Showing posts with label tutorials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tutorials. Show all posts

Monday, July 18, 2011

Button Wall Plaque for Sewing Room with Tutorial

I'm loving this new wall hanging my husband and I put together for the sewing room!

Supplies:
  • Wood wall plaques - 2 five-inch and 3 seven-inch.  
  • Jute
  • Old paint brush handle about 12 inches
  • wood glue
  • drill for the holes
The plaques were $1.47 and 99 cents at Hobby Lobby.
Next, find the center and measure out evenly to mark the four places for holes in the buttons and drill. The holes need to be large enough to accommodate the jute you will be using and, well, to look like buttons.  


Paint the buttons absolutely any color you want!  I mixed some small bottles of craft store acrylics to get the hues I wanted.

In the center above, you can see the "needle" my husband made with an old paint brush.  He took the brush portion off, sanded the top to round it and the bottom to get more of a point.  After drilling an eye hole at the top, I painted it metallic silver.

I threaded the jute though each button to make an x and tied them off in back.  Put some tape on the end of the jute to make it easier to thread it through.

You could put these up individually or stack and glue them as I did.  Once I decided on the placement, I used some wood glue where the pieces meet and clamped them together. You could stack books on them if you don't have clamps.  Don't use too much glue!  It will just ooze out the side when you press the pieces together.  My wood glue (Titebond) dried clear, but wipe off any excess as you go along to be sure.
Last, I tied off the ends of the needle jute, looped it to the back, and tucked it into the jute of one of the buttons.  Best part is that you can hang this (or these if you are putting them up individually) by the jute--no need to buy hangers.  And, you are finished!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Another Sewing Room Project Completed: Hanging Space

I hate not being able to find or get at my sewing stuff.  This project turned out to be a great way to get more hanging space for over-sized and often-used things.  My ancient armoire has some nice overhangs at the top and mid section as you can see here.

I decided to cut pegboard to fit in that space.  My lovely husband cut the pegboard to fit  and put small slats of wood on each side to give space behind for the hooks to fit in.  There are four screws--one in each corner--holding the pegboard to the armoire.  You could still do this on the sides of a furniture piece without the overhangs, though. In fact, doing one the whole length of an armoire would be great!  This is the back of one prior to painting.

I painted them brown to sort of blend in.
Here they are all loaded with things that I can easily see.  First one side--
And the other!
You'll note that one lonely pair of scissors on this side.  That's  'cuz this side is closest to the door.  While my children SWEAR they never use my sewing room scissors for paper and other non-cloth things, I suddenly end up with dull scissors.  My hope is that they will grab these already ruined scissors instead of ruining another pair.  We shall see.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Baker's Apron Tutorial

I made this baker-style apron as a birthday gift  for my son's fiance.  She loves to cook and often uses my apron for her culinary ventures. It's made of white denim from Joann's.  Decorative cotton is pretty, but I wanted the denim which is more likely to keep the spills from going through the fabric.  My old natural bull denim apron is a workhorse that has lasted for years.


In addition to the small pocket in the top bib portion, there is a large pocket divided into two section just below the waist.

I found the embroidery design from EmbroideryDesigns.com.  The hardest part about the apron was choosing the design for embroidery.  There are so many fun ones!  Some of the other designs I bought said, "Is Carrot Cake a Vegetable?", "I Have a Knive and I Know How to Use It", and, my favorite, "Spooning Leads to Forking."  All will be going on some Huck toweling fabric soon.

