Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!

While perusing Pinterest one day, I saw a meme that said, "Another day has passed, and I didn't use algebra once."

Oh, but on the contrary, I bet you did.

I loved algebra in school. It was my favorite of all the math classes. You solve for x and then you are done. You have a right answer. It's not a subjective essay. There is no need to edit or rewrite. Each equation was like a puzzle to solve, and finding the answer was putting in the last piece. Very satisfying, most of the time. But I can understand while solving for the ever-elusive x and y, one can wonder "When am I ever going to use this stuff?"

The truth is-- all the time!  We just may not realize it, because we figure out numbers and math problems in our daily lives without consciously assigning an x to the unknown.  Calculating a tip at your favorite restaurant? Algebra! Figuring out the sale price on those jeans? Algebra! Planning and measuring fabric for a sewing project... algebra!

Yes, you read that right.  Math AND sewing! Run for the hills! (I'm waaaay more scared of the sewing.) Are you ready for this level of excitement?! I just want to prove that craftiness and mathiness are not mutually exclusive. Here goes.

Baskets with cloth liners are usually ex-PEN-sive, but inexpensive baskets can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, and in my case, the attic. I had a plain rectangular basket that I wanted to use to hold cloth diapering supplies, but the basket was old and had some rough edges inside that I didn't want to snag and tear the cloth diapers. I had never sewn a liner for a basket before, and I wanted something quick and easy. I decided to use knit fabric so I didn't have to finish the edges so neatly. (I suppose if you wanted to make a really tailored liner, you could measure for each panel of the basket... but ain't nobody got time for that in this house!)

Figuring out just how much fabric you need is where the algebra comes in. Once you have the equation, you can easily plug in your basket measurements to make a liner for any size basket. Just replace your measurements for the variables:
L = Length of basket
w = Width of basket
h = Height of basket
e = Width of Edge of basket
c = Length of Cuff
s = Seam allowance

L + 2h + 2e + 2c + 2s = Length of fabric

w + 2h + 2e + 2c + 2s = Width of fabric

Taking 2 times the final four measurements accounts for both sides of the basket. Another way to write it is:

L + 2(h + e + c + s) = Length of fabric
w + 2(h + e+ c+ s) = Width of fabric

Add the height, edge width, cuff length, and seam allowance together, then multiply by 2, then add to the length or width.

Perhaps it helps to picture it:
Mulligan Mama: How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!
Here is another diagram, if that helps:

Mulligan Mama: How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!
Let's try it with actual measurements-
L = Length of basket = 20 inches
w = Width of basket = 12 inches
h = Height of basket = 8 inches
e = Width of Edge of basket = 1 inch
c = Length of Cuff = 3 inches
s = Seam allowance = 1 inch

The length of the cuff and the seam allowance are entirely up to you and can vary.

20 + 2(8) + 2(1) + 2(3) + 2(1) = 46 inches length of fabric
20 +  16   +  2    +   6    +  2     = 46 


12 + 2(8) + 2(1) + 2(3) + 2(1) = 38 inches width of fabric
12 +  16   +  2    +   6    +  2     = 38 

For a basket this size, you would need a piece of fabric 46 inches long by 38 inches wide. Easy, right?

Now I know what you are thinking-- can't I just stretch my tape measure over, in, and across the basket and get the same answer? Well, yes, you could. But the point is... MATH!  ;-)

Once you figure out your measurements, the steps for making the liner are as follows:

1. Fold over the seam allowances on each corner, overlapping one side over the other, and cut out the square it forms. If your fabric comes wider than you need, see step #3 before you cut.
This cut prevents the fabric from bunching up on the corners and makes a path for the tie to go through.
(OK, so I know I'm not using the correct term when I say seam allowance. But I'm already well into this blog post and have already made my pretty graphics using the term seam allowance, so just roll with it, mkay? Thanks.) Basically, you need enough fabric turned over than you can stitch it and have a "tube" of fabric for the tie to go through.
Fold up one seam allowance (you know what I mean, right?), as far as you want the "tube" to be.
Fold over the other seam allowance.
Clip out the square where they overlap.
What the cut looks like with fabric unfolded.
Repeat on all four corners.
2. Turn over the seam allowance on each edge, wrong sides together, and stitch along the side.
You should do this four times, once for each side. You could make the seams neater by folding under the edge one more time, but the great thing about knit fabric is you don't have to. The fabric won't unravel. And the seam won't show, so no worries about sloppy sewing (hallelujah!).
Sew a straight line down each side.
3. Cut a ribbon or a long, thin piece of knit fabric for the tie.
If you have a little extra on the width (not because our math was imprecise, but because fabric only comes in certain widths), you can cut a long strip off the edge to use as your tie. If you go this route, this would be Step #1, not #3! After you cut, pull on the fabric, and it will stretch and roll into a neat little tie. You can also use ribbon or any kind of long, thin fabric.
Cut a small strip from the side of the fabric to make a tie, if you have enough fabric.
Stretch it out and leave enough length to tie in a bow or knot.
4. Put a safety pin on one end of your tie and thread it through all four seams.
The safety pin makes the tie easier to thread through the "tubes" on each side.
5. Place liner in basket, letting cuff drape over edge, then cinch tie snug and tie.

Easy basket liner complete!
Ok, now I have to 'fess up. Ready for my mulligan? For all my talk about how much I love algebra because it yields one right answer, I'm not very precise when it comes to sewing or crafting. I'm more of wibbly-wobbly crafter (tip of the hat, Doctor Who fans). I didn't buy a new piece of fabric for this project; I reused the fabric from my infinity nursing scarf.  Turns out, my baby is a very large baby, and neither he nor I like to cover him up when he nurses. So, I thought I would just repurpose the fabric for something else.  The trouble is, the fabric wasn't quite wide enough, and then I went and cut the tie off the edge, making it even narrower. But I figured the knit would stretch enough to make it work.

Not so much.

But, it is still functional. It covers the sides enough to stay in place and serves the purpose of protecting the cloth dipes from the baskets.
Had I trusted the numbers instead of my (lack of) crafting intuition, it would look a lot better. Live and learn.

Go forth and do math and craft without fear!!

~Mulligan Mama