The Power of Fabric

Over the summer, me and the MR visited Sweet Miss at her apartment. We were excited to see her first place on her own.

My sweet girl calls often, so I️ knew how she pictured blues and grays, a geometric rug, and intricate patterns for her living room.

Sadly, I also knew she had our old futon with the green slipcover and the two little red chairs from Papa Willy’s basement; none of which went with her vision. (You can see the futon in all it’s glory in A Magic Carpet and fancied up with a slipcover and new pillows in Pump Up the Volume.)

When you’re young and just starting out, you can’t be too picky about furniture, and Sweet Miss was making do with what she had. For her birthday, we picked up a set of navy slipcovers from World Market, but I don’t think Ikea even sells the chairs anymore.

Don’t worry; I came armed with pins, fabric, and a plan. I’d just rough fit the chairs with an old sheet and use that for a pattern for slipcovers. But there were angles and arms, and we had to buy “love” stamps for save-the-dates, and pick out a wedding dress.

We wound up just bringing one of the chairs home for fitting purposes. Somehow, we decided to leave the arms behind, since I wasn’t covering them–big mistake, but we’ll get to that later.

On the way home, we stopped at a store to look for fabric, but nothing caught my eye. I went to two more stores in our area without any luck before turning to Fabrics. com. I bought some trellis pattern fabric in blues and some gray and blue accent fabric. And since I was shopping, I bought some fabric in rust hues for our home.

img_8580

Sometimes working with home decorator fabric is overwhelming due to its size and weight. I used the pattern on the fabric as a guide for straight cuts. Work smarter–not harder.

We were on a bit of a time crunch with having to move Baby Girl back to school and the fabric arrived with just one day to spare. Now sure, I should have made a accurate pattern with the old sheet, but I didn’t. And after a bit, I realized I wouldn’t be able to leave gaps for the arms since I didn’t know exactly where they’d land.

It was a long Saturday, and the slip covers aren’t perfect, but these chairs are bright, and cheery, and no longer red. Sweet Miss used a staple gun to tack down the seat of the one on the right and give it more of a fitted look. The staple gun stopped working after that, but you get the idea.

They remind me of atriums and sun-filled days. I believe the living room is headed in the right direction. She can borrow a staple gun on her next visit.

I still have some fabric waiting to be made into pillow covers. Maybe I should get busy before I see her again. And she mentioned artwork…

It’s amazing how a little fabric can change things up.

What have you been sewing lately? Any tips for that first home?

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Pillow Talk

So once upon a time, ages ago, I recovered some pillows for our outide seating area, and then I promised you a tutorial. I bought some fabric and was totally ready to do it. And then I didn’t. Sweet Miss graduated from college, a year came and went, and I fell down on the job.

So thank you for waiting, and here’s a basic pillow tutorial.

First measure the pillow you’d like to cover. If it’s a down pillow form, you can use that exact measurement, if it’s fiberfill, add an inch.

Now you have to ask yourself permanent or seasonal? Do I want to shake things up on a regular basis or is this something I want to see forever (or at least for a good bit)?

If you want to change it up often, buttons are your friend. Zippers can also be quite useful, but we’re going to focus on buttons for today.

The pillows I wanted to cover were 20 inches square. So I grabbed my fabric, gave it a quick iron and cut out a 21-inch square in the diamond material.

For the polka-dotted gray, I cut a 21 x 27-inch rectangle. I know that doesn’t add up at all. Hold your horses. Now, you need to decide what you want. Are the buttons going to be a design element? Do you want it totally symmetrical, or do you want a band off to the side?

I wanted the buttons off to the side but looking intentional so not too far off to the side. After thinking it through, I cut a 7-inch piece off of one length. These two pieces would make up the back.

In home dec projects, the iron is your friend. This isn’t rocket science. I eyeballed about an inch, folded it under and pressed. Then folded again and pressed. I did this on both pieces of fabric making sure to use the adjacent ends.

Let’s move on to the sewing machine. Simply stitch the folded sides down close to the turned edge. Add a couple buttonholes or as many as the number of buttons you’d like to use on the smaller piece of fabric.

Over lap and stitch the top and bottom edges together being certain that the buttonholes are on the outer side.

