Zippy pouches and fear

I’ve been making zipped pouches recently using my own free sewing tutorial. I need the pattern to be totally fresh in my head because I am teaching a zipped pouch workshop at Hollies Haberdashery next Saturday morning.

Zipped pouch by Very Berry Handmade from free tutorial

I’m looking forward to helping my students get over that awful fear of zips that seems to afflict so many people. In response to the first blog post in my series on unlocking creativity in your sewing, Helen pointed out how strange it is that something that is supposed to relax you can actually be a cause of stress.

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On the same day that I read Helen’s comment, I also saw a passionate post on the UK Quilters group on Facebook from a lady who teaches free motion quilting (a definite source of stress to me) pleading for people to come to her classes ready to relax and enjoy FMQ instead of arriving all fearful and tense.

My experience of teaching so far tells me how important it is (and how tricky it is!) to help people relax. Maybe evening lessons with a large glass of wine to hand is the answer 😉

Pouch by Ali Burdon of Very Berry handmade for class
I added a zip pull to this version of my zipped pouch (sadly we won’t have time for this next Saturday) – if you want to have a go, I have a tutorial for making a fabric zip pull too.

I’ve been musing on all this, and of course, it’s not really the sewing that is the problem, just our fear of messing up and making a mistake. And of course, in the class situation there’s that rather nasty fear of messing up in front of a group of people you don’t know, and the scary teacher person (although I hope I’m not too scary)…

There’ll be more about sewing-related fears (which is an epic subject for me!) and ways to let them go, in Monday’s blog post in my creativity and sewing series.

Tutorial: Sew a simple fabric basket

Tutorial for simple fabric basket by Very Berry HandmadeHere’s a simple sewing pattern for a pretty and practical fabric basket, using Bosal-in-R-Form fusible foam interfacing to give the completed basket a sturdy sides, without any crunchy stiffness. This tutorial is really great for beginner stitchers, as the sewing involved is quite easy – the basket and lining are cut all in one piece, and the Bosal interfacing is easy to work with. So I’ve written the sewing tutorial with beginners very much in mind, and used a generous seam allowance of 1/2inch to allow for any mistakes – if you are more experienced sewist, just enjoy the nice relaxed sewing experience of working with generous measurements!

If you want to print the sewing pattern, the easiest way is to download this PDF:

Fabric Basket Sewing Pattern – Step by Step instructions – PDF

Note – if some of this seems a bit familiar, it’s because the last part was published as a mini-tutorial previously. Lots of people have asked me for this pattern though, so I thought I would share the whole thing… generous soul that I am! 

Pattern notes

  • The finished basket will be approximately 10 inches long, 7 inches wide and 5 inches deep.
  • This pattern works best with non-directional fabrics.
  • The seam allowance is 1/2 inch unless otherwise noted.
  • Press all fabrics before you start.
  • You will need some single-sided fusible Bosal In R Form, which is widely available for example at Lady Sew and Sew. It seems a very odd product when you get it out of the bag, but don’t be dismayed, it is brilliant to work with and creates really firm sides for your basket. The fusible side of Bosal is the rough side. Once the fabric is fused to the Bosal, it will crinkle a bit as you work, but these iron out very nicely once you have finished your project.

Cutting list

  • Cut 1 piece outer fabric measuring 19in by 22in
  • Cut 1 piece inner/lining fabric measuring 19in by 22in
  • Cut 1 piece single sided fusible Bosal In-R-Form measuring 18in by 21in
  • Cut 1 piece woven iron-on interfacing (Vilene G700 is a great choice) measuring 19in by 22in.

Step 1
Cut squares measuring 5.5in from each of the 4 corners of both pieces of fabric, the Bosal and the interfacing.

Step 2
Place the rough side of the Bosal, positioned centrally, against the wrong side of the piece of outer fabric. There should be an approximate half inch overlap all the way round.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 1 - showing layout of Bosal interfacing

Pin the Bosal into position, with just one pin near the edge of each of the four sides – like this:

Fabric basket tutorial - step 2 - showing how to pin Bosal interfacing

Flip this over so that the fabric is on the top, and take it to the ironing board. Remember, the fabric must be uppermost – NEVER iron directly on the Bosal.

