath.
  • Let the fabric sit in the dye bath for about 5 minutes, then add 1 cup of salt to the bath and mix well.  
  • Stir frequently until desired color is achieved.  Again, use a big wooden spoon that you will never again use with food.  You'll also want some rubber gloves to wear.
  • Set the dye with heat - I ironed each item while damp on med-high heat (with a towel between the item and the ironing board so you don't accidentally dye the ironing board).
  • Rinse fabric with cold water.
  • Wash about a zillion times with white fabric you don't care about until you notice that no more dye is coming out.  I used old washrags with my wash.
I dyed the baby blankets and some baby onesies and t-shirts at the same time.  If you are going to go through the process of dying fabric, you might as well throw in anything you want dyed at the same time and make the most use of it!

As you can see from the top photo, I dyed my fabric yellow, green, orange and blue.  

Next:  stamping.  I didn't have any actual stamps I wanted to use, and a quick look at Joanns and Michaels were not fruitful, so I made my own stamps.  Again, that is just how I do things.  If you want to make your own stamps, here is what you need:
  • drawings or pictures of the design you want
  • a sharp razor blade or Exacto type knife
  • scissors
  • craft glue
  • craft foam - I tried the extra thick kind and found I preferred the thin kind better.  These are maybe $1.00 at a craft store and come in a 9x12-inch sheet or so.
  • Some sort of firm block to mount the stamp.  I used 1/2 inch thick foam core board, which I purchased at Hobby Lobby.
  • a firm ruler
  • "fabric medium" paint
  • acrylic paint
  • foam brushes
  • paint palette or lids from random plastic containers (like a cottage cheese or yogurt or margarine tub lid or something)
There are lots of ways to find a picture or design you want.  You can find a lot if you go into Google Images and search for whatever image you want in "coloring book" form.  For example - Giraffe Coloring Book.  This way you avoid the actual photographs and mostly end up with 1 dimensional, fairly simple looking objects.  The simpler the better, as you need to cut the shape out with a knife or sharp scissors.   Plus, you'll be painting them, so if there are too many tiny grooves it will be hard to keep the paint crisp.

Find the picture you want and size it however big you want.  Print it out and trace around it onto your craft foam.  Carefully cut it out of the craft foam using scissors or a knife, whichever works better for your details.  Determine the appropriate size of your backing block and cut that out using the firm ruler and the knife.  Now glue the design onto your block such that the design will stamp in the direction you want.  For example, if you are making a letter, make sure that the letter will stamp the right way.  Let the glue dry.

The fewer colors you use per stamp, the easier it is.  However as I went along, I got more and more ambitious!  This sailboat is one of the very last stamps I did.   However, this picture shows the home-made stamp, paint, palette, unused plastic lids, and foam brushes!  I found the foam brushes to be highly superior to the actual paint brushes, so if I did this project again I would purchase lots of the foam brushes and not use the paint brushes at all.  The paint brushes sometimes lose hairs in the paint (yuck) and create streaks.  No good.

You can use actual fabric paint, or use acrylic paint mixed 2:1 with fabric medium (or whatever ratio your fabric medium suggests).  If you are going to be mixing a color, just make sure you mix enough for your entire project!

Apply the paint to the stamp with the foam brush.  Try not to get it all over the stamp backing, just on the actual stamp part.

Press the stamp onto the blanket/fabric in whatever design you like.

When you are finished, carefully hang the fabric somewhere where it can dry.  The paint dries quickly, but you want it somewhere where it won't accidentally rub into something else!  I hung mine on a shower curtain.   I was able to hang 2 blankets at a time on the shower curtain, clipping the second one to the curtain at the bottom of the first.

Once it is dry, set the fabric paint by ironing it on the wrong side with a hot, dry iron for about 30 seconds per area.  Slowly move the iron so you don't scorch!  Again, check the fabric medium you used for their setting instructions.  I then put the blankets in the drier on high heat for two cycles of an hour each, just for extra assurance that it was set.  The last thing we want is for the baby to be chewing on the paint and it comes off!!  Yikes!

After the drier, I let it sit for a few days, then washed them all again in the washing machine on cold, and dried them in a hot dryer.  Up until this point, the painted areas were crispy, but after washing, they became soft just like the blanket.  Yippee!

 And there you have your own custom gauze/muslin snuggle blankets!

