Monday, 26 December 2016

A few thoughts on sewing the Honeycomb Basket by Beth Studley

As I'm now on Christmas hols I've had more time for crafts, and over the last few days I've put together the Honeycomb Basket by Beth Studley.  I cut this out from two batik fabrics in my stash and using Bosal for the stiffener.

It's a great design concept and I'm quite pleased with the outcome, which thanks to the Bosal and close quilting, is quite sturdy.

I had a little Google and I couldn't find any notes from other people making this project, apart from one test maker for the designer. So I thought it might be useful to jot down a few thoughts in case they help future basket makers. I'm assuming you have the original pattern and instructions.

Preliminary cutting out: If I were making it again, I would ignore the instructions to cut out 21 separate pieces for the seven pockets. This was time consuming and inevitably (for me anyway) resulted in pieces that weren't identical so didn't exactly stack into identical sandwiches for quilting.  Quilting was also fiddly as you had to go close-to-but-not-over the edges of your sandwiches and also avoid the pins needed to hold the sandwiches together.  I would instead trace three pairs of pockets onto Fabric 1 aligned along the straight side (so each pair would look a bit like a butterfly) and cut around each pair at least one-inch away from the traced line, resulting in three rough rectangles of Fabric 1.  I would then sandwich those three rectangles with equal rectangles of Bosal and Fabric 2.   Similarly I would trace and rough-cut  the seventh central compartment and sandwich it up.

Quilting: I found it much easier and faster to free-motion quilt the wavy lines, but by tracing pairs as above, you could quilt a pair of pockets at the same time, quilting right across the two pocket compartments and turning around in the spare fabric beyond the traced line for the top and bottom.  But do NOT quilt outside the two traced sides of the pockets as we need to keep the spare fabric at the sides unstitched for the next step.

Final cutting out:  You need three pockets with an inch-wide flap in Fabric 1, and three pockets with an inch-wide flap in Fabric 2.  Cut out your pockets on your traced lines but on three of them, cut Fabric 1 an inch wider while cutting the Bosal and Fabric 2 on your traced line. Reverse this for the other three.  For the central compartment, leave a one-inch flap on whichever fabric will be the outside of the compartment (which isn't seen on the finished basket).

Darts - these need to be marked on the lining fabric of each pocket so using the above method, you would need to mark and sew the darts after the quilting step, not before.  Pre-quilting might shrink up the pieces a little but I don't think it would be too much because of the Bosal foam adding stability, so I don't think (without testing I can't be sure) that it would affect marking the darts much.

Top binding: I would still sew the binding on the top edges by hand as directed, but I would cut the shaped binding strips a little wider by adding a fat eighth inch on either side as I cut out. I also wouldn't bother with the mitred seam as this only works if the binding is exactly the right circumference to match the pocket (you sewed the pocket darts exactly the right width).  I would pin the binding round roughly to see where a normal straight seam needed to be made to join the binding, and I would position this seam offset from the covered back pocket seam to reduce bulk. The binding seam is mostly hidden in the finished result so this worked fine.

Shaping the central compartment: I was measuring and remeasuring and couldn't get my central pocket to divide into even three-inch segments, then I realised that the divisions need to be made to line up with the 'valleys' of the scalloped edge.  So just do that and don't worry about the three inch measurements for each segment. I think mine were 2 3/4" and they fit the pockets just fine.

Bases: The pattern instructions likewise call for a one-inch flap to be left for folding over the raw seam edges inside the pockets at the base.  I found this extremely fiddly: the loose flap got in the way while seaming the bases to the pockets,  and wasn't wide enough to easily fold over the raw edges afterwards. Following the instructions results in the folded edge of the flap ending up on 'top' so it is on view when you look into the pocket.  I tried sewing the flap down by machine but as you have to pleat the flap to get it to lie flat, it looked really messy.  So I sewed all seven base flaps down by hand. This took a long time, was fairly difficult as the flap wasn't wide enough and the Bosal not easy to stitch into, and I ended up with cramp in my hand for a couple of days.   And you are still looking at the messy pleated result when you look into the pocket.  I was trying to think of a better way to do this.  I think if I were to do it again, I would just trace the Pocket Base Template six times onto Fabric 1 in a tight grouping, trace the central compartment base template as well, then sandwich this and quilt them all at once. Then I would cut them out on the traced lines: no flaps.  Then I would seam the bases into the pockets.  To cover the raw edges I would cut 1 1/4" bias binding from the appropriate lining fabric (Fabric 1 or Fabric 2 to match the lining of the pocket), and stitch this down onto the pocket side of the base seam. Then when you fold the bias binding around the raw edges (like binding a quilt), your folded edge is going to be on the 'bottom' side of the raw edge, which will be hidden from view when you look into the pocket.  So I think you could then machine it down without worrying about the messy look because it will all be hidden (or you could still hand sew it down but it will be easier because the bias binding will fold better and will be wider).

Final joining: the instructions suggest that it is tricky to join the basket together by machine.  I actually found this quite straightforward and gave a neat result.  I was able to easily join all the pockets to the central compartment, sewing just in the ditch of the binding for an unobtrusive seam, and I sewed the 1 1/2" joining seam between pockets the same way.  Make sure you put a stronger needle into your machine to go through all the layers, I used a 90 sharp needle. Seaming the pockets was slightly trickier as you must flatten down the central compartment to get your needle into the starting position to sew outwards along the pocket for 1.5", but it certainly wasn't hard.

So there you are. I hope these thoughts might make the job easier for another person, and if I make another basket, this is how I would do it.

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