Now for the tutorial. The amount of fabric will depend on the width of the fabric you are buying and the amount of shrinkage that can be expected.   Prewash your fabric!  You will need:
  •  one piece of fabric 34.5x 31.5" for the main part of the apron
  • one strip of denim measuring 35x3" for the neck strap and D-rings strap (You will cut off  7" of this for the D-ring strap)
  • 2 strips 35x3.5" for the waist ties (long enough to wrap around to the front for tying)
  • 1 piece of denim 8.5x5.5" for the top pocket OR, if you don't have a serger,  one 8.5x10.5" for the fold-over method
  • one piece of fabric 8.5x15" for the bottom pocket OR, if you don't have a serger, make this piece 16.5x15" 
  • 2 one-inch D-rings
Directions for getting the curved sides on the main piece of fabric:  Fold the main piece of fabric in half across the 31.5" side.  You're going to mark the curved area from the top to the waist.  Starting at what is the neck area measure from the fold out and mark using a chalk marker or disappearing marker or whatever it is that you use:
  • at the top, mark 5.5" from the fold
  • 4" down from top, 6.5 inches out from the fold
  • 6.25" down, 8 inches out from the fold
  • 7.25" down, 9 inches from the fold
  • 9" down, 11 inches from the fold
  • 11" down,  should come to the edge of the fabric
I didn't take photos of this part of the process, but here is a  picture showing the marked curve on another piece of fabric.  I have a Wright's EZ Flex Design Ruler that bends to the curve for marking, but you could use any firm but flexible strip of plastic, a piece of string, or do this freehand.
See my little dots next to the ruler?  Once you've marked out your line, cut it!

When you have all the pieces cut, here are the seam and sewing measurements.  I don't serge the main piece of fabric because I prefer the hems to be really solid. All are folded under twice.  Aprons in this house get a lot of use and spend their fair share of time in the washer and dryer.

For the main piece of fabric:
  • Hem the curved side seams first.  Press under a scant 1/4" seam.  (I use a seam gauge while pressing for this. It's easy to set the exact measure to stay on target.)  Then turn it under another 1/4" and press.  Pin and sew these curved edges in place about 1/8" from the edge of the seam.
  • Hem the straight side seams by turning under and pressing 1/4" then turning and pressing 1/2".  Sew 1/8" from the edge of the seam.
  • Hem the top, neck end by pressing under 1/2", then 3/4".  Again sew about 1/8" from the edge of the seam.
  • Hem the bottom turning and pressing first 1/2", then 1" with the same 1/8" sewing line. 
For the 36x3" neck straps:
  • Press in 1/2" on each long side.  Then fold this in half and  press.  This will leave you with a 1" wide strip. (You might be wondering why not just do the" fold in half and press each side into the center" method which is easier.  That would make the straps bulkier and stiffer since this is denim. Hence, this method.  A little more work, but the straps are more flexible and comfortable.)
  •  Now, cut 7" off the end.  Fold and press the short ends of both strips under 1/4".  Sew the long ends of each piece closed 1/8" from the edge on both pieces.  Then sew the short ends closed.    
  • Slide the two D-rings on the 7" strip.  Fold it in half and place it on what will be the right-hand side of the apron when you are wearing it.   (Look at the photo if your confused.)  With the stitching line side on the outside edge,  place this folded piece one inch down on the inside corner and sew in place using the usual square with an x inside for strength. 
  •  Now sew a line just under the D-rings to hold them in place.  Directions will be on the D-ring package if you've not used them before. 
  • Sew the other neck strap on the other side in the same way.  Remember to have the stitching line on the outside edge.
For the waist ties:
  • With both 35x 3.5" strip, Press in 1/2" on each long end, then fold in half and press.  Fold under a quarter of an inch on the short ends, and sew the long ends and both short ends closed 1/8" from the edge.
Okay! The basic apron is complete!  Now for the top pocket which you've decorated-- or not.
  • First the directions for a serger because  I do use my serger for the pockets since these seams are inside and don't get as much abuse as the outside edges of the apron.
    •  Serge around the squares and press in a 1/4 seam around all four sides.  
    • Sew the upper edge seam of the pocket across, again using 1/8 sewing line.  
    • Now place the pocket 3" down from the top, center it, and pin in place.  Sew the sides and bottom to the apron using the 1/8 line. Remember to reinforce the top corners with a few extra stitches.  Pockets get a lot of tugging there.
  • If you are not using a serger
    • Fold the pocket in half inside out (if it matters with your fabric or if you have embroidered, painted, appliqued a design) to get an 8.5x5.25" square. 
    •  Sew the two sides shut using 1/4" seam allowance.
    • Turn right side out and press the open ends in 1//4" You can sew a  line across the folded edge now if you want to.  It will give you a crisp top pocket edge.  It's not necessary, though.  
    • Place the pocket with the folded edge at the top 3 inches down from the top and centered. Pin in place.   Sew the sides and bottom to the apron using the same 1/8 sewing line.
For the bottom pocket, you will do the same as the top pocket.  If not using a serger, fold the fabric into an 8.25x15" square and follow the same instructions as for the smaller pocket.  Place this pocket 14.5" down from the top and centered.  Pin and sew it in place and you are finished!

