Friday 16 September 2016

Tartan panel for pouches or baskets - a tutorial

A full list of my tutorials can be found on the Tutorials page.

Recently, I have made my own version of the 1 hour basket.
A (free) tutorial for the 1 hour basket used to be available on Craftsy, and as the title says it is a fast make. The basic basket uses just two fabrics, one for the outside, one for the lining, and construction is straightforward. I would think most (somewhat) experienced sewists would indeed make such a basket quickly, if maybe not quite in one hour.

For the recent Summer Swap organised by the Modern Quilters Ireland it was decided that we were making a 1 hour basket for each other. Of course (!) I am not one to make a simple basket, though.
My partner indicated a few of her likes, but I found it very hard to decide what to do to make the basket interesting.

The Design

In the end I went and got out my design pad and pencils, and started drafting some ideas. Putting anything on paper seems to get the ideas flowing, isn't it odd how the mind works?! I went from curves and circles, to squiggles and improv, and on to checks and tartans! I started to like the ideas better and better... Then I decided to put a twist on it, and put the tartan at an angle. A firm idea settled in my head:

I played around with the details some more. I wanted to include a larger repeat while the pattern needed to be large enough to still sew, so I drafted the tartan a few times to different sizes on a scale image of the visible part of the basket panel (not including the part that would form the base) to get the proportions right:

I then worked out how to go about sewing it. Strip piecing was the obvious solution since I didn't fancy sewing each individual little piece for fear of losing it (down the throat of the machine even!), or losing track of where each piece was to go. Unpicking such tiny pieces would result in having to throw them away and cutting anew, too.

Constructing the Tartan Panels

Two strip sets were made:

In this case the left strip set was with 1" grey strips and 2" yellow strips (cut sizes), and the right strip set was made with 1" yellow and 2" red strips, using alternately a dark and a lighter red.
Then the sets were cross-cut, and sewn together again into a large panel. The yellow/grey set was cross-cut 1" wide, and the yellow/reds set was cross-cut 2" wide.

I had worked out what size my panel needed to be, and I stitched the panel to be larger than needed. After a while I did cut some of the angle at one side to make sure I made the panel long enough at the edge, and then continued until I had enough tartan made for my basket:

Pressing in between the construction steps was absolutely essential. At first I thought that opening the seam allowances would be best, since it would reduce bulk. But after sewing only one cross seam I had to conclude that it was near impossible to match the cross seams that way (that was the only time that the seam ripper came out). So I went back and pressed my seams alternately left and right for one strip set, and alternately right and left for the other strip set. This made my seams nest perfectly, just what I wanted!
After sewing the cross seams I went back and alternated the direction of the seam allowances in each cross patch, making sure that the seam allowances at each corner were lying in a circular direction. A lot of fiddling, and precision pressing, but perfect results!

From the large panel I cut two strips to the size needed for the basket, one for each side:

After joining them with a top and bottom panel of the background fabric, I ironed on interfacing to the back for some firmness, and layered it up with wadding. The layers were secured in place by a line of "in the ditch" stitching along the panel seams:

Hand quilting a few lines with perle cotton finished the parts for the basket:

The pieces for the basket were only cut to size after the stitching was finished, though I left the last hand stitches at the very edges of the pieces until after they were trimmed to avoid cutting through the thread!

Constructing the Basket

Putting the basket together after all this was a very quick job in comparison!
Saying that, I DID add some small improvements to the construction:
- I shortened the handles from 9" to 8" since I found the longer size gave quite long, floppy handles
- I had the fabric for the handles interfaced (I used some offcuts of the main fabric panels, so that was quite by accident) and I was glad I did
- I "back stitched" the lining to the top seam allowance (I'll have to do a technique post for that, it's great!) which made it much easier to turn the top over neatly - see upper stitching line at the top of the lining only in image below
- I top stitched the edge of the basket a bit lower than the instructions suggested, it meant that the top stitching was hidden in the seam between the panels - see lower stitching line in the lining in image below - neither of these construction lines of stitching distract from the clean lines of the outside

So there you have it:

I was so happy with the result that I found it hard to send it on its way, but I can tell you that my partner was very happy to receive it, and that's what it's all about isn't it?!

Though I may have to make another one to keep!

Happy sewing (of course)!



  1. Super instructions, and this could well be the new " 2 hour basket" or longer. Love the way you offset that panel, and a wonderful gift.

  2. Your panel was a very clever idea! If it were me I would definitely need to make myself one next.

  3. That's just stunning! Great idea, fab colors and superb execution. I must give a try some day, though I know my seams won't match as perfectly((

  4. Your piecing is fabulous Sandra! The panels added the most impressive touch to your baskets and I love the colors!


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