Expanding on a Great Idea in the Interest of Time

Julie Yonge © 2006

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Finished Bookmark

I was looking around for a project that would lend itself to making quite a few of something quickly, but yet still be elegant, a joy to receive and even put to good use by the recipient. The Ladies Retreat for my church was fast approaching and we needed a little something to give each of the women participating as a small token of our time together. I am happy to say that I found the perfect inspiration in a previous issue of CQMagOnline. Last year, Kimber Pekora, wrote an article on doing CQ bookmarks. Her bookmarks were pieced with beautiful fabrics and embellished by hand to create quite a treasure for any recipient. What a nice gift these would make for my ladies; however, I knew I did not have time to hand embellish more than 35 bookmarks in just a week or so. I decided to expand a little on Kimber’s great idea by adding machine sewing to the mix.

Sewing machine
Foundation fabric of your liking (muslin, batting, stabilizer)
Thread (several colors and types from your stash)
Leftover snip-its of fabrics for piecing and some larger pieces for bookmark backs
Optional embellishments such as lace, buttons, motifs, charms
Purchased tassels
Embroidery thread for blanket stitch
Bone folder (for helping in turning out corners)

Beginning, as outlined in Kimber’s article, by cutting 2 pieces of foundation fabric for each bookmark. Foundation fabric can be muslin, a thin batting, or even a nice weight stabilizer. You will have a front foundation piece on which you will do the CQ piecing and you will have a back foundation piece that will be the facing for the backing fabric of the bookmark. I cut my foundation pieces 2 ½” x 7”, but size can be easily varied according to personal preference. I then marked with a pencil on each of the foundation fronts the approximate lines for piecing, making sure I fit at least four pieces of fabric at nice angles. I now moved on to my little snip-it stash where I have saved small pieces (3” and up) of all kinds and colors of fabrics to begin piecing. For this project and in the interest of time, I decided to sort my pieces by color into clear baggies so that I could grab a bag of whatever I needed, rummage through it, find the perfect piece and then place the baggie back on the sewing counter in a bit of an orderly fashion so I would not have snip-its of fabric scattered everywhere when looking for just the perfect one. This did prove to be helpful.

I machine pieced each bookmark front onto a muslin foundation, ironing the seams well as I went to make sure they would lay as flat as possible. With CQ fabrics, the textures and thickness varied quite a bit. Once I had each bookmark pieced, I would then lay down a basting stitch with the machine ¼” from the outside edge all the way around the bookmark front. I decided, again in the interest of time, to use just a couple of neutral fabrics in dupioni silk as the back to my bookmarks instead matching each bookmark with a complimentary fabric of some sort. I had an antique gold and a deep taupe in my stash and this worked well with all the pieced colors. I cut out back pieces for each bookmark from the dupioni, and then machine basted the dupioni backing fabric to a foundation piece for the bookmark backs and set them aside for later.

Now for stitching the seams. I chose different colors and types of threads and different decorative stitches that my machine offers to stitch the seams on all the bookmarks. I would choose a thread type and color and then stitch a seam on all the bookmarks appropriate for that thread color. I would then change my thread and begin to go through the pile of bookmarks again. For example, if I chose blue thread, I would pull out all the bookmarks that blue would compliment and stitch a seam on each; then I would change the color of thread and repeat until all the seams on all the bookmarks had been stitched. Remember too that most machines today offer the mirror capability and you can easily stitch one way and then hit mirror and go back down the same seam to create a new stitch of your own. It is important to keep in mind that with the use of CQ fabrics of different types and textures, etc., tension can easily become an issue with your machine and I often had to test and adjust my tension until I had just the right combination. I used rayon, cotton, polyester and even metallic thread and each time made sure to have the correct tension settings and correct needle in place. I must admit I hadn't thought about the tension issue when I decided to do this project and in the future if short on time for a project such as this, I would probably choose to piece with beautiful cottons instead of so many fancy fabrics of different textures or at least stick to one kind of fabric such as dupioni so that thread tension would not be so much of an issue as it did slow things down a bit.

Once I finished the machine stitching of the seams, I decided to add some tidbits of thin lace to add a bit of elegance. I just laid a piece of lace across the bookmark at an angle and basted it in place with the machine again at the ¼” edge of the bookmark. I found some small lace motifs that I cut into pieces, buttons, flat charms, etc. that I added to the bookmarks randomly.

Now to put the bookmark together. I took each bookmark front, matched it with a bookmark back and stitched a 3/8” seam all around the bookmark, leaving about a two-inch opening on one side. I liked doing this in assembly line fashion so I did my entire machine stitching at one time. I then trimmed neatly and snipped the corners on all the bookmarks, turned them inside out and pressed them. Note: I used a wooden bone-folding tool to push out the corners. Once they were all turned and pressed, I could easily sit in an easy chair or sofa, watch TV and add a hand-embroidered blanket stitch to the edge of each bookmark which would also close the open area used for turning (which also meant I would not have to go slip stitch this area on all the bookmarks). Time could have been saved here as well by doing a decorative machine stitch all around the outside edge of the bookmark, but I wanted to keep a bit of the handcrafted touch.

To add a personalized touch for our retreat, using the computer, I printed a page with the title of our retreat and the date onto a sheet of Printed Treasures cotton sheeting, applied a fusible backing  such as Wonder Underto the printed silk sheet, and then simply ironed one onto each of the bookmark backs. I did take the time to burn the edges of each one using a wood-burning tool, but this was basically for effect only since raveling isn't so much of a problem with the cotton. I used the cotton instead of silk because I wanted the words to stand out in contrast and the silk was too thin for the text to show up well. If time was not an issue, these would look nice stitched in place (prior to sewing the bookmark fronts to the backs) with a feather stitch in gold metallic YLI thread.

I attached purchased tassels to each bookmark (Wal Mart, less than a $1.00 each) at the top center sometimes using a button, sometimes a charm or a bead, just stitching carefully within the seam so that knots could not be seen. I have to admit as a CQ’er, I am spoiled to hand-embellishment and think hand-embroidery, SRE and beading just make anything better. However, even though this bookmark is not quite the same as a completely hand-embellished one, I do believe the ladies will be quite pleased. The bookmarks will be a nice remembrance of our retreat and a joy to use.

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