Custom Carrying Caddy

Custom Caddy 39

This was another birthday present for the Pie.  When he goes off to play Street Fighter, he brings what is known as a “setup,” which includes an XBox, the game, his fightstick and a display monitor.  He can put pretty much everything in one backpack, but carrying the monitor to and fro is more difficult, especially when negotiating doors and long hallways and preventing it from getting damaged while sliding around in the trunk of the car.  So he has often wished aloud that he had some kind of specialized carrier that would make humping the monitor to and fro less of a pain in the patoot.

Custom Caddy 1

The idea percolated in my head for a few months, and then, about a week before his birthday, I figured it out.  I managed to make this, from concept art to completion, in about three hours, on a horribly humid and rainy Sunday afternoon.  I’m not sure if this particular DIY is practical for you, but maybe you have something awkward you need to carry around on occasion and if so I hope this inspires you to make something that is perfect for the purpose!

Custom Caddy 4

First, obviously, I measured the crap out of everything.  I studied the front and back of the monitor, figuring out where the base stuck out of the back and how wide it was when it did so.  To make this custom caddy stable, it made more sense for the caddy itself to enclose only the screen, and have the base stick out the bottom.  This means that you can put the whole thing down on a surface without it overbalancing and tipping over.

Custom Caddy 3

I picked up this absolutely awesome Spider-Man fabric at Wal-Mart.  I couldn’t resist.

Custom Caddy 5

And if I turned it sideways, it was the perfect size for a custom caddy.

Custom Caddy 6

This quilted stuff I grabbed at Fabricland, as well as some red velcro and some red strapping.

Custom Caddy 7

In order to ensure the continuing accuracy of my measurements, I had to cut the stuff in the basement where the sewing machine was, and then carry it upstairs two storeys and hold it against the monitor in question. I would have brought the monitor down but it would have been harder to explain if the Pie had come home early.  This shot shows the fold-over flap at the top.

Custom Caddy 8

Now I needed to figure out the hole for the base and stem.

Custom Caddy 9

Measure, check, measure, check again, and then finally cut.  Fortunately I bought enough of the quilted stuff to have a do-over if I messed it up, but I didn’t want to waste it.

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The slit in the back of the caddy with the hole for the base.

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Here it is with the foldover flap pinned down for measuring purposes.

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Now to attach it to the outside fabric.

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I pinned it in place as straight as I could, and mitred the corners to avoid fraying.

Custom Caddy 14

In order to have the Spider-Man fabric wrap properly around the quilting along the slit, I widened it slightly to give me a little wiggle room.

Custom Caddy 15

Not much wiggle room, but some.

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The pinned slit.

Custom Caddy 17

This gives you an idea of how it’s going to look from the back, with the top flap folded down.

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And the flap open.

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Then I sewed it all down.

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It’s not perfect in the hole but it’s the best I could do at the time.

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Now for all the bits to hold it together.

Custom Caddy 22

Each strap is a metre long, and I pinned them far enough down on the caddy so they would support the weight of the monitor while not putting too much strain on the fabric.  They’re also at a comfortable spot for the straps to go over your shoulder, with the monitor balanced against your hip.

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Sewn in place with reinforced stitches.  You can see here how the foldover flap keeps the two sides split by the slit together.

Custom Caddy 24

In order to keep the foldover flap in place I needed the velcro.  One fuzzy strip across the flap and a hook strip on either side of the slit.

Custom Caddy 26

Sewing velcro on a machine is not easy.

Custom Caddy 27

It was hot work, in fact, but the humidity outside didn’t make anything easier.

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But I did it!

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So basically here’s how it works.Custom Caddy 31

You open it up and align the slit with the base of the monitor, tucking the strap over the monitor (not shown in this shot, sorry).

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Slide the slit along the base of the monitor (sideways works best).

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Twist the carrier so the solid side is in front, covering the screen.

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Lift the caddy by the straps …

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… and fold the flap over to hold the two back ends together.

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So you can easily carry it and just as easily set it down.

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Here’s me trying to take a selfie while holding the thing on my shoulder.

Custom Caddy 42

Tie-Dyed Eggs

Tie Dyed Eggs 47

Cait and I decided to get up to shenanigans on Monday night and so this is what we did: we tie-dyed Easter eggs.  Not “tie” like TIEd into knots (though you do that), but “tie” as in, dyed using a neckTIE.  Yes. Neat, huh?

Tie Dyed Eggs 51

So what you need to do is go through your tie collection or go to your local thrift store and pick up some silk ties (I used 8 ties).

