Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making Pillows - How To, Tips, Lessons Learned

This is a long post, but has some good info and lots of pics, so bear with me. :o) The past couple months I've been making pillows for my family room as part of my effort to decorate that area of the house.  The family room is the first of MANY rooms I need to decorate, and it was a good starting point for me to get my feet wet in things unknown.  So, this post is about my adventures in pillow making.

Pillows are very simple and straightforward, but like with anything, they can have their rocky parts and parts that made me want to pull my hair out.  I made the gathered pillow first, which probably wasn't very smart since it was my most complex one, but at least everything afterward was easier.

I made 5 regular square pillows, one gathered pillow, one 4 piece panel front pillow (no idea what it's called) and one long rectangle pin tuck pillow.

I did a TON of reading and researching online to try and find the best pillow tutorials.  I didn't want the envelope pillows, so there weren't as many regular back pillow tutorials out there.  Here are some of the ones that I loosely followed:

For the 4 panel pillow: Sew4Home, Corduroy Diamond Wale Pillow 

For the regular square pillows: Sew4Home, Perky Pom Pom Pillow (minus the pom pom part) AND Make It and Love It, Pillow Slip Covers (minus the envelop part in the back)

For the pin tuck pillow: All Things Thrifty, Pin Tuck Pillow

For learning how to slip stitch the openings closed: Taffy Talk, Invisible Closing Seam

 Here are some close ups of the 4 panel pillow and the gathered pillow in back.

One of the square pillows in back, with the 4 panel pillow in front.

Four of the regular square pillows with the pin tuck pillow in the middle. Man my pictures are terrible.  I need a new camera!  ARG!

And now for a few things I learned along the way...
  • If you opt to stuff your pillow with batting, then the type of batting really does matter.  No where in any of the reading I did, did I find info on batting.  The first bags I bought were the cheapest kind, but also seemed to be the most popular since there were huge bins of them in the craft store.  After stuffing two pillows with them, my husband said they weren't comfy at all and suggested I find something else for the next ones.  So I went back and bought the nicest kind with a touch of silk in it, and it made a HUGE difference.  They are a lot more conducive to laying on while stretched out on the couch.  I guess if your pillows were strictly for viewing pleasure, then the cheap stuff would be fine.  But if you plan to use the pillows then go with the nicer stuff.
  • If you opt to go with a pillow insert, then make sure you measure exactly right and have a fabric that doesn't shift or do funny things to you while you sew.  The inserts scared me because if I made any errors in sizing then I was hosed.  
  • Tissue paper for gift wrapping makes a great predone pattern for pillows (the square sheet kind).
  • Ironing out the seams of the pillow can be the most time consuming part of pillow making.  It's also my least favorite part.  If you have a fabric that really shows the creases of the ironed seam, then it takes a lot of patience at the ironing board to roll the seam just right before pressing.  I made the mistake of not fulling rolling out the seam when I was pressing it and after I got the pillow all stuffed and sewn up, it looked awful and I redid the whole thing (seam ripper, pulled out the batting, reironed...). NOT FUN.
  • Take your time when slip stitching the opening closed.  It's not hard once you get the hang of it, but it will look a ton better if you take your time and do a neat job. I do this while watching all my mindless shows on TV at night.
  • And most important, don't be afraid to try something new and have fun with it.  Pillows really are a great avenue for trying out a new technique or getting creative.  There isn't a huge commitment when pillow making, so if you mess up, you can toss it. :) 
Last but not least, are some pictures of how I made the pin tuck pillow.  I mentioned above that I used the tutorial at All Things Thrifty, but I really only used it for the concept and then ventured out on my own into uncharted waters.  I think the final result was cute and fit with the rest of the pillows nicely.

I laid out my fabric for the front of my pin tuck pillow and then on the back side made pen marks where I wanted the tucks to be.  Then I used a small amount of the thread to tightly tie each gathered tuck.

A close up of the little pin tucked "nobs" after I tied them with thread.

