When Pat Sloan asked me to participate in The Splendid Sampler Sew-Along by designing an original block that signified my life as a quilter, I immediately knew I would design some sort of basket block. During my years of quiltmaking, I’ve made many basket blocks—both pieced and appliquéd. I love baskets—I use them for holding knitting, rug-hooking, and sewing supplies; I have a few antique baskets I treasure; and I’ve even learned to weave my own baskets.
That said, one type of basket I’ve never made—woven from reed or stitched in fabric—is a swing-handle basket. So I set my sights on designing one of those to share with all those participating in the Splendid Sampler. (You can download the pattern at The Splendid Sampler website.)
To make my block, you simply need basic patchwork skills. But the handle is appliquéd, and I thought it would be fun to share with you today the technique I used. Yes, I said “appliquéd,” but you can do it by machine and it’s really quite easy, once you know the secret.
- Start with a bias strip. Cut your fabric at a 45° angle to the straight of grain so that you’ll have the greatest amount of flexibility with the handle. I cut my strips 1″ wide by about 8″ long. (Don’t worry if the strip is too long; you’ll trim it later.) Fold the strip in half lengthwise, with the wrong sides together, and press.
- Use a drinking glass to mark the curve of the handle on the block. You can use a pencil or Frixion pen or whatever marking tool you like. The mark will be covered by the handle, so don’t worry about it showing up later.
- Place the prepared basket handle along the marked curve, with the raw edges touching the marked line and the folded edge of the fabric closest to the basket portion of the block. Let the end of the basket handle extend beyond the seam where the background meets the basket fabric.
- Sew about 1/8" inch from the raw edges of the handle and the marked line, starting exactly at the seamline between the basket and background fabrics. Gently ease the handle around the curve as you sew. Don’t stretch it or pull it too taut as you go. You’ll need to have enough ease to flip it up and over your stitching when you’re done. To create a nice smooth curve, be sure to lift your presser foot every few stitches so you can pivot as you sew. Stop sewing when you reach the seamline at the end of the curve.
- At the ironing board, fold the basket handle up and over the stitching. (I know, it seems like it just won’t work. But you can do it!) Use the tip of the iron to coax the handle over; use an awl if needed to hold the fabric in place so you don’t burn your fingers. Press the handle firmly in place; it may require steam. Make sure the block lies flat and isn’t puckered.
- Sew the folded side of the basket handle in place. You can stitch by hand if you like, or you can use a narrow zigzag stitch along the edge as I did. You can even use a straight stitch, sewing very close to the edge of the handle to secure it.
- Hand sew a small button to each end of the handle, just above the basket fabric. I left the ends of the handle loose; I snipped them off at a pleasing angle, which added a bit of dimensional texture to the basket.
And now, a moment many of you might be waiting for . . . a peek at The Splendid Sampler book!
Yes, just a small peek. But stay tuned, there will be more to peek at soon!
Thanks for visiting us at Martingale’s Stitch This! blog—be sure to subscribe to our posts so we can meet again soon. Happy basket making!
How far along are you in the Splendid Sampler Sew-Along? Tell us in the comments.