Summer Sewing ~ Picnic Blanket with Rock Pockets

on July 29 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 118 Comments

From Beth: Erin from house on hill road has a visual treat of a blog and always has wonderful new projects in the works. She’s a patchwork/sewing/quilting pro, and has a great knack for sharing clear explanations of beautiful, creative projects. We were so happy when Erin shared this fun summer project with us, incorporating so much of what we enjoy about her blog. Enjoy Erin’s Picnic Blanket project (then head off to make one of your own!).

Just a quick note… We heard via comments that some of you were having trouble printing images from our Summer Sewing tutorials; we think all of the images should print just fine now!

Picnic Blanket with Rock Pockets by Erin


You’ll need:

  • 1/2 yard each of 8 different fabrics for the front squares and the rock pockets
  • A full sized sheet or 3 1/2 yards of 42” wide fabric for the backing


  • Low loft cotton batting – 61” x 61”
  • Sewing machine
  • A walking foot is helpful, but not necessary
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Rotary cutter and mat are helpful, but not necessary
  • Thread to match or contrast – you choose
  • Masking tape
  • Quilt safety pins
  • Two skeins contrasting embroidery floss
  • Quilters curved needle

Pre-wash all your fabrics and then cut them as follows:

1. Cut two 16” squares out of each fabric for the front (a total of 16 squares)

2. Choose four prints for the rock pockets and cut one 8” square out of each of these prints.

3. Cut a 61” x 61” piece out of the sheet for the back. (If you are using 42” wide fabric, cut your 3 1/2 yard piece into two lengths of 1 3/4 yards. Remove the selvedges and stitch together along what was the selvedge edge. Then square this piece to 61”)

Making the top:
1. All seam allowances are 1/2” unless otherwise stated.

2. Arrange the 16” squares in a four by four grid.

3. Sew each row of squares together from left to right. Press the seams open.

4. Next sew row 1 to row 2 making sure you match the seams. Press the seam open.

5. Repeat step 3 with rows 3 and 4.

6. Now sew row 2 to row 3. Press the seam open.

7. Measure your top. It should be 61” x 61”. If it is bigger than 61” square, cut your top to 61” x 61”. If it is smaller than 61” square, cut your backing and your batting to the same dimensions of your top.

8. Set the top aside.

Making the pockets:

1. Fold each of the 8” squares wrong sides together on the diagonal and press.

2. Stitch along the fold 1/4” from the edge.

3. With the right side of your backing facing, pin each pocket to its corner.

4. Stitch the pocket to the backing using a 1/4” seam allowance.

Putting it together:

1. Lay your backing fabric on the floor right side up, smooth out all wrinkles and tape it down along the edges with masking tape so it will remain stationary as you add the other layers of your blanket. (045)

2. Next, lay your top piece wrong side up on top of your backing, smoothing out wrinkles and matching edges and corners.

3. Place the batting on top, matching edges and corners.

4. Using quilter’s safety pins, baste the three layers together around each pocket.

5. Pin the layers together around the perimeter of the blanket using straight pins.

6. Sew the blanket together, around the edges using a straight stitch and a 1/2” seam. Leave a 15” opening on one side for turning.

7. After it is stitched together, clip the corners and turn the blanket right sides out.

8. Press the edges flat, turning the seam allowance towards the inside along your opening.

9. Pin the opening closed.

10. Top stitch around the entire blanket 1/4” from the edge using a zig zag stitch.

Tying the blanket:

1. Cut several 18” lengths of embroidery floss for tying the quilt. Use all six strands of floss together. You will get four or five ties out of each length of floss.

2. Lay your blanket on a flat surface with the top facing up and tape it down along the edges and corners with the masking tape.

3. Thread your curved needle with one length of embroidery floss. DO NOT tie a knot.

4. Beginning in the center of the blanket, tie it together where the squares meet. Then mark the center of each square and tie the layers together at these marks.

To make the ties:
1. Insert your needle through all three layers of your blanket bringing it back out about 1/4” from where you first inserted it.

