Updated: May 26, 2022
These big baskets and bowls made from stuffed fabric strips have been fun to make. I am NOT a 'quilter', but for Christmas gifts this year for daughter and daughter-in-law, these projects were my choice and well received.
I just finished the bowl below for my daughter-in-law's birthday, using leftover fabric from her large basket batting strips I found when I ENTIRELY cleaned out my sewing studio in January. This second time through the process, I tried something new for handles, came to some more conclusions about the 'How-To's, AND became aware of how very important it is that the needle plate on any sewing machine has NO gouges in it!
Below is the pattern that got me going, which is pretty similar to all of the 'rope baskets' you'll find out there right now.
This pattern recommends using fusible fleece. Honestly, I don't think that is necessary. It was kinda a pain to use - and expensive in my opinion. When making the bowl last week, I wanted to use up the (NON_fusible) batting I found that was left over from the hassocks I made for the kids back in 2015. Click here for a link to my Blog Post of THAT project. http://blog.londasfiles.com/hassock-gift-swing-updated-full-tutorial/
High time to use up left-overs, don't you think?
The fabric strips are 2.5" wide. The batting is 2.25" wide.
First task is just stitching together all of the strips with 1/4" seams so you have a VERY long strip of fabrics. I did take time to press those seam allowances open. Sorry - I didn't measure how much I had, I just used up the scraps of fabric I had leftover from the basket project. If I had to guess, I bet I had a long strip at least 18-20 FEET long.
I think cutting the batting a bit narrower would be good... It occurred to me that basting down the center to hold the batting in place would be a good idea. Well - I ended up having to rip all that out, but it did serve to hold it in place as I proceeded. It occurs to me now that one could use strips of fusible web down the middle of the batting. That would get expensive, but I think perhaps not as pricey as using fusible batting... At this point, I don't think I'll be doing more of these projects, so I leave that up to you to decide what to try.
After stitching, I pressed the strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Then, at the sewing machine, I turned in the excess fabric as I stitched that edge together...See photo below. Doing it this way is ALOT of stopping, arranging fabric for about 6", stitching stopping, repeat. It is REALLY important to stitch a consistent width away from the folded edges as you do this step. In the photo below, you can see that I am guiding the folds in where the presser foot changes from clear to metal. Remember to use Needle Position to your advantage as well. Here is a link to my Video on that feature that hides on many sewing machines!
Once you have all THAT (pretty boring!) work done, it's time to actually form that long 'snake' into ... whatever you want. In this case, a bowl.
Having already made the BIG baskets as I shared above, and one other 'bowl', I have some 'nitty gritty' to add over and above what is directed in the great pattern that started all of this. I DO love what the pattern designer 'Auntie' offers in her crafty-quilt type projects, and highly recommend her patterns. Hop over to their website to see what all she has to offer. And...order direct from HER website HERE. These days, the sewing expo 'shows' seem to be at an end, and many of my friends still putting bread on the table through that system are really hurting. I'm just way beyond lucky that I moved on from that when we re-located back in 2016.
STARTING is the hardest part of this process, in my opinion.
Below, the aqua is my 'start' of the bowl I made for dear daughter. You can see I'm truly working in a circle.I accomplished that by making the beginning VERY short, much less 'long' than what you see in the 2nd picture below.
Right up here, I'm gonna tell you that I STRUGGLED like BIG TIME when I was making the Christmas gifts. Regardless of which machine I used, my zig zag stitching was skipping stitches like CRAZY! Eventually I went to my favorite machine for kids, the SPARROW 20 and had NO problems whatsoever. Watch my video that explains why I like this machine SO much by clicking HERE.
ANYWAY.... this time when I went to use the same machine, even IT was skipping stitches ! Grrrrrrr. Having done everything I knew as an past sewing machine dealer, I looked closely at my Pfaff 7550 and Brother __________ ($12K sewing/embroidery model) again and realized that both of them, and now my favorite Sparrow all 'roughness' around the hole in the needle plate. See pictures of the 'old, 'bad' plates below.
