Sunday, June 23, 2013

ES SAL: Bookmark Finishing Tutorial!

Tutorials are made for sharing! Please use the title photo and link back to this post :)

As has long been promised, I am SO pleased to *finally* be able to share this tutorial with you! As I mentioned in my last post, this padded bookmark is a combination of the flat finished bookmarks I've made previously with a two-layer quilt batting insert that I learned to make this past Christmas for ornaments :)

The padding is optional, and you can skip those steps if you want. Mine turned out a little thick - I think I may try one layer next time (with the edges finished the same way to prevent stretching) - but I'm happy with it and you might like to try it too!

Here's my bookmark posing with Robin McKinley's "Chalice", which is medium-book size (smaller than a normal hardcover but larger than a normal paperback, equivalent to a "trade paperback"), to show the scale. They make a pretty pairing!

This tutorial is the most comprehensive that I've ever attempted, and consequently it will be very heavy on the photos, as I've tried to take a picture of each stage as I stitched it myself :) It's EPIC. I finally figured out how to use the self-timer on my camera too, so please pardon the many *really* close views of my fingers! (Eep)

There are essentially three different sewing techniques involved:
1. Sewing the sides of the bookmark by hand, with Backstitch;
2. Sewing the batting insert, with Blanket Stitch or Whip Stitch; and
3. Sewing the top invisibly closed with Ladder Stitch.

I've tried to illustrate each of these stitch steps, so effectively this tutorial is three mini-tutorials in one :) However, I'm not an expert in hand-sewing (hardly! LOL), so there may very well be easier, quicker or better ways to accomplish the same thing, this is just what I tried out this time, and what miraculously mostly worked ;)

Note: As I photographed over two days that wanted to be sunny but were frequently cloudy and occasionally threatening rain, the colours in the photos change a lot!

Necessary Materials:
~ Stitched Bookmark (free SAL design)
~ Ribbon Marker (mini-tutorial here!)
~ Backing Fabric
~ Matching Sewing Thread
~ Hand-Sewing Needles
~ Small Fabric Scissors
~ Pins
~ Pokers: Knitting Needle, Orange Stick or Cuticle Pusher

For the Padded Insert:
~ Quilt Batting (two rectangles roughly bookmark-sized; trim to fit later)
~ Matching Sewing Thread (White) *not shown*

For Pressing Once Finished: *not shown*
~ Iron, Ironing Board and Fluffy Towel

Optional: *not shown*
~ Thimble, for Hand-Sewing
~ HB Pencil and Sharpener

Highly Suggested:
~ Patience (always a virtue! LOL)

I'm making a point to mention patience because this is a sometimes fiddly and finicky process that inevitably leads to much finagling! All finishing is like this (at least to me!) but the Turning of the bookmark is especially fraught with frustration, so don't give up and go slow :) I have to keep reminding myself of that, and you should too!

If you'd like to see a LARGER version of any picture/collage, just click on the image!

I'm going to divide the tutorial into three parts (with sections) for ease of reading.

Part I: Sewing the Bookmark Together with Backstitch (or Other Stitch)

You can use any stitch of your choice for this, but I used Backstitch, since it's so familiar to me. I also think that it is better to use a tighter stitch to reduce puckering where the fabric joins the Aida cloth. I started by pinning out my guidelines:

Using inexpensive rainbow-coloured quilting pins, I counted from my stitched motif to where I wanted my edge to be and placed my pin along the center of that line:

In my case, I decided that I would like the distance between my stitching and the edge to be five stitches, and working counter-clockwise I pinned around on the lines:

When I finished pinning, I realized that I had quite a lot of excess Aida on the top and bottom, so I roughly trimmed it down to size:

You don't need to be too neat at this point, since your edges will fray (especially during Turning) so it's good to have extra, this just makes it more manageable.

Next, place your stitching on your backing fabric and cut roughly around the edges:

I always cut my fabric a little larger (after I accidentally cut an edge far too close to my stitching once!) and trim it to fit later:

Now, when making ornaments, I often just work from the pinned guidelines since Aida is easy to follow. But when I'm outlining an unusual shape (like a circle) or really want to be certain, I use a little trick my Stitchy Guru Mother taught me:

An ordinary pencil can mark great guidelines! I was *so* skeptical at first, but the graphite sticks to the Aida fibers - it doesn't show through the fabric (if you mark lightly), it doesn't smudge and it doesn't come off on your thread! It's really amazing!