Tie Dyed Eggs 1

There will be a tag on the skinny end of the tie that will tell you if it’s silk or not.  You can also do this with silk scarves, but I couldn’t find any at the thrift store that were 100% silk.

Tie Dyed Eggs 5

Having done this project now, I’m going to tell you to look for ties that are made of printed or painted silk, like this:

Tie Dyed Eggs 53

And to avoid jacquard-like woven silks, like these:

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I’ll show you why later on.

Tie Dyed Eggs 3

Then you will need to dismantle the ties, removing the satin lining and the foam or fabric insert.  Ties are not sewn in a particularly sturdy manner, so it won’t take you long.

Tie Dyed Eggs 6

Tie Dyed Eggs 7

Tie Dyed Eggs 8

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Now you need some eggs.  We used 2 dozen white eggs.  You don’t have to use white ones, but the colour will transfer best to white.  With 24 eggs and 8 ties, we planned to have 3 eggs of each pattern.

Tie Dyed Eggs 18

Cut a segment off your tie that will wrap completely around your egg.

Tie Dyed Eggs 19

Wrap the fabric tightly around the egg (you can do it at any angle, but just remember that the smoothest side of the fabric is the part of the egg where the print will be the best) and fasten the tail with a rubber band. Make sure to do it so the “right side” of the fabric is touching the shell of the egg. I kept messing this up and Cait kept yelling at me. She’s tiny but mean.

Tie Dyed Eggs 20

Do this with all your eggs.  We adjusted the angle at which we tied on the fabric, because we were going to display our eggs all higgledy-piggledy in a bowl.  If you’re going to display your eggs in cups or something organized, you might want to consider tying them all the same way.

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This is one of the jacquard ties.  Much harder to get the fabric close to the egg.

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After explaining to Cait that the egg was one of the structurally strongest shapes in the world, I promptly put my thumb through it.

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Because we were now out of white eggs, we replaced it with a brown one as a scientific experiment. It’s actually frightening that one of our most oft-uttered phrases to each other is “For SCIENCE!”

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Once you’ve got all your eggs wrapped in tie scraps, you need to find some white or plain pastel cotton or muslin or similar scrap fabric.  Old pillowcases work pretty well.

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Cut the fabric into slightly larger pieces than you cut the ties.  Wrap the muslin around the egg and fasten it with another elastic over the previous fabric tail.

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This is definitely a time consuming job.

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We were, however, entertained by our rubber bands.  I picked up a bag at Dollarama, and I guess they got the rejects from various other manufacturers.

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Plop your eggs in a large pot and cover with water so they’ve got about 2″ of water above them.  Add in a cup or two of white vinegar, depending on how many eggs you’re doing.  For 24 eggs we used 2 cups white vinegar.

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Bring that to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes.  When it’s done, scoop out the eggs into a bowl of cool water so they chill out faster.

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Carefully unwrap the eggs and store them in the fridge if you’re planning on eating them.   They tend to look a little sharper if you rub them with a little bit of vegetable oil to get a nice shine.

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Here are the eggs, next to their various tie patterns.  You can see that the jacquard ties (at the end) didn’t come out half as bright as we thought.

egg08

egg07

egg01

egg06

egg03

egg02

egg05

egg04

And here is the brown egg!

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I think it looks really neat with the red.  Here it is next to its white counterpart, for comparison.

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Tie Dyed Eggs 42

The T-Shirt Ring

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This is a cute little last-minute stocking stuffer idea from Homemade Ginger.  You can do it with either hot glue or a needle and thread, and make all sorts of nifty floral accents.

What you need is an old cotton t-shirt, or any other jersey material.  The Pie wore this shirt for Hallowe’en.  He dressed as Peter Parker, the alter ego for his hero Spider-Man, so he just needed to paint the collar of a red shirt to look like he was hiding a Spider-Man costume under his street clothes.  So while he painted the top, I’m just going to use the bottom.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 1

You’re going to cut the hem off the bottom, and cut several circles out of the main fabric.  You’ll also need a circle of felt, about the same size as your circles.  If you’re making a ring you’ll want the circle to be relatively small, whereas if you were making a brooch then the circle will be a bit bigger.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 2

Take a pencil or toothpick or the end of a paintbrush and jab it into the centre of one of your fabric circles.  Scrunch it up around the paintbrush or whatever.  Put a dab of hot glue on the tip of that.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 9

Stick the circle onto the circle of felt.

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Repeat, sticking the circles close together, until you’ve filled up the felt.

