bookmarks are not boring!

Bookmarks don’t get enough credit, IMHO. They’re a great way to show off and use a small design, they’re a quick and personal gift for a friend, and they’re a chance for even the most fumble-fingered finisher to express her (or his!) creativity. In this weekend’s tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make three kinds of bookmarks – but don’t let yourself be hemmed in by my suggestions! Your imagination is your only limitation. 🙂

All the pictures can be clicked for a larger, clearer image.

the standard band bookmark

We’ve all seen them, we probably even have one or two of our own – a bookmark stitched on linen or Aida banding. The pre-made banding makes it incredibly easy to whip off a bookmark in an afternoon. Using scraps of linen can not only put you on your way to a tiny work of art, but can also help you make the most frugal use of those expensive hand-dyed and over-dyed linens. All you need to know is the simple hemstitch, and I’ll provide some pictures that will show you what child’s play this is. For this tutorial, I’ve used ready-made banding with hem stitching on the ends.

Select a pattern, or portion of  a larger pattern, that fits on the fabric you’ll be using. If you need it, a handy stitches-to-inches converter can be found here. Stitch your design, exercising some care to center it on the long sides (where the band is closed) and to leave enough room to work comfortably on the short sides. Once you’ve stitched your pattern, it’s time to secure the fabric so the bookmark can be used without it unraveling. I’ll show you how to do this using a hemstitch. Some people prefer to sew a backing to their bookmark or iron on interfacing, which secures the fabric and also hides the backside of your stitching, but I think this is unnecessary and can make the bookmark too thick. Just keep the back of your stitching neat. 😉

the hemstitch, demystified

I have hemstitched two-over-two. I’ve railroaded my stitching to keep it tidy. To begin, bring your needle up two holes further away from where you want the solid line of the hemstitch to be, as shown int the first photo. (Note that the ‘teeth’ of the hemstitch point outwards from the stitched design, as shown in the seventh photo.) For example, if you’ve decided to leave five stitches empty between your design and the hemstitch, you’d count out ten holes plus an additional two. On the front side of the fabric, bring your needle down two holes, slip it under the fabric and slip it back out to the front side two holes further along, as shown in the second photo. Insert your needle where it is two holes under the spot you first came up through the fabric, slip the needle under the fabric and re-emerge two holes to the side of where you initially came up through the fabric, as shown in the third photo. And from here on, you simply repeat the same motions until you reach the end. Watch your thread tail on the back side, adjusting it as necessary so it is held down by your stitches. When you reach the end of your row, finish with the thread on the back side and weave it under and over the stitches to secure it before cutting it, as shown in the eighth photo. You can now cut your fabric, either cutting it at the ends of the hemstitch ‘teeth’ or leaving a few rows to unravel for a fringe.

the cushion bookmark with tassel

For this design, you’ll need a small-ish, squarish design. I’ve used Hedwig’s Four Patch, a freebie from The Sampler Girl, which is 40 stitches square. I’m machine stitching mine, but you can obviously hand stitch instead. To keep everything straight, I’ve counted out and removed a thread along the stitch line (a handy tip I got from Isabelle) and counted out and removed another thread for where I needed to cut the fabric.

I have a backing fabric of a similar size. Because pins make the fabric lumpy for such a small project, I’ve basted the backing fabric and the cross stitched fabric together using a bright purple thread along the pulled thread. This basting thread can easily be pulled or cut out after the machine stitching.

After the machine stitching, clip the corners before you turn the fabric right side out. This will prevent excessive bulkiness. After the cushion is turned right side out, lightly stuff it. A chop stick is great for getting stuffing into the corners. 😉

Before you can close your bookmark, you need to make a tassel and attach that to a ribbon. I’ve used a large bead to disguise the join between ribbon and tassel. Making a tassel is easy, you just need a form to wind the floss around. For my tassel, I’ve cut a piece of cardboard about two inches wide (along the winding edge). I’m using two different flosses in my tassel – get creative and try different colors, different textures, etc.! Before you begin winding, make sure you have a loose piece of floss in place. This will be used to tie the top of the tassel and eventually to form the ‘neck’ and ‘head’ of your tassel. Begin winding with the tail of your floss at the edge of the form opposite from this loose thread.

When you’re finished winding floss over your form, end on the edge that’s opposite the loose thread and cut this tail even with the form. Use the loose thread to tie the top of the tassel tight. Cut the bottom edge loose from the form. You will have something that resembles the final photo.

Now bring that loose thread down over the top of the tassel and begin winding it in a sort of band to create the neck of the tassel. When your neck is tight and you like how it looks, tie this loose end securely and clip it. Now you have a tassel – congratulations!

