The first real project in Moebes' Stitch by Stitch is this roll-up picnic place mat with slots for utensils. Not a frequent picnic-er, I still wanted to make this as I thought it would be great for learning a few of the early lessons in the book, like bias binding and cutting a perfect square. Wracking my brain for another use for such a thing, I decided to make it for a toy holder for my nephew, who will be one this month (!).
I'm giving this project a "so-so" success rating: it wasn't an epic fail by any means, but I'm probably not going to be giving it away as a gift. It has too many learning flaws, and additionally is not truly all that useful.
Moebes is very excited about bias tape, and she managed to sell me on the whole idea as well:
"I make lots of this at once when I have time and store it for different projects,"she breezily proclaims, leading me to picture myself tucking away miles of adorable bias tape for kicky accents inside white shirts and around blankets. Continuous bias tape (CBT) is the way to go, according to Moebes, and she led me pretty successfully through making an off-center tube and slicing off a shocking amount of long stretchy tape. However, a few things went quite wrong, leading the bias tape to not give the polished look I'm seeking.
Moebes suggests a 3-inch bias tape for your first project, the large size easing the beginner into this, theoretically.
"I use my bias tape maker to keep my fingers from getting scorches, but you can press without one as well,"she advises.
My local Jo-Ann fabrics did not carry a 3-inch bias tape maker, so I picked up the biggest one they had: 1/2 inch. Oy, this is a big difference! First, my strips were a bit...wavy on the cut line, meaning that parts of them didn't get caught by the stitches and left gaps I had to go back and re-sew. Also, I left a 5/8" seam allowance, but my tiny bias tape would not cover this, so I ended up doing some creative trimming and forcing to get it to wrap around, which wasn't too pretty. Afterward, I found out that they make bias binder feet for your machine that do ALL OF THIS FOR YOU! May have to invest in one...
I detailed my bias saga to a friend at work who is a quilting goddess. "You should have brought it in!" she scolded. "Bias tape is easy. You don't need a bias tape maker or a foot, silly." (This is, at least, a lot more helpful than the Jo-Ann employee helping me find the bias foot, who said, "just buy the pre-made tape. Making this stuff is not as easy as they make it seem in the instructions." Thanks.)
I'm also pretty sure I have some tension issues with my machine. I was getting puckering, so I turned the tension down and now I'm getting knots underneath. This scares me, as I remember the first rule of sewing being "don't touch the tension knob," per my mother, so I think I might need to take my machine in for a check-up. Although, Moebes assures me via her first of many cute power phrases,
"You're the boss! (Not Tony Danza--YOU!) Don't let that machine sass you, or make you feel like you can't do this. You can. That's just a machine, and you're in charge!"
I think that I learned some pretty valuable lessons here, even though this project is kind of a throw-away. And Moebes does a pretty good job of making everything sound fun and inspiring, so I'm excited to move on to the next project: a lined tote bag. And boy oh boy, do I love a tote bag! Woot!