Using a wool setting and no steam, and with gentle pressure, iron the middle section, smoothing the fabric out towards the edges and fusing it to the foam. Once the middle is secure, remove the pins and finish fusing the fabric, remember to carry on pressing from the middle towards the edges to avoid wrinkles and bobbles.

Step 3
Apply the interfacing to the wrong side of the lining fabric. Use the cotton setting and steam and glide the iron over interfacing, applying gentle pressure, 5 or 6 times.

Step 4
Take the outer piece, and bring two short sides of one of the corner squares right sides together:

Fabric basket tutorial - step 3 - showing how to sew the sides of the basket

Pin, then stitch with a scant half inch seam, reverse stitching at either end of the seam. You will be tempted to sew along the line of the Bosal – DON’T! Just ignore it (it might be a bit wobbly and keep to the scant half inch seam allowance and don’t worry if you sew over the edge of the Bosal or not). Repeat for the short sides at the other 3 corners. You will have to manipulate the basket quite a lot and the Bosal will wrinkle a bit. Don’t worry, this will iron out later on.

Step 5
Repeat step 4 with the lining section, this time making the seam a generous 1/2inch (this will allow the lining to sit more neatly inside the basket when finished).

Step 6
Keep the outer wrong side out and turn the lining right side out. Pop the lining into the outer, and CHECK to see that the seams all line up. Then take the 2 pieces apart again and trim the seams to approx 1/4inch.

Step 7
Keep the outer section wrong side out, and turn the lining section right side out again. Put the lining into the outer. Starting with the seams, line up the two pieces, pinning at the corners first, and then adding pins at the side. Insert the pins at right angles to the edge of the fabric. You can either finger press the seam allowances open, or press the lining seam allowance to one side, and the outer seam allowance to the other side.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 4 - showing how to sew the lining into place

On one of the long edges, mark a section of about 5-6 inches, to remind you to leave a gap in the seam in Step 8.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 5 - showing how to mark the turning gap

Step 8
Take the cover off the base of your sewing machine so that you can use the free arm. Manoeuvre the basket so that part of it is under the free arm so that you can sew round the edge.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 6 - showing how to stitch the top seam

Stitch round the edge of the basket with a 1/2in seam – reverse stitching at either end of the seam. Start stitching at the end of the marked section that you made, and finish when you get to the other mark.

Step 9
Turn the basket right side out through the hole you left in the top edge. Press the seam to create a sharp edge at the top of the basket. Fold the edges of the turning hole in, in the line with the rest of the seam and press. Pin or use a little washable glue to secure the edges of the turning hole.

Step 10
Position the basket under the presser foot of your sewing machine so that you can work on the INSIDE of the basket:

Fabric basket tutorial - step 7 - showing how to top stitch the basket

Adjust the stitch length to about 3mm. Leaving long tail threads, and without reverse stitching, stitch round the top of the basket, about 2-3mm from the seam edge. Work slowly, and stop frequently (with needle down) and manoeuvre the basket so that the edge of the basket sits straight under your needle – it will make all the difference to the finish. When you get back to the start, DON’T back stitch or overlap, leave long tails instead.

Step 11
Pull all the long threads through to the outer side of the top edge of the basket. Pull bobbin threads until the spool threads show (you can see the loops in the photo) then use a needle to pull them through.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 8 - pulling up the top stitching threads

Fabric basket tutorial - step 9 - pulling up the top stitching threads

Knot the threads in two pairs:

Fabric basket tutorial - step 10 - knotting the top stitching threads

Take a hand-sewing needle with a large eye, and thread up one pair of threads.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 11 - threading the thread ends

Make a large stitch along the line of stitching and pull the knot between the layers of fabric (in stitchy jargon this is called burying the knot):

Fabric basket tutorial - step 12 - showing how to bury the knot

Fabric basket tutorial - step 13 - showing knot has been buried between the layers of fabric

Snip off the loose threads:

Fabric basket tutorial - step 14 - excess thread snipped away from the thread ends

Repeat for the other two threads.