Now if you’ve been doing your math along the way, you may have noticed that I added and extra 6 inches, but only folded under 2 on each side. If 2+2=4, that means I have an extra 2 inches. Yes you do, but let’s say you’re really bad at guestimating an inch and folded under 1 1/2-inches on each side, you’d have exactly the right amount. Now, if you turned under 1 5/8-inches on each side, suddenly you’d be scurrying around without enough fabric. This way you have a fudge factor. And in my imprecise world, it has come in handy more than once.

We’re almost there. Just face right sides together, and sew around the edge. Sew on your buttons and get ready for a quick and easy update.

Whether I feel like winter or summer, I’m set.

I didn’t use pillow forms, I just recoverd some old green feather pillows that the pin feathers kept poking out of.  I bought the fabric when Hancock’s was going out of business, so it was quite reasonable. For around $20, I added a little style and color to our couch.

How you do you like to update your sofa? Any sewing tips to share?

 

A Pop of Color

For a place we spend countless hours, we’ve neglected the deck horribly. Me and the MR can be found most afternoons watching the sun set and catching up on our days.

With such a lovely view, I haven’t bothered with adding much of anything. OK, let’s be real, the deck has required crazy amounts of time, money, work, and energy, but that’s all just been maintenance. The MR spent hours power washing it a few weeks ago, we’ve had the lower deck rebuilt, and Papa Larry spent endless hours sanding the railings before the MR could paint them that first summer. Last fall, the MR added an outside heater so we could spend more time on the deck during the cold months. So yes, we’ve worked on them (mostly the MR), but we haven’t done anything to make them look pretty.

We set up some old faux wicker chairs and a weathered table next to the outside heater and called it good. But the table was too small for wine glasses and a cheese plate and the top was peeling off–not the most attractive look. I figured this area needed some TLC.

So last month when we were on vacation, I took time to check out all those emails from online stores and came across a couple things I thought would be perfect for the deck. I bought an herb garden in lime green–one of our accent colors for spring and summer.

Herb Garden

Somehow, I didn’t think things through. Perhaps green, on green, on green isn’t the most visually stimulating. Some white stripes or polka-dots would break up the color, but I should have thought of that before I planted the herbs. Oh well, there’s always next year. I was hoping that the two-tier rack would keep the plants from being blown away. The tin pots were also a bonus in that if they do get knocked around in the wind, they won’t break.

But that wasn’t my only find. I also ordered a funky, curvy table and some outdoor fabric to recover the chair cushions. They were getting quite faded after years of sunshine.

Deck Chairs

 

Yes, yes, I know. I only have one cushion done. Well, the MR came home from work, and rather than neglecting him, I joined him on the deck. I think he appreciates those kinds of gestures.

My plan was to whip up the other cushion lickety-split this morning. But have you seen what kind of day it is? Gorgeous! Me and my buddy took our dogs walking on the trail down in the valley.

On a clear day, this is my view as I’m making Baby Girl’s lunch.

Kitchen View

With a view like that, it’s amazing that I get anything done. I know the mountain seems far away (it is almost 100 miles), but I feel like it’s right in my backyard putting on a show just for me.

Mt Rainer Zoom

I grew up south of Seattle, and I do love Mount Rainier.

Now back to sewing; recovering the cushions was a very simple task.

  1. Removed the old cushion cover and trace the foam insert on the outdoor fabric.
  2. Cut out two of these for each cushion
  3. Cut a strip of fabric the depth of your cushion and the length of the diameter leaving a little extra length for leeway. (For my cushion I cut a 3-inch-wide strip the length of my fabric.)
  4. Press under 1/2-inch on one of the short ends–this is the end you will start with when sewing to the cushion top or bottom.
  5. Use a disappearing fabric pen to mark corners on cushion top and bottom and both sides of strip.
  6. Sew strip to one side easing the fabric in place.
  7. Sew strip to other side aligning markings and leaving a generous opening in the back.
  8. Stuff in your form, and sew up the opening.

I decided not to use welting, since the fabric has a large botanical print and might become overly busy. With outdoor fabric, I’m hoping these will wear well and not fade. I guess we’ll wait and see.