This next step I wasn't totally sure about, so I just winged it.  I had to use needle and thread to sew the "nobs" in place securely.  I just knotted the end of my thread and then started sewing it back and forth through the center of the nob about a dozen times.  I gave it a good tug on the front side to make sure it was secure and then just tied off the end.  Totally unprofessional method, but it worked perfectly.

So here is a picture of the back side of my fabric all tied off and ready to go.

And this is what it looked like when I flipped it over.  Kind of a neat affect!  At this point I wasn't sure WHAT to do next, so I improvised. 

I cut and laid out a piece of muslin on the wrong side of the pin tucked panel.  Then I pinned the muslin to the panel, careful to fold and tuck the creases just how I wanted them.  It definitely wasn't perfect, but I was going for more of a "natural" look so it worked out fine.

You can see my piece of muslin is much larger than the fabric panel.  I intentionally did this because I knew the fabric was going to move around once I started sewing the two pieces together and sure enough, it did.  Once I pinned and sewed all four sides to the muslin I just went back and trimmed off the excess muslin to create a nice finished look.  Again, totally unprofessional. :)

Then I cut a back piece out of a coordinating fabric and sewed the two pieces together, right sides together, leaving about 8 inches open for the batting.  I clipped the corners, turned it right side out and pushed out the corners to give them a more sharp edge. Then I pressed the whole thing and stuffed with batting.

Then I pinned the 8" opening closed and slip stitched shut.

Ta Da!  A very unique pillow that fits perfectly as the final piece in my family room pillow makeover.

I'm excited about how it all turned out and am ready to move onto my next project in the family room... stay tuned for some projects that will have me sanding, hammering, and painting in the garage.   

I've linked up to Amy Lou Who Sew & Tell
V and Co. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bath Tub Toy Bag

I saw a simple and brilliant tutorial for a bath tub toy bag on Make It and Love It and knew I had to make it.  The toys are always left all over the bottom of the tub and it makes me squirm when I think about the yucky stuff that probably is growing on them.  Hopefully this new bag will help hinder the growth of unwanted slimy grime.

I took the tutorial just a bit farther and added three rows of ribbon instead of just the one. My rows of ribbon are VERY crooked.  The mesh material that I bought wasn't the same as the stuff used in the tutorial (because it was the only kind JoAnn Fabric had), so I had a little more difficulty working with it than I would have liked. The weave of the mesh was too loose and lightweight.  But it was still a very straightforward project.  I used my serger for the seams which helped speed things along too.

All in all, I highly recommend this project to all levels of sewers out there.  Have fun!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A return to knitting - Knitted Washcloth

A very, very long time ago, my Grandma Yates taught my sisters and I how to knit.  We would spend at least a month out of every summer staying with my grandparents in Alaska, and during those summer visits we learned to knit.  Sadly, I gave it up after those summer visits ended and never really had a desire to learn again. 

Until NOW! 

My friend Cheryl sent me some knitted washcloths for my birthday this year and I fell in love with them. They are truly the best washcloths I've ever used.  She sent me four and I wanted more!  So when we went to Vegas together last month she gave me some yarn, needles and some patiently taught lessons to help me make my own.  And I finally finished one! 

Yes, it's been over a month since I went to Vegas.  I'm slow, but I kept the ongoing project in my purse at all times and only worked on it when I was out somewhere waiting on something, or in the car with DJ.  Now that I've finished one I'm excited to start the next one and give it a little more of my undivided attention.

Take a look at this fabulously awkward first washcloth! 

It has holes in places that shouldn't and it's sadly misshapen, but it's functional and now has sentimental value to it.  I love it.

Thank you Cheryl for reteaching me how to knit.  And thank you to my wonderful Grandma who taught me the first time around.  I love that I have another craft skill to add to my bag of tricks.  Long live crafting and the women who make crafting what it is today! ;o)

***OH, and if anyone out there wants this super easy and cute washcloth pattern, just leave a comment and I'll post it (courtesy of Cheryl of course)***

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BOY STUFF! Knit Pants and Tie T-Shirts

I have found that, just like every other crafty Mom out there, making stuff for the little boys in my life is always a bit more challenging.  I'm drawn to the girly crafts.  Girl clothes and accessories = cute and super fun.  I can't help it.  Not only that, but the level of reaction I get out of my 3 year old girl vs my 3 year old boy when I hand them a newly sewn "thingamajig" is drastically different.  "Oh my gosh, I love it so much Mommy, it's SOOO cute!", is a very big motivator for me to make her more stuff.  BUT... I've been trying to be good, and have spent some time recently on boy stuff. 

