We needed an easy, creative activity today. We had snow, but not enough to entertain anyone more than 5 minutes outside. Just finger nipping cold, nose chilling wet. I don’t wish to sound greedy, but can someone send us enough to make a snowman next time, please?
After a very short time, everyone retreated inside. Queue activity to head off the requests for screen time.
I love making patchwork bookmarks. It uses up teeny, tiny scraps of fabric, which I cannot bring myself to throw away. Also, there is no right or wrong with it. Perfect as a beginner project or one for children to do, or, to be honest, anyone who likes making fun, pretty things. So long as the scraps overlap each other and more than cover the piece of felt, practically anything goes. I like to quilt as I go and this is a brilliant way to practise the technique.
This is how we do it.
a bundle of little scraps of fabric
a strip of felt, cut 20cm x 5cm (8″ x 2″) approx
a piece of fabric 21cm x 6cm (8.5″ x 2.5″ ) for the back
small piece of ribbon
sewing equipment (scissors, sewing machine, pins, knitting needle, tape measure or ruler)
Each scrap of fabric needs to have straight edges to keep this project on the easy side. They also need to be at least 1cm wider then the narrow width of the felt piece.
Step 1: Arrange pieces of scrap fabric on top of the felt strip, making sure the edges of the scraps are overlapping each other by at least 0.5cm (1/4″).
Step 2: Take the first scrap of fabric. Right side up, position it overlapping the top of the felt by 0.5cm. Now this part is slightly tricky. Channel your inner school maths self and think rotations. Imagine a sewing line on the scrap (big, bold, arrowless lines in pictures above), 0.5cm from the edge. Now, flip the scrap on to the wrong side, along the imagined line. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Step 3: Sew along the sewing line. As shown, above left. Fold the fabric up, so the right side is now showing, and iron the fabric in the direction of the arrow in the picture, above right.
It’s plain sailing from now on.
Step 3: Putting right sides together, and lining up the edges, sew the next scrap to the first one. As shown above. You are sewing through the felt as well. Flip the second scrap down and iron it.
Repeat for all the other fabrics, until the felt is covered. Overlap the lower edge of the felt by at least 1cm (0.5″)
Step 4: Putting right sides together, line up the bookmark with the backing fabric. Sew around 3 edges, just catching the edge of the felt. Leave the bottom short edge open.
(Tip: at the start and the end of stitching, sew back over your stitches. This stops them pulling apart when you do step 6.)Step 5: Clip the excess fabric around the edge and clip the corners.
Step 6: Turn the bookmark the right way round, by pulling it through the open edge. Use the blunt end of a knitting needle, or a stick, to push the corners into a point. Take care not to push through the corners and make a hole.
Step 7: Iron the bookmark and tuck the unstitched ends back into the opening, as if to hide them. Push the ends of the ribbon in too. Pin in place.
Step 8: Topstitch along each of the four edges of the bookmark.
Step 9: Iron, and then slip bookmark into your current book.
All three children (9, 12 and 14) loved this activity. They really got into the selection stage, and the chance to use my old sewing machine. The one aspect of this activity you can guarantee is, that no two bookmarks will ever look quite the same. Colour, fabric and wonkiness just add to the charm.
These make great gifts, especially when giving a book. Often thought they would work well as a Father’s day present or teachers thank you gift. So easy that several can be made in one afternoon.
Hope you have fun making one. I’m off to check if it’s snowing again. Fingers crossed.
It’s no secret. I love hand sewing. I love the rhythm of sewing tiny little stitches over and over again. Sometimes I will sit and listen to the radio or one of the children reading out loud. Sometimes I just love to listen to the sound that the thread makes as its pulled through the fabrics. A calming sound and a time to mull.
Over the summer, I’ve been hand sewing new covers for our kitchen cushions. The old ones are passed their best before date. They have not so much as fallen to bits as changed colour. Light blue has turned a mottled grey. The result of washing rather than being dragged through mud. Oh, the irony.
My girls have been closely watching me sew. They have sat at my side. Telling me that they would like a go. They’d like to be part of this cushion project.
OK. They’ve both already completed one patchwork project. Each have sewn a small cushion made with four squares. I knew that a kitchen cushion would be more of a challenge. After all, these need to be finished and be fit for purpose. Hmm.
First obstacle was to ensure that the squares were squares, with recognisable right angles. At each corner, without me taking over. First part of the solution was to use english paper piecing. The paper template would keep the shape.
Still needed a reliable square template for them to use. I could see problems with them creating 36 identical squares. So I printed out sheets of the right size squares. To strengthen the templates, the girls glued each sheet to a magazine cover and carefully cut out the 36 squares.
Then time to select fabric. How I remember the fun of looking through my mother’s or sister’s fabric collections. Maybe you have to be a fellow fabric fanatic to understand, but it is time to enjoy.
Now, all the cushions are going to be different, but within a constrained colour palette, so I dug up a selection. They could choose two or three prints to go together.
Next I showed them how to fold the fabric around the template and stitch it. They found the template a little too thick and after a few pricked fingers they put their patchwork down and disappeared. Hmm. I need these covers finished not hanging around as a long term work-in-progress.
Rethink. I popped into our wonderful local quilt shop and picked up a fabric glue pen. Once I had shown them how to use it, they prepared their squares with breath taking speed. Cushion project back on schedule.
After deciding how they were going to arrange their squares, they began to sew. Tiny little stitches. I keep finding them curled up in chairs sewing.
In the quilt shop, the lady had told me that we would need to wash the fabric in order to separate the paper templates from the fabric.
To check this out, I used the glue to prepare my next set of squares. When it came time to remove the paper, it was really easy. Gentle tugging removed the paper template in one piece. Very similar to using freezer paper, which I may opt for next time. I’ll still wash the finished cushion covers to get rid of any residual glue, but it’s no way as messy as I first thought.
The backs of the original cushions are still perfect, so I will re-use them to make the new covers.
Two patchwork fronts done and three to go. I’ll post the finished cushions.