Taming a UFO

A few years ago, I felt like I was going in too many directions at once with my crafts.  I had a big closet full of all kinds of supplies, some of which I had had for 20 years or more.  I had a whole room available to work in.  I was familiar enough with all kinds of techniques to create my own projects without copying things I saw in magazines.  And yet I never seemed to get much accomplished.  I certainly didn’t have an identifiable voice like those magazine contributors that inspired me.

I thought the answer was to limit myself to just one or two directions, and follow it until I established a recognizable style.  But which craft to choose?

After thinking about it for a long time, I decided to just create my dilemma in visual form.  I visualized a wall quilt that showed an archipelago, with each island representing a craft.  There would be a bead island, a knitting island, an altered object island, a weaving island, etc.  I was going to put a little doll figure in a boat between islands, and title it something cute like, “Cast Adrift” or “Craft in the Current” or something.  I started by planning my island layout, taking an old map of the Hawaiian islands and flipping and stretching the individual  islands with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Patterns for the islands in my wall quilt.

Patterns for the islands in my wall quilt.

I went as far as creating some of the islands – they ended up looking sort of like pot holders.

Island shapes made by quilting

The “Potholder” islands

I began beading on one, and sewed a ton of buttons on another.  And then I just stopped, for a couple of reasons – first, I didn’t like how the islands looked, and second, I realized that by visualizing this concept as a quilt, I had my answer – I wanted to focus more on quilting.

So the little islands sat in a drawer for about 8 years.  Recently, I took them out when I was looking for something else, and it struck me that the little beaded island would add a layer of interest to an e-reader cover.

There are probably lots of tutorials out there on how to make your own e-reader cover, but here’s how I make mine.

1. Cut a piece of fabric 24 inches by 12 inches.  (If it has a directional print, part of it is going to appear upside-down in the finished product, so you probably want something that is non-directional.)

Fabric for e-reader cover

Fabric for e-reader cover

2. Cut a piece of batting 9 inches by 12 inches ( I keep one cutting mat just for batting, because the little fibers get stuck in the cutting lines).



3.  Place the fabric on the ironing board in landscape orientation, with the wrong side up toward you.  Fold the bottom 1/4 inch up along the long side (so you see a little bit of the right side of the fabric) and press.  Repeat, so you have a folded hem.  Stitch the hem.

4. Now fold the fabric in half the short way – as we called it in school, “hamburger-style” – with the right sides of the fabric together, and the wrong side facing you.  You will have a 12 inch by 11.5 inch square.   Place the fold to the left side. Place the batting, also landscape oriented,  along the top of the folded fabric – you will have a plain fabric area of about 2.5 inches that the batting does not cover.

Batting and fabric

Showing how to orient batting, with plain fabric at the bottom

5.  Now you are going to stitch 2 seams through these 3 layers, to make a sort of very flat mini-pillow.  I keep the batting on top so I can see better.  Stitch the top seam, and down the cut side, all the way to the bottom.  The last few inches of this seam will be only through fabric, no batting.  Clip the corners.  (If you are a precise sort of person, you can trim the extra batting away from the seams, but I like it for the extra padding. )

Flip the layers – you will now have the batting inside the two cloth layers.  (If you like, you can add a stiff material slipped into the cover to provide your e-reader with extra protection.  I have cut up and used some of those thin flexible cutting mats that are sold in packs of 2 or 3 for a few dollars, but I don’t really like the feeling of those slipping around inside the cover, so now I just use batting.)

6. Once you have flipped the fabric so the right sides are out, top stitch – the red lines in the picture show the stitch lines.  You are catching the batting in the cover area, and you will still have an area of loose plain fabric at the bottom.

Top-stitching lines

Top-stitching lines

7.  To make the top band that holds the e-reader in, cut a piece of fabric 2 1/2 by 13 inches.  Fold up the bottom 1/4 inch and press.  I like to make it with a coordinating fabric, but you could use the same, or even use just elastic.

Top band

Top band, to hold the e-reader in the cover

8. Cut a piece of 5/8 inch elastic 12 or so inches long.

9. Wrap the piece of fabric around the elastic, wrong side in – the raw edge goes to about the middle of the long strip of elastic, then the fabric wraps around, and the pressed edge finishes is the middle of the strip, catching the raw edge of the other side.  Stitch right down the middle of the strip, making sure you are sewing the pressed edge.

Fabric and Elastic

If you look closely, the stitching should be visible

10.  The short ends of the elastic band will be unfinished.  You could turn and sew them if you are precise, but that does add to the bulk, and it’s not like this is something that will get heavy use, so I leave them unhemmed.  Place the strip about 2 inches down from the top of the cover, and stitch the ends in place.

Elastic band in e-reader

Elastic band in e-reader cover

11.  Finally,  fold the bottom fabric up to make a little pocket on the inside, press, pin, and stitch the sides in place.  Fold the cover and press the fold.  Stitch through all the layers, about 1/8 inch from the center line, on the left and right of it.  It gives a little more definition to the spine than just one seam here.  You will catch the elastic strip too.  The red dots in the picture show the stitching lines.

Final stitching lines

Final stitching lines

That is the basic cover!  I think you can turn one out in an hour or two.

E-reader Cover

E-reader Cover

Normally, I like to make these as gifts in fabrics that reflect the recipients’  interests, but for this one, I picked a plain fabric that would showcase the beaded island.  For the beading, I had machine quilted a few lines to suggest topography.   Then I stitched beads radiating out from some lines.  At the point I had stopped work, one and a half outlines had been beaded.  When I decided how to finish, I stitched some more beads in the radiating pattern, and then took apart an old beaded bracelet I had made, and a necklace from the dollar store, and couched those strings of beads on top of the other quilted lines.

The Completed Island

The completed Island of Beads

When the basic cover was done, I hand-stitched the beading portion onto it, only through the top layer of fabric.  It’s a small victory, but it feels great to put this little piece of beading to use.

Note:  I am a pretty careful person, so I’m not worried about scratching my e-reader with the beading.  If I had small kids around, I don’t think I would use any beads around that screen.

Finished Cover

A small part of a UFO put to use at last.