It's actually a quick and easy project.  Give it a try.  







Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fish Windsock with Tutorial

I am taken with things that blow around in the wind.   I saw some beautiful fish windsocks, but decided to try making them myself.  I'm happy with the result.
 And it flies in the wind, too!

 Sometimes it's upside down.

The only problem is that it sometimes turns this way.
That's just plain weird, but the ones you buy must have the same problem, right?  Actually this view is kind of fun, too.

This site, http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/carp-wind-sock-675371/   has a great tutorial for making a fish windsock with paper. Since I wanted something that would last longer, I used their pattern with the following changes.  

I extended the mouth opening about a half an inch and cut the tail from the original wavy pattern which you can see in the photo to make it easier to sew.  If you have problems understanding the following how-to, let me know. 

Cutting:
  • two pieces of nylon for the fish body
  • two pieces of contrasting nylon at a 45 degree angle, that are 4 inches long at the base for the smaller fin on the bottom.  This size is arbitrary.  My ruler has this angle on it, and it happened to work out great.
  • two pieces of the contrasting nylon at a 45 degree angle that are 5 inches long at the base for the top fin.  
Sewing:
  • I serged the tail pieces to prevent fraying.  You can do a zigzag stitch or turn it under twice, or just use Fray Check instead.  
  • Sew the outside edges of the fins with a quarter inch seam, carefully cut a few of those nice little triangles out of the seam that that it will flatten nicely, turn right side out, and press. I use a cotton press cloth so that I can get a nice flat edge.
  • To trim the fins to match the curved edge of the fish body, place the raw edged of the fin under the yellow pieces as in the photo below. The center point of the top fin should be about  6 1/2 down from the mouth edge (measuring straight, not along the curve of the fish body edge.  (Remember the point is inside --all the raw edges are together as in the picture below.)  The  center point of the bottom fin should be about 5" from the mouth end--again measuring straight not along the curve of the fish body.  This center of the fin is the spot where where the raw edges of fish body and fish fins meet.  The corners of the fins will be sticking out.   Use your rotary cutter to trim of the pieces sticking out or mark with chalk and cut.  You could do this as part of the next step where the fins are inside for sewing and trim later, but this might be easier for some people, Maybe??
  • Place the fins  between the two yellow pieces (in my case, yellow)--sorry I didn't take a pic at the time, but this should give you an idea of what I mean. Pin the sides of the fish body with the fins in their proper place and sew the sides using a 1/4 inch seam.  


  • Turn right side out and sew a little over a quarter of an inch to enclose the seam you just made--a french seam.  This will prevent fraying and make the piece hold it's shape better.
  • Turn it inside out again and sew the tail end together leaving a two inch gap in the center open
  • Turn the mouth end in a 1/2" once and press (use a cotton press cloth so the heat is high enough for a crisp, flat fold) and then turn it another 1/2" and press again.  Pin and sew that around.  I was going to put some plastic strapping in the mouth to hold the circular shape, but I found that the material held the shape without it. If you use ripstop nylon which is lighter, you may want/need to use the plastic inside this hem area.  I save all the plastic packing straps from packages for these kinds of things.
  • I sewed buttons about two inches down from the hemmed mouth with the top of the eye about 1/2" down from the top fin edge.
Last, I used nylon mono-filament also known as fish line for hanging.  The craft store sells an 8 lb strength in the jewelry-making section or you can get the same thing in Walmart's fishing department.  The fishing department also sells the barrel swivels for the spinner which I could not find at the craft stores.  I used an Eagle Claw brand size 5 swivel that is working out great.

I cut 4 eleven-inch long pieces of monofilament and spaced them evenly around  the mouth sewing through the mouth seam and knotted the four pieces together in the circular base of the swivel hook  I cut another piece of mono-filament for the hook end of the barrel swivel because I wanted mine to hang more.  That part will depend on where you are putting the windsock.