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T-Shirt Ring Etc. 12

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Trim the result with scissors for tidiness.

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To make a bracelet, measure your finger with the t-shirt hem and cut off an appropriately long piece, with a bit of overlap.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 4

Glue the overlap down, then attach it, with the seam side hidden, to the felt.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 5

For a ring, simply make the hem loop a little smaller.

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For a brooch, and if you don’t have any of those handy jewelry backing pieces around, take a safety pin, cut two slits in another circle of felt, and slide it through so the working pieces are exposed.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 3

Glue that to the other piece of felt.

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That’s it.  Easy and fun.

T-Shirt Ring Etc. 19

Braided Rag Doily


Braided Rags

The scraps for this came from the edges of the trimmed Fat Quarter Napkins I made.

Braided Rags

I braided the scraps together, tying on new strips as I ran out of length.

Braided Rags

It took a while.

Braided Rags

Then I rolled up the braid to keep it from tangling.

Braided Rags

I had some fun shooting the braid with my macro lens.

Braided Rags

Then I started sewing it together in a circular pattern.

Braided Rags

I just used a regular whip stitch. Nothing fancy.

Braided Rags

I kept going …

Braided Rags

… and going …

Braided Rags

… and going. I even stood at the front of the class on three separate occasions and sewed this while my students were writing their final exams. Fortunately, they already thought I was weird, so this was nothing new to them.

Braided Rags

The finished product was a little wonky and tended to curve in on itself, so I got it good and wet with hot water, squeezed it out, stretched it to the shape I wanted it, and then laid it between two towels under a heavy board for the night.

Braided Rags

I ended up with this cheerful miniature rag rug, which would make a nice placemat for the centre of any table.

Braided Rags

Fat Quarter Napkins

Happy Birthday Rusty!

[In case you ever marvelled at my magic efficiency, please note that I started this particular project on Labour Day Weekend and didn’t finish it until the 12th of December.  If that makes you feel better.]

I love fabric.  I am the worst sew-er in the world, but I seem to adopted a love of pretty cloth from my mother.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  To assuage my inability to live without fabric and to compensate for the utter lack of storage space I have for it, I buy fat quarters.  These are squares of quilting fabric (usually cotton).

Fat Quarter Napkins

So a metric fat quarter is 50cm square, or 20″ x 20″.  But an American fat quarter (and alas, most of these are), is based on another archaic system and so the pieces are either 18″ x 22″ or 18″ x 21″.  And it’s all approximate anyway.  I’m not really sure of the logic there.  Something to do with yards and standard widths and blah blah blah.

Fat Quarter Napkins

You can also get colour-coordinated fat quarters (usually in packages of four or five).  The nice thing about these is they all go together, so you can hand someone a set of napkins, but they’re all different enough that people can tell theirs apart when they want to re-use them.

Fat Quarter Napkins

A handy home-made napkin ring will also help to differentiate.  The Pie made all of these himself by bending spoons with a set of pliers.  We then sprayed them with a metallic copper paint.

Spray-Painting Indoors

You can also use fabric remnants as well.  You can pick them up for a dollar or two in a fabric store, or use the scraps from another project of yours.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Speaking of fabric remnants, I picked this one up at Jo-Ann last year and didn’t unwrap it until now.  I chose it because turquoise and teal are my favourite colours, and I thought the design on this was pretty.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then I unwrapped it.  WOW.  Talk about a hidden gem!  This will NOT be going into a napkin.  I gotta think on what to do with this one.  Suggestions are welcome.  Just barely not enough to make a skirt, if that gives you an idea of the size.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Anyway, back to the napkins.  First thing you need to do is wash and dry your fabric.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Don’t be alarmed — they will fray.  Oh mercy did these ones ever fray.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And then this one has a slash in it.  I will have to come up with an artful patch of some kind.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you have to iron them.  I hate ironing.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then comes the actual napkin-making.  It involves hemming and sewing in straight lines and nice edges and stuff and MORE ironing.  None of which I’m particularly good at.  But Maia from Glass Beach has a fantastic and clear tutorial on hemming napkins here that you should check out.  It’s brilliant in its simplicity.  I will try to re-create her instructions as best as I can, but hers are better.

First I used a rotary cutter and a ruler to trim all the squares so that I had right angles.  They don’t necessarily all need to be the same size as their partners (unless you’re making napkins for the Queen or something), but right angles make things a lot easier to deal with.