 

 

How are you adding color to your outdoor spaces? Sewing anything lately?

Bringing Spring Indoors

It’s amazing how a little color can change the whole mood of a room. While I haven’t pulled out all my spring and summer decor, I did manage to add some color and whimsy to the pillows.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that I’ve been searching for fabric for the entry benches for forever. I’ve looked at greens and grays and golds, but nothing seemed quite right. I decided a trip to one of our local independent stores (Pacific Fabrics and Crafts) might be the answer.

Well, they had lots of beautiful fabrics, but the bench fabric still eluded me. But I did see some really cute, cheery fabric with birds and birdhouses, cherries and branches. It was whimsical and fun and totally wrong for the benches, so I passed it up and kept looking.

Sometimes when something speaks to your heart, you just have to get it. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I was back to buy a little fabric that wasn’t modern or sleek or big, white house-ish. But it spoke to me of spring–kind of like Baby Girl’s Easter bouquet.

Easter Bouquet

I decided to give it a little edge by adding black trim, and that’s where things sat for a few months.

Spring Fabric with Black Trim

You see the beige background had just a hint of pink and none of the material I had on hand would work. I’d bought enough fabric to use for both sides, but I was hoping for a little extra, because I had something else in mind. So like I said, it all just sat in the sewing room while I waited for inspiration.

Then it hit me. If you don’t like the right-side, maybe the wrong-side will do. I have tons of old curtains from our last house that are just waiting to become something fabulous. While gold diamonds certainly wouldn’t work, the backside was creamy, marbled, a little iridescent, and just about perfect.

Two sides of back

 

I like making pocket pillow covers, since you don’t have to pay for a zipper, they don’t require hand-sewing, and the pillow form slips in easily. I’ve been following Celebrate Creativity for a month or two. She has some really wonderful ideas and recently showcased a Jacobean pillow with gorgeous embroidery on one side and just a little something-something on the other (check it out here).

I wasn’t up for any embroidery, but I did think a thick black band on the back of the pillow would add a little pizzazz. I had some fabric leftover from Baby Girl’s Halloween costume ages ago and decided it had just the right amount of sheen.

I cut a three inch strip, sewed the right-side of the black fabric to the wrong-side of the back of the pillow, and then ironed it flat.

Creating Back Band 2

Then I flipped the freshly ironed fabric to the right-side, folded the strip of black in half on itself, ironed it, and then folded it over again and sewed it into place. I’d love to show you photos, but somehow I forgot to take any after the first step. I hope it all makes sense. Since the black fabric was lighter weight than the drapery fabric, I didn’t want it to stand on its own at the edge.

For the front of the pillow, I used a zipper foot to attach the trim to the birdy tapestry.

Applying Trim 3

 

Then you just make a sandwich with right-sides together of the front of the pillow and the two overlapping pieces of the back. After sewing around the outside, clip the corners (to give them a sharper point), and turn the whole thing right-side out.

If it looks good, stuff the pillow, and you’re good to go. I turned the smaller half of the back wrong-side out again, slipped in the pillow, and then flipped it all right-side out–easy as can be.

Stuffing the Pillow 2Now let’s just take a look of my lovely new pillow in place.

Finished Bird Pillow closer

If one’s good, two must be better, so I actually made two of these lovelies. Baby Girl was on the couch, so you’ll have to just take my word for it. And I know you’re dying to find out how the back of the pillow turned out.

Back Band Surprise

It reminds me of the tuxedo stripe down a pant leg; I’m rather in love. If the front-side of the pillow winds up getting rumpled, I’ll had a few snaps along the band to keep everything in place.

And since I was in the sewing mood, I decided to finish up one of my old projects. I have a green, leaf-motif scarf that I love the texture and pattern of. A few years ago, I decided to make up “mini” scarves to decorate a pillow. Once the scarves were made, the project kind of got side-tracked. Are you noticing a pattern?

