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.
“I’d like to do some sewing.”
I cannot lie. I do love that sentence. Especially when it is said by one of my children. For a split moment, I’m tempted to suggest all sorts of fun sewing projects, but I don’t.
“What would you like to sew?”
“I don’t know.”
She wanders away.
Darn. Have I missed my opportunity to encourage her? I should have said something else.
A few minutes later, she returns with a book. Phew. She was just checking out which book to use from our rather large library of beginner’s sewing. I’m impressed that she selected one so quicky. It usually takes me longer. I’ve been known to take all evening and still not decide.
“I’d like to make an owl.”
A good choice. We have all the materials. It is fairly simple. She can use the sewing machine. She selects the fabric I used for the bean bags.
“Would you like some help?”
“No thanks. I’ve got this one.”
For once, it feels good not to be needed. She knows what to do. Making changes as she goes along. I should have seen it coming, this independent spirit of mine. It is the same when she is baking. She doesn’t need me as much.
She’s pleased with her owl, and so am I. Her confidence is growing. She knows she can do it. Not just in sewing, but in so many areas of her life. It’s a joy to watch.
I wonder what she’ll chose to do next time.
This may look like a cushion, but to me it represents a lot more.
As the children get older they ask less and less for craft activities. They don’t seem to rush for a place at the table so often when I suggest making something. I miss some of the fun projects we’ve created together. I miss the enthusiasm and the way the projects never turned out as I imagined. Usually morphing into something more wonderful. More them.
Other interests take priority. When they are creative, they opt for their own ideas. Other influences. That’s fine. Occasionally someone will ask me to teach them how to knit or sew, but these requests are getting fewer and fewer. I don’t push. It is up to them.
So when one turns to me and says that he’d like to make a cushion and can he use the sewing machine for the first time….it harks back to the former days of making traffic cones or dragonflies. Be still my beating heart. I suggest embellishments. Not this time. I suggest fabric. Not this time. And no, he doesn’t want to add anything to it, to make it into a monster.
This time, it is all his idea. All I’m needed for is guidance with the sewing machine. Still. I’m involved and that’s good. Right?
I love that even when I show him how to pin the two layers together with the pins going towards the edge, he adds his own flair. The pins must make a pattern, even if they are temporary.
I showed him how to tack the layers together, so he wouldn’t have to dodge pins while machine sewing his cushion, or risk losing an eye as the pins or needles, or both, shatter on contact. It may be melodramatic, but at this point, he agreed to learn how to tack.
I smiled quietly when I realised that his grass stained knee, with mandatory hole, had made it into the picture. It shouts that he may be sewing but he is still the boy that likes to climb trees and skid along the grass. He can do it all.
There was also time to play with the stuffing. I now have numerous photos of the children using it to sport fuzzy moustaches and beards that touched their chests. Not forgetting eyebrows and cushion-cover hats, that finished off the look. By the end, they looked like they were auditioning for a bit part in the Hobbit.
The sewing machine stage went without a hitch despite my reservations. A different experience to teaching the two older children. This time, I did keep one hand hovering over the off switch. Not that I needed it, but I know that he doesn’t always stop when I tell him to. Better to be on the safe side.The project was very simple. It was the perfect vehicle to learn a few new skills, and now he has the cushion he wanted for his reading nook. He wants to make more. We’ll pick up a few cushion pads next time we’re in town. Maybe I can show him how to make an envelope cushion cover. If he’d like to.
And what have I learnt? I might be putting them off by pushing my own creative ideas on to them. I have a tendency to leap ahead to complicated projects and I expect others to be the same. As a teen, I learnt to knit by knitting an aran jumper with cable twists (still wear it). At the age of 9, I learnt to dressmake by making smocking dresses for my dolls. Anything else would have been boring. To me. Why walk when you can run, seems to be my creative motto when learning new skills.
I need to realise that my children are not me. As they grow more independent, they might quite like simpler or different projects where they can master the skill and also produce something to be proud of. They don’t need to add bells and whistles. They may want to focus on a different aspect to me. Their own creativity.
I need to remember to take a step back.
Do you know what? That is fine with me.