Fabric basket tutorial - step 15 - tying off the other set of threads

Fabric basket tutorial - step 16 - invisible finish for top stitching is completed

Finally, fold over the top edge of the basket and give it a really thorough pressing to finish. Here’s another version I made:

Showing completed fabric basket made with Michael Miller fabrics from a free pattern by Very Berry Handmade

Enjoy your sewing, and don’t forget, you can download the pdf for this free sewing pattern for this basket if that’s easier for you.

Mini-tutorial: Make Liberty print covered cotton reels

A mini tutorial on covering vintage wooden cotton reels with Liberty print by Very Berry Handmade

Making Liberty print covered cotton reels is a frivolous little project that’s just about enjoying fabric, colour and getting just a little bit sticky. No sewing allowed! The results are fabulous and they are so quick and enjoyable to make. It’s a chance to play with your favourite Liberty scraps and maybe some vintage cotton reels too. Spools or reels are pretty easy to get hold of with vintage sellers on Etsy, Ebay and Facebook, or you can pick them up in charity shops or thrift shops. Or if you can’t wait, my sponsors Cloud Craft have these sweet mini-spools which would look fabulous! Whilst you are there, I recommend getting some of this brilliant Hi-Tack glue, which is ideal for this project – and very useful craft glue indeed. You can get Liberty lawn at excellent low prices from my other lovely sponsors, Duck Egg Threads, so there’s really nothing stopping you… Here’s how my spools look in my lovely wooden display case, bought from my favourite Facebook vintage seller, Vintage Pixie Treasures, which is where I also got most of my wooden cotton reels – she has them right now!

Handmade Liberty cotton reels in wooden display case
I just have a few more gaps to fill in my display case! One of my Instagram acquaintances had the great idea of displaying the spools in a large vintage Kilner or Mason jar too – how great would that look?

So let’s going with my quick mini-tutorial for covering spools with beautiful Liberty lawn:

Step 1: Measure the central part of the cotton reel. This is quite a small reel and measures 7/8 inch, as you can see. I found that the standard-size old-fashioned cotton reels measured exactly an inch. Add half an inch to this measurement (to make 1 3/8 inch in this example), and cut a strip of fabric with this measurement and about 5 inches long (this will wrap round most reels, unless the one you have is very fat!).

Measuring Liberty lawn to cover a wooden cotton reel

Step 2: Wrap the strip around the reel (very roughly, don’t worry if it’s a bit haphazard) and mark where the fabric overlaps.

Cutting Liberty lawn to cover a vintage wooden cotton reel

Step 3: Trim the strip so it’s about a 1/2 inch longer than where you marked.

Folding Liberty lawn fabric to cover a wooden cotton reel part 1

Step 4: Make a fold at one end of your strip – between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch is about right, and press with a hot iron. I was a bit generous here!

Folding Liberty lawn to cover a vintage wooden cotton reel part 2

Step 5: Fold in the long edges a scant (i.e. just under) 1/4 inch and press with a hot iron. Mind your fingers!

Using Hi-Tack glue to stick Liberty lawn to a wooden cotton reel

Step 6: Use a great quality craft glue, like this one, to stick down the folds you have made.

Covering a vintage wooden spool with Liberty print cotton

Step 7: If you are using the Hi-Tack glue you can press it with a hot iron for a really strong hold and fast drying time.

Mini-tutorial covering a vintage wooden cotton reel with Liberty print

Step 8: Put lots of little dabs of glue on the cotton reel, and wrap the fabric strip round, starting with the raw edge.

Tutorial describing how to cover a cotton reel with Liberty print

Step 9: When you get back to the start, put a fair amount of glue at the end, and press into place to stick the edges firmly. You can use the tip of your iron to dry the glue quickly and easily, and it makes a super-strong stick too, but remember to mind your fingers!

And that’s it! Now make another… and another…. Here are my finished reels in glorious close-up. You can (and I have) used plastic reels – but they are a little more tricky because the glue soaks through the fabric a lot more (because the plastic is non-porous). The solution, is to let the glue dry a little before you stick the fabric to the spool, and be fairly sparing with it too.

Wooden cotton reels and spools covered in Liberty tana lawn prints