Dressmakers often use a calico toile, or mock-up, as a way of checking the fit of a garment. An added bonus is it is a good way of practicing any tricky parts of the construction or identifying any problem areas because you’ve shredded your £20 a metre silk you’ve been cherishing for several years, awaiting the perfect project.
Toiles are nice and a good idea, but without a positive external influence (i.e. a teacher) it can be hard to motivate myself to do them. I find it can be intimidating working with beautiful fabrics as I want the sewing and construction to do them justice, when really what I need is more practice until I can sew straight seams in my sleep.
I’d seen some patterns for fabric baskets on Pinterest that I’d wanted to have a go at and thankfully found two wonderful tutorials that looked like it should be possible to follow. The first has a slightly weird inside seam, whereas the second has a rather elegant modification to use French seams for the inside, which I promise were not at all the most traumatic part of this project.
Now I had been thinking I should have a go at these in calico as I had no idea what interfacing was likely to work, how the dimensions were going to work out… but I decided at some point that I had enough material in the stash that, if I was going to invest the time to try and make it, I should probably just get on with it in some nice fabrics anyway as it seemed I was over the intimidation activation barrier for the project at this point.
I did pick a batik that I wasn’t incredibly attached too, though promptly changed my mind about part way through because it ended up looking awesome in the end. It’s good old boring Moda Spraytime as the lining fabric because I have no coordinating fabrics that aren’t batiks themselves and that would have potentially resulted in something a bit garish for even my tastes.
The beginning of the project all went very smoothly, even trying some free motion quilting with metallic thread. While relations between my Bernina and I have improved since I’ve realised it’s dietary requirements seem to consist of fresh needles every few hours, I was a bit hesitant to use the Gutterman metallic as it has a springy life of its own and isn’t as tame as the polycotton.
However, the only obstacle I had was my Prym Aquacolour white marker being dry and useless so I just ended up sewing it all on the fly. If you find free motion quilting horrible when you’re practicing on single cotton layers, try it on something that resembles a quilt with layers of cotton and interfacing. It’s so much easier to get something that doesn’t pucker (I guess I’d need a hoop for stretching out thin fabrics to do this?) and flows around the sewing machine.
My ‘design’ was far from artistic genius but it felt like fun doodling, which is what I was after. I really like free motion quilting and need to find some small projects that I can try some more deliberate designs on… I am sensing some more fabric boxes in my future, especially as this one was officially a prototype!
The actual box construction did go a little awry from this point. I managed to sew the correct corners together for the first side, and then for whatever genius reason I had at the time, decided that I was going to sample through trial and error every other possible incorrect combinations of seams I could think of… Admittedly I didn’t find the tutorial that clear for this step but let’s just say I had some excellent practice with the seam ripper.
After my moment of madness, sorting out the inner seams and rest of the box was relatively straightforward, although I maybe regret my choice of black thread as it’s very visible on the seams in the front. I ended up hand sewing on the little motifs, as I didn’t really have any buttons that looked suitable, but I think I prefer these! Does anyone know what they are called? They’re very cute and I could probably make them but they used to be so cheap at my local craft store that I never felt it was worth the effort to try!
There’s a few bits that could have been tidied up on the box and the flaps are not entirely symmetric but overall, it’s a very functional box. I went with H640 interfacing so the box stands up okay but is great for a game of ‘whack the box’ because if you squash it down it springs back up again. That gave me at least five minutes of amusement. I like the thickness but something a bit stiffer would help if you want to put items of any substantial weight in it.
This is a nice, relatively painless sewing project for the beginner and I’m looking forward to what improvements I can make in the next version!