2. Pull the thread through, leaving a 3 inch tail.

3. Re-insert the needle in the fabric in the same place that you first did and make an additional stitch.

4. Pull the thread taught and then cut the thread leaving a three inch tail.

5. Tie your two tails together using a square knot. (Right over left and then left over right.)

6. Trim the thread tails to 1”.

You’re finished!

To keep your blanket from blowing up, insert rocks or other weights in the triangle corners.

Sit back, relax and enjoy being outdoors!


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118 Responses to Summer Sewing ~ Picnic Blanket with Rock Pockets

  1. Jill says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial. I just finished one today for my mother for christmas 🙂 I can’t wait to give it to her, and to make myself a “summer” one!

  2. MoniD says:

    We have had one of these blankets for years now and it goes where ever we do!

    At the beach:
    much better than laying on a towel- sand just dusts off (very important with wet, sandy kids all over it)
    wide enough for 2 or 3 people
    no problem if it gets wet, easy to wash

    Great for under the tent or under the sleeping bags (better than a tarp)
    a bit warmer and the backing resists dew or wet ground from getting your sleeping bag all wet.
    In a pinch can also make a great rain cover.

    We just keep it in the trunk for emergencies as well as stopping off at the park or watching fireworks.
    Perfect for the wet or hot bleachers.
    Not as bulky as a regular blanket which also is not as warm as a regular blanket which may be its *only fault.*

  3. Amy says:

    Quick, easy, fun, useful, and a great way to showcase cuts of fun fabrics. Love, love, LOVE it! Thanks so much for sharing your creativity!

  4. Tracy says:

    I love this blanket and made one for Christmas for my sister. I posted on my site and in the SMS Flickr group. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  5. Natalie says:

    Great tutorial. I used it for the Quilting for Peace – Wrap them in Love project. Thanks so much!

  6. gillian says:

    I love this quilt. So simple and quick, but also really beautiful! I’m going to see if I can make one before Christmas.

  7. Katie Lynne says:

    Thanks Erin, for such a great tutorial. I’m going to make this, my first ever patchwork or quilt project — because you make it so easy to understand!! For my backing material, I’ll use up a bunch of old jeans that have followed me every time I’ve moved over the years. Bet they’ll be surprised to be reincarnated into a ground spread! KL in Astoria, Oregon P.S. I’ll never be able to hear another Hot Pockets commercial again without thinking of you…*smile*

  8. joy bandy says:

    am trying to print tutorials the picnic blanket and all that prints is the posted responses am wasting alot!!!!!!! of ink &paper. can you help ple. want to make this for my son & wife. thank-you joy bandy 9-16-09

  9. Sarah says:

    I am new to this and want to make it for my 2 year wedding anniversary (the traditional gift is cotton). I really want to increase the size to include 12 different patterns and my math is really playing tricks on me today. Can someone post the dimensions of the Backing and Batting for this addition in size?

  10. Sara says:

    I passed over this project a couple of times because I was a little intimidated, but once I dug in and tried it, it was easier than I thought! Thanks for posting such a great tutorial!

  11. Thanks for posting. Very easy to follow.

  12. I think this is a great idea, going to buy just the right material tonight and making it tomorrow. thanks!!!

  13. JulieB says:

    I am learning to sew and plan to make this blanket for a friend who is not feeling well. I am going to embroider some of the squares 🙂 How big is this finished? About 60 x 60? Perhaps I should add one more row of squares so it would be long enough to use as a blanket when lying on the sofa? Any advice would be appreciated. Learning2Sew

  14. Minmill says:

    Thank you, this is just what i was looking for. I have always wanted to sew a blanket like this. You have explained it so very good by this picture and text, so I think I can do one of my own.

  15. Stephanie says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for the tutorial!

  16. Hi,

    Great blanket! i love the pockets and it looks like a good first quilting project for me. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve used a picture from this tutorial and created a link to a Must MAKE Monday list on my blog, The Handmade Experiment. I also link to Erin’s house on hill road blog. The list is a nod to Handmade Nation, an ode to springtime, and chock full of patterns, tutorials and inspiration, so just in general a good place to be. Check it out at and let me know what’cha think. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  17. Mari says:

    I thought this was a great and easy project for someone who is a newbie at quilting. Thank you so much.