Next, you need to attach the tassel to the ribbon. The ribbon will be the part of the bookmark inside the book, so choose a length that will fit comfortably inside the average size book you read. Paperbacks will only require a fairly short length, whereas special editions, coffee table books, etc. will require a longer piece. If you are using a bead, string the ribbon through the bead before you attach it to the tassel. Run a loose thread through the head of the tassel, run a separate piece of loose thread through the ribbon, and use these loose threads to sew the ribbon and tassel together. Slide the bead over the join to disguise it.

Now you can slip the other end of the ribbon into the cushion opening and hand stitch everything closed. Voila, a very lovely bookmark that really is a work of art. 🙂

 a magnetic bookmark using cardstock

And finally, a very practical bookmark that will keep your place even if you drop your book or if one of your kids ‘helps’ you by moving your book around. The magnets in this bookmark are more persistent than clumsy fingers or helpful kids. 😉

Here’s what you’ll need: two magnets, a length of ribbon, a small stitched design (mine’s been hemstitched around the edges and I have ironed interfacing on the backside), two equal-sized pieces of cardstock, and clear-drying craft glue.

Apply glue to the ribbon where you want to mount the cardstock. I suggest making light marks on the ribbon to get the glue in the right places. 😉 After the cardstock is glued to the ribbon, apply a generous layer of glue to the magnets and attach them to the ribbon, as shown. Make sure that you glue the magnets on so that the sides that ‘like’ each other are facing each other. Otherwise your bookmark will never close. LOL!

After the glue for the ribbon/cardstock/magnet arrangement has dried, apply a generous (though not thick) layer of glue to the backside of the stitched piece. This is why you need interfacing on the back side – otherwise, the glue will go right through to the stitching. I use a brush to keep the layer even and to get it right to the edges. Affix the stitched piece to the right side of the front piece of cardstock and let it dry.

Voila! A lovely, practical bookmark you can enjoy for years to come!


bookmark tutorial

Time is flying! The bookmark tutorial is only two weeks away: 8-9 March.

I’ll be discussing how to make the standard bookmark using a scrap of linen or piece of banding in addition to more unusual bookmark types. We’ll go into depth as to how to execute the perfect hemstitch to hold your single-sided bookmark together for years to come. We’ll also cover cording, braided and twisted varieties, and tassles.

For a standard bookmark, you’ll need a piece of linen or banding that’s approximately 8×2 inches (20×5 cm) and a design that fits the count/measurement of your chosen fabric. One of the joys of making bookmarks is that you can use a small section from a larger design if you so desire. A border design also works beautifully.

For a fancier bookmark, you’ll need a piece of fabric approximately 4×4 inches (10×10 cm), a coordinating finishing fabric of the same size, and a design that fits the count/measurement of your chosen linen. You will also need a skein of floss that coordinates with your chosen design; this will be used to create the cording and tassle. If you want to add embellishments, have coordinating beads, baubles or charms on hand as well.  I suggest that you also have interfacing available, to lend extra strength to the linen after the design has been stitched.

This will be conducted using my usual seat-of-the pants method 😉 so your imagination will be your most useful tool! 

The tutorial will only cover hand-finishing methods; no sewing machine is necessary.

mischief managed

Today I managed to finish two projects that have been sitting in my drawer for over a year. Yikes! Where does the time go, anyway? (All images are clickable for greater detail.)

First up is a design by The Sampler Girl. This is part of her former Saturday series and I stitched it for Niek for Valentine’s Day (2006!). I’ve finished it as a bag. Not that I can actually picture Niek using it – LOL! – but because the design lent itself so well to it. (Note that the rather bizarre color scheme is my choice, not what the design calls for.)

Then there is this sweet little freebie from The Prairie Schooler that I made for one of my aunts over two years ago. How embarassing is that? She’s a serious seamstress, so in addition to this being a pincushion it is also magnetic on the underside to quickly clear up any pin spills. I know whenever I pull my sewing machine out, I have to spill my pins at least once.

Thanks Karen and Anne for setting these FAL weekends up – I still have another half dozen small designs that need to be finish-finished, and maybe now there’s hope!

MA madness

The birds are singing. I’ve been up all night. Oops.

Okay, here’s an intro into the wonderful world of mailart. The only barrier to how far you take it is your own imagination. MA is fun – I use some of mine to hold things like needles or threads, and others are diplayed purely for their artistic beauty. They’re fun to receive and fun to send. What’s not to like?

As mentioned in my introduction a few weeks ago, the secret to a really well-made MA is measurement: Take the time to measure more than once. A stitched “border” such as my every-other-stitch squares works well to keep your project aligned and avoid horrors such as this:

If you do wind up with non-matching sides or corners, a mutitude of errors can be hidden under a simple ribbon or other decoration.