This is just an HB pencil (I have long loved Staedtler's Mars Lumograph drawing pencils, and this is what I happened to have at hand since I don't use regular pencils much any more). These are easier to work with than mechanical pencils, since those leads tend to snag in the Aida threads and snap. Turn your stitching over:

And then lightly sketch the edge lines, following your pins and working around them. I find it's best to use light, quick layered upward strokes to avoid catching the nib:

You can always start light and then go over the lines to make them bolder if needed. I went a little darker than I normally do so that the camera would pick it up:

Here I've removed the four pins, and if you look closely you can see the gaps where I outlined around them. This is useful for the next step:

Sandwich your stitching and backing fabric right sides together (wrong sides facing out). Then pop your pins back in the guideline gaps! Make sure to catch both layers.

The stitches that will join the layers will be nearly invisible (using Backstitch and most other close-sewn stitches) so you could use almost any thread colour but I prefer to use a close match to the dominant colour, in my case pale yellow.

This particular hue is not lemony and not pale enough to be buttercream, and so it was a little hard to match! I finally found an old spool of Coats thread (Y5801, 65% Polyester and 35% Cotton) that still had the price on the label:

Wow, have things ever changed! I couldn't resist taking a picture, and I managed to pull the thread off the spool without breaking the label, LOL :) It's almost antique!

After I got over my amusement, I cut off a long length of sewing thread (roughly double the wrist-to-shoulder ratio; if you'd like sew with doubled thread for extra strength, you'll need to add more; I used one strand) and threaded my sharp needle:

I used one, from my Singer Hand Needle Assortment again, that looked good to me (very scientific, I know). Then I anchored my thread in the top right corner of my bookmark. There are a lot of different ways that you can do this, but I use what I always think of as a "Loop Knot" and since I couldn't find any tutorials to link when I was working on my Ribbon Marker I decided to try to describe it:

Going from left-to-right along the top row: Bring your needle up where you wish to start (1), and go back down near the entry point, leaving a loop with your thread (2) when you pull through. Come up near the loop and catch it with the tip of your needle (3). Going from left-to-right on the bottom row: Pass your needle through the loop (4) and pull tightly, which makes a knot that looks neat from both the front (5) and back (6). I like to end my thread this way too, and darn the tails in the work.

From now on, it's a matter of backstitching around, which is the most tedious part of the process! I timed myself, and it took me a little over an hour, although that's with a few stops for photos :) It's the kind of easy work that goes almost on autopilot once you start though and a little television watching or music listening makes it go faster!

Here I am starting my stitching, I usually go back over the first few stitches twice:

And a bit further along, reaching the first side pin:

This is what the Backstitch looks like from behind, did you know that it's actually Stem Stitch?! I didn't connect the two until I started embroidering and read that the back of Stem Stitch is Backstitch, and vice versa :) It's a nice sturdy line:

Speaking of sturdiness, when I turn corners I like to reinforce the stitches by going over them twice, here I did three stitches on each side:

It takes a LOT of poking to get the corners to pop out when the bookmark is Turned, so it doesn't hurt to make the corners extra strong :)

Stitch around the two sides and bottom only, ending with a Loop Knot at the top left:

As you can see, I pulled out all my pins except the one at the top as I stitched along, to avoid stabbing myself (well, truthfully, to reduce the occurrence LOL) :)

Then it's time for the close trim! Following your guidelines, cut a set number of stitches AWAY from them. Again, I used five stitches on the sides and bottom, but I've learned that it's good to keep a little extra at the top edge for folding so I left seven stitches there. Then clip the corners to reduce bulk in the seams, but be careful not to clip too closely because then the corners can pull apart when you Turn!

It's easy to cut diagonally across blocks of Aida weave, I clipped along the first three-block line of mine. Remove your top pin, and get ready to Turn your bookmark!

Turning Out The Bookmark

This is pretty much the trickiest part of the whole endeavor, and so it deserves some special attention. Personally, this is the part I *always* have the most trouble with - sure, it sounds really easy to just pull it right-side out, but in practice it's really hard!

There's three basic steps that I think of as the Scrunch Down, the Corner Grab and the Topsy Turn Out :) Sounds like an Aerobics class from the 80's, doesn't it? LOL!

First, puff out your bookmark and then use your thumb to scrunch the fabric down close to the bottom corner of your choice, the one you intend to grab:

Remove your hand. You'll have a very sad looking crumpled tube left (1):

While your bookmark is feeling sorry for itself, creep up on it from behind (2) and use your first two fingers to grab your bottom corner (3), getting a firm grip (4).

