Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Baskets And Linings

Lining my yarn baskets was such the right thing to do - they are so much more user-friendly now (or do I mean yarn-friendly?) In the past there was friction, squabbling and fighting going on all the time in these baskets as sundry protruding ends of cane did their best to trip up or entangle any unwary ball of yarn quietly trying to mind its own business. Then the yarn wanted to get its own back and would try to get a stranglehold on a bit of the basket - I tell you, it was a war zone! Not good for either basket, yarn or my patience!

When I made these I thought I would post a little tutorial of how I did them just in case anyone else has a similar war zone and wants to bring in the peacemakers. It's taken me a bit of time for which I apologise but spurred on by Liz of Carolina Knits' kind mention in her post about her lovely new knitting nook here I have finally finished putting together what I did. It's not difficult and these instructions will probably be superfluous to you skilled needlewomen out there but just in case anyone would like them, here they are.

My linings are effectively liner bags with elastic tops to hold them in place over the outer edge of the basket. I like them like this for several reasons. Firstly the pattern is simple and making them like this is less fiddly than stitching fabric directly to the basket. Secondly they are easy to remove and wash and therefore they maximise flexibility of use of the baskets. Sometimes I evacuate yarn from mine and commandeer them for transporting / serving cakes or buns for example, in which case I don't want sticky stuff all over the fabric. Baskets themselves wash well if they get a bit dusty, sticky or grubby but the cane tends to bleed a bit in water and I don't want any of that murky brown staining my pretty fabric so it's better to be able to wash fabric and basket separately.

The fabric I used on this occasion was what's in the two pics below. It's a cotton fabric in a good weight and the prints are Japanese Echino ones. I bought it quite a while ago just because it was so lovely but I only bought a fairly small amount of each as it was quite expensive so there wasn't enough to make a skirt or dress or anything. The prints are quite big and I did worry about cutting into them especially the second as you don't get to see the full effect of the pattern but in the end I'm pleased I've used them rather than leaving them unused and buying something else. And there's a bit left over for another day. Use whatever your heart fancies / whatever you have in stock in your stash. I wouldn't use anything too thick or slippery though or you will have trouble with the gathering. A craft weight cotton is ideal.

What you need:
A basket obviously! I was given both of the ones I covered recently as presents that originally contained Christmas hamper-style goodies. They are rectangular with quite deep sides that lean outwards so that the open top of the basket is a bigger rectangle than the base. 
1 yard / 1 metre of fabric, give or take, depending on the size of your baskets. This was more then enough for mine which are both about 13" long at the base (15" long at the top), by 10" wide and 5" deep.
Matching thread.
Elastic -  width not too critical but nothing too wide and not thread elastic - this is too flimsy. About 1/3" - 1/2" wide. Length will depend on the size of your basket. I used about 35" for mine which have a perimeter of c 52"

What you do.

First you need to empty your basket and measure the base inside and the depth of the sides as well as the circumference of the outer perimeter of the basket at its widest point (on mine this was the perimeter measured at the top edge). Make a note of the precise dimensions.

Now you need to draw out your pattern. Assuming your basket is rectangular*, draw out in pencil a rectangle for the base to the exact base dimensions you noted when you measured. Add on 5/8" seam allowance all round and draw these lines in a felt pen or something else bold so that you know these are your cutting lines. I am probably stating the obvious here but I cannot tell you how many times I have drawn out a pattern and failed to remember to add on the seam allowance before cutting; so to avoid any of those potentially expensive and heart-stopping cutting mistakes I am erring on the side of too much detail rather than too little. Just in case!

You now need to make the pattern for the sides. Take your measurement of the depth of the sides and add on another 4" at the top and 5/8" at the bottom. This will give you the height of the rectangular strip you are going to need. To calculate the length, take your measurement of the circumference of the basket and add on half as much again. You need more length than you would think because of the gathering which takes up quite a bit of fabric and can look stingy if you use too little. Having said that you could easily lose a few inches without disaster if you are short of fabric or if you want a less full look.

Draw out the long shallow rectangular shape that your measurements will give you. You may need to tape some paper together to get it all on one piece. I use newspaper taped together with sticky tape as required.

Cut out the pattern pieces.

Choose your fabric and pin the pattern to the fabric and cut out.

You may find you want to piece together two, or even more, pieces of fabric to make up the strip that will make the sides depending on the dimensions of the fabric you've got. That's fine; pin and machine stitch together as many pieces as you need and press the seams flat. Check that you haven't short changed yourself by making sure that any pieced together panel is the full size of the pattern piece you drew out.

Take the side panel, whether made of one piece of fabric or several and with right sides together, stitch the short ends together. Press the seam flat. You now have a continuous loop of fabric. 

Now press under a 1" turning all along one of the long edges of the loop. Open this turning out gently and press along the edge another 1/4" turning. Fold the first turning you made back again and press the first fold, now with the 1/4" turning along its raw edge neatly tucked inside, again in place. This will make the channel for the elastic to go round the top of the basket and hold your lining secure. Stitch close to the pressed edge all the way round leaving a gap by the seam allowance so that you can insert the elastic in due course.
Stitching close to the pressed edge of the turnover for the channel for the elastic
along the long top edge of the side panel.
Now you need to create the gathers. I do this with a long stitch on my machine but you can do it by hand if you prefer. With either method you want to stitch gathering stitches 1/2" in from the raw edge all along the remaining raw long edge of the side panel. If you use a long stitch on the machine you will find that the fabric begins to pucker into gathers as you sew, starting the process that you will finish off by hand. 
Long machine stitches that are already beginning to pucker the fabric into gathers as you sew.
Pull gently on one thread at each end of the seam and ease the gathers that appear along as evenly as you can. Don't pull too hard because you don't want to break the thread. 
Here you can see I am pulling on the thread that is taut across the centre of the pic to make the gathers more concentrated.
What you want to do is gather up enough slack in the fabric to make the loop fit the circumference of the rectangular base panel. You will probably need to check and adjust as you go. Once it's more or less the right length, pin the perimeter of the base panel to the gathered edge of the loop, right sides together, adjusting to fit by tightening or loosening the gathers as you go. 
Gathers drawn up and the side panel pinned to the base.
If you turn the lining out so that you can see the right side, this is what it should look like at this point: 