Now hang that sucker up on a nice windy day.  The good news with a fish windsock is that it looks good just hanging there--like you just caught a fish. 




Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fabric Box Prototype #2 With Tutorial



No, it is not like the last one!  I've made some significant changes in the way it is constructed.  This one is so NOT like the Joel Dewberry version that I am creating a tutorial.  This is my first fully fledged tutorial.  Let me know if it is not clear.  I'm putting in a number of pictures that will hopefully make things clearer.  I will apologize now if these are too simple for some people.  I so suck at following patterns that I want to be sure it is understandable.

Changes I've made from Dewberry's and my original box:
  • Joel's version has small triangles of fabrics in the corners that would keep things from falling out of the finished box.  This one has two-inch flaps from top to bottom at the corners.  This keeps things in AND  eliminates the side openings showing.
  • I used Velcro on this one rather than buttons and added ribbon with blue stripes because the room it will be in will have blue walls (and I have a tendency to put ribbon on anything that does not run away.)
  • The finished size is 10x10 inches all around.
  • This is made from one long rectangle of fabric and two smaller rectangles for the sides rather than 5 squares
Materials you will need:
  1. One 31x11" rectangle from both the main fabric and lining
  2. Two 15x11" rectangles from both the main fabric and lining
  3. Four 31"  long pieces of ribbon  and one 52" piece (or not if you don't want ribbon)
  4. Five 9 1/2x9 1/2" squares of Pellon Peltex70 Ultra Firm Stabilizer (or anything else you want to make it a bit rigid.)
  5. Four pieces of 7 1/2" Velcro (This length was purely because I bought a prepacked 30" strip of Velcro.  Six to eight inches would work.)  Other options for closing the sides:
    • Velcro circles
    • snaps
    • hooks and eyes
    • fabric ties
    • button with loops as I did with the first box.  Look here.
    • buttons sewn through so that the box cannot be collapsed.  I'm somehow taken by the fact that I can collapse the boxes if I want.  There's really no need not to put them together permanently.
    • button with button holes! 

You will be using a 1/2" seam allowance.

The 31" long fabric is the bottom of the box and two of the sides.  (Hence 10" for the bottom, 10" for each side, and 1" for the half inch seam allowance on each end equaling 31.  Eleven inches is to get a 10 square plus 1/2" seam allowances)

On the two other rectangles, the 11" side has 10" for the height plus 1" for the 1/2" seam allowance on each end.  The other side has 10" for the center width, 4" for the 2" inch flaps that will be on each side, and 1" for the 1/2 seam allowance on each end equaling 15.

First, place the rectangles of 31x11 fabric and lining with right sides together.  If you want ribbons, place the ribbons between the two pieces of fabric.  My ribbons are 3 1/2 inches apart from the inside edges of the ribbon.  (Find the center on the 11" side, go out 1 3/4" from the center on each side.)  Here they are sandwiched between my brown flannel lining and brown tweed wool fabric.


On each 31" side, mark 10 inches in the middle of the strip (see pic below).  For those of us who are spatially challenged:  fold to find the center and go out 5" on each side of that.   These two area are where you will attach each of the other two squares for your box.  

Sew around the 31" long piece leaving the center 10" sections OPEN on each side.
(If you can't read this, click on it to bring up a larger version.)

Too bad this picture has the long piece on the bottom,  Just image it is at the top, and the top pieces that I am going to talk about now are on the bottom. 

On the 15x11" pieces, use the 1/2 seam and sew around the edges leaving a 10" opening on one of the 15 inch sides.  That means that you will sew in 2" on each side of the 10" opening there as you can see above. Just be be clear here: when you get to the end, turn and sew in 2".  There is a half inch seam, 2" sewing, 10" opening, and the same on the other side.  Just where the sewing ends on the edge of the 10" opening, clip the 1/2" seam allowance.

Don't forget to clip your corners, too.

