Project: Baskets

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I like the idea of giving gifts in a reusable bag that I’ve made. I mentioned this to my sister, Jess and she told me that she’s done the same, but has used baskets. Jess shared a basket tutorial from sew4home that I decided to use for both my mom’s Mother’s day gift and a bridal shower gift.

I used the following supplies (2 different baskets):

Pink Basket:

Total Materials Cost: $17.86

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Bridal Basket:

Total Materials Cost: $15.52

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The baskets took about 4 hours to make. Each basket has 4 layers of fabric, interfacing, and batting so assembly took a bit of time. I found the stiff interfacing to be quite difficult to work with. Especially at the seams, it was tough to sew through. I ended up hand turning my machine so that I could go slow. When I didn’t go slowly through this part, the thread broke on me.

Pinning with the stiff interfacing was also a challenge. I ended up weaponizing the basket to hold the pieces in place.

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Look at those amazing pins of stabbing!

I also didn’t really like the look that the stiff interfacing gave to the basket. It made the slantedness of the basket very obvious, in addition to being more rigid than I thought was required for a gift basket. So I decided to try medium interfacing for the bridal basket. That worked well – the basket sides didn’t cave in and it was much easier to pin and sew.

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Pins go right through the medium interfacing. No more weapons!

The lining fabric for the bridal basket was a bit difficult to work with. When I first tried to sew the batting, I found that the needle wasn’t passing through the fabric at all. I switched to a stretch needle and everything was better from there on out.

It was important to use a walking foot in both baskets. This helped to keep all of the layers of fabric together, especially at the thick seams.

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Rigid sides had the benefit of supporting a bottle of wine.

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I was happy with the look of each basket when they were filled with the rest of the gifts. I was especially happy with the look and feel of the bridal basket.

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Piped Throw Pillows

I’ve been working through Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* over the past 2 months. At the beginning of April I peeked ahead so I could order supplies for future projects and have them on hand when I got to them. I spent some time considering the fabric for the Piped Throw Pillow project. We already have throw pillows that match our couch and they don’t need to be replaced. But what if I made pillows that fit certain themes? That got me thinking about the Game of Thrones premiere. After a bit of searching I found Game of Thrones house sigil fabric on spoonflower.com.

The spoonflower fabric is a bit expensive, so I made a practice pillow first.

I used the following supplies:

The Force Awakens Pillow:

Total Cost for Force Awakens Pillow: $16.76 ($12.27 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

Game of Thrones Pillow:

Total Cost for Game of Thrones Pillow: $20.75 ($15.26 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

I didn’t have bias tape on hand for these pillows so I had to make some. A quick skim of the instructions informed me that I wouldn’t need to bother with ironing the bias tape, as it would just need to be used to wrap around the cord.

It was a bit tricky to get the piping attached evenly to the edges of the fabric, but with lots of pins I mostly got through it.

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Pinning the cord down was important!

This was my first ever attempt to install a zipper and it went well. The instructions in the book were good. I couldn’t actually find the recommended 1/2″ quilters tape, so I used 2 1/4″ strips on each pillow.

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1/4″ strips of quilters tape on either side of the zipper seam

This also worked out well, as I used the seam itself as a guide to align the tape.

Because the fabric needed to be cut away form the piping in order to make the 90 degree quarter angle at the corners actually make the turn, the finished products have small holes between the pillow and the corner piping. I’m not sure how to resolve that. On the Game of Thrones pillow I tried to leave more of the piping fabric at the corner so that when I turned the pillow inside out after sewing it would grip. That didn’t work as well as I would have hoped.

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Tiny hole in the finished product

Overall, I was happy with both pillows! They are neat looking and great for themed parties! I was most worried about zipper installation but the instructions in the book were so clear that it was very easy. Each pillow took about 2 hours to make. I was especially happy to have the Game of Thrones pillow on display for our Game of Thrones season 6 premier party!

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Project: Fancy Napkins with Mitered Corners

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* has a project teaching how to make cloth napkins. It’s a great beginner project, as the materials are cheap and you get to practice cutting and sewing straight lines.

I used the following supplies:

  • 1 1/4 yards woven gingham blue which i purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • 1 1/4 yards purple floral fabric which was a gift.

Total Materials Cost: $2.50

The first part of this project just has you over cast the edges of your napkin. I’ve already talked about my initial difficulties with overcasting, so I won’t go into details here. In summary: before getting the hang of overcasting, my napkins were a disaster.

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Bad overcast stitches are pulling, making the napkin unable to lie flat even after ironing.

The next part of the project instructs the reader to fold over and miter the corners of the napkins, and then topstitch to keep the folds in place. I used the machine’s fancier stitches for the top stitching.  This made the napkins look nicer. Sadly since I was starting with a bad base (from the overcasting), my napkins still weren’t great.

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The uneven pull of the napkin made for messy folding and topstitching.

The final part of this project has you fold the edges, iron, and then fold again. No overcasting needed! This was pretty great for me, as I hadn’t yet learned the secret of overcasting when I tried this part of the project.

I went for a different fabric this time, my napkins are far better than the blue and white checked napkins. My stitches aren’t as straight as I’d like them to be but I’m not embarrassed to use them!

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With the raw edge folded under, overcasting isn’t required.

 

 

This project was definitely worth doing for the practice, especially since the the cost of materials was so low.  I find practicing my making something to be way more fulfilling than sitting around stitching straight lines just to get experience. We even put out the nicer set of napkins this weekend when we had guests over!

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.

Frayed Edges

Washing fabric prior to using it for a sewing project is a requirement if you ever plan to wash the finished product. You run the risk of your finished project shrinking substantially and unevenly after the first wash if you opt out of prewashing. Never plan to wash your finished project? Don’t bother with prewash.

I enjoy the variety of fabrics that come in fat quarter bundles. As I’ve worked through beginner projects, fat quarters have often been the perfect size for small projects. I’ve made the mistake of washing 10 fat quarters together without pretreating the  edges. I pulled a knotted mess of fabric out of the drier.

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A large knot remains after separating all of the fat quarters.

I recently talked about overcasting edges to avoid fraying. Overcasting isn’t just important in treating the edges of your finished project – you may also want to do it before a prewash. You’ll either spend the time overcasting before washing, or detangling after. Treating the edge before washing leaves the fabric easier to work with when you’re ready to get sewing.

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The overcast edge is mostly clean after washing and drying.