Understand that my machines are used by NEW sewers of all ages: 6 and up. Learning to feed the fabric through the machine in a taut manner, yet without pulling or pushing is part of the learning process. In that process, I now understand that the needle often gets deflected so that it hits/gouges the metal plate. The machine repair guy helped me realize that the thread not only goes down into the hole to engage with the hook that brings the bobbin thread to intertwine with the upper thread, but in decorative stitches like zigzag, actually rotates around the needle plate hole . If there is ANY roughness along that hole as you see here, that roughness 'snags' the thread, preventing it from engaging with the bobbin thread in the stitch formation process which equals skipped stitches!
OK - so I ordered a good stock of those plates for the Sparrow machine that I have in my Studio and in case/when they are needed for those who purchase that machine from me. Here is a link to that machine. I actually finally got TWO of them delivered, having waited for them since JUNE! I sell them for the same price as on Amazon, BUT I give 1 hour (Zoom or in person) FREE how to operate lessons with purchase from me. Click HERE to see this great machine for just $279.
I know that is a lot of 'nitty gritty' about sewing machines, but I hope you read and understand it, as realizing this FACT will help you know what to watch for on your machine. If you hang onto machines a long time as I do, you might actually want to order an extra needle plate to have on hand, as when machines age, parts become unavailable. The most expensive of these plates was just around $30 - a good investment for the future.
Back to the 'making process'.....
The pattern simply says that by holding the work UP, vertically it will form straighter edges, and by tilting the work out, away from the machine will form angled out, sloping sides. That is definitely true, but I've found it is more than that......
Look again at my baskets. Do you see in the grey-ish one on the right, that it is taller, and has a straighter portion close to the bottom? Doesn't it make sense that in that area, I was pulling the joining trip tighter? In fact, that is exactly the case.
More specifically, look at these in process photos: Look closely in the photo below and see that to keep things FLAT for a larger base, it is necessary to truly work hard at EASING in the free strip. See that I am actually mushing in some extra as I work. The principle here is that the inside of a circle is less far around than the outside of the circle...right?
By the way, the zig zag stitch is 3 long and about 3.5-4.0 wide. Play to see what you like on your machine...
On the other hand, pulling on the loose strip will pull that area in tighter...
The other thing to keep consistent is how much you lap the loose edge under the existing left edge... Whatever you decide, consistency is key. Here you can see that I'm holding up the 'done' work at the left, but I'm also pulling some on the loose strip...NOT easing it at this point. That is what allows the sides of the bowl to slant outwards. YOu can combine these easing/pulling techniques to create specific shape to whatever you are creating. If I had eased for a longer distance, the 'base' of my bowl would be larger. Then, I could have pulled, added tension on the loose end and the sides would slant out smoothly.
In these final pictures, you can see that I just left an area on opposite sides of the bowl loose, UN-Stitched, to form 'handles'. I found the handles as in the pattern to be a PAIN. And, I also wasn't fond of the upper banding on the big baskets. Besides, it was hard to DO. In fact, that task plus attaching the handles securely enough that 3 granddaughters age 4 and under wouldn't tear loose, is what pulled the needle and gouged the throat plate of that Sparrow machine. Look closely at the side silhouette of my basket...I eased for about the first 5 rounds, less so on each round, and then eased NON at all to get the outward slant. Have fun with these techniques! Once you try it for yourself, you'll get the real idea of what I'm speaking about.
I also had fun spiraling the loose, final edge around as you can see above, and picking a button to coordinate for the center of the spiral.
That's it! My guess is that creating this bowl from beginning to end would take about 5-6 hours of steady work. It is alot of the same function over and over - which does NOT push my creative buttons, so I don't do this type of thing very often. On the other hand, it is fairly mindless, so there ARE times when this is the perfect type of sewing to undertake.
For someone you love, ANY sewing is fun!