If you are using ribbon, they need to be sandwiched between these two side pieces as well and sewn on opposite ends of the ribbon pieces as the first tutorial picture shows.  I didn't write on both pieces in the photo.  They are both the same.  This can seem a bit tricky.  DON'T LET THE RIBBONS GET TWISTED.  Check and then check again to be sure they have not twisted before sewing them in.  I used ribbon that is the same on both sides.  If you are challenged in this area of critical thinking, I'd suggest you do the same.  If your ribbons have a front and back, you need to make sure that the good side will face OUTWARD on top of the outside fabric.  It's not that difficult, but you need to pay attention.

Now, turn it all right side out!

Go press them.  If you use wool fabric, use a pressing cloth.

Roll the Pellon and slide it in place as in the pic below.  Three pieces go in the long rectangle--right, middle, left--and one in  the center of each of the end pieces.  There will be 2 inch "flaps" on the sides of these two end piece that will make sense soon.  If the Pellon pieces are not laying flat, take them out and trim a little off the sides until they fit. 


Now you will insert the two end pieces into the larger piece.  If you have ribbons, lay the edge pieces right side down.  Then center the longer piece right side down across the middle.  The 10" openings in each piece will meet like this.

The 10" opening you clipped on the side pieces fits right into the 10" opening you left on each side of the longer piece.  If you pressed your pieces LIKE I TOLD YOU TO, you have a nice pressed-in 1/2 seam allowance to slide that into.  Now pin it in place without pinning the ribbons.  GET THE RIBBONS OUT OF THE WAY, and sew across the opening.  You will have the 2" flaps loose on each side. Once the other side is finished the outside will look like this.  Okay, I should have taken the pins out for the picture. 

You can see in this next picture how the flaps go inside the box.

 It's Velcro time! (or button, or snap, or hook and eye, etc.)  Pin the side so that they look even and boxy to get an idea of where you want to put the Velcro.  I put in light colored Velcro,  so it was particularly important that it not show--not that you want it to show at all.  I placed it a bit inside where the seam allowance ended.  (Lesson learned:  dark fabric, dark Velcro.)  When you are happy with the corner, slide the flat side of the Velcro inside and pin it in place.  The top of the Velcro is 1" down from the top.  It will be on the long rectangle as in the picture below.
(Click on it if you can't read the writing.)

The hooked Velcro pieces go on the outside edge of the flaps.  A good way to line them up is to hold the side pieces together  with the flat side pinned in place.  Place pins where the top of the flat Velcro hits on the flap and where the outside edge of the Velcro hits.
Top pin

Side pin


Now line the hooked side of the Velcro up inside that angle.

Pin in all the Velcro pieces and sew them in place.

If, after you put the box together, you find the the ribbon is a bit loose on the sides, take a tuck at the bottom edge and sew it in like this.
I tacked the ribbon in place 2" down and 7 1/2" down on each side.  Then the 52" ribbon is threaded behind the ribbon just above the 2" tacks.  And.....
 
That's it. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

The New Triangle Scarf Prototype!!!

From the Blue Shed has a tutorial for the cutest triangle scarf for a little girl.  It has a visor on it!  It is not only cute but practical.  I wanted one, so here is my adult version.




I love that it is reversible! 





I need a new camera.  The colors of the fabrics are so much prettier than they look here.

I didn't do the fold and buttons the original has because I didn't make it long enough on the pointy end.  Prototype 2 will have that. Another change I made was to press Wonder Under to one of  the pieces of visor fabric.  I wanted to be sure it would have enough stiffness since it would be much larger than the child-sized version.

The ties are extra long (26" in this case) as I did on my plain old triangle scarf from a few posts ago.  I like the tie on top of my head instead of in the back.  This length allows me to cross the ties in the back and bring the bow to the top.   My hair is fine and thin.  Ties stick out through my hair.  (On the positive side, my hair dries super fast so let's hear it for fine, thin hair!) Next time, though,  I'll do 20" ties.  These 26" ones require a bow.  I'd rather just knot the top. 


I cut my triangles on the fold using 11 1/4" for a total of 22 1/2" to go around the head and 13" for the length (from center of the head to the tip of the triangle).  I hope that makes sense.  I measured down 13 inches on the fold and 11 1/4" from the fold down on other end.  Then I used the rotary cutter from one point to the other.  I'll probably go with 23 x 15" for the next one.  It is sewed with a 1/2" seam.

