circus baby blanket sewing tutorial featured image

Circus Baby Blanket Sewing Tutorial

I recently made this sweet circus themed baby blanket for a friend’s baby shower. I’ve been exploring applique a lot lately and really wanted to try the technique with flannel. This little blanket was the perfect opportunity for that and it turned out so cute! It is super soft and lightweight – perfect for our humid North Carolina weather. 

Circus Baby Blanket Sewing Tutorial - photo of blanket with yellow and blue banner and giraffe and elephant sewn on

I worked on sewing this blanket over a week or two between other projects, but if you have time to tackle it all at once it should take about 2 hours or less to complete depending on your skill level. And depending on how organized you keep your sewing area – anyone else suffer from “Okay, now where did I just put down my scissors” syndrome?

super snuggly baby blanket sewing tutorial pinterest image

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  • 2.5 yards of 45″ wide flannel main fabric
  • 5 pieces of scrap flannel fabric for triangle banner (at least 7″ x 6″ per piece) 
  • flannel character fabric to cut out animals
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • bowl or something to trace round edges
  • disappearing ink pen
  • fabric scissors
  • quilting pins

Cut main fabric

Cut (2) 45″ x 45″ squares from your main fabric for your front and back pieces.

Once you have your two main pieces you can create rounded corners. Line a mixing bowl up with the corner of your fabric and trace with a disappearing ink pen. Then cut along that line with your fabric scissors. Repeat for all corners on both pieces of main fabric. Rounded corners are a quick and easy way to add more interest to your project.

use a bowl to trace and cut out rounded corners when sewing a baby blanket

Cut triangles for banner

Next I cut out the triangles for the sweet little banner at the top of the quilt. I have a never-ending supply of small scrap pieces of fabric so I just dug through my stock and found 5 pieces that were big enough and looked good together. You could also use the same fabric for all 5 triangles.

I created a template for a 5″ wide and 6″ tall triangle using cardstock. I then traced around the triangle on the back of my fabric with my disappearing ink pen. I traced on the back because it was easier for me see the pen marks without the pattern of the fabric. Then I cut out my triangles with fabric scissors.

Once I had all of my triangles cut, I played around with their placement on a piece of the main fabric. I moved them around until I got them into an order and position that I like. When I’m putting a sewing piece together it helps me to take a picture with my phone of the layout so I can reference it later when I’m actually sewing the project together. It also helps to see it from a different perspective to check on spacing and color arrangement. 

Sew first banner string to line up triangles

After I determined where I wanted to place my triangles, I drew a line with my disappearing ink pen. (You can probably tell by now that I really love this thing!) Then I sewed with a straight stitch over the line with black thread to create the banner string.

Once I had that black line sewn it was easy to line up the triangles right along the line and pin them down for sewing. You can see my initial line in the photos in the next section.

Sew triangles to front fabric

Pin each triangle down along the black line you just sewed. I didn’t worry too much about perfect spacing. I just placed them where I thought they looked best and went with it.

Sew each triangle down using a zig zag stitch along the inner edge. My stitches are about 1/4 inch from the edge of the triangle. I used matching thread for my triangles (blue & yellow) so that it would blend right in. 

For some extra tips on sewing around corners and why you should remove needles BEFORE you sew over them, check out my beginner applique sewing tutorial.

Add a few more banner strings

After all of your triangles are sewn on, put your black thread back into your sewing machine and add a few more little banner strings across your triangles. Don’t forget to adjust your sewing machine settings back to a straight stitch before you begin sewing! I purposefully made mine banner strings look a little wobbly and let them overlap and intertwine. It adds great character to the blanket and some playfulness, which is totally on point for this baby circus theme.

Cut out the animals

I had a sample panel of fabric that was too small to be used on it’s own. So, I decided to cut out the elephant and giraffe from the fabric to applique to this blanket. 

In this process I learned that it is much easier to sew on shapes that have long straight or gradual flowing lines than it is to sew on ones with sharp curves. I got a little too detailed when cutting out that sweet little giraffe and had a tough time sewing around his tiny horns. The more gradual curves on the elephant were just fine to sew down, but the tight curves on the giraffe’s head were a challenge. Keep in mind the shapes of your animals when you cut them out.

Sew animals on to front fabric

Pin those animals down one at a time in the lower right corner of your blanket. Then sew them onto your main fabric using a zig zag stitch close to the edge. I found it easier to sew on one animal and then pin on the second animal to sew after I want done with the first. I used matching thread for each so that my stitching would blend in. 

sewing applique animals onto flannel baby blanket

Sew front & back pieces together

Once your animals are sewn on, your front piece is done! All that is left is to attach the front and back of your blanket. 

Pin your front and back pieces together with right sides facing each other. Your blanket will be pinned together inside out. Sew a straight stitch around the edge of the blanket with a .5 inch seam allowance. Leave about a 6 inch gap between your starting and finishing point. Be sure to back stitch each time you start and stop sewing.

After you have finished sewing, turn your blanket right side out by pulling it through the 6 inch gap. Next iron it flat. I also recommend ironing the opening so that raw edges fold down and line up with the sewn edges.

Your last sewing step is to topstitching around the edge of your blanket. If your machine has decorative stitch options, use them! Those pretty stitches rarely get used so pull out your manual and test one out. I chose an arrow stitch for the topstitching on my blanket. I used a matching light blue thread, but I think this fancy stitch would have looked great in a contrasting thread to really highlight it. 

When you topstitch around your blanket it should secure the 6 inch gap you left for turning it right side out.

finish blanket with decorative stitching around edge

For another tutorial with decorative stitching, check out this  Scrappy Easter Egg Toddler Shirt.

Wash & it’s ready to snuggle

Wash your blanket with some baby-safe detergent and throw in a color catcher to prevent any color bleed from your fabric. Then pop it in the dryer and it’s ready for cuddling. With each wash your blanket will get more soft and snuggly. The edges of the sewn-on pieces will fray like the picture below, giving that blanket such great texture. 

I thought this blanket was cute when I finished sewing it, but it got even cuter after that first wash! I love the raw edges and how it looks so crinkly and ready for snuggles. It was a hard one to give away!

Get Sewing!

There are A LOT of instructions in this tutorial, but it’s really a simple blanket. The short instructions are: Find cute fabric. Sew some triangles and little animals on. Wash it. Snuggle. Done. Easy peasy! 

simple flannel baby blanket with easy applique, perfect homemade baby shower gift - sewing tutorial - pinterest image

Share your comments below!

If you make a version of this blanket, please let me know! I would love to hear your questions or if this tutorial helped you out. Happy Sewing!