Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pillow covers for a lazy seamstress

I don't do zippers. I don't even do buttons if I can help it. I definitely don't do snaps, since that requires an extra tool I'd probably lose. Velcro is kind of a pain, plus it's something I'd have to run out to the store to buy, since I'd forget to buy it when I get my fabric.

Yep, I'm lazy. In fact, I doubt that there's a lazier (or less skilled) seamstress within many, many miles of my house.

Luckily, pillow covers are easy, quick, and cheap to make.

Here's how I do them.

For a 20'x20' pillow form, I cut my fabric to 21"x48". I use a rotary cutter because it's easier than using scissors.

Then I put a hem on each end. My mom taught me a lazy way to get perfect curtain hems, and I use the same method for pillows. For this, I want 1" hems that use 2" of fabric. So, I fold the fabric up 2", press, fold the unfinished edge into the fold, press again, pin, and sew.

Perfect hem.

Next I overlap the fabric inside-out to give me a square that's about 20"x21" and I sew up the side seams with about a 1/2" seam allowance (that means my needle is about 1/2" in from the raw edge of the fabric).

I trim my corners, flip it right side-out, and I've got a pillow cover. It takes about 10 minutes to make one, maybe a little longer if you're watching TV while you work.

I believe this is called an envelope style pillow cover? All I know is it is fast, easy, and it gets the job done.

And that sofa that's got all of the lazy-girl pillows on it? Yeah, I'll be posting about that soon!

The source information for the fabrics used here are available on my Pinterest fabric board. All three came from

Thursday, January 24, 2013

{backyard redo} Protecting our Outdoor Furniture

It seems that our backyard redo series has been interrupted by...well...winter. Bleh.

But even in the dregs of winter, there is still work that can be done to move things along.

Do you remember these chairs? The bright red tabouret chairs I bought after Thanksgiving? I know I told you they'd end up outside, but things move slowly sometimes around here, and so they're still inside.

They will go outside. Eventually.

But, the instructions that came with the chairs very clearly stated that they are not intended for outdoor use.

Ha. We'll see about that.

We live at high elevation (around 6500 feet, I think) and the sun here is intense. To keep it from fading the bright red paint on our chairs, I decided I should make some slipcovers to protect them.

Luckily, these chairs stack easily, as many as four high. I've got eight chairs so I only need two covers to protect them. The chairs won't be covered all the time, but probably from November through April all eight of them will wear their covers, and during the summer I imagine that at least four of them will be covered most of the time since we won't be hosting parties every night of the week.

At least that's not the plan.

To keep the chairs covered, I headed to Lowe's and bought a 12ft x 9ft canvas drop cloth. It was bigger than I needed, but it was a better value than the small drop cloths. I know I'll use the leftover fabric to make covers for the backyard furniture I'll be building (like maybe a table to go with these chairs?) but using a cloth this big was a bit unwieldy. I think next time I'll sacrifice a few bucks and buy a couple of smaller cloths.

Also, I bought the heaviest cloth (10oz) in order to get the best protection from the elements.

Would a fabric made for outdoor use probably hold up longer? Like Sunbrella fabric, with UV protection built in? Yeah, probably. But have you looked at the prices on it?

The drop cloth I bought cost about $27. For that much Sunbrella fabric I'd probably have spent a good $100. So drop cloth it was.

The first thing I did was wash the drop cloth in hot water to maximize shrinkage. Once it was good and dry, I draped it over my stack of chairs and started pinning.

It took a bit of trial and error to get the pinning right. That might be because my only experience with slipcovers comes from watching Trading Spaces (faithfully) about ten years ago. But I think all that time I put in with Hildy and Laurie and Paige must have paid off, because for a first try these covers actually came out okay.

Meaning, they fit. And probably won't blow away when the wind kicks up. I'll count that as success.

I pinned the sides first using the factory edges of the drop cloths, then I pinned the tops. Once I was happy with the shape, I trimmed off the excess and then sewed up the seams. After that, I put the slipcovers on inside out and folded up the hem.

I pressed the crease for the hem before trimming off the excess fabric and turning the hem under (this is how my mom taught me to hem curtains and it works like a charm). I actually only had to hem the back of the cover -- when I pinned it all together, I used the factory hem for the front, making sure it was parallel (or almost parallel) to the floor as I pinned.

Once the hem was stitched, I pressed out a couple of seams. (Not all of them because, really? It's going to sit outside in the snow.) Then I flipped the cover right side out, and tried it on the chairs.

Much to my surprise, it fit! Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this, though...I couldn't help but post a status update about rocking my first slipcover. I'm not even sure you can call it a slipcover, actually.

This stack of chairs is now sitting out on our new (unusable because it's too dang cold) patio. I'm so looking forward to spring summer when we can finish up out there. In the meantime, I'll keep finding ways to make progress, even if it's just pinning the furniture I'm going to build so that maybe by July I'll have a place to drink a beer in the sun.


psst...for more about our backyard redo, check out these posts.