I bought quite a bit of knit fabric in boy colors, with the intent to make pants.  So make pants I did.  I decided to start with a basic blue pant and pair it with a Tie T-Shirt.  I used this wonderful tutorial from Saltwater Kids for the Tie T-Shirt and then just used my PJ/lounge pants experience to make the pants.  Simple elastic waste bands for my boys are PLENTY fancy enough for everyday wear. 

I haven't been able to find a white plain t-shirt in an 18 month size yet, so I'm on hold with Austin's shirt until I can get my hands on one.  But I made Ethan one and also made one for my friends little boy for his 2 year birthday.  I used a thrifted mens dress shirt for the tie fabric and it turned out perfectly.

Here's a look at all the pants, laid out and ready to sew.  Freshly cut and pinned fabric makes me feel all warm and happy inside.
And here a few pathetically taken photos of the final outcome.  Maybe if I had a decent backdrop and took a photography class, my pics wouldn't look like garbage. Oh well, it's low on the priority list at the moment.
I did a fake drawstring on the waistband because I like the way it makes the pants look, just a bit more polished then a plain band.  And I made them all really long and gave them big thick hems so that I can make the pants last for a couple years.  With the rate at which Ethan's waist is growing, he'll be able to wear these for the next 4 years.  No joke.

And here are my two super handsome boys sporting the new look.  (Austin minus the tie shirt of course)  Seeing these guys looking so cute in their new duds does help inspire me to make more boy stuff. Come summertime that will be all I'm doing (shorts, shorts and more shorts).
I just linked this post up to Sew & Tell from Amy Lou Who.  This is my first time ever doing this and it's pretty fun to see everything that everyone out there is working on and share ideas and successes!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Trendy Office Accessories

This year for my sister Kyra's birthday, my other sister, Kahly, and I decided to give her a whole bunch of hand made office accessories.  We knew we wanted the main present to be a laptop case (since Kyra had been drooling over the other ones we made) and then we had a lot of fun blog surfing for additional gift ideas.  Delving into the world of Mod Podge was an absolute must. The question was where to start? And equally important, where to stop?  Once you start Mod Podging it's almost impossible to quit.

So here's the breakdown of what we settled on:
We had one heck of a time picking out just the right color scheme and finding coordinating fabrics to match.  We spent THREE hours in JoAnn Fabric one Friday night, trying to buy fabric.  It's so hard to pick out colors for someone else, especially when you know they'll be using the things you make them on a daily basis.  It was touch and go at points during that evening.  At one point we were so hungry and so cranky that Kahly went outside the store and bought a box of Girl Scout cookies.  We ate the entire box right there in the store.  Once on a complete sugar high, we were able to find the right fabrics and high tale it out of there.  What an adventure, torture, fun time, interesting experience. :)

Laptop case, front and back.  We pieced together the exterior panels with an espresso brown zebra print and did the flannel lining out of a pale pink.  Obviously our color palette we settled on was pink and brown.

Aren't these clippies the cutest thing ever?  Kahly and I will be making some of these (and some of the slugs and mouse pads) for ourselves next. 

 The slugs were made out of the same pink flannel from the laptop case and filled with flax seeds so that they can be warmed up in the microwave.  We thought this was a nice touch for Kyra, since she's ALWAYS freezing cold at work.

And finally the notebooks.  We used the Microsoft company wide notebooks for this project which Kyra got a kick out of. 

Most of the projects, with the exception of the laptop case, were easy and fun to do.  Mod Podge is the best stuff ever invented and has become my new best friend.  The accessories were a bit hit and Kyra's on her way to having the most trendy and cute office in all of So. Cal.  Love you Kyra, Happy Birthday!