Vintage-style sewing basket tutorial

I enjoy making sewing accessories. I sometimes think I could quite happily just sew pincushions, needlecases and sewing bags forever!

I spotted a wicker basket in an op shop (thrift shop), and thought it would make a lovely sewing basket if I lined it. It cost me less than $5, and all I had to do was give it a jolly good scrub and dry it in the sunshine when I brought it home. Everything else I used came from my stash.

I will show you step-by-step how I made the basket lining, but if you plan to make a lining for a your own basket, you will have to adjust the measurements as no two baskets are the same size.

If you are inspired by this tutorial and have a Flickr account, I would love to see pictures. Please post a photo of your basket on the Granny Maud’s Girl stuff Flickr group.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket using Fig Tree fabrics

This lined vintage-style sewing basket, with pockets around the edge, is simple to make.

It took me ages to decide which fabrics from my stash to use. In the end, I chose a selection of Fig Tree & Company fabrics as they have a vintage feel and I had everything I needed – ribbon, lace and even felt – in coordinating colours in my stash. No shopping = inexpensive project!

Apart from the usual sewing supplies, like scissors and pins, you will need:

  • paper or lightweight interfacing to make a rough pattern
  • fabric
  • quilt wadding or stiff interfacing
  • narrow elastic
  • ribbon
  • lace and other decorations (optional).

Read all the instructions before you start, and leave a comment if you need me to clarify anything.

Prepare the base

I started by making a rough base pattern or template and cutting out the pieces for the bottom of the basket.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

The first step is to make a template by placing your basket on top of a piece of paper or lightweight interfacing and tracing around the basket to get the rough size and shape of your basket’s base.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Use your template as a guide to cut your base fabric. At this stage, cut the fabric a bit larger so you can trim it down precisely. Alternatively, instead of fabric, make a second, more accurate template from lightweight interfacing.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Fold your base piece into quarters, pin it to stop it from shifting about and trim. Trimming it this way will give you a roughly symmetrical oval. (Note that the base of your basket probably is not symmetrical!)

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Unfold the fabric and test it in the base of your basket. Keep folding it into quarters and trimming off small amounts until you think it is the right size. It should sit neatly on the base with a ¼-inch seam allowance.
A whisker too small is better than a whisker too big. If it is too big, the base will bunch up and not sit flat.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

When you are happy with the shape of your base fabric, use it as the pattern to cut out the same size pieces of quilt wadding (or stiff interfacing) and another of fabric for the underside of your base.

Here I cheated a bit. I spray-basted (yes, glued) the orange base to the quilt wadding. If you do not have fabric glue in a spray, just sew a line of basting stitches around the outside edge to hold the two layers in place. Keep the underside of the base (in my case, the strawberry print) separate for now.

Make the sides

I made my sides and pockets double-sided as I like the neat finish of this method. Of course, if you prefer, you can make both single thickness and make casings for the ribbon and elastic by turning over the edge.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Cut one large rectangle that is long enough to go around your basket (measure the outside circumference) and twice as wide as you want the sides to be tall. Do not forget to add half an inch for seam allowances to your measurements.

In my case, the outside circumference of the basket was 39¼ inches and the measurement from the inside bottom of the basket to the edge of the ribbon casing was 5 inches, so I cut a rectangle that was 40 x 10½ inches. I added a smidge extra to the circumference just for ease of calculation.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Sew the rectangle together, right sides facing, along the short edge, using a ¼-inch seam allowance. Press the seam open.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

I used a scrap of lightweight interfacing to make a mock-up of the next step before I cut into my green fabric.

Before tackling the next steps on the real fabric, you might like to make a mock-up on a fabric scrap just so you can see how it works. I did this as I was making it up as I went and I wanted to be sure it would work as I imagined.

To mark my fabric, I used a Frixion pen: a pen that has ink that vanishes when ironed. One advantage of these is that the lines are dark enough to show in photos.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Fold the side piece, which is now a big tube, with wrong sides together. Mark where one handle is to go on the fold.

Here, the outside line is my fold line and the inside line is my cutting line. I allowed half an inch for turning and seams.

Measure the handles carefully. My wicker basket is not symmetrical, and I needed to mark where the handles are and not assume they are an equal distance apart.

My handles needed a 2-inch-wide gap, and I wanted the bottom of the gap to line up with the top of the pocket.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Cut along the inside line on the fold through both thicknesses of fabric. Snip the corners.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Open out the fabric and fold twice as shown to create a narrow, ¼-inch rolled edge. Pin in place and topstitch in the middle of your fold.
(You will later sew over the topstitching again, so you do not need to be too fussy about where you start and stop on each side.)