Friday, November 16, 2012

{tutorial} Bold Striped Curtains

About a month ago, Scott and I embarked upon a repainting of almost the entire interior of our house. Bedrooms were spared but...not much else.

We went grey. (On the walls, not in our hair.)

Our grey walls were inspired by our new curtains, curtains that we didn't yet have. In my mind, though, and on Pinterest, I saw bold grey and white striped curtains.

Here are a few of my inspiration images:

If I'm being totally honest, I have to tell you that originally I wanted bold chevron, but I couldn't find bold chevron fabric or curtains anywhere and the idea of making bold chevron fabric was just about enough to knock me out. So when my friend Emily suggested stripes instead, I was all over it.

For about ten seconds, I considered using white curtains and painting the stripes on. This seems like a reasonably good idea until you get down to the nitty gritty of it. Where do you lay out four 108" x 57" panels to paint them? Is there a clean spot (a dirt, dust, and pet hair-free place) in my house that is this big? Um, no. Is there one in yours?? Because, if so, I'd like to come move in with you. Or hire you to keep my house clean.

So that left me with a few options -- leaving a panel intact and adhering stripes to the panels, using something like Heat-n-Bond, was one option. This sounded cumbersome. The other option was buying panels (or fabric, but panels from Ikea were way cheaper than fabric from a fabric store) and cutting them apart, then sewing them back together.

In the end, this seemed like the easiest option. Plus, my mother in law agreed to do the sewing for me which kind of made it a no-brainer.

SO, here's how we did it.

I needed 4 108" curtain panels and I needed them to be lined.

I bought two packs of these grey curtains from Ikea and two packs of these white ones. Looking back, I should have bought two more packs of white ones to line the curtains, but I ended up buying 14 yards of crappy curtain liner from Hancock Fabrics instead. Another pack of curtains would have been cheaper, thicker, and wider.

The curtains needed to be washed ahead of time to deal with shrinkage, so I washed all the grey curtains together and then all the whites. After sewing the crappy curtain liner into the new curtains, we realized that we'd forgotten to pre-wash the liner. So...I guess when I wash the curtains I'll do it on cold and hang them to dry?

The moral of that story is remember to wash your liner, too.

Once the curtain panels were clean and dry, I laid them out on my rotary mat and cut them into strips. To make 4 108" panels with 1/2" seam allowances, I cut the following:
  • 4 18.5" tall white strips with grommets from the tops of the white panels.
  • 8 19" tall white strips
  • 8 19" tall grey strips
  • 4 23" tall grey strips for the bottoms. I left these unhemmed until the curtains where hanging, then hemmed them using the iron-on hemming strips that come with Ikea curtains.
My mother-in-law and I both agreed that getting the strips cut right is the main key in getting these curtains right. If they aren't exactly the right sizes, there is no way you'll be able to get the stripes lined up pefectly.

My stripes line up perfectly. I could live with them if they didn't line up perfectly, but someone more OCD than I am would probably go nuts.

Once the strips were all cut, my mother-in-law sewed them together, alternating colors, using a half inch seam allowance. In order to get the seams perfect, she put a strip of masking tape 1/2" from the needle on my machine -- this made it easy to keep the seam allowance right.

Getting the seam allowance consistent is the second crucial part of getting these curtains right.

Once all of the strips were sewn together, we cut the liner to fit and gave it both a top and bottom hem. This is where it gets a little murky and you might want to figure out a better way for yourself...

My mother-in-law topstitched the top of the liner along the seam just below the grommets at the tops of the panels. Then, she pressed the sides of the panels over about 1/2", sandwiched the liner between the two layers of curtain, and topstitched the length of the curtains.

We talked about a bunch of ways to put the liner in, but because we needed to leave the grommets accessible, we couldn't find a great way to do it. This seems to have worked, though!

Once the liner was in, we hung the curtains and then I used the hemming strips enclosed with the curtains from Ikea to press and hem the curtains.

All together, including curtains, liner, and thread, these panels cost me about $175 and I ended up with a lot of fabric leftover -- one full grey panel, another half a grey panel, and about 3/4 of a white panel. I already have plans for the grey fabric and I have no doubt that I'll be able to use the leftover white fabric down the road, too. Clearly, these panels were more expensive than just buying four plain Ikea panels (I could have done that for about $75). But, for the effect that I ended up with, I think $45-ish per panel was a pretty good price!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No more ziplocks!

A few years ago I found a new way to reduce my dependence on oil...I decided to quit using ziplock bags. Because, as I'm sure you know, the manufacture of anything plastic requires a good bit of oil. To replace plastic bags I made a big batch of fabric snack bags. I made some of the bags the size of sandwich bags and some the size of the smaller snack sized bags.

My first bags...they're still in use!
That was two years ago. I haven't bought ziplocks since.

I know! It sounds so...un-American!

Yes, sometimes I get complaints from Scott when he's packing for the airport and wants ziplocks for his toiletries (I haven't had a problem getting through security with my toothpaste in my regular ditty bag). Other than that, I think we've adapted pretty well.