I ran across the scarves when I was trapped in the sewing room with the dogs a few weeks ago. I decided it was a really great idea and that I’d finish up that pillow. I have plenty of old drapes, so I hand-sewed the mini scarves to a piece of fabric and sewed on a matching back. Unfortunately, I was off on my measurements, so the pillow wasn’t fitting nicely. I used my machine to add a band of faux-suede to the bottom and hand-sewed it closed. It’s not quite how I imagined it, but maybe it’s just a wee bit better.

Leaf Scarf Trim Pillow 2

I love the texture of that crochet pattern. A new pillow or two can add so much brightness and light and just pull a space together. Laundry baskets on the dining room table on the other hand don’t do the trick as well.

More Spring Pillows

OK, so it’s morning, Baby Girl has vacated the couch, so here’s one last look at the my sweet little bird pillows.

Pillows 005

What are you sewing up? Adding any springtime whimsy to your home?

 

 

Getting Comfortable

Pets–you gotta love ’em. Our dogs bring joy and laughter to our lives; they’re always up for a good run or a game of fetch. BUT–there’s always a but–these dogs drive me crazy.

Cocoa looks all sweet and innocent, snoozing on the chair, but that puppy likes to chew.

Cocoa

 

In order to keep our house from sustaining damage, the dogs have been relegated to the laundry room when we’re gone and at night. While fewer pillows have been chewed up, our clothes have taken a bit of a beating.

I wasn’t surprised to find chewed up socks and underwear, but Cocoa got bored with that and decided to redesign the MR jeans.

Jeans

Apparently, that Levi’s patch is overdone, and a few bite marks at the waistband are all the rage. In order to save our wardrobe, I came up with a plan. I would make dog beds and tie chew sticks to them. Our sweet little dogs would be so busy with their treats that they wouldn’t have time to bother with our clothes.

I had all the supplies, a few of the girls’ old comforters, some fabric that I bought for curtains that were never meant to be, and some rope for the trim.

Bogart approved whole-heartedly. He even deigned to test out the cushy-ness factor for me.

Bogart and blankets

I was excited since i had two rather undiscriminating clients, I figured I could try out some new techniques. I’d seen some cute napkins with mitered hems–very professional looking–so I decided to try it out on the dogs. What are they going to do if my corners are wonky? They’ve been known to eat garbage; I don’t think they’ll complain.

Well, it all went swimmingly. Celebrate Creativity has a super, simple tutorial (you can check out here). I just made my “napkins” more like dog-bed-size. When I had two finished “napkins”, I put them wrong-sides together, sewed around three sides (about an inch-and-a-half from the edge), and made some buttonholes on the fourth. Then it was just a matter of tacking the edges together every so often, running the cord through, and adding little chew treats.

So how did it turn out? I finished in the middle of the afternoon, stuck the new dog bed in the laundry room, started dinner, and realized I’d forgotten to take any photos. What was I thinking?

Torn up trim 2

I guess they enjoyed it. The chew element didn’t really work out, but at least they wound up with a cozy pair of beds to lie on. And if you run out other things to chew, there’s always the corner of your bed, the stuffing, or even your buddy’s ear–Cocoa has a problem.

Dog Beds

The dogs can usually be found sitting on their beds when I get ready to leave, so I think they like them even without treats.

One little tip in case you decide to make dog beds or napkins, I cut a piece of cardboard to one inch in width to use as a guide while I was ironing. I imagine it would also come in handy if you were making a dozen napkins.

Cardboard measure

 

And by the by, guess whose sewing machine repair shop just called? I’m thinking more projects are just around the corner.

What have you been making? How do you keep your dogs from chewing up the world?

(OK, so I’ve been messing with my theme for the blog (how it looks). After two years, it was time for something new, but the theme I used on Wednesday was just too hard to read. I hope you like the new one. It might be another two years before I get the courage to shake things up again.)

Cozying the Couch

On these windy, rainy days, I like to snuggle up in a nice big sweater. It’s cozy and warm and keeps the chill off. So last spring when I came across a few skeins of gorgeous, variegated, chunky, green yarn I snapped them up thinking they’d make a great snuggly pillow cover for the fall and winter months.

