Telling People We Love Them – Send-A-Hug – Kid-Craft version and Mama-Craft version

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I came across a pin of this craft on Pinterest a while back thinking it was really adorable and just logging it away for the right time. The first time my 2-year old daughter, Penelope, and I actually did it was when we were sending a package to her grandparents in Southern California. It seemed such a great impromptu project for that kind of moment because it allowed us to not only send them a special art project from Penny, but also shares with them how big she’s getting in a different way than just the Facebook pictures they’re used to seeing. Additionally, the process of making the “hug” gave Penny and me the opportunity to talk about Mamu & Grandpa and how we love them and they live far away and how nice it is to do special things to show people we love them. That is exactly why this project popped in to my head for Valentine’s Day. It is easy and quick, but fun to do, and the end result is something special for someone special.

All you need for this project is the coloring/decorating tool of your choice and a big piece of paper, most conveniently a roll (we bought ours at IKEA for $5, right next to the $15 easels). I roll out the paper and have Penelope lay on it, I then trace around her from one side of her torso all the way around to the other. Some tips for success, don’t worry about them holding super still, just gently hold down each part of the body that you’re working on at that moment. Talk to them throughout, telling them what you’re doing now and making jokes about it or singing each piggy (I know, toes not fingers, but it‘ll do). Also, there’s charm in the wiggles, it makes the experience and process visible in the end result. After that, let your kid have at it! Turn it into a piece of art! I like writing “sending a HUG from PENNY” in it as well, as I worry that it won’t be obvious why I’m sending an outline of her body, but that’s an artistic choice.

For this specific Valentine’s Day version of this craft I actually took it one step further. It’s always satisfying executing a great pin that’s just collecting digital dust bunnies, but getting to throw your own creative twist on it gives you that second round of satisfaction, and for me personally, turning it into a sewing project satiates another level of craft-addiction.

I would like to take a brief moment to interject here, as I assume a considerable number of you readers won’t make it through the following sewing bit (and if it’s just not your thing, don’t bother), that even if you aren’t inspired by this variation of this project, I hope it does inspire you to start thinking about how you can use pins or tutorials or pictures as launching points for your own creative project, and not always take a tutorial to be the one and only way of doing something. While following something to the letter is not only easiest, sometimes, but necessary, it’s often just as valuable to take it in your own creative direction.

Now back to the crafty twist on the Send-A-Hug – Penelope has an Aunt away at college in Southern California. I came up with the idea to turn the hug in to one that she could actually wrap around herself – a hug quilt/throw blanket! If you’re a quilter, you will scoff at how easy this project is; if you’re a sewer at all, you can definitely take this on even as a first basic quilting project; if you have a sewing machine, but aren’t completely comfortable around it, you may need a little courage, but you could definitely take this on if you have a little time and patience.

The first step was picking the color scheme. My sister’s favorite color is seafoam, and she has mustard throw pillows on her black and white sofa. I quite like the quirky pairing of turquoise hues and mustard, so I decided to run with it. After a far too long visit to the fabric store (aren’t they all) I left with a two-tone turquoise chevron flannel, a seafoam flannel, and a mustard flannel. My intention was to cut out the hug in the mustard and put it on the seafoam solid, with the chevron as the backing, but once I started laying everything out I really liked the mustard colored hug on the chevron print, but decided to break it up by making stripes on both sides. All this to say you can really go at this however you like! Find your inspirations either in your fabric choices or in your skill level!

OK, let’s get to it! First, cut out the hug. Trace your paper cut out from phase one of the project on to your chosen hug fabric. Don’t trace too terribly close to the edge of the hug because you’ll need a little room to cut inside of the trace mark ensuring you get all of the pen cut off of your shape. Even if you’re tracing on the wrong side of the fabric dealing with unexpectedly visible pen markings later down the line will be a bummer.

Personally when I’m making an applique, say for a onesie or T in my shop, I would first back the fabric with silhouette brand fabric interfacing, because it’s the best interfacing I’ve ever worked with, but the hug is a dramatically larger applique and I didn’t really want to spend the money to cover the whole of it in silhouette interfacing. I could have used regular Wonder Under style interfacing, but I had on hand spray on quilt batting and I decided that was the route I would take for this project. So, more on that to come. If you prefer to use fabric interfacing now is the time, pre cutting out the shape. When I do use interfacing, I like to draw and cut on the paper backing, cut it out with the backing on, then peel the backing and the pen markings off. In addition to not having to worry at all about the pen markings it helps hold the fabric stiffer for an easier time cutting.

