Saturday, 5 October 2013

Felt baskets how-to (from my book 'Make it Your Own'!)

I thought it would be nice to share one of the how-to projects from my book, here on my blog, so here's how to make some machine embroidered felt baskets! (If you don't have a sewing machine you can absolutely make this project by hand, it'll just take a while longer!)

The first chapter of 'Make it Your Own' is all about organising and storage, and this is a great quick project for organising all of your little bits and bobs!

All text and images are taken from my book 'Make it Your Own'

And if you enjoy making this project, why not come along to one of my workshops! (don't forget to use code 'SMUG' at the checkout for 20% off!)

Machine-embroidered Eco-felt Baskets

I absolutely love woven baskets, but basketry is a skill I’m yet to possess – it’s on my list of things to learn! What I’ve tried to create here is a textile alternative. These baskets are lightweight and portable – ideal for storing the little things I use all the time, from thread in my studio to spare candles in my front room. Felt is the perfect material for this project: it’s easy to sew but gives the baskets a firm enough structure so that they hold their shape.

Materials and Equipment

The quantities given here are for one basket. The colours you choose will really bring out the detail, so be sure to use felt in contrasting colours (with a brighter colour for the inside) and use threads that will show up well against your outer colour.

- 2 sheets of eco-felt in contrasting colours, at least 23 cm x 23 cm (9 inches x 9 inches)
- Cotton thread in a range of colours 
- Cotton thread to match your outer felt colour 
- Cotton thread to match your inner felt colour

- Tailor’s chalk
- Ruler
- Scissors
- Sewing machine 
- Pins
  1. Using your tailor’s chalk, mark out a 23 cm (9 inch) square on each of your sheets of felt. (If you are making lots of baskets you may find it quicker to make a square template from a piece of card or paper and draw around this). Cut out your two squares along the chalk lines.

  2. Thread your sewing machine with your first choice of coloured thread. Use the thread matching your outer felt colour for the bobbin (this means you won’t have to change the bobbin thread each time you change the colour of your main thread).

  3. Set your machine to a zigzag stitch (if your machine has a choice of zigzag sizes go for a medium or large one). Take the felt square you have chosen for your outer colour and sew a line of zigzag stitch across one end (it doesn’t matter which end you start with), 1 cm (3/8 inch) from the edge (see diagram A).

  4. Sew a second zigzag line in the same colour, 0.5 cm (¼ inch) underneath the first line.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 along the opposite edge.

  6. Now change to your next thread colour (you don’t need to change the bobbin colour) and sew another line of zigzag stitch 0.5 cm (¼ inch) underneath the second line. Do this on both edges.

  7. Now change to your third colour and sew a line of zigzag 0.5 cm (¼ inch) underneath the third line on both sides.

  8. Continue in this way, sewing one or two lines in each colour until you have 6 or 7 lines in the same colour order along both edges (see diagram B).

  9. Lay your square on a flat surface with the multicoloured stitching facing up. Fold your square in half so that the two edges with the stitching meet, and pin along the short sides (see diagram C).

  10. Set your machine to a standard straight stitch and thread with the same coloured thread as your felt. Sew along the short sides, 1 cm (3/8 inch) from the edge, removing the pins as you go.

  11. Now we need to square off the bottom corners to create the basket shape. (I was a bit daunted by squaring off corners when I first started sewing, as it looks a bit like some kind of complicated origami fold, but once you’ve done one it’ll seem like the simplest thing on earth!) Hold your little felt ‘envelope’ in front of you with the open edge facing up and one of the seams pointing away from you. With both hands, place your thumbs inside and pull the two sides of the envelope away from each other. Allow the end seams to flatten down, keeping them central, so that they align with one another in a straight line and you end up with a triangle at each end (see diagram D).

  12. From the tip of the triangle, measure 5 cm (2 inches) along one of your seams and mark this point with tailor’s chalk. Then, using this mark as a guide, draw a line all the way across, at a right angle to the seam (I judge the right angle by eye, but you could use a set square if you’d like to be exact). Pin along this line (see diagram E).

  13. Repeat this on the other seam, then sew along your pinned lines (with a straight stitch), removing the pins as you go.

  14. Cut your triangle corners away 1 cm (3/8 inch) from the lines you’ve just sewn (see diagram F).

  15. Now turn your basket inside out, so that the seams are on the inside – the outside layer is complete!

  16. For the inside layer of your basket, take your second square of felt and follow points 9 (it doesn’t matter which edges meet as there’s no embroidery) to 14, leaving the seams on the outside this time.

  17. Now you’re ready to put your two layers together. Sit your inner layer inside your outer layer and press into the corners, so that they fit neatly together and all the seams are between the two layers. Your inner layer will stick out a bit at the top but this is fine for now.

  18. From the outside, pin the two layers together along the top edge.

  19. Set your machine to the same zigzag stitch you used earlier. Thread your bobbin with thread the same colour as your inner layer, and use one of your other colours for the main thread.

  20. Stitch your two layers together around the top edge of your outer layer, removing the pins as you go.

  21. Trim any overlapping excess felt from the top of the inner layer close to the top of the outer layer, to give a neat edge. It’s fine if the inner layer overlaps by a tiny bit – in fact, a little rim of the brighter colour showing over the top looks great!

Make it your own

- I chose a simple design of zigzag rows for these baskets, inspired by the woven baskets I’d been admiring, but there are all sorts of other ways you could decorate yours. Depending what stitches your sewing machine can do, you could still go for rows but choose more elaborate stitches, or you could freestyle with your stitching and create all kinds of patterns or images.

- It’s really easy to vary the size and shape of these baskets. Just play around with the size of the squares and how far you square off the corners to create baskets with different proportions.

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