Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Experiments in Containers

By-Jenny2


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I wrote a few weeks ago about Maya*Made's fantastic pattern for burlap buckets. After making quite a few of those for friends and family, I decided to adapt the straightforward pattern to make containers specifically suited to our household needs: baskets for the kitchen and a large hamper-like container for Ben's dress-up clothes and accessories.

Let's start with the kitchen baskets. We have a big white shelf above our sink and kitchen counter. It is large, cumbersome and not very sturdy. We live in a fairly urban apartment which means little storage space. We needed light-weight containers to make use of that shelf. To maximize the space, I decided on 3 10x10 inch baskets.

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I have a TON of burlap bags still, from my Craigslist find. I love the vintage and rustic look of containers made out of repurposed materials such as stamped coffee bags. I picked 3 different bags with varied prints and colors. I then drew my blueprints in my little crafty notebook. I made three basic changes to Maya's pattern: I made the bottom piece a square instead of a circle, I removed the handles and I made all measurements a big bigger -- except for the height which is slightly shorter.

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Here are the finished baskets. Not too shabby, what do you think? With hindsight, I would have used stiffer batting. The regular cotton batting is a bit too soft and makes the baskets slouchy. I wish they held up a bit better.

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Another thing I learned in the process is to leave the gap for turning my container on the less attractive or non-"featured" side. When I top-stitch the opening closed, I have a hard time going in perfectly aesthetic straight lines and it shows, especially when there is a print on the material.

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The process was quite straightforward and since I (fortunately!) did the math right, the result was fairly satisfactory. The baskets are used daily, are holding up quite well and are a great conversation piece!

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Now for the dress-up hamper... Calling it a fiasco may be an understatement!

I didn't have batting in the size I needed so I instead used a large piece of velvet that had been in my stash for years. I figured it was heavy weight, it would hold up well. Wrong!! But I'll get into that in a minute. I had leftovers from two fabrics that I'm using for other decorative aspects of Ben's room and decided to use those: a green canvas-type synthetic mix for the outside (I am making him roman blinds with that one -- and can I complain about how much I dislike sewing with synthetics? Yuck.) and a navy blue cotton plaid for the inside lining (planning on reading pillows out of that one).

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I adapted Maya's pattern simply by making the container slightly wider and much taller. The handles are also a big bigger. Otherwise I followed her directions... well, as much as that cursed velvet let me.

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Aside from making the sewing process an absolute nightmare (I broke 3 sewing needles, yes 3!!), the velvet ended up just weighing the whole container down so that it hopelessly collapses when empty. I should also add that I doubled up the velvet (really, what was I thinking??) and quilted this "batting" layer so that it would be as stiff as possible. It didn't help. (Note: I didn't take many pictures because the whole process was so unpleasant I didn't want to relive it by seeing my dismal handiwork in a picture show.)

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When it's full of dress-up stuff, the container holds up okay. Ultimately, it serves its purpose so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm certainly not proud of it, but it lives in a corner of the room anyway, so it doesn't need to be a masterpiece. I'll focus on other projects for the time being and maybe reassess this one later on.

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In summary: adapting patterns works -- and sometimes doesn't. It's all a learning process! Also, do not use velvet. It is evil. At least, do not count on it as adequate for batting purposes.

Make me feel better and share your own sewing fiasco story, would you? Or please share some good container tutorials!

Angel-mini-buttonDude, the kitchen buckets are so cool! I am impressed by your ability to adapt the pattern. I need to take more risks and be willing to "fail" more in my sewing. I hope you've sent Maya*Made a picture of your update, I'm sure she'd love to see it!

As far as the dress up clothes basket, I don't think it looks as bad as you think it does. Don't you think that you're always hardest on your own creations? And the reality is, not everything is going to look perfect. Like you said, it serves its purpose and the dress up stuff is not strewn all over the floor anymore, and that's not too shabby!


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