For the visor pattern, I used a small dinner plate.  I cut the piece with 4 3/4" center height  x 8 1/4" length.   The 8 1/4" worked great, but I ended up pushing the visor in about an inch and a half because it would have stuck out too much.  Still, don't think I will use less than the 4 3/4" the next time.  I think that extra fabric provides some stability for the visor. 

A huge thank you to The Blue Shed for the idea.  She has some great jewelry in her Etsy shop, too.  Such talent!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

OMG! A Seventies Triangle Head Scarf

I went looking for a triangle head scarf tutorial after spending the day trying to do yard work with my hair in my eyes.  My hair is long enough to be in my face and too short to tie back.  Most of the triangle scarf patterns out there are for kids, but I finally found one at All Crafts .

Of course, I had to make changes.  I just cannot NOT make changes.  By the time I was finished, the only thing mine and the original had in common was a triangle.  Changes:
  • My triangles are 22 x 14 inches which is larger than the pattern.

  • After sewing together the two triangles and turning them right sides out, I sewed the edge all the way around a quarter of an inch in.

  • The tutorial called for a straight strip of bias tape to bind the long end and serve as ties.  I wanted to just use scrap fabric from my stash.  I also wanted the ties to be long enough to bring them back to the top so that the tie is on top of the head.  Back when women wore these things, I always hated that knot on the back of my neck.  I had enough fabric to make long ties that would serve my purpose but not enough to cover the full length of the scarf.  I folded strips of fabric for two ties and sewed them to the corners.  
 The pattern also did not have sweet Melissa to wear the finished product for pictures.  I handed it to her and said, "Here, try this on so I can get pictures."  Melissa, having never experienced the seventies, had no idea what to do with it.  "What is it?  A top?"  


She got it on the right part of the body, but not quite straight.  When you are as pretty as this, though, everything  looks great anyway!



   Finished!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Home-made Produce Bags

Wisdom of the Moon had a tutorial for these bags on her site in January.  Since I had an overabundance of voile from making draperies, this project had to happen. 

I so wanted to do the cute little vegetable stamps Wisdom had on her produce bags!  Unfortunately, I could not find a single veggie stamp anywhere.  I finally gave in and got an alphabet stamp set instead.  I cannot--absolutely cannot--stop experimenting.  While I wish I had just gone with the nice simple, "fruits and veggies" lettering on all the bags like this center one,  I did not.


I had to keep adding more



and more, until I just got carried away.  This one ended up looking like something Jackson Pollack would have done if he had been on crack with nothing to express himself but a set of alphabet stamps and a rainbow ink stamp pad:



Cashiers (who usually seem just a bit annoyed to be dealing with my many different sized cloth bags anyway) are beyond speech when they get this bag.  They just sort of hold it up to me as though they don't know whether they should pay attention to what is in the bag or on the outside.  I don't use it unless I really have to. 

All in all, the bags are exceptionally easy to make and work well.  I used round elastic cord for most of them and textured ribbon for one.  Both of these work fine.  I think Wisdom of the Moon used string.  Give them a try, but go easy on the stamping.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I've been making Perfect Little Stitches' "towel wraps for your hair"



I've been  experimenting with making these hair towels from Perfect Little Stitches for a while trying to get the appropriate size for me.  Skip to My Lou  put up directions that I find little easier.   Adjustments to sizing were definitely necessary for a better personal fit.  I apparently have a pin head.  I've known it for a while. Baseball caps pulled down to fit the top of my head leave the tops of my ears stick straight out.  I wasn't surprised when my first few attempts quickly became gifts for women with normal sized heads.  I love these things, though.  They are so easy to use, stay on so much better than a regular towel, save on laundry--they're smaller, and they have that great little elastic loop to hang on the back of the bathroom door.

I used terry cloth fabric from Joann's instead of towels as the tutorials suggest.  Originally I did this because I wanted to experiment on inexpensive fabric.  As it turned out, the terry fabric is a great weight, washes well, and dries quickly.  I can make two hair towels out of a yard of fabric which is definitely less expensive than using towels especially if you get the fabric on sale.   

