Saturday, October 6, 2012

Crib Mattress Sheets

So now, as promised, I'm gonna tell you all about the crib mattress sheets I did for the coming Baby Elliot.
 One of the simplest sewing projects I've done, I think, but somehow this tutorial ended up being really verbose with a sad shortage of photos.  Sorry about that, y'all.

I started by figuring out the dimensions:

  • The mattress is a custom size: 53x20x3 (standard is 52x28x?)
  • I planned for each side to go all the way from the bottom of the mattress (3"), up and over the width 20" (or length 53"), and back down (3") - total of 59"x26" plus an extra 3" per side (3x3) to extend underneath the mattress the final dimensions are 65"x32"
  • This means I need 2 yards of 45"-wide baby-safe fabric for each sheet.  In a cute pattern, obviously.
Now give your math a break for a second...take your fabric, serge the raw edges (or zig-zag them), and throw it in the wash.
Had a refreshing break?  Good.  Get your pencil back out.

Now, in addition, I gotta get some elastic to make these fitted sheets "fitted."  There are two ways to do this: 1-I can do one continuous piece of elastic threaded all the way around the bottom of the mattress, or 2-use one piece of elastic at each end of the sheet spanning the corners and ending before the straight along the length.  I've done both, and I like the first method best because it requires less figuring and also because I think it makes the sheet less work to get to look nice on the mattress.  The length of elastic I need should be 2/3 the perimeter of the sheet, soooo....
  • Go back to the original dimensions of the mattress (53x20) and subtract 3" per side (6"x6" total) for the amount that the fabric will wrap under and draw together.  With these new dimensions (47x14), add back 1" per side for hem allowance.  So now we have 49"x16".
  • Remember how to get the perimeter of a rectangle?  Yep, that's it, multiply length by 2, width by 2, then add them together: (49x2) + (16x2) = 130"
  • But if you used a piece of elastic exactly the same length as the perimeter of your fabric, your elastic won't do much elasticating, right?  So the rule I use is that 2/3 rule...and 2/3 of 130" is 86.6666, which, as you know, equals 2.4 yards.  I'm gonna round that down to 2 and 1/3 yards.  I used 1/4" elastic for these sheets.

Good.  Now we're ready to sew.  Almost.

Your first step is to square up the fabric (no photos, just visualize!).  This is necessary because, no matter how carefully your nice Jo-Ann's lady cut, I can all but guarantee that your piece of fabric is most certainly not square and will lead to much furrowing of brows and gnashing of teeth if not trued now.  **The following method is possible only because we're working with woven fabric (if you're using a knit, sorry, but this method won't work).

Take one raw end of fabric.  Snip into the selvedge (the finished edge) about 1" from the raw edge and about 1" into the fabric, making your cut roughly parallel with the raw edge.  Now rip that sucker along the raw edge.  Rip it all the way off.  You may notice that the piece you just ripped may have started out about 1" wide, but by the end of the strip, it's quite a bit narrower or wider than you expected.  Aren't you glad you trued this edge?  From here, you now have 2 square corners from which to measure.  Me, I would measure the length first...So measure down from your squared corner to the generous side of 65", snip a 1" cut, and rip.  Now you have 4 square corners, but two very curly edges.  These need to be reblocked with a hot iron and steam.  All that means is that you have to press the curly back to flat with a careful hand that teaches the fabric to lay the way it's supposed to, instead of leaning in the direction of the rip.  Once you have flat edges again, you can measure and rip the width (32"), and then block that edge as well.  Now we're ready to sew.  Almost.

I did these sheets with a french seam at the corners (an idea I took from here - which is probably a better tutorial all around, though much less entertaining).   You start by marking out and cutting a square in the corners of your fabric.
Can you see the pencil line?  No?  Nuts.
I folded my piece into quarters so that all four corners lay on top of each other.  Then I marked a 5.5" square into that corner and cut all layers with a rotary cutter.  Now take each cutted-out corner, fold them wrong-side-to-wrong-side, and get ready to stitch a scant 1/4" seam from the outer edge to the inside corner of the fabric.
 I'm using just the width of the presser foot to get my seam here.

Now take that seam you just sewed, press it open (or finger press it), and fold it the other way, right-side-to-right-side, and stitch another seam alongside the first.  In order to fully encase the original seam, this one should be a fat 1/4" wide, closer to the first guide line on your machine.  Your inside seam now looks like this:
That's a french seam!  Ultra simple, ultra durable, very polished both inside and out.

Now you've gotta set up the elastic casing around the bottom of the mattress.  You might be tempted, since you bought 1/4" elastic, to sew a 1/4" not cave to this temptation!  Ahem, that's what I did on this yellow sheet.

The casing is formed by first pressing the whole hem up 1", then going back around and pressing that 1" down into itself by half, leaving you with a little over 1/2"-wide casing (conversely, you could press up a skinny 1/2", then turn it up again a fat 1/2" - either way, it's a fold-fold-press).  Since you're working here with a cotton weave, the fabric is naturally kinda stiff.  And since you're about to sew a really long line of uncomplicatedness, I personally prefer to simply do a good pressing job and forget the pins.  Or at least, pin only every foot or so.  But I'm not going to tell you how to do your sewing...that's up to you.
I will tell you to be careful with that iron!  And if you burn yourself...
 ...get the aloe on it!  Yes, it is that bad, go get the aloe!

Ahem.  Now stitch that casing.  Leave yourself a 1" opening near one of the corners.
 As you stitch the casing, lay each of your french seamed corners in the same will make threading the elastic through much easier.

And now you're ready to thread in the elastic.  Fasten one end to a safety pin, and secure the other end somewhere near your casing opening so it doesn't accidentally get sucked into the casing and lost.  Not that I've ever done that.

Do I need to explain threading the elastic through the casing?  I hope not.  I didn't take enough photos, obviously.  As you inch your way through the casing with the safety pin, just make sure the elastic is going in flat with no twists midway.  I found it easiest to start the elastic right next to one corner of the piece and work away from that corner, preferably down one of the long sides.  This is the tedious bit, this elastic thing, but the results are so rewarding.
Once you've finished the threading, lay one raw end of elastic flat over the other raw end inline with the circuit you've just made, and zig-zag them together going back and forth a few times to secure it.

That's it!  Jump up and down and clap!  Now depending on how crazy you went at the fabric store, repeat all steps 13 times for your stack of cute baby print fabrics.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that looks GREAT! So excited to see it in person and on the mattress! Thanks for the fun tutorial. I'm sorry about your poor arm :(.


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