  18. Molly says:

    This is such a fabulous idea. I have made many a quilt in my day but never thought to do this. I also love to go to the beach and inevitably the blankets get all blown around when we are of splashing in the water. Thanks for posting this awesome trick.

  19. Marleen says:

    Dear Erin and the rest of the staff,

    I ;ike this tutorial very much. I’m hosting a picnic-blog in Holland, together with my friend Anneke. She has a wonderful blog about creativity, kids and felt.

    And now the winter is freezing our picnic-lusts to a minus 10 degrees Celsius. Please, may I write a little story about this tutorial on my blog and name your nice site??? Thanks for now,

    See you,


  20. Simona says:

    I’m so glad I found this. I’m a coastie so I plan to use it as a beach blanket! Thank you for sharing such a great idea!!!!

  21. Gina says:

    I love it. I am always scrared to make quilts but this will be my first.

  22. Catherine says:

    I am so happy to see such a thorough tutorial as I had remembered loving this idea when I first saw it on Amanda Soule’s site last spring.

    With ease of concise information and clear images, perhaps now I will follow through and make one. I love the idea someone suggested above, using it as a table cloth. I think making hidden pockets for silverware and napkins on front of quilt (so located on the sides of table when draped) would be great fun too!

  23. Whoa! Cool!!!!! I can’t wait for my readers to see this! I’ve scheduled a link to this post to go live on my blog mid-morning (Central USA time) on August 7. Thank you so much for sharing this great resource!


  24. claudine says:

    Fantastic tutorial, thanks for this! The rock pockets is a great idea!

  25. You could also use a vinyl or oilcloth tablecloth for the backing to make it waterproof and ribbons on the end to secure it when it’s rolled up. I love the rock pockets idea!

  26. Trilobyte says:

    Cute project!

    I don’t have little boys and I had the same thought as Kristin. Of course, I like to take rocks home with me whether there’s a pocket for them or not…

  27. Nicole says:

    What great timing. I was just looking this week for a great summer blanket pattern. Love this one!

  28. Stacey says:

    What a great idea. Rock Pockets are the best idea I have heard of.

  29. Angela N says:

    Rock pockets are the best!

  30. Kelli says:

    LOVE IT! Thanks, this is a great idea. I always use the last quilt my great-grandmother gave me for picnics, park visits, etc…but now I can make my own!
    Thanks so much!

  31. daniela says:

    this looks like a quicky and so helpful with the stone pockets. thank you

  32. amy says:

    I am definitely making this. What a wonderful idea!!!

  33. I love Erin’s blog! This is a great project, thanks for sharing!

  34. Tamara Bell says:

    I am so in love with this! It is on my to do list! Thanks for sharing.

  35. Claudia says:

    This is so lovely!! I was just looking for a project involving quiting, I have not sewn anything like this before, but now I will give it a try. Nice photos and super clear explanations!

  36. jill says:

    Thanks for the great idea and tutorial! I wanted a blanket to take on vacation with us next week, and now I will have one! I just turned mine right-side out, and all I have to do is topstitch it and tie it tomorrow.

  37. Sue says:

    So cute, so creative and so much fun! Love summer sewing and especially when the end product is so special, thanks Erin!

  38. monica says:

    i love it! very cute idea!

  39. Tersea says:

    I love all of these tutorials. You all need to slow down, my to do list is growing too quickly. Thank you again for all of the great tutorials you put out there!

  40. Mandy says:

    Wonderful!!! What a great gift!!

  41. Emily Cross says:

    Love it… Rock pockets, what a great Idea!

  42. Some great ideas! And such cute fabric! I’ll have to see about making myself one of these!

  43. Erin says:

    i love this quilt. thanks for the tutorial. I have never made a quilt before, you’ve me inspired to try it!

  44. Sarah says:

    What a wonderful picnic blanket! I’d better get to sewing one while it’s still nice to eat outdoors.

  45. JenR says:

    Great idea! Love the rock pockets! I’ll be making some of these for sure!

  46. Natalia says:

    Very GoOd and NiCe project!!. now it’s winter in Chile,but in summer i will try this Project.
    Thanks for sharing

  47. Allison says:

    Cute quilt! What a great idea!

