How to: Make Spoonflower Voile Burp Cloths.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Made By Rae recently claimed that Spoonflower voile makes absolutely the best burp cloths.  Pretty strong statement, right?  When my kids were babies, we went through a lot of burp cloths.  A LOT.  Naturally, as one who knows burp well and still uses them regularly to wipe noses and hands, I could not resist the draw to Spoonflower, which I love anyway, to test out the voile as burp cloth material.

My sister is pregnant with her first baby, so loads of spitup await her.  And now, thanks to Spoonflower, she's armed with a nice stack of voile burp cloths.

I ordered a ridiculous number of fat quarters of voile from Spoonflower for this project, and spent a small fortune.  But it was worth it.  There are some fantastic prints out there.  Although I ordered others, this is what I used for the burp cloths:

I learned a few things about this fabric.  It is thin.  The weave is somewhat loose.  It has a low thread count.  It wrinkles.  This is not bad at all, but it is something to keep in mind when selecting prints.  I would not recommend choosing prints with subtle color variations.  The robot fabric, for example, has a gray design on the background that's almost invisible on the voile.  And the blue lines on the pacman print just don't show up well against the dark gray.  I recommend choosing bright colors with high contrast, but remember that because there are not so many threads and the weave is loose, it will not be as vivid as what appears on your computer screen.  Also, I would not recommend choosing prints with geometric patterns that must stay in precise vertical-horizontal alignment.  The washing and pressing processes distorted my prints a little, and that was much more obvious with geometric patterns.

Rae did not mention wrinkling or pressing, so she must have a secret that I have not figured out.  Wrinkling and pressing made this project a littl maddening for me, and way more time-consuming than it should have been.

I prewashed the voile, as I do all fabric, especially when making something for a baby.  Spoonflower recommends handwashing and air-drying, but we all know that moms with babies will never do that.  And these are burp cloths, they will need to be thrown in the washer and dryer.  So I washed and dried.  I have a front-loader that's pretty gentle on clothing, and a good dryer.  Maybe I should have put the fabric in a pillowcase or something because every fat quarter came out looking something like this:

That photo is extra large because I want you to appreciate just how many deep-set wrinkles are in that fabric.  Hopefully you can figure out a way to avoid this.  But in case you end up like I did, you'll need some tools:  a spray bottle of water,  Mary Ellen's Best Press (an awesome spray starch alternative), a good steam iron, and lots of patience.

With iron set on high (cotton), I began by spraying water on the fabric.  That allowed it to lay flat for pressing.  Once I had the deep wrinkles out, I pressed with steam.  I then pressed again with Best Press.  In case anyone is counting, that means I ironed each fat quarter at least three times.  Then I ironed the backing fabric.  Put on some good music because you'll need it for this marathon pressing session.  In the end, you will get those pesky wrinkles out though.

Like I said, I saw some stretching and distortion in this process.  Straight lines were no longer straight, the edges of the prints were no longer square.  You can see that here, if you look closely at the horizontal and vertical lines.  The vertical lines are somewhat parallel to the edges of the burp cloth, but the horizontal lines are now uncomfortably off (especially on the left cloth).

I should also mention that because the wrinkles were so severe to begin with, there is still some discoloration where those wrinkles were.  If that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to use quilting cotton instead.  Or just go straight to soft cotton knits.

Speaking of backing fabric, although I have lots of knits around, I experimented with some fabrics that are made for absorbency and softness.  I bought two packages of flat cloth diapers:  Kushies Washable Flat Diapers and Swaddlebees Unbleached Flat Diapers.  I vastly preferred the Kushies, which are white and extremely soft, like a thick flannel.  The Swaddlebees seem very absorbent, but it's a bumpy, birdseye texture that also has some stretching and distortion.  The stability of the Kushies fabric provided nice balance to the Spoonflower voile, and the white color helped the print to show up a bit better.

These were made with the Swaddlebees unbleached fabric on back:

And these with the Kushies white fabric:

As for sewing, I did pretty much what Rae did in her tutorial.  I will note that because of the distortion in washing/pressing, I could not have gotten 18 inches in length out of my fat quarters.  I went with 12" x 17", which made a very nice size.  Next time I might even shave an inch off the width and go with 11" x 17".

I love looking at the stack of soft, cuddly burp cloths just waiting for baby boy.

I can't wait to see how these wear, and how soft they end up after being washed a few more times.  I have a pretty good feeling about all that.  Thanks, Rae, for the tip and inspiration!


  1. Wow! These look great, wish I would have had some soft voile burp cloths when my son was a baby. But I'm totally bookmarking this for gift ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! It looks so beautiful! Good idea! And many thanks for using one of my fabricdesigns and for sharing! :-)

  3. Thanks for the review on the Spoonflower voile! I saw the Made by Rae tutorial and was looking at buying some of the voile for burp cloths, but dang, it's expensive! I'm glad I saw this first, I think I'll skip it and go with quilter's cotton or flannel. Or maybe the basic cotton from Spoonflower, but even that is pretty expensive.

  4. how did you manage with the bunching of the knit fabric when sewing on the machine? it caused me quite a bit of frustration and I'm still not sure how to remedy it.

    1. I didn't really have that problem. Are you using a ballpoint needle? Is your tension okay? If yes to both, it might be worth considering a walking foot (my machine has one built in, which I totally love).

      One thing you might try -- put a piece of tissue paper down and sew with the fabric on top. That might trick your machine into believing that it's not a tricky knit.

      Good luck!

  5. I'm thinking about making a "muslin swaddle blanket" (actually made out of what we call gauze in the US) with Spoonflower's cotton voile so I can design my own fabric. I don't mind wrinkles, since that fabric is supposed to be wrinkly, but the washing instructions intimidate me a bit. Spoonflower doesn't recommend hand washing for most of their other fabrics, so I assume they have a reason for recommending it for the voile. How did the fabric hold up? I assume your sister has now used them and washed them over and over - did it fade? tear? Obviously for any baby gear, hand washing isn't realistic.

    1. The voile has held up great! It's soft and has kept its shape well. There's been some fading of the colors, as I've had with all of the other Spoonflower fabrics I've used. But I think that adds to the charm of it.

      I can't say for sure, though, if the voile would hold up as well if it weren't backed by something more solid. It might be okay if you use two layers, but with a single one, I think the wrinkling might ultimately compromise the integrity of the fabric weave and the printed image. That could happen with two layers, too. But it's more likely with one.

      I didn't remember that Spoonflower says to hand wash, but I see no reason why that's necessary (except maybe to avoid such wrinkling?). We wash and dry, always.