It’s time to commit to a design for the front and back of your blanket. If you want to go my route it’s quite simple (I don’t really do complex), cut your fabrics in half lengthwise, then cut one of those halves in half lengthwise again. Now you will have one wide stripe to lay in between to narrow stripes, with the reverse on the back side of the blanket. Sew the stripes together and iron the seems flat. Use whatever seam allowance you like, but be consistent. If you’re doing two solid rectangles, just cut them down to your chosen shape and size now so you can be sure you’re placing the hug where you want it (centered, or what have you). If you’d rather do a full blown quilt, now is the time to piece and stitch the front and/or back panels together. I have a personal pinterest board dedicated to modern quilts I find appealing if you’re looking for pinspiration.

Now for placing the hug. Back to the talk about interfacing vs. spray on batting. If you chose to invest in enough interfacing to make the hug applique, iron on the hug and be on your way. If you didn’t, like me, place your hug where you’d like it. Make sure it’s ironed and smooth. Lay a piece of scrap fabric over half of the hug and fold the opposite half over the scrap fabric. You should now be looking at the wrong side of the fabric on top of scrap fabric. Spray a light coating of spray on quilt batting, then roll it out on to the blanket starting from the center. Smooth it out by hand. Repeat on the opposite side. Now your hug is secured in place for stitching.

To permanently secure the hug to the blanket, no matter what method you chose for adhering it, you need to edge stitch around the entire edge of the hug. I personally like moving my needle to the far right position and then choose a marking on the right side of my presser foot to follow the edge along. Get as close to the edge of the fabric as you are comfortable getting. If you go off, stop, raise the needle, pick up the foot, go back a few stitches before you came off the edge and continue, overlapping those few stitches. If you catch it right away you don’t need to worry about removing any stitches, it won’t be noticeable. If you went quite a bit awry, use your judgment and personal level of perfectionist to determine whether you need to remove a few stitches before continuing.

Some more design choices come in to play here. I chose to have batting in the middle of my blanket, you may choose to as well, or just leave it as two pieces of flannel if that’s the material you are working with, or fleece for that matter. If you’re quilting, insert your batting and quilt away. To go with my method, lay your blanket backing right side down and smooth it out (iron if necessary) to get it very smooth. Lay the batting on top. I like to have it hang over at least an inch or so on either side, so that when I’m nudging the fabrics and smooth them out I don’t have to worry about not having enough as the blanket creeps to the edges. Then lay the blanket front right side up on top of the batting. If you’re a pro quilter you probably have this step down, but for me, smoothing and tweaking to make sure the two sides line up can take a while. I don’t have a lot of great advice aside from have patience.

After I smoothed and nudged and smoothed and nudged I used a little more of the basting spray to hold everything in place, and then I pinned along the stripes seams to prepare to quilt them together. There are many techniques you can use to quilt your blanket, I simply followed the seams on the front of the blanket, as that was what I was most concerned about looking right. In the end the top stitching along the back seams was a little wiggly, some may go so far as to say wonky, but I wasn’t too concerned. That is all the quilting I did on this blanket, to straight stitches along those stripes seams. I’m going to make a few people cringe here, but if you don’t want to bother with this that’s A-OK with me.

The last step is to encase the edge in bias tape. I made my own “bias” tape (woohoo, and shh, I cut it on the straight grain to conserve fabric since I wasn’t going around any curves [corners don’t count]). I started to talk a little about using bias tape, but it is kind of a wordy thing to describe, so until I get a bias tape post up, including making your own!, do a quick Pinterest or Google search. If you didn’t quilt your blanket you could even just lay then right sides together, stitch all the way around aside form 3-4 inches, then flip and top stitch it closed.

I absolutely loved completing this project. It is fairly simple, you can complete it in one day, but so personal that it is so gratifying in the end. A great gift for a long distance relative, though I’m kind of wanting one myself now.

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