Sewing: stiff baskets

One of the perpetual problems of sewing, is having enough storage space.  It’s easy to let fabric ownership run away from you — not for no reason do so many sewists have the phrase, “She who dies with the most fabric, wins,” in cross-stitch somewhere in their studio.  Some even get it tattooed on the heart.img_6462

For my own part, I’d rather turn fabric into things.

So, about a year or two ago, I made some fabric baskets, using Grete’s basket pattern. Some of them, I used interfacing or batting to stiffen their innards; some I didn’t use interfacing. A year later, and the interfaced ones are still standing up; the others have collapsed in a sunken mess, and don’t hold nearly as much, or as usefully, as those with some stiffening inside them.

In the first photograph here, both of the baskets on the right — the gold one, and the dark abstract daisy pattern with the brown lining, were made a year ago, and neither contains interfacing.  But! The one on the left is standing up!  How did I do that??  How did I get that basket to recover??

repaired baskets
I happened to make the basket on the left, which has a charming “Dia de los muertos” theme going on, but with Star Wars faces instead of skulls. I bought this fabric for my gaming group a year ago, and made everyone dice bags to celebrate our continuing campaign playing Star Wars d20.  I liked that game, and I’m sorry that I had to bow out.

But I needed more baskets — because fabric remains accumulate each time you do a new project.  Kimono, komebukuro,  science haori, you name it… it seems that you acquire remnants.  Alas.  That Star Wars print was the right size of remnant, as was the chunk of abstract Death Star inside of it.

When I was done making that basket though… because the interfacing was just a little too thick… the basket bulged at the corners and didn’t stand up very well. So I pinched the corners, sewed a straight seam, and built a little ‘column’ into the corner of the basket.

Worked like a charm. The basket stands upright, with square-ish corners.  And more importantly, if gave me the idea to add these same columns to my slouchy baskets. Again, worked a charm.  Baskets that couldn’t hold much, now can hold quite a lot.  The tables have indeed turned, and I have a chance to whip some rather tediously slouchy baskets  into shape, and make them useful again.

More than that, though, I got the idea in part from something Twitter user @arnemancy and I were saying before recording an episode of his podcast, My Alchemical Bromancewhich is that sewing is ‘just’ floppy geometry.  If a garment (or a basket) is too floppy, introduce a limitation or a boundary — draw a line with your sewing machine, and thus create a pinch in the geometry.

And so you can see the results of this alchemical insight — floppy baskets are corrected by a new kind of assembly, a column of stiffened fabric as a result of a single seam. For the price of the time needed to make one new basket, and some thread, I’ve given about six old baskets a new lease on life.

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    • Thanks. That ‘column at the corner’ really makes them more useful, though, even without interfacing or batting.

  1. I’m going to write this down in my copy of the Cosmic Doctrine, when it brings up the necessity of limitation.

    On a more mundane note, I suppose you could put something like a pencil, or a column of tightly rolled paper-machier for even more structural strength.

    So, what episode are you featured in? 🙂

    • The episode is not out yet. I’ll let you know when it appears.

      Yes, you could… but adding paper-mache to the structure means that the basket becomes less-washable. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to consider before building it in to the basket.

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