For my snack bags, I've used both cotton and nylon liners. I like the cotton liners better because I don't have to worry about what kind of weird chemicals were used to make them (although conventional cotton is sprayed with lots of pesticides and then later it is bleached...but I try to use fabric that's been washed several times). If I'm sending a messy sandwich in one of the bags, I just wrap the sandwich in parchment paper (I buy the pre-cut squares of deli paper at Costco) before I put it in the bag. My girls pull out their sandwiches wrapped in paper and use the paper like a plate when they eat at school. We use the bags several times (shaking them out when necessary) before tossing them in the washing machine inside-out.

I played with several designs before landing on this one. The rounded top is forgiving and the small piece of velcro is all you really need. I tried bags with full velcro closures, but they were hard to open and close. We've never had problems with this design -- the food we put in the bags seems to stay in the bags!

I want you to be able to join the no-ziplock revolution, so while I worked on another batch of bags over the past few weeks, I took (poorly lit because it was usually the middle of the night) photos of each step.

Let's get started.

First I cut out two pieces of fabric (one for the outside, one for the lining) using a pattern that I created. The pattern is made of one 8 1/2"x11" piece of paper taped to another piece of paper with a rounded top edge. I traced a mixing bowl to get the rounded edge. The total pattern height is 17 inches. When I'm cutting a sandwich bag, I use the full height of the pattern. For a snack bag, I fold the lower sheet of paper in half, so the total height is 11 1/2 inches.

Place the fabrics with the wrong sides together (these pieces are cut to snack size).

If you're going to use a ribbon tab on the rounded flap of the bag, now is the time to cut it. I make mine about 2 1/2".

Fold the fabric tab in half, center it (as best you can) on the rounded top edge, and pin it between the two wrong sides with the cut edge poking out.

Sew along the perimeter of the bag, but leave the flat bottom end open.

Press the seams open and then turn the bag inside out.

Press the edges flat and do your best to round out the top -- sometimes this can be challenging!

Fold the raw bottom edge inward and press it. You're going to top-stitch it closed.

Pin the pressed edge.

Top-stitch the bottom edge. Sometimes it is fun to use contrasting thread for this part...if you're confident in your ability to sew a straight line. I'm not, but I use contrasting thread anyway!

Now add velcro to the outside of the bottom part of the bag.

Fold the bottom part of the bag up toward the rounded flap. I use my best judgement on this rather than a precise measurement.

Once you've figured out where you want your fold, top-stitch all the way around the bag, starting from the top right corner of this picture, down around the curve, and then up to the left corner. I don't go across the bottom -- I just leave the fold.

You're almost done! Match up the rounded flap with the velcro on the bottom and add a piece of velcro to the inside of the flap.

That's it! The bag I was working on in the photos is a snack sized bag. For the sandwich bag, follow the same steps but make your fold in the appropriate place to get the size bag you want.

Friday, September 14, 2012

{DIY} Thread Board

My friend Emily (the same one who talked me into adding the "favorite projects" page) pinned a thread board last fall and asked me to help her with it. Right, last fall. That's about how long it takes to get things done around my house.

Last week she said something like, "I'd really like to get that thread board done." And, truthfully, I really needed a place to stash my thread and so, together, Emily and I got working.

Here are some of the materials I used for my board. The brown board is actually the bottom of a door I used for this project, plus some scrap 1x2s. Once it was put together, I decided it needed a crown on top, so I added a 1x3 and some scrap moulding to balance it all.

Emily was in charge of getting the dowels to complete the boards. I don't know how she did it with her three year old by her side, but she headed to Lowe's with a spool of thread and a bobbin (to be sure the dowels would fit) and figured out exactly how many dowels we'd need.

We picked out some wood from my scrap pile for her board and cut, glued, and nailed until we liked how the boards looked. Then we finished them -- mine with General Finishes water-based stain, hers with stain and then a bit of paint left over from other projects. Hers also got a coat of brown glaze to add age, and then both boards got a coat of wax for a smooth finish.

The dowels were cut to 3" lengths and then inserted into holes we drilled in the boards. The drilling was undoubtedly the hardest part of the whole project! We made a drilling jig the width of each board with holes spaced evenly, and then used that jig to drill our rows of holes.

Emily's board needs a few more dowels -- she has a huge collection of thread (well, huge compared to mine). My collection, since I'm a use-what-you've-got kind of seamstress, is much smaller. Admittedly, I do need to add to my collection of thread. When I'm working on a project, the lack of variety does leave a bit to be desired! And since my board has room at the top, I may add a few more rows to mine too. Or maybe some hooks to hang scissors or a magnetic strip for containers of pins? I'll live with it for a while and then decide. For now I'm just happy to be able to see my thread!

To hang the board in my sewing closet, I screwed some picture hanging d-rings to the back, attached some wire, and hung the board from a lightweight picture-hanging hook. I'm happy to be putting some finishing touches on the sewing closet!

Lastly, here's a sneak peak at a sewing tutorial I've got planned for next week...snack bags. We love them in our family -- no more plastic bags for us!

Psst...for more on this sewing closet, check out this post.