To begin the assembly process, gather your materials. Here I have my stitched piece, my lining fabric, two pieces of interfacing, fusible interfacing such as is used in curtain hems, my iron, pins, and scissors.

Note that you do not have to use a lining material. It adds extra stability and makes the envelope prettier, but is by no means necessary. However, skipping the lining means you do need to use a fairly sturdy and flexible interfacing. The cotton one I have here works well for that. On the other hand, you don’t have to use interfacing, but a fabric envelope without any structure or support is a very floppy thing.

To insure that your stitched piece is cut evenly, which will save you many headaches later on, use the pulled-thread method to create a straight cutting line. I counted out 4 double stitches (over-two, which would be 8 single stitches) from the outside of my design. (Now you see where those carefully marked borders come in handy!)

Iron one piece of your interfacing on the wrong side of your stitched piece and the other piece of interfacing to the wrong side of your lining fabric. Follow the procedure given for your interfacing – for the medium-weight cotton interfacing I’m using here, I need a very damp cloth, highest iron setting, and I hold the iron to the count of ten. (Note that because most interfacing calls for a very hot iron, you should not have anything attached that could melt, such a decorative buttons!) Trim any excess. Now is a good time to attach any decorative buttons or the like.

Finger press (or very carefully use your iron) the seams and folds. If you are doing full hand-finishing and you feel picky, miter your corners. ( I rarely feel that picky LOL!) Mitering also helps keep the MA from going off in one direction or another. Any flopsy bits, like my lace, should be tacked down, too.

Once your seams are finger-pressed, you may opt to use that fusible curtain interacing to hold them securely in place. Be careful – a mishap here will secure your fold over in the *wrong* place! Also be careful not to melt the interface onto your iron. (Rubbing the hot iron over a rough towel will take that goop off, I’ve learned.)

Before you attach the lining, make sure any last buttons or loops are attached (such as for closure of the envelope flap). This keeps the MA a lot neater than a last minute stitch-on jobbie. I’m not using buttons to close this MA because it has a long way to go and loosely stitching the sides closed is a bit safer for the long haul.

You can also use that fusible interfacing (which I really like, can you tell??) to affix your lining to your stitched piece. Whether you use interfacing or good ol’thread, the premise is the same. Pin the wrong sides together. If you are using the interface method, unpin one side at a time to iron the interfacing in. Be careful – you can accidently fix it in the wrong place. If you are stitching, … stitch!

If you’re using a machine, you should instead pin the right sides together and carefully sew around the border, as if you were making a pocket. Leave room to turn the envelope right-side-out and hand-finish that small opening.

Now it’s time to stitch up the sides of your envelope! A simple whip stitch works well and is easy, even at 4 am.

Go ahead, stuff it full of love – and make someone’s day!

Questions – especially if I typed something here that makes sense only to my sleep-deprived brain – are welcome. I will answer them all after school. 😉

All the pictures are clickable for a larger view.

starting a mailart envelope

Here’s a little  heads-up for those who are interested in following the MA tutorial I’ll be offering in two weeks’ time.

For a larger MA with a finished size of approximately 22×11 cm (8.6×4.3 inches), you’ll need:

  • linen measuring 26 cm by 32 cm (9 by 12.6 inches)
    This corresponds to approximately 100 stitches wide by 185 stitches long on 28 count linen.

How you place your design is obviously up to you. Some people prefer to leave the address side of the envelope nearly empty, other than the address, and to concentrate the design on the flap-side. The envelope that I’m making for this tutorial will have small designs on the address side and a larger design on the flap-side. Choose a design that won’t be cramped in the stitching area.

A few important points to bear in mind if you decide to start your stitching now:

  • Measure twice, and then measure again. I’ve put basting lines along the three “sides” of the envelope (the adress side, the flap, and the side under the flap).
  • Your MA will be folded … like an envelope. LOL. That sounds simple, but it means part of your stitching will be ‘upside down’ in comparison to the other parts. Play with your linen a bit and make sure you’re aware of which part of the cloth corresponds to which part of the envelope to avoid frustrating mistakes later.
  • There are countless possible variations on an MA – which is a great part of their charm – so don’t hesitate to get creative. The only rules apply to the address-side of your envelope – you must follow the postal regulations for placement of ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses and where the stamp goes. You may want to check with your local post office to see if there are other restrictions – I’ve been told that in some Far Eastern countries, the MA can only be done on white or ivory.

To give you a few ideas, here are some of the MAs I’ve done in the past (click for a larger image). Search around online and you’ll find lots of others! There is also an excellent article with charts in this month’s issue of The Gift of Stitching.

*** Edited to add: This is assuming approximately 2 cm seams on all sides. ****