The patterns are 36 inches long which I found to be way more than necessary.  In fact, I found that length to be uncomfortable hanging down my back and harder to put through and take out of the elastic hoop.  I cut that down to 32 inches.  However, for someone with really long and/or thick hair, the 36 inches might be necessary.  I also cut the height from 12 inches to 10.

If you've made them yourself, let me know how the sizing worked for you.  If you haven't, give it a try.  It's a quick and easy project.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Home-made fire starters

As we move into campfire season, I am reminded of my home-made fire starter venture this winter.  Right after the winter holidays, blogger, Wisdom of the Moon, had a post about making fire starters from left over things at home.  I've made them before, and the post was a good push to do it again.

The blog advice at Wisdom was to put dried pine needles from holiday trees or the like into the individual pockets of paper egg cartons and pour melted wax from candle stubs into each.  I had always used dryer lint instead of pine needles and paper cupcake liners instead of egg cartons.  I liked the idea of the pine needles, but using up that useless dryer lint always made me feel good.  My eggs come in plastic containers since it's the only way I can get free-range eggs around here. In this case, I'd rather support more humane farming practices than be green.

On checking back to read comments at Wisdom, though, I found some disturbing information.  Someone else mentioned using dryer lint and the question arose, "Isn't there hair in dryer lint?"  I never thought of that.  In checking my finished fire starters, I was mortified to see that when held in the sunlight, there were definitely strands of hair standing up there.  I had planned on giving some of these away.  I don't know how to broach this subject delicately, but, there was also the question of just where the hair came from.  I'll leave it at that.  The normal display near the hearth pictured here:
won't be happening until I need a new supply of fire starters.  I did do some with the pine needles. They're easier to work with.  With lint, you have to keep topping off each one as the lint settles down.  The pine needles are just plain prettier and smell better, too.   I gave the pine ones away before getting pictures.  Trust me, though, they look much better even close up.

I do a few things differently that I think might work for others.  Rather than melting the candles on the double boiler as suggested at Wisdom, I use my large electric candle melter that you usually use to give off the candle scent without burning them.  I melt down the ones that have lost their scent for the fire starters first and then drop leftover stubs in the glass a few at a time.  Since there is always a lot of leftover wick material, I take it out of the melted wax (a wooden skewer works well), cut them up, and put pieces in the "cupcakes" as they begin to thicken.  It gives another place to light in addition to the paper when making a fire.  I put the cupcake tins in the sink to pour the wax.  There is little mess, but if something does spill, it can easily be cleaned up.

It may be a bit slower to use the melter, but it cuts down on the size of the equipment I need to keep for messing with wax.  I use the same disposable cupcake tins over and over.  They stack together and take up very little storage space.  

As for dryer lint, I am mixing it with potting soil for outside plantings.  If someone knows a good reason I should not be subjecting hostas and marigolds to dryer lint, please put it in the comment section.  I have a whole new respect for comment sections.  How humiliating it would have been to give away the hairy fire starters!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quick semi-tutorial on reupholstering the "that's so nineties furniture"

I saw that commercial with the denim furniture designed by Cindy Crawford and loved it--the furniture.  Buying it was not going to happen, though.  So, having tackled reupholstering before, I decided to do it again.  This set used to be a well-worn gray and mauve, stripes and flowers set from around 1995.  The kind everyone is selling on Craigslist.

Reupholstering is time consuming, but not really difficult even if you've never done it before. The sewing required is almost exclusively of the straight line variety.  And, it can be relatively inexpensive.  The fabric for this whole set was around $175 using coupons and sales.  I still had enough to make pillows, the lap quilt on the back of the sofa, Elliot (star of my last post), and further crowd my sewing room stash. This is not an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial, but, rather, an overall guide including information I have gleaned from my many early mistakes.  I hope that this will make the process easier for others who will be taking on the challenge.  There are tons of videos on the web showing the specifics such as sewing on piping. Start with a small chair!

Among the mistakes I made with earlier pieces was avoiding things that I thought would make the job more difficult such as the piping and skirting.  Those things turn out to be far easier that I thought they would be and are the very things that make the furniture look like professionals did it.  Check out the front of the arms and cushions here!



and here:


I am NOT a great seamstress.  I sew very little clothing because it more often than not doesn't turn out so well.  Doing the piping actually makes my corners which are not always so great look much better. Skirting is little more than some folds of fabric, filled with stiff fabric, and stapled in place.

