Sunday, April 14, 2013

One Block, Two Block... Red Block, Blue Block

Last night I caught my middle child, P, sitting up in bed reading at 11:30pm (we put her to bed at 8:30pm). As I walked into her room to turn out the light before heading to bed myself, I saw her quickly hide her book "How To Train Your Dragon" under her covers and pretend to be asleep. She knew she was caught and opened one little eye, looked at me sadly and said "I just love to read. Sorry mom."
Of course rather than be angry my heart filled with joy! I told her I completely understood, but she had school in the morning and needed to be done now. I couldn't hide my smile as I walked out of her room.
(my youngest, C, reading an all time favorite)
All five of us Fransons love to read. My children's over-active imaginations have gotten them into plenty of trouble and plenty of fun (remind me sometime to tell you about the universe they have created, complete with a species of animals called a "menygee") 
We each have our favorite books. I love to read anything written in the 1800's (Bronte, Austen, Dickens...), my husband loves adventure stories and books that keep him turning the page (as a lawyer I think he finds it a relaxing break from reading serious court cases all day). I think The Boy may have read every Goosebumps book ever written and is currently on a series of Doctor Who books he can't put down. P is now on the last How To Train Your Dragon book (there's 9 of them) and C's favorites are Doctor Seuss books. 
So, when I was contacted by Shannon Fabrics and asked if I'd like to do a tutorial for them, I jumped at the chance to play around with these ultra soft and cuddly Doctor Seuss prints that fit our family so well. Ahhhh, minky! I wanted to climb inside this box for an afternoon nap.
Of course the best spot to read is anywhere comfy and soft. These big soft blocks stacked in a corner next to a shelf overflowing with books makes the most inviting reading nook. To make plenty of these fun blocks I ordered two of Shannon Fabrics Cuddle Quarter Kits. Each kit came with 8 quarter yard strips of fabric. I loved mixing up all the different prints and textures! Each strip measures 9 inches wide. I knew I wanted these blocks to be big and fun so I cut each strip into 9 inch squares. For each block you'll need six different 9 inch squares.

Mix up your pieces and lay them out like you see I've done below. I tried to mix up the different textures. Kids love the feel of the smooth next to the bumpy paired with the fuzzy... So FUN!

Your next step is to sew your 4 center blocks together. I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance for all my seams. Minky has one side that is very stretchy and one side that's not, plus it's pretty slippery fabric. It can sometimes be a challenge to match your seams perfectly, so pin well! I also found it helped a lot to sew stretchy side to stretchy side (or bias to bias) in order to keep my seams matched up. It may take some practice and lots of pins but I also find minky's fuzziness hides a lot of sewing imperfections, which makes it is pretty forgiving fabric to work with.
After you've sew your four middle squares together, sew the 2 side squares to the 3rd block in the row (refer to the above picture for placement).
When you are sewing this piece on, leave about a half inch on each side unsewn like you see I've done below. This will help your blocks have nice square corners.  

Once you have those pieces sewn together, it's time to form your block. It's a little tricky to explain so I've drawn up a diagram below...

You're going to start by sewing side "a" to side "b". This is where it helps to leave that 1/2 inch unsewn. It will make turning your fabric and getting a sharp corner much easier. As you are putting your block together you'll see what I mean.
In the picture below you can see how your fabric will look folded when side "a" matches up to side "b".

Here's my little helper holding up the block for you after I've sewn one side "a" and side "b" together.

This next picture is a shot when both sides are sewn together.

You can see how it's starting to form the block shape. Continue sewing each of the sides together in the same way until you have a completed cube. 
On your last seam, leave a small opening to turn your block right side out.
Ready to be stuffed.

Stuff your block through the opening and hand stitch your opening closed. I used polyester fiberfill to stuff my blocks. If you wanted a stiffer more "building block" less "pillow block" look (which would also be SUPER CUTE), stuff each block with an 8 inch square block of foam. You can find sheets of foam at places like Joann's Fabric. This will make your blocks even more square and stackable. Either look will turn out soft and oh so fun!  


Our completed blocks getting stacked, thrown, loved...

and enjoyed with a good book!

Materials List:
2 Cuddle Quarter Kits by Shannon Fabrics
(You can find those HERE)
Matching thread
Polyester fiberfill or 8 inch foam cubes, one for each block


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