I am not a great baster, generally being in too much of a hurry to bother with it but there are times when basting is Not An Optional Extra. This is one of them! Baste where you have pinned, with stitches that are not too big, along the line of the gathering stitches. If you omit this vital step it will all go horribly wrong when you come to machine stitch the two pieces together because the gathers don't necessarily stay where they are pinned without the extra anchorage of basting stitches. 
Gathers basted securely in position and ready for machine stitching.
Machine stitch 5/8" in from the edge all round the edge of the base rectangle. I stitch with the gathers topmost so that I can keep an eye on them and make sure they don't get caught up or in case anything else peculiar happens to them!
Machine stitching 5/8" in from the edge just inside the basting stitches.
OK now the bottom of the lining is complete.

You are on the home straight now! Cut a piece of elastic about 15" shorter than the circumference of the top of the basket. Attach the elastic to a large safety pin and begin to thread through the top channel of the lining. Before You Go Too Far, pin the other end of the elastic to just below the opening so that it doesn't disappear up the beginning of the channel while you are busy threading the other end!
Elastic secured with a pin one end while the other makes its way along the channel attached to a large safety pin.
Work the safety pin along the channel with the elastic and even out the puckering as you go. Once you reach the end, keep tight hold of both ends and secure them together with the safety pin. (Don't use an ordinary  pin, it comes adrift and you have to re-thread the elastic all over again!) Try the lining for fit and tighten the elastic by making more of an overlap of the two ends if you feel it needs it.

Once you are happy with the level of tightness, pull through a good bit of elastic through the opening to give yourself room to manouvre and stitch the two overlapping ends of elastic together with a zig zag machine stitch as in the pic. 
Stitching the elastic overlap together with a zig zag machine stitch.
My sewing machine is a bit elderly and not the most sophisticated lady on the block and she cuts up a bit rough about stitching elastic together so I help her along by putting a small strip of fabric under the elastic as I zig zag so that she doesn't get herself in a twist but if you've got a good modern machine you shouldn't need to do this.

Elastic overlap stitched together with zig zag machine stitch. You can just see the little strip of fabric I put underneath the elastic as I sewed the ends together to avoid mangling. 
Once the two ends of elastic are stitched together, stretch the top to ping the elastic back inside the channel and machine stitch across the opening to make a neat finish. 
Stitching across the opening in the elastic channel.
And voilĂ ! 

One lining all ready to go in as peace-maker and peace-keeper between basket and yarn!

* If your basket is oval or round, you can use exactly the same principle as for a rectangular basket. The only difference is in the drawing out of the base pattern piece which will obviously need to be whatever the curved shape of the base is. Make an accurate template shape to fit the base of the inside of your basket and draw this out again with your seam allowance added on all round. Then proceed as above. Simple!


  1. Your instructions and photos are wonderful! You are a fine stitcher, I can tell! I do have this wandering yarn problem. Time to tame.

  2. Lovely fabric and great tutorial! That's a really good idea.......mind I would need to have a huge basket to fit all the balls of yarn I seem to have collected.

  3. I love this! I am getting a sewing machine for my birthdayi n September and I have order two baskets for shoes and yarn. So this will be project no1!

    Love the fabric aswell! It's lovely!


  4. Ohh wow! How lovely! I have just ordered a basket for my yarn, and also one for our gardening shoes! I am definaltey going to try this to line them. I am getting a sewing machine for my birthday in septmeber.

    I lurrrrve the fabrics as well - they are so vibrant.

    Kate xx

  5. Thank you for posting a tutorial! As a novice stitcher, I am always very relieved when people make things nice and clear rather than assuming everyone knows what you mean. I love the fabrics you chose, so colourful. While perfect for yarn, I did think these would make excellent toy baskets for those pesky little playmobil and lego pieces that always go missing!

    1. Gillian, I don't think you can possibly call yourself a novice stitcher! Would that I were such a novice! Your idea about using lined baskets for Lego etc is an inspired solution for a perennial problem. Wish I'd thought of it when my son was small. I did have baskets for stuff but not lined and of course small wheels and tiny Lego components used to get stuck in the basketwork or drop through all the time.

  6. Great tutorial - i lined a basket last summer but it didn't quite fit - I can see from your photos now where I went wrong - Thanks a bunch! Judy.http://read-sew-crochet.blogspot.co.uk/

  7. I love this idea, if only I had a basket that needed lining! You've got me visualising all the different places in my room where I could potentially make use of something similar, as of yet I've drawn a blank, but i will come up with something!

  8. Thanks for the reference to my blog. I like how you showed all of the steps as a tutorial. I used a ribbon instead of elastic and made a buttonhole to pull it through. I think that the elastic would make for a more secure fit, though, and the basket could still be adorned with ribbon. (I've been attracted to buying ribbon lately--I guess I'm trying to get back in touch with girlie things in a house full of males.)

  9. A very useful tutorial, and I love the thoroughness of the directions:) I will be trying this as soon as I find a suitable basket.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.