Project: Picnic Place Mat

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* includes a Picnic Place Mat project.  I was initially unexcited by this one as I don’t really need a picnic placement. However, I’m determined to go through to book to learn the skills taught by each project. Midway through my first one, I realized that a rollout pouch with pockets is useful for many things! I made two of these, one for me as a scissor holder and one for Alek to hold his paint brushes.

I used the following supplies:

The first Mat:

  • 3/4 yards woven gingham blue which I purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • Ribbon that I had around.

The second Mat:

Total Materials Cost: $10.24

This is the first project that actually makes use of the bias tape that the book suggests making as an early project. My first mat was a bit of a disaster because my bias tape was completely uneven so it was difficult to get the edges to look good.

This project triggered me to become better at making bias tape. After getting the required tools and nailing down how to make bias tape, I tried again.

The next attempt was far better! The wider, more even bias tape gave the whole thing a more professional look. Alek’s still isn’t completely perfect but the flaws are a bit harder to see on a first look!

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My starting point near the bottom of the back is a bit messy.

I messed up the ties on both of these in slightly different ways. On the first one, I misunderstood the instruction to fold the tie in half before attaching and folded it in half along the width of the ribbon rather than the length. This means that tying it is a bit difficult.

On Alek’s, I completely forgot to add the twill tape when I was stitching down the bias tape.  I ended up stitching it just under the seam of the twill tape, but it left a visible line.

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The twill tape ribbon is attached a bit awkwardly here.

There are several aspects of this project which require a good bias tape. The ironed fold of the bias tape is used as a stitch guide after you’ve aligned the bias tape edge with your mat’s raw edge. If you don’t have an even edge on your bias tape this completely fails. This definitely happened to me on the first project.

Additionally, “Stitching the Ditch”, which requires you to restitch at the seem of the bias tape on the front of this project was far easier when the bias tape was wider and the fabric that the bias tape was made from was thicker. With the very lightweight gingham, I had a really hard time pulling the seam apart. It was much easier using the quilting weight cotton.

I’ve been using the gingham to hold my sewing tools. It is good for keeping things together but scissors tend to be too heavy and fall out easily. I have a vague plan to make a similar project in leather or canvas for myself!

 

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Making Bias Tape

Early on in Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time, Deborah teaches readers to make bias tape. Bias tape is made from thin strips cut along the stretchiest length of the fabric (the bias) – generally this means diagonal cuts from corner to corner.

You can use bias tape to hide raw edges while adding a cute trim to your project.

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The yellow trim on this project is made from bias tape.

There are some tricks to getting a long continuous piece of bias tape. The trick Deborah uses (also on her blog) is to make a weird tube so you only have to cut once. This left me with uneven edges and nearly unusable bias tape time and again.

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This is “completed” bias tape with edges ironed down.  Notice the uneven edge?

After much frustration from not getting nice edges, I started thinking about how I could achieve the same results by sewing smaller strips together after cutting individually. Made Everyday with Dana had the solution I was looking for! Now I could cut short strips using my rotary cutter rather than the scissors and the edges were straight and clean!

Next up: ironing down the edges of the bias tape.  On my first few attempts, I used a Clover Hot Hemmer and Clover Iron Finger.  The folds were uneven, and I was super frustrated. I was working with 60″ of bias tape – folding and measuring was tedious to say the least!

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Measuring and folding with the hot hemmer.

“There has to be another way!” In Stitch By Stitch Deborah uses a Bias Tape Maker, which she says is not required. I respectfully disagree. If you’re going to make your own bias tape GO BUY THESE NOW! You can buy the off-brand set of 4 for less than $10. They saved me so much time and frustration, totally worth it!

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A tool to make nice even folds for me?  Yes, please!

 

Of course, you can always just purchase bias tape if you don’t want to make your own. However if you make your own you get to decide exactly what colors and prints work best with your project.