Over the summer, I started crocheting my pillow cover and soon realized I was running out of yarn. I switched part way through to a pattern that was less of a yarn hog and wound up with just enough to cover one of the old the pillows the former owners left in the conversation pit. These are perfectly fine pillows; I just hate the southwest fabric, and I still have a pile of them in the guest room closet. Now I had to rethink my plan. That’s usually my downfall. I’ve thought things through, they change, and I don’t know what to do.

I could use the faux brown suede I have from a project that fell through years ago. I have some light linen I could use for the back. But I’m moving away from the browns and trying to incorporate more gray in the color scheme. Linen and sweaters don’t really go together. On one of those sleepless nights, I remembered the rolls of fleece fabric I received from a friend when she moved about 10 years ago–I’ve told you I keep everything. Well anyways, I was sure I had some gray fleece out in the sewing room. But had I cut it into strips when I was on that bag making kick? Who knows. I could just piece the back; it would be fine.

Sometimes I need to tell myself, “Get a grip Kim. It’s just a pillow.” And this weekend, I found the perfect piece of fleece, and sewed it up lickety-split, and now we have a new pillow.

backing pillow topper

First I cut the fleece into a 16×16-inch square to match the size of the pillow and a cut a 16×5-inch flap. Well, my crocheted pillow front wasn’t quite square, so I readjusted the fleece to match up with front.

cut fleece

Next, I pinned both sides together and started sewing. Well, have you noticed how sweaters can stretch? I was quickly running into problems with a standard stitch length. So I switched it to the longest stitch length (this pillow is not meant for pillow fights or heavy wear and tear) and pinned it carefully. I don’t normally use a lot of pins, but with stretchy fabric it helps keep everything in place.

sewn together

Then I removed the pins holding the flap and the back together and turned just the backing fabric to the right side.

pillow inside 2

After slipping in the pillow, I turned the flap right-side out and sewed it in place with a running stitch and some embroidery floss. If the pillow cover needs to go through the wash, I will have to resew it, but it took all of two minutes, so I’m OK with that.

And now while I love, love, love my owl pillow; it looks a little bland against the gray couch. Beige on gray is not my favorite.

owl

But when I add our new cozy pillow, it stands out so much more.

owl and sweater

The owl pillow might be even better on one of the little green chairs, so my cozy green pillow can hold its on with the faux-fur throw on the couch.

owl on green chair

My new pillow certainly adds a punch of color and texture to the loveseat.

sweater pillow

Here we are all up close and personal.

sweater pillow up close

I love the texture, the color, and the coziness factor. The dogs on the otherhand can’t figure out why I’m crawling around and not playing with them. They’ve been trying to photo bomb all these pictures with tails and noses everywhere. I don’t believe they have much to say about pillows, although Cocoa did eat the corner of the owl pillow in her puppy days–maybe that’s why she can’t look me in the eye.

dogs

Did you get crafty this weekend? Added any cozy touches to your home as winter approaches?

(Note to self: Clean up the den and hang up that silly picture–it’s another plan went awry and has been on hold for months.)

Building a Better Box–a Cushion Tutorial

Along with the new paint job, the little bench just wouldn’t have been the same without a new box cushion and some snazzy pillows.

Garden Update August 6 006

While the process may seem intimidating, it’s really quite simple. Since this is the third time I’ve recovered this particular cushion, I figured I had it down pat. It still pays to be careful.

First of all, you measure the top and bottom of your cushion and cut two pieces of material to that exact size. My cushion had spent the last five years outside and was quite grungy, and we were having a worm crisis, so the garage floor was quite grungy. I figured a quick measuring while it was leaning against the shoes would be fine–not so much.

Garden and bend 003

Have you ever heard that old adage measure twice, cut once? Sometimes, I need to listen. Oh well, I’d bought fabric for the cushion and fabric for throw pillows, so I just rethought things a little bit, and decided to make the top of the cushion in one fabric and the rest in another. If I get tired of the contrast of the green, I can always flip the cushion over and give it a new look. See, I didn’t make a mistake, I was just trying to make it more versatile.

As you can see, I stripped off the old fabric–which went directly into the trash–and brought the foam inside to simply use it as a pattern. While we’re talking about the old cushion fabric, I just want to relive once more the beauty of the matching plaids from the cover to the cording to the side panel. I was quite proud of all that matching once upon a time.