From left to right, I made:
  • white with trees
  • yellow with orange giraffes
  • white with red, green, yellow and blue sailboats
  • green with blue and orange fish
  • white with red, yellow and blue A, B, C's
  • orange with white, blue, yellow, red and green dots
  • white with blue elephants
  • blue with yellow stars and white moons
Now that these blankets have been washed many, many times, they are nice and soft and ready for the little Button!


  1. can you wash them at 40 degree (celsius) setting?

    1. Definitely "yes" if you are not dying the fabric. If you do dye the fabric, "yes" still, though the colors you dye may fade out faster. You should also double check on the directions of the bottle of dye you use. I did not find anything on my bottle of RIT dye that said not to use hot water, but you should double check. Go for it! I'd love to see a picture of your creations!

  2. Did your fabric paint color fade? And you said you washed your gauze a lot to get it soft, so it wasn't very soft in the beginning? I found some at JoAnn's but its not the softest & I'm hesitant if it will soften up?

  3. My paint colors have not faded. And no, the fabric was not as soft as the purchased gauze blankets at the beginning. Washing them a lot helped. By now they are very soft. You could always purchase a small amount and wash it a bunch to see what you think, if Joanns is convenient to you. Give it a shot. My baby LOVES these blankets. It is the one thing he MUST have at bedtime. I hope this helps! Good luck! Wash, wash, wash that fabric and it should be fine!

  4. Hi there! You blankets look amazing! I went to Joanns to find some gauze/muslin but was unsure of which one to actually get. They had A LOT of different muslins, none that seemed to be very soft. Is there a product code number or name of the actual one you used? I don't want to have to keep buying a bunch and waiting to wash and wash them as our baby is due anytime Thank you!!

    1. Thanks, Gena! When you go to Joanns, look for "gauze", not "muslin". The "muslin" you saw is probably the smooth sort that you might find on the back of a quilt. You are looking for "gauze" which is more crinkly looking. It is also 100% cotton. My Joanns is one of the small ones (not a big fabulous one like I have seen elsewhere) and they only had the white and the natural in the store. I looked online, and I think the one I bought is the Sew Classic Specialty Cotton Gauze Fabric Solid, Item # xprd810632. When you find this, you might recoil in horror at how crunchy it feels and think there is no possible way you would put this next to your precious newborn. Don't fret. Take whatever yardage you purchase and throw it in the washer with every load you do. I don't recommend using fabric softener, especially if you plan to dye the fabric. Instead, throw some clean tennis balls or sneakers into the dryer. Or, add some white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the wash. I have also heard that you can soften material by soaking it in a salt solution but I have never tried this. The moral is, wash the heck out of that fabric, again and again. It WILL soften. My baby loves these blankets. We always have 1 or 2 in his bed, one in the car, and likely another in a buggy for walks. He grabs them before he goes to sleep and rubs them on his face. And as much as he moves around his bed at night, those blankets are ALWAYS with him. Love. I mean it. I bet your baby will love these too! I hope this has helped you narrow in on what to look for at Joanns. Don't hesitate to contact me with any other questions. I'd love to hear how they turn out! And congrats on your soon-to-come bundle of joy!

  5. Thank you so, so , so much! Yes when I felt the muslin I was like here is no way this is it! I will check to see if they have gauze oherwise I will have to order it online. I have found several but it is difficult when you can't actually see it first hand. I will definitely let you know how they turn out. I have everything ready for the project except the actual fabric I need, lol....the biggest part! Hope you have a wonderful day!!!

  6. Did you iron before stamping? I'm making some of these as a gift and was wondering whether to iron or not.

    1. Hi Mary! I did not iron the fabric before stamping. That is too much work for me! Plus some of the character of the blankets is how they are wrinkly, in my opinion. It's up to you though.... They don't have big white areas in the stamped areas from the wrinkles, just some small lines but I think they look fine. For the most part, the coverage is pretty good, even with the wrinkles! Probably because the fabric is so thin. Best of luck to you! Either way, they will turn out great and the parents and baby will love them! What a wonderful gift!

    2. Did you wash the fabric prior to finishing the edges? Did it shrink a lot?

    3. Hi Katherine! I always wash fabric before I sew. I honestly don't know how much it shrank, as I didn't do a before/after measurement. However since it is 100% cotton I would guess that there is some shrinkage that occurred. The best thing about these blankets though, is that they can be any size you want, so even if the fabric shrinks more than you expect, no one will know the difference! They are still very large blankets, even if it is an inch or so shorter than you might intend. Sorry I can't be more precise about this... If you do a before/after measurement, I'd love to know what you discover!


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