Easy Throw Pillows

Though out the past year, my husband and I have been working hard to make our house feel like a home. This translates into hours of wallpaper pulling and plaster repair, as well as painting, flooring and general house up keep. We have started filling rooms with plants and our photo, as well as thought carefully about how to make the best use out of every room.

One thing that has come of this is the slow creation of built in furniture (he made me a countertop bar for crafting and other activities) and upcycling thrifted finds to add personal touches. My most recent project was to create throw pillows for a guest room we converted into a quiet room, they add a beautiful pop of color and allowed me to practice working with invisible zippers (spoiler alert: I still suck at them).

Multi colored striped throw pillow

Supplies to make ONE pillow:

  • 22×22 Pillow insert
  • 20in invisible zipper
  • 1/2 yard of of fabric or 2 fat quarters
  • Sewing machine (recommended)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the fabric into 2 20×20 squares
  2. Attach the invisible zipper to both pieces of fabric, leave the zipper slightly unzipped
  3. Sew the remaining three sides right sides together
  4. Turn the pillow case inside out
  5. Stuff the pillow case with the pillow insert
  6. Enjoy!

The Rosie Dress

A young woman standing with her arms gently crossed across her waist wearing a white dress with a floral print.

A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a small backyard wedding to celebrate our marriage. In attendance were my parents, sister (+ her husband and my niece) and my grandparents. My husband’s is spread out across the world, everyone wished that things were different and there is an end is sight for travel restrictions.

Covid and my mother in law not being able to travel to the states without a quarantine fee aside, I don’t think we would have done things any other way. Neither one of us wanted a big wedding and we strongly believe that we made the right choice for our little family. Although, if I’m being completely honest with myself, if covid hadn’t been a limiting factor in our decisions we probably would have gotten married on a beach in New Zealand.

Since my family came in with expectations that I would be wearing a white dress, I dutifully searched the internet for something that would suit my personality and our wedding venue. The goal was to feel like a wood elf or a fairy, I wanted to be able to move rather than feel encumbered by layers of lace.

The “problem” is I didn’t want to compromise on what I wanted. I wanted something that screamed wild flower meadow and it didn’t seem to exist. A couple hours after scanning Spoonflower and a few other places later, I hopped over to my former local yarn store to look at their sewing patterns (because they’re also a fabric store!) and committed to the Rosie Dress.

In terms of fabric, I ended up deciding to use Spoonflower’s Linen Cotton Canvas. While the fabric is heavier than one of their cottons, I like the stiffer drape and the over all feel of the fabric. It feels like something that could holdup over time and seems to get softer every time I wash it.

Now I