Thursday, January 18, 2024

Making Curved Basket Handles

Here is a repeat of a blog post from a few years ago on making basket handles - 

Everyone loves basket quilts, and every quilter probably has a basket quilt or two in her collection, don't you agree? I have an easy technique to tell you about today that I hope will get you started making one soon.

Baskets have always evoked the simple life and remind me of the past. For some of us, baskets are a great way to decorate our homes in a simple Country style. Long ago, there were so many uses for baskets, and they were especially such a part of nineteenth century life, that it’s really no surprise that they found their way into quilting patterns as well.

In earlier times, every home had numerous baskets and every basket had a role – there were egg baskets and berry baskets, laundry baskets and sewing baskets. Quilters in the nineteenth century had sewing baskets that had to be large enough to hold needles, thread, scissors, buttons and perhaps a small project or scraps of fabric.

I've made several small basket quilts and I especially had fun using some of my reproduction fabric scraps making this one that's in Remembering Adelia, my third book.

It's called Civil War Baskets and if you are inclined to use '30s fabrics or brights or batiks instead of reproduction prints like I did, guess what? It will turn out great. The nice thing about traditional patterns from long ago, like basket blocks, is that they are time-tested. They've been around for a very long time and are still being used today in contemporary quilts. So don't ever feel you have to be limited by MY fabric choices. Make it your own way.

If you're hesitant about making those handles for your baskets, or you're just beginning, never fear - here's a great method that takes away a lot of the stress.

It's pretty simple to make curved basket handles once you get the hang of it and you can use the same technique for vines and stems on other applique projects.

The first step is to cut your strip on the bias--which means that it's cut on the diagonal of the grain. I also like to use pressing bars, which are 12" long, heat-resistant plastic bars for making applique vines and stems. They come in a package with several bars of varying widths.

Cut a strip the correct width--for the Civil War Baskets in Remembering Adelia it's 1 1/4".

Fold the strip WRONG sides together and sew a 1/4" seam along the raw edge to make a tube. Cut the ends of the strip to the the correct length--for the Civil War Baskets it's 1 1/4" x 6". Trim the seam allowance a little to about 1/8".

Slide the rounded end of the pressing bar into the tube and press as you roll the seam to the middle of the tube. Press the seam in one direction. When you turn it over, the seam will be hidden. Remove the bar--CAREFUL, it gets very hot--and finish pressing the tube flat.

Now you're ready to shape the handle into the curved shape and pin it to the background fabric. Since the fabric was cut on the bias it will stretch easily. Find the center and pin. Then, using a blind stitch, sew in place, starting with the inside curve, then the outer so it doesn't pucker. I like to use 50 wt  Aurifil thread that matches the handle fabric and a John James Gold 'n Glide Applique Needle for the applique. Then just trim and follow the directions for your pattern to attach the handle section to the basket part. 

These handles were made with a 1/4" Clover Bias Tape Maker. They're a tiny bit narrower. See my previous post for info on that method.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Join the Sew Along Fun

Join me in making some sweet basket blocks for a small (or large) quilt in my Facebook 2024 Basket Quilt Sew Along. You'll find details and pattern instructions for a simple basket block in the FB group files and also on my website .

Choose a project from one of my books or patterns or try the free basic basket quilt in the files. This 4"  Baby Bunting block is one of three different basket blocks found in my Schoolgirl Sampler book, which is now on sale in my Etsy shop.

If you're looking to make a basket with handles, try one of my patterns on Etsy - 

I highly recommend the Clover Bias Tape Maker in 1/4" size for making bias strips for the curved handles.  

Make sure you purchase the 1/4" size (green).

From a 7" square, cut a 5/8" strip on the bias.

Insert the strip as shown.

Use a pin to push the fabric through the narrow slot to get it started.

Press as you slowly pull the folded strip through the tape maker.

As you press, the fabric will stretch slightly (because it was cut on the bias) and you can curve the strip into the handle shape you prefer.