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Fold the side piece right sides together and pin and sew as shown here, carefully matching the corners. Stop and backstitch at each corner.
Some fray stop in the corners would not go astray.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Once you have sewn and removed the pins (and, in my case, ironed away the erasable pen), it should look like this.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Repeat for the other handle, then press and pin, ready for the next step – topstitching.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Topstitch around the handle opening, close to the edge, and sew about three-quarters of an inch from the fold to create a channel for the ribbon.

How wide your ribbon channel is will depend on the width of your ribbon!

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

The topstitching is not clear on the photo, so I have drawn lines to show where I sewed.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

If you like, sew some lace around the edge, along the fold.

Make the pockets

The pocket is optional, but I like being able to keep small loose items out of the way. Putting threads into the pockets stops them getting tangled among themselves.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Cut a smaller rectangle, the same length as your side piece but narrower, for the pocket. It should be twice the depth of your pocket, plus seam allowances.
I did not have enough orange, so I made my rectangle out of two fabrics: one for the outside of the pocket and one for the lining.

I made my pocket piece out of two fabrics because I did not have enough of the one I wanted to use. My pocket is 2¾ inches deep, so I cut two long rectangles, each 40 x 3¼ inches, and sewed them together. I could have just cut one piece 40 x 6 inches and folded it to make the pocket.

Once you have cut the pocket piece, sew it into a tube as you did for the sides by sewing the short edges together, right sides facing, using a ¼-inch seam allowance. Press.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Fold your pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, and sew near the fold to form an elastic casing. Leave an opening to thread your elastic through.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Use a bodkin to thread your elastic through, secure the elastics’s ends together and sew up the opening.
Your elastic needs to sit comfortably around the inside of your basket. You want to loosely gather the extra fabric but not have the elastic so tight that it wants to pull everything towards the middle of your basket.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Pin and baste your pocket piece to your side piece. Baste along the bottom edge using a long machine stitch and your walking foot (if you have one).

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Mark where you want the pockets to go. Pin the pocket to the side to stop them shifting as you sew.
You might need a helper for this step to help you wrestle with the elasticised edge as you pin.

How big to make your pockets? It depends on what you want to put in them. Mine are between 3 and 5 inches wide, and I put the bigger pockets on the straighter sides of the basket.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Sew along the lines to divide your pockets. Stop sewing at the bottom edge of the elastic casing and backstitch.
Use your walking foot if you have one.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Periodically check to see that everything is sitting and fitting as it should.

Attach the base to the sides

A walking foot will really be helpful for these next steps.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Hand sew a row of gathering stitches along the bottom edge of the combined pocket–side piece. Then pin and sew the base (with wadding) to the sides. I used a generous ¼-inch seam allowance.

Unfortunately, in this photo, you cannot see that the sides are pinned to the orange base and the quilt wadding layers, which I basted together earlier. The underside of the base is not attached until the next step, below.

You might notice lots of rows of stitching. I tried to gather the fabric with long machine stitches, but with four bulky layers of fabric in the sides, it did not work. They snapped. I hand stitched long gathering stitches, and they did the trick.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Pin the underside of the base (right side down) on top of the last step. Sew around the edges, following your previous line of stitching. Leave an opening of 3½–4 inches to turn your work.

Before joining two pieces that need a turning opening, I like to sew a row of stitches along the seam line where the opening will be on each piece. It acts as a guide later when hand sewing the opening closed.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Hand sew the opening closed.

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket

Use a bodkin or a safety-pin to thread the ribbon through each channel. Tie a bow under each handle, and you are done!

If you like, you can topstitch around the edges, quilt or add some decorative stitching to your basket base. I thought about it. I might do it later. For the moment, I am happy with the basket as is.

Decorate your basket

Granny Maud's Girls vintage-style sewing basket using Fig Tree fabrics

I made a pair of strawberries using Fig Tree & Company’s sugar pumpkin pincushion pattern.

Every basket needs more ribbon and a pair of strawberries on a string! I really do need to learn how to tie a decent bow.

Now, I think I also want to make a little pincushion and maybe a tiny purse to coordinate. I need something to show off the cute strawberry print that I foolishly hid on the bottom of my basket.

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10 thoughts on “Vintage-style sewing basket tutorial

  1. Gorgeous! I need about three of those so I can drop kick my disgusting fishing tackle-style sewing box straight into the bin. And you had me at pale green gingham, my favourite! Maybe when I’m a bit further down The List…. September, or something! I’m pretty sure I’ll be wanting to make one of your knitting bags well before then!

  2. What a great tutorial!! I love the orange with the green! The pockets to hold your thread is a great idea. I currently have a canvas tote bag with my hand work and I dig through it when I want the scissors or the bag of hexi’s etc. I would need a basket with a top or I would have a cat sleeping in it. I must keep my eyes open for something that will work better than what I am doing. Going to share your page with my cousin!!

  3. Pingback: Another hexagon purse | Granny Maud's Girl

  4. Pingback: Another basket | Granny Maud's Girl

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