Tug the corner out - once you have your corner captive, the rest of the bookmark will have no choice but to follow it out :) Gently but firmly coax and cajole the fabric to turn topsy-turvy until it finally pulls all the way inside out!

Unfortunately, Turning is one of those instances where one must be cruel to be kind, LOL, so you now need to commence attacking your poor bookmark with various poker-outers to pop out the stubbornly stuck-in corners :)

From top to bottom (1) and left to right (2): my favourite choice, a Revlon manicure set Cuticle Pusher, the oft-suggested Orange Stick and the it'll-do-a-pinch Knitting Needle. I prefer to use the rounded plastic bottom of the Revlon tool, since it's sharp enough to shape the fabric but not sharp enough to pierce through the stitches (like the points of the knitting needle and the pointy top of the Orange Stick tend to do).

Here it is in action, as you can see the corners turn out slightly rounded:

At this point, if you don't want padding in your bookmark and prefer a flatter finish, you can skip the next Part II and head right on down to Part III :)

Part II: Making the Padded Insert with Blanket Stitch or Whip Stitch

Honestly, I almost skipped this section because I realize that most everyone will not want a padded bookmark, or at least not an insert this thick. However, this is a useful trick for ornament finishing that may be helpful, so I'll quickly cover the steps:

To cut the padding for your insert, lay your bookmark on top of one of your quilt batting rectangles (1) and roughly trim to fit (2). Lay the trimmed batting over the other rough rectangle and trim to size (3), which will give you the two layers (4).

Here are those layers held against my bookmark:

I thought that the two layers would be a good fit, since they compress a little when stitched. The insert does fit the available space well, and looks nice when finished but it's a bit too thick for regular paperbacks. For hardcovers or heavy oversize books (like the Needlework books I've been reading from the library) the weight of the covers and pages helps hold the bookmark in and it works well with those.

So whether or not you choose to use padding depends on what you want to use your bookmark for :) Then I trimmed my batting again, so it would fit under the top fold:

With the little bits of excess I decided to make a test piece to show the stitches. Naturally, I use white thread with the batting so the stitching blends in but that is hard to see in pictures. So I used a contrasting red thread for this stitch experiment:

This is the Blanket Stitch edging that I decided to use for my ornament inserts this past Christmas after learning the stitch for edges of felt. The middle photo shows what the stitch looks like finished, and I've numbered the steps for easy reference.

To start, bring your needle up through the batting at the corner (1), come around the edge and up in the same place - making a loop around the edge - and then pass your needle through the loop and pull tight (2). This is an edge version of the Loop Knot we used to start the Backstitch on the bookmark :)

Next, bring your needle up and through the back and out the front (3), making a loose loop; pass under the loop with your needle and pull tight (4). Voila! This is a blanket stitch. Keep making stitches up the side spacing them evenly. When you get to a corner, skip the turn and make your next stitch in the same place as your last (5); the thread carries itself along the back (6). End with a loop knot and darn.

Since I had some space left over, I decided to change it up and try Whip Stitch, which is often recommended for edgings. I've tried it on a smaller scale before without much success, but the large stitches work up very quickly on the quilt batting:

The stitches themselves are just straight and slanting - this collage is to show the difference in the corners, which are a bit neater. I still prefer Blanket Stitch :)

Before I ended off my thread, I took some pictures to show how I sew up the middle to keep the layers of padding from slipping:

It's simple Running Stitch, just a few roughly spaced long stitches up and then back down again to fill in the gaps, which results in an even unbroken line on both sides.

To assemble my insert, I laid my marker on the first batting layer and then pinned the other layer over it, leaving about two inches of the marker in between:

Taking up some white Gutermann sewing thread to match the batting...

...I started stitching around the edge. I did try to space my Blanket Stitches more evenly this time, since the stitches not only join the two layers but they compress the edges giving the insert it's shape and prevent the quilt batting from stretching out:

Here's the insert held up to the light so you can see how the marker sits inside:

As you can see, when I reached the marker, I tacked it down inside by using Running Stitch along the ribbon inside the insert to keep it from moving.

I continued this Running Stitch down the entire length of the bookmark to keep the two layers of quilt batting together, first going down (1) then back up (2):

Here's what the insert looks like when it's finished:

It looks a lot shorter than the bookmark here because the top has yet to be folded down. To get your padding into the bookmark, fold it gently in half and place it in:

To settle the padding in the bookmark, you'll need to pinch and push and pull it down and then smooth it out with your fingers to make sure the batting doesn't bunch up or get lumpy inside the bookmark:

Make sure that it is stuffed all the way down into the bottom corners:

And there you go! Here's the bookmark before padding (1) and after padding (2):

There's not much difference here because the before photo hasn't been ironed flat.