Sometimes I pin the strip to my pressing mat and gently stretch it into the shape I want, then press it again with a little steam.

Tada!! Follow your individual pattern instructions to place the handle and applique it to the top portion of your block. You will probably have to trim it a bit or let the ends hang over and trim after you sew to the bottom portion. Better to have a longer strip and trim than one that's too short. I use tiny dots of Roxanne's Fabric Glue to hold the handle in place on the background fabric. Using a blind stitch and Aurifil thread in the same color as the handle, I begin the applique on the inside curve first and stitch the outer curve last. Try it! It's not as hard as it looks.

Here are some of the quilts our members made and are making - 

I've got several baskets made. just not sure how to set them yet. No rush. I have plenty of other things to to do and will try to get some more of these finished in the coming weeks. Have a good time! If you're in the FB group or on Instagram I'll enjoy seeing your progress.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Baskets, Baskets, Baskets

Who loves basket quilts??  The sew along will begin on Monday, January 15, 2024.  Look for details here and in my Facebook group on that day. I'll post directions for a simple 4" basket block (below) and some suggestions for making a small quilt using this block in the group files. I'll also post it on my website  - Country Lane Quilts. Look for the Basket Sew Along page and just download the pattern file.

If you love basket quilts and have any of my books, there are a few patterns in some of them. (Take a look at my previous post from last week.) Schoolgirl Sampler alone has 3 different small basket blocks and a pattern for a scrappy Posy Basket quilt. So you can choose one of those as an option instead. 

One of the most popular basket quilts is always my Civil War Baskets quilt from my oldie but goodie book Remembering Adelia.  Since it's an old book and hard to find now at a decent price and my publisher is no longer in business to offer digital versions, I decided to recreate this as a single pattern.  

Go to my Etsy shop to see this and some other basket quilt patterns. One thing I should mention is that if you purchase this pattern you should also buy a Clover Bias Tape Maker in the 1/4" size. 

Perhaps you have your own method for making curved strips for handles, stems or vines and that's fine, so no need to buy the Clover tool. But if you're new to making appliqued handles, I think this is a great tool for making them. While my original book also has good directions for making your own bias strips, and that's how I made mine for that particular quilt, I now recommend this Clover tool for the handles because it is so much easier. So the pattern does not include the exact same directions for making the handles as the book. Just a heads up. The directions and diagrams come with the tool. You can probably purchase one at your local quilt shop, craft store or on Amazon.

Hope you will join us!

Monday, January 1, 2024

Basket Quilt Sew Along 2024

Happy New Year, quilters! I wanted to let you all know that we'll be making baskets as a sew along/challenge in my Facebook group Kathleen Tracy Quilts this year. We've done this a few times over the years and it's always popular. We'll begin sometime in mid-January. Watch for details coming soon.

                      Who doesn't love a little basket quilt??  An oldie but goodie - Civil War Baskets.   

You'll have the option to make the basket quilt of your choice. I will give you instructions to make a basic 4" basket block and there are several patterns in some of my books for you to choose from as well if you'd prefer to make one of those instead. 

Here are some basket quilts to consider:

Posy baskets from Schoolgirl Sampler

Civil War baskets from my book Remembering Adelia.

Olivia Loves Baskets pattern is available in my Etsy shop.

Prairie Baskets is from my second book Prairie Children & Their Quilts.

Cherry Baskets

     Aunt Sarah's Sewing Basket

January always puts me in the mood to organize my fabric and scraps so  I'm hoping to get  a little of that done this week as I work out the details of the sew along. My sewing room's been neglected for awhile. It really needs to be cleaned up on a frequent and regular basis but last year really threw me off my game a bit so it just didn't get done very often. I find myself avoiding walking into that room right now . . . . So I'll grit my teeth and try to clean it up for a few minutes every day to keep my creative urges going in the right direction. It's a good idea to try this if you're thinking of joining me in the upcoming basket sew along. A clean space or table sometimes really makes all the difference and can feel like a fresh start. 

I hope you all have a happy New Year!