As for the how-to part, most of what you need to know you will learn in the process of deconstructing the original fabric.  I take apart the pieces and use that fabric as a pattern.   Use a seam ripper to take apart the cushions AND LABEL EACH PIECE.  You can write right on the old fabric.   Use a narrow screwdriver to dig out the fabric stapled to the wood frame AND LABEL IT.  Can you see what one of my early mistakes was from those caps? 

Take pictures of the construction prior to deconstruction.  Take pictures of seams on cushions near the zippers, any pleats in the fabric around the arms or cushions, the fabric UNDER the cushions, the back of the furniture pieces.  Note what pieces of wood the arm and base seat fabrics are stapled to and whether the base seat fabric goes on first or the arm fabric.

Careful deconstruction is as time consuming as construction, but it is well worth it. It's a great activity to do while watching television or listening to books on CD.   I listened to Christopher Moore's Fool on CD while deconstructing this set.  It is without a doubt one of the funniest (in a very bawdy and wild way) I've listened to and the reader is perfect for the book.

Iron your "pattern" pieces so they will lie flat.  In order to have a more symmetrical piece, fold the "pattern" pieces at the center--almost everything will be the same on both sides aside from, possibly the zipper sections-- and place the center on a fold of the new fabric.  Sometimes the original fabric has stretched through use or in deconstruction so that they are no longer symmetrical.

Label each newly cut pattern piece as well.  You might want to use small pieces of paper and pin them on for this.  Remember that the fabric needs to be taut in the cushions and to pull firmly when stapling pieces on.  Fabric has some stretch and will loosen with time.  If the cushions are loose, resew a seam or two. 

Supplies and materials:
  • First, if at all possible reuse the original piping material, zippers, stiff materials in the skirting, cardboard strips in the edges (you will find them in the process of deconstructing),  the fabric under the seat cushions, and, of course, the cushions.  It is likely that they are a better quality than what you will get at the store, they are free, and you're recycling! So, be careful with the deconstruction.  I haven't had luck reusing the nail strips (again, you will find them if you don't know what they are), but you can buy them at Joann-kinds of stores, online, or maybe use upholstery tacks from the same sources.  Tacks look great on some pieces.
  • Use a heavy fabric and plain old thread.  Joann's often has upholstery fabric on sale.  I've had good luck, though, with  the heavyweight denim from the regular fabric section for this set and for cushions on an old church pew.  In my first attempt at reupholstering, I used fabric on sale that was a style already on the way out.  My "new" furniture was out of style at birth.  I try to find fabrics with staying power in the style department--something that will not make you think of eras gone by as in, "that's so eighties."  You might also need some batting if your furniture is well worn to smooth out cushions, arms, etc. 
  • You will need a seam ripper, heavy-duty stapler, staples long enough to get well into the wood of your furniture, thin screwdriver to get out the old staples (and misplaced new ones), and a hammer for the staples that need a little extra help getting in tightly.  
  • You need a sewing machine that will handle fairly heavy fabric. I have found that most of them do just fine.  I have used an old Kenmore and some newer Brother machines that were all fine.  If you don't have one check with friends.  So many people have machines they are no longer using.  They might be willing to let you use it, sell it cheap, or even given it away. 
My final advice:  don't be a perfectionist.  No one is going to pull out cushions to see how well your zippers are sewn in.   If they do, they are either not friends or very insecure.  And if you are the insecure one, stifle the need to point out what you feel are flaws when people are complimenting you on a job well done.  I have found mistakes during deconstruction by the professionals that are comparable to mine such as pieces of fabric sewn together to compensate for fabric cut too short.  Do be willing to use the seam ripper (carefully), however, if you think it is worthwhile to resew something.  Take your time, don't rush it.

I'm new at this sharing by blogging.  If there is something that needs to be stated more clearly or corrected, please feel free to let me know.  I'd be glad to clarify anything, and someone else may benefit from the correction. 

I'd love to hear from others who do this.  Feel free to add advice in the comments. If you are encouraged to give it a try, I'd love to hear how it worked out, too.