Part III: Sewing Up the Bookmark Top Invisibly with Ladder Stitch

Before we get to the closure, we need to fold the top edges together and down inside. In the photos that follow, you'll see me working my closure over the padded insert, but if you skipped the padding, just pretend it's not there and work the same way!

Here's the top of my bookmark - you can see my pencil guideline inside. This is where the top fold will go. If you didn't mark your lines, just count out your stitches.

Starting with the top row, left to right: Put a pin on the right side of your bookmark where the top fold begins (1) and fold the excess fabric down inside so that it lays flat against the front (2). Take another pin and insert it through the front of the bookmark and the bottom of the inside fold (3).

From the bottom, left to right: You'll have two pins on the front (4); turn your bookmark around and fold the backing fabric inside, pinning your fold near the top to keep it in place (5) - fold both corners in as tightly as you can (6)!

Now it's time to start stitching!!! :)

Ladder Stitch is a brilliant and easy way to close edges seamlessly! It's most often used in soft-toy ("softies") making but, rather confusingly, this is also the name of a bead-weaving stitch. There are a TON of tutorials online, but most of them are for felt or two layers of fabric. Ladder Stitch with Aida is even *easier*! :)

The blocks formed by the weave of the Aida are a wonderful guide that makes for evenly spaced stitches, which is important for Ladder Stitch because if the stitch lengths are at all uneven the joins tend to pucker.

Here is a very rough diagram I drew up to help show what I mean by that, with the Aida at the top and the backing fabric at the bottom. This is the way I like to hold the fabrics because I find it's easier to see the backing fabric this way, but you could reverse it! For a really neat finish, you could draw a guideline on your backing fabric before folding to make sure your stitching is straight, but I just winged it ;)

Here I am working the stitch up to the edge of the ribbon marker:

On the first row, left to right: I brought my thread up at the right corner (1) and anchored it with a Loop Knot (2), and then passed through my first Aida block (3).

Second row, left to right: I crossed over and picked up a bit of backing fabric roughly the same size as the Aida block (4) - pick up the innermost layer of backing fabric on the fold only!!! The corners are the hardest because they are bulkier. Then I picked up my second Aida block (5) and went over again to pick up some backing fabric (6).

Third row, left to right: When stitching the "rungs" of your ladder, you need to stay a little loose so that you can see to pick up your stitches (7). Once you've put a few stitches in, pull them tightly as you go by tugging gently but firmly on the thread (8)! Keep stitching until you reach the edge of your marker (9).

If you aren't using a marker, just stitch until you reach the end.

Because my marker was firmly sewn into the insert, it was already in the middle. But even so it's best to check to make sure that it's lined up, and an easy way to do that is to take your needle and sight it down the center of your bookmark like so:

If you haven't used padding, now is the time to position your marker, since these stitches will join it in. The 1/4" Grosgrain ribbon I used turned out to be the width of four stitches, so it was easy to line it up with the pink diamond in my stitching :)

And then you keep working Ladder Stitch *through* the ribbon:

I found it helpful to flip the ribbon back and forth over my fingers away from the side I was working on. You'll only need to make two or three "rungs" so it's quick work!

Keep stitching until you reach the end, at which point I ended with another Loop Knot and darned the end of my thread back into the stitches:

And this is what the finished closure looks like!:

I did have a tiny bit of puckering on the left, but this is the neatest Ladder Stitch closure I've yet to achieve and I'm very proud of it ;)

Even when the ribbon marker is flipped open, you can't see the stitches! Neat, hey?!

Here's the front and back of my bookmark after closing the top up:

Confession: I forgot to curve the top corners to match the bottom corners, so I used a thick, blunt needle to further pop out the bottom corner stitches a little bit:

It's not a big difference, but it helps when ironing the corners! This is the bookmark just finished, before pressing:

In my excitement, I popped it into a book right away, LOL:

I really like how the marker lays against the spine...

...but it *is* a little puffy:

Okay, a LOT puffy, LOL ;) This was before ironing, mind, and it's now slightly flatter. But I overestimated with going for two layers, next time I'm definitely going to try using only one. I still think that padding is a good idea because it lends a smoothness to the bookmark and prevents the seams at the sides from feeling bumpy!

The FINAL Finish!!!