  48. Page says:

    This is adorable. I’d love to make it for this summer, but my list of sewing to-dos is so long. Maybe for next summer.

  49. Carla Wikerson says:

    What a neat idea!

  50. Libby says:

    I love quilts and making one for picnics would be fun.

  51. Lisa says:

    Hey! That’s cute!

  52. Michelle says:

    How great!!! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  53. Stephanie says:

    Yea! I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one that uses blue painter’s tape to make my quilt sandwiches. It works really well, now I know I’m not crazy. The pocket idea is fabulous. Amazing that something so simple could be so important. Thanks for this great tutorial.

  54. Harley says:

    That rocks! 😀 Literally 😀

  55. Maryalice says:

    Thank you for the great idea!

  56. Terriaw says:

    I am loving these summer sewing projects! Each tutorial keeps getting better and better, making all these projects seem so simple and quick, especially the tying on this one (I’m not good at machine quilting anyway). The rock pockets are such a clever idea too.

  57. Stacy says:

    You’re the best!

    Can’t wait to make one! I’m headed to look for fabric now.


  58. Jen says:

    wow! this looks really cool.

  59. I loved the fabrics. And the detail of the little pocket for weights… Nice!

  60. Tracey says:

    I’m always looking for shortcuts to do things, and this may be my “quilt” option for the fall! And we always need blankets to lug to the ballfields! Thanks so much!

  61. Caitlin W says:

    That is such a great idea! It always becomes a problem on blustery days when the corner of the blanket flies up and knocks someone’s drink over. What an amazingly simple solution. And I also love the fact that you turn the blanket, which makes sewing straight edges a whole lot easier. I love it!

  62. Joanna says:

    This is a great project! A really good beginner quilting project. And a great way to use up some of the stash that you can figure out what to do with! I would only add to make sure to use the blue painters tape like you did and NOT masking tape as it is difficult to remove after a while.

  63. mj says:

    What a fun and easy quilt!

  64. Marj says:

    Very nice. I love the rock pockets idea. Thanks!

  65. Lily says:

    Now THIS is a quilt that is manageable enough for me to handle. I can do this! Thanks for walking me through it!

  66. This is just great — When I read the directions I thought the rock pockets were for the little ones to collect rocks to take home. I have piles of rock……….What a great idea for holing down the blanket.

  67. lesley says:

    What a cleaver idea. I can’t wait to try it!

  68. erin says:

    Thanks for all the wonderful feedback! Glad you all like it. I’ll keep coming back to answer any questions.

    Jess – yes, I put a tie in each corner and in the center of each square. You certainly could stitch in the ditch, too. That’s a great idea!

  69. Lorajean says:

    So cute! I’m putting this post in a file to come back to!

  70. Marissa Waldrop says:

    great idea to have the rock pockets, I think I’ll try this

  71. Jennifer says:

    I never would have thought about taping it down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fought with a quilt top to match up with the backing. I get frustrated to no end when after all my hard work is done that the top and back are off. I’ll have to try making one of these.

  72. Jonah Lisa says:

    Great tutorial. The rock pockets are a fabulous idea.

  73. Ms. Cleaver says:

    How clever!

  74. The Mommy says:

    This would be great with some hand-made bean bags for weights!

  75. This blanket is really fun!!!! I would love to make one.


  76. Tina says:

    I just got a new walking foot for my machine, and I think this might be the perfect project to try it out! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  77. Maggie says:

    This is great! Do you think you could use nylon or some other waterproof fabric for the back to provide a water barrier on wet grass? I might have to try it with some of my fabric scraps.

  78. Kira says:

    Awesome Idea!!! Thanks so much for sharing it! 🙂

  79. love it!!! simple, quick, & done in one day – a perfect summer project! great detailing with the zig-zag stitch around the edges!!! thanks, erin.
    ps: love the flutterby fabrics!!!!!

  80. Shelley says:

    This is wonderful! Can’t wait to make it. In step 1, the directions say lay your fabric right side up, but the picture shows wrong side up, I think.