Fat Quarter Napkins

I highly recommend using a rotary cutter and mat for this job.  It’s very hard to get straight lines with scissors alone, and it’s easier on your hands.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Gren helped by sitting on the fabric as I was trying to cut it and making off with the scraps once I cut them loose.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Save the scraps to stuff a toy later on.  Or do something else with them.  I made mine into a placemat, which you will see on Friday.

Then I gave myself a 1″ seam allowance and traced that with a fabric marker.  Actually I couldn’t get to the fabric store and so used a Crayola washable marker.  It washes out just as well, if not better, than a fabric marker.  Guaranteed.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you cut 1/2″ tips off all the corners.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Fold the edge of the fabric so the cut line matches up with that line you drew and iron it to create a flat edge.

Fat Quarter Napkins

To get a nice mitred corner, unfold one of those new flaps at the corner.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Fold the other flap over itself, along that marked line.  This seals in your raw edge and prevents fraying.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Now take the corner bit and fold it down so the edge of the folded part lines up with the drawn line on the side with the unfolded flap.  If you have big fingers or are in general not the most dexterous, you could use an awl or a seam ripper to hold things in place for you, like I did in this photo.

Fat Quarter Napkins

Then you can fold down the unfolded part again, and then fold it over itself again to seal in the raw edge. You can either iron these new edges flat, or simply pin them.  Either way, I’d add a pin or two in the corners just to hold everything in place.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And look at that — it looks like you know what you’re doing!

Fat Quarter Napkins

Now all you have to do is sew that down, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to keep your thread from unraveling.  Use an awl or seam ripper to hold the corners in place while you’re sewing them down, too.

Fat Quarter Napkins

And what a pretty napkin you’ve come up with. They look nice with these copper-sprayed spoon napkin rings, don’t they?

Fat Quarter Napkins

Tie them up in a nice little bundle and give them all away!

Fat Quarter Napkins

Let there be LIGHT!

Light BOX

Rule number one in food photography: ALWAYS USE NATURAL LIGHT.

You know what?  Sometimes that’s just not possible.

You know dinner/supper? Generally that is served in the evening.  And in the winter here, that means it’s dark out.

The solution to that is to use a light box, or light tent.  Many photographers use these devices when featuring a single product.  It’s a good way to get whatever it is to display without any distracting background messing up the shot.

Light BOX

It’s also a good way to diffuse the harshness of electric lighting and make your subject look a little bit more natural.

Professional light boxes or light tents, even the small ones, will run you at least a hundred bucks, easy.  And that’s without the super-bright lighting system that goes with it.  Add another minimum four hundred dollars to your total if you want to go that way.

Constructing my box cost me less than $15 and took me less than an hour.  And a homemade box will give you pretty much the same results. You do the math.

Light BOX

Here’s what you need:

A large and sturdy cardboard box.  These ones are slightly smaller than what I had originally planned, but I can always make another one when I get a bigger box.

Light BOX

Enough white cloth (muslin, linen, cotton, or fleece) to line the box.  Tape or glue for attaching things (I like me my hockey tape, as you know, and it’s designed to attach to fabric).  Double-sided tape is great if you don’t want your adhesive efforts to show.  Scissors/Box Cutter/Rotary Cutter, for cutting things.  White or coloured Bristol board, for your background.   You can also skip the board and use your cloth, but bending the board will give you a nice edge-less angle.

Light BOX

At least two, but preferably more, goose-neck or adjustable neck work lamps.  I already have two of these Tertial ones from IKEA, which cost $10 and come with a clamp base.  I plan to acquire one more to go on top of the box.  It’s important to note that these lamps support the brighter 100W (or 23W if you are using a CFL) bulbs without risk of fire.

As many bright light bulbs as you need for your lamps.  I recommend using 100W bulbs (23W in compact fluorescent terms).  I picked up these “daylight” bulbs, which produce a cooler, less yellow light than a regular incandescent, from Canadian Tire for $10.  Halogens work well in this project, because they’re freaking bright, but they also use more energy, so that’s a judgment call for you to make on your own.

Light BOX

Just make sure that the wattage on your light bulb matches the maximum wattage on the lamps you are using.  You can get cheap desk lamps from anywhere to use for the project but more often than not they will only support a 60W (13W CFL) bulb, and those in the know say that’s just not bright enough for their purposes. The lamp on the right is less bright.

Light BOX

The best part about this is you can totally half-ass the project, if you were so inclined.  You don’t even need to measure the holes you cut in the box and if you’re in a hurry, you can leave the interior of the box unlined and simply drape the fabric over the top.