Bench and Princess08072013_0000

OK, enough of living in the past. so we’re back to cutting a piece of fabric for the top and the bottom to the exact size of the cushion. Now you may be questioning this. Won’t it be too small? What about seam allowance? It’ll never work. Trust me. You know how your favorite jeans start out a little snug but end up looking great? Fabric tends to stretch, and you don’t want saggy, sad cushions (think baggy bottoms).

So I traced around the foam cushion with chalk, cut out the bottom, and then used that as a pattern for the top.

Cutting Collage

Then I pulled out the zipper for the cushion, measured it, and cut two strips the same size as the zipper about 3-inches wide. My cushion is only 4 inches wide, but I needed room to insert the zipper, and decided to cut it to size after I’d inserted the zipper. I basted the two strips together down the long seam, ironed the seam open, pinned the zipper on top, and then sewed both sides in place. After that I just trimmed the strip to the proper size.

Zipper Collage

Next it was time to make a ton of welting. I wanted to add welting to both sides of the cushion and to the back pillow. The great thing about welting is that it hides a multitude of sins while making your cushion look more professional and wear better. I tried to pick up some cotton cording at the fabric store but ran out of luck, so I decided to use some macrame cord. No, I don’t do macrame, but my grandma did. When someone in my family dies, I’ve become the default repository for anything “crafty”. It’s a little weird that I’ve had stacks of strange things from my Grandma GiGi for the last 20 years, but they do come in handy.

So with a rotary cutter, I cut a bunch of 2-inch wide strips of fabric in the blue, pieced them together, and then started sewing.

Making Cording

Next, I attached the welting to the top of the cushion and to the bottom of the cushion. You need to start sewing about an inch or so from the end of the welting. That gives you room to match things up neatly. Clip the seam allowance at the corners to get a nice turn, and stop just before you get to the end. Cut the cord so you have a bit of overlap. Cut the inner cord to the ends meet exactly, but leave an extra inch or so on the outside casing. Remove a little of the stitching, turn the edges to the inside. Pin it so it all matches up neatly with the beginning (this is why you started a little in from the end), and finish it off so pretty.

Cording Meet Up Collage

So I’d added welting to the top and the bottom, and now it was time to join everything all together. I had a strip of 4-inch fabric for the front along with the strip with the zipper for the sides and back. If you’ve pieced you side strip, make sure the front doesn’t have a seam. I started sewing the side strip to the front at the corner placing the seam there. That way I was certain it would be one unbroken piece along the front.

Start the side panel

When I got to the end of this strip, I turned it right side up and began sewing on the zippered strip. This hides the zipper tab from the outside. I didn’t worry about measuring the side strip lengthwise, so I didn’t have to be perfect. When the ends met up, I called it good. Then it was time to join the top and sides to the bottom. Make sure your zipper is open a little so it’s easier to turn your cushion right-side out.

matching the sides

Once the cushion was done, it was time to stuff the foam inside. My advice here is that a long zipper is your friend. Plastic bags can also help ease your foam into place.

Garden and bend 009

And then it was time to recover some pillows. The back pillow is a king-size pillow in fancy bird fabric with welting. I just cut two pieces of fabric the same size, added the welting to once piece, sewed the second piece of fabric together on three sides, shimmied the pillow in, and hand-sewed the remaining side.

I had some old throw pillows that I recovered in leftover pieces from the box cushion fabric, and for fun, I appliqued some birds on to these. I ironed on Wonder Under, cut out the birds, ironed them to the fabric, and zig-zagged around them in black for durability.

Pilows

While the fronts of the pillows are all fancy, I left the backs plain. This gives lots of decorating options. Here are just a few in case I get bored.

Bench Collage

In case you’d like more specific directions, check out a decorating book from the library or search online. I’m sure you can find very technical directions with precise details. But if you have cushions in need of recovering, just do it. It’s so much easier than you think.

I used outdoor fabric for the pillows and cushions, so I hope they stay looking nice much longer than the old ones. During the winter, when the rains come, the little bench will be heading back to the portico. Now, I have a cool and comfy place to while away an afternoon in the shade.

What have you been sewing lately? Revamped any pillows or cushions?