Ironing, to borrow what my Grandma always says about icing and cakes, can cover a multitude of sins ;) As you know, I'm not a natural iron-user, so I followed my Stitchy Guru Mother's advice about Pressing, which is this:

Put an old fluffy towel on your Ironing Board, and place your bookmark *front side down* on the towel. This will keep the stitches nice and crisp and avoid flattening them! Using the Cotton setting and steam, iron the back of your bookmark gently. You can also iron the tips of the ribbon loops on your marker if you like.

Here's my bookmark before and after pressing, from the side:

Pressing makes a HUGE difference! I really recommend it :) I was so pleased with my new, freshly ironed bookmark that I couldn't help but take MORE pictures, LOL:

So there you have it ;) If you've made it all the way here to the end, THANK YOU!!!!! I hope that at least some part of this has been helpful. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to ask :) If you would like the SAL design, there's still time - just e-mail me before July 1st to let me know and I'll send you the file.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of your interest in this little design and the SAL, your encouragement has been amazing and means a great deal to me!!!

If you're interested in making your own photo collages, I used the free Pixlr Express!


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great tutorial, thank you for sharing this.
Have a good week (:

Unknown said...

this is a fantastic tutorial, very detailed and well explained, thanks!

Karen said...

Excellent tutorial! I might have to use your tip for poking the ends after they're sewn up. I'm not happy with how mine look lol. I love the idea of adding padding, but maybe only one layer... you're book does look a bit poofy lol. Thanks again for the tutorial.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Whew, thank you all SO much for your very kind comments! I was *really* worried that I had totally gotten this tutorial stuff all wrong so it makes me *very* happy to hear that it's helpful!!!

@ Karen: It's not *quite* as poufy now after Pressing but it's still rather pudgy, LOL! One layer is definitely what I'm going to try in future :) Re: Needle Poking, it's surprising how much of a difference it can make, I might have another go at my corners too. It helps to use a large heavy needle if you have one at hand!

Maple Girl said...

I loved this tutorial! And it's a quick way to give someone a handmade gift that is functional.

All that aside, I love Chalice. Great book choice!

SoCal Debbie said...

Thank you for this incredible tutorial! I can't wait to try out that invisible ladder stitch.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Maple Girl: Thank you so much! I totally agree - bookmarks are a great gift idea, and really don't take long to stitch!

Re: Chalice: YAY! A fellow book lover :) A confession - this is only the second McKinley I've read, after her UF "Sunshine", but I am on the look out for more. From what I've read, it seems that she is one of those authors that hooks you for life! You might like Patricia McKillip and Sharon Shinn too, they're two of my all-time favourites :)

SC Debbie: You're very welcome, I'm so glad you found it helpful :) Ladder Stitch is amazing, I'm so glad that I took a chance and tried it myself. If you have a go, please let me know ;)

Maple Girl said...

I will check out those two authors. I love reading McKinley! I started with The Hero and The Crown, and then read The Blue Sword.

I'm thinking I should stitch this bookmark and buy a hardbound copy of Chalice.

Although maybe I should have some bees on it.

Ooooh - Book + themed bookmark combo! Genius! You are an inspiration. (And yes, I do think out loud!)

I can't wait to see more of your beautiful stitching.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

I will definitely check out more of McKinley then :) It's wonderful to get good recs for books! I do hold both McKillip and Shinn in very high (HIGH) esteem, LOL, and cannot recommend them enough! Both are massively underrated sadly.

If you'd like some advice on where to start with them, just let me know *evil grin*

RE: Chalice - I laughed so hard at that - yes, it should totally have bees! I didn't have a model book in mind when designing the bookmark (for *shame* I know) and they just happened to go together after the fact. Otherwise, there would indeed be bees ;)

RE: "Book + themed bookmark combo! Genius!" I have actually wanted to do this for *years*, maybe I'll have to try - but how to pick a favourite to start with?! Hmm....

If you'd like the SAL design (even bee-less as it is, LOL), just send me an e-mail (my address is in the sidebar, under the pretty postage stamps) and let me know ;)

CrazyStitcher said...

Excellent detailed tutorial, which I would have been lost without. You really did think of everything, including the perfectly painted nails. ;-)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you so much! :) You did a *fabulous* job with the Invisible Ladder Stitch, trying it on felt was really inspired! LOL @ my nails - that was actually pure happenstance; I just really like pink ;)

ladyoftherib said...

Years later, but still fabulous instructions! Thank you from me, in Sydney Australia