Light BOX

I plan to be a bit more meticulous, however.  But only a little bit.  It’s sort of half-assed half-assery.

Now of course there are a million different DIYs for making your own light box/tent.  Most of them are by real photographers who actually know what they’re doing, but there are some by people like me.  The dabblers of the earth.  I’m going to add my own to the mix, because the world needs a bit more alidoesit flavour, don’t you think?  My three favourite ones in terms of method and supplies are down below, if you want to check them out, but the concept is always the same.  Box.  White stuff.  Light.  Done.

So you take your box.  Grenadier was extremely helpful in the construction of this light box, as the pictures show.

Light BOX

Cut off the top flaps and secure the bottom ones.  The bottom is going to be the back of the box, and the sides the floor, walls, and ceiling.

Light BOX

Cut out large holes on each of the three sides.

Light BOX

Line the box with white fabric, covering the holes completely.  Make sure that all you can see inside the box is white.  White’s a nice reflector.

Light BOX

Prop a piece of bristol board inside the box so that one end is wedged into the top corner.

Bend the board to make a curve and use a bit of tape to stick the bottom in place so it doesn’t slide out.  This will be your photographic surface.  The curve of the board means that there are no corners or edges visible in the photographs.

Light BOX

Put your lamps with their bright bulbs up to all the holes in the box (as I said, I plan to have three lamps some time soon) and turn them on.  Make sure the bulbs don’t touch the cloth.  You wouldn’t want to start a fire.  You might find it easiest to take pictures of items in your light box using a tripod, but it’s not entirely necessary to your happiness.

Tada, your very own light box!

Light BOX

Here’s some food in a shot taken, like I normally do, in my kitchen during the day.  The light is natural outdoor light through my big kitchen window at the end of the afternoon in October.  Lovely.

Light BOX

Now here is the same food in a shot taken at night, using the electric lights in my kitchen.

Light BOX

And again, in my brand new light box!  I think we can all agree there’s a difference!

Light BOX

Other Light Box/Tent Projects:

http://jyoseph.com/blog/diy-light-box-for-product-photography

http://reverb.madstatic.com/blog/2006/04/01/make-a-photo-light-box-light-tent-cheap/

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

Baby Boy Blue Blanket

Here is yet another project courtesy of the felted wool sweater.  It’s a present for the newest addition to Kª and Kº’s family.  We shall have to see what young Il Principe thinks of this.  Being an only child is pretty sweet.

Il Principe, in the flesh.

Here I took four sweaters, two gray, one navy, and one black.  These sweaters were of the softer, thinner natural fabrics, such as cashmere and merino.  They felt a bit differently than regular sheep’s wool, with less fuzz.  I cut those suckers up into tons of 3″ squares.

Then I laid them out into a pattern and, like in our other wool patchwork quilt, started sewing them together in long strips.

Because of the nature of the wool I had to do it all by hand, with a needle and thread, using the blanket stitch.

Then I sewed the strips together. 

It looks rather nice, don’t you think?

This is the back of it.  It’s kind of cool, too, but it will be hidden from view.This is the soft cotton I am going to use as the backing.  The blue and the gray match perfectly with the colours of the wool.

Then with great care I pinned the top to the backing.  

The backing is a grid pattern so I was careful to line things up properly. 

I folded over the edges of the cotton to guard against fraying.

Then, with great difficulty owing to the stretchiness of the wool, I machine-basted the two pieces together.  Next time I would probably do this by hand, just because of the way the wool bunched and stretched.

To bind it, I used blanket binding, which I folded in on itself to make smaller.  Shockingly, I had to actually PURCHASE the blanket binding from Fabricland.

It was a simple matter to fold it towards its own centre …

… and then iron a new crease.

My mother was kind enough to sew the binding onto the blanket for me, in exchange for my making of kumquat marmalade.  She has more patience for such things.

The corners are a bit tricky.  You can see here how Mum pins flush across the corner.

Then folds the fabric over the pin as a guide.

Then pins it in place before sewing it down.

Its pretty slick.

You can see at the end she just folded it under itself again before sewing it down.

Embellishments are always important when it comes to babies, but you have to be careful.  No buttons, or anything that babies can eat.  Colourful yarn is a good option.  I thought the orange would look great next to the gray and blue.

The yarn here also serves to anchor the top of the quilt to the bottom so it doesn’t shift around.

I threaded a tapestry needle with the yarn.

Poked it through and back out again.

Here it is back through.

And tied a double knot.

This is what it looks like on the back.

I did that at random points all through.

Here is the finished product.

All ready to be gifted away!