  81. Denise Boyle says:

    Beautiful! I’m off to pick out fabrics from my stash for one of my own.

  82. Monica gee says:

    I never would have thought about putting rocks in the corners! Just fantastic!

  83. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh! How cute with the little corners! I love this! I can do this! how fun!

  84. Jen Borley says:

    I LOVE this idea! What a great quilt. I could totally see this as part of a wedding/shower gift paired with a nice picnic basket. Thanks:)

  85. janna says:

    I absolutely love it! I have now found my next project to work on.

  86. Paula says:

    I love this! Makes me think there’s still a possibility that I can quilt yet. The weighted pockets are ingenious, and much more attractive than shoes laying on each corner. Keep these great ideas coming.

  87. Valerie says:

    BEAUTIFUL! I will be making one of these to take to the beach-, I love the rock pockets!

  88. Camille says:

    Genious. Cute. Simple. Practical. Can’t wait to start mine.

  89. Water Works says:

    I totally love this idea! I have never tried a quilt, but this is awesome and I will put one together in time for the fall weather. Thanks so much for a clear, friendly, and easy to follow tutorial.

  90. bec says:

    what a good idea to put a rock in a pocket in your picnic blanket! thanks

  91. Michele says:

    I really want to make one of these! Wonderful tutorial…thanks!

  92. Tammy says:

    That is a neat idea! I’m saving jeans to make an outdoors quilt – I’ll be adding those rock pockets for sure! 🙂

  93. amandajean says:

    this is so cute!

  94. Alisha says:

    I love it! What a great idea to add pockets for the rocks!

  95. Michelle says:

    I can not wait to try this. I am new to quilting, your tutorial seems so easy, thanks for the great instructions!!

  96. jenn says:

    This is so great! I have been obsessed with patchwork lately and this is such a good idea for my kids to enjoy! Great job, and thanks!

  97. Joyful Abode says:

    What a lovely project! I can imagine that a version with a water-resistant backing would be a perfect beach blanket, too!

  98. Sarah S says:

    Love the rock pocket idea. Would also work well for a tablecloth!

  99. micki says:

    i love it!

  100. How awesome is this! You could also create slightly larger pockets to pack the blanket in for transporting it 🙂 Or built in ties to keep it rolled up for transportation…

  101. Ana says:

    This looks like a fun sewing project. The rock pockets are very useful! Definitely going to try it! Thanks Sew Mama Sew and Erin.

  102. LauraJ says:


  103. Katie says:

    This is so cute! I’m gonna make one…

  104. renee says:

    love the idea of rock pockets!

  105. Carrie says:

    what a simple and great idea! My first response was “duh! rock pockets.” but that is a little rude so I will go with “wow! rock pockets.”

  106. Jess says:

    This is fantastic – I’m going to start on one today! One quick question: Are you placing ties in each square corner and one in the center? If not, then where are you placing ties and how far apart? Could you also “stitch in the ditch” around the squares instead of tying it? Thanks again for a great tutorial!

  107. betsy says:

    Fantastic tutorial, Erin!

  108. Cindy says:

    Perfect! Many a happy moment of my childhood was spent doing just what the girls were….beautiful!

  109. Christine Bolin says:

    What a great idea. This is an idea I’ll have to share with some people I know who sew.

  110. angela says:

    What a wonderful idea! When I lived on Moloka’i a friend of mine had something similar, but we filled the pockets with sand. It worked great, held the blanket down on the beach. Thanks for the pattern and tutorial., I can make one of my own! Oh, okay, maybe as a gift for someone else.

  111. Jess says:

    What a super idea! Thanks for showing this.

  112. Dawn says:

    Love this idea!!!!
    Dawn @ 4:53 am

  113. this is perfect! thanks

  114. Kristin says:

    what a great idea! You can tell I have little boys in my house…when I first read “rock pockets”, I assumed they were to store rocks in so you could take them home with you. 🙂

  115. Tara H. says:

    Wow, what a great and lovely idea. I will have to give this a try.

    Thanks so much, Beth.


  116. Tara Re says:

    Taping it down. Brilliant! I never would of thought of that.

  117. Julia D says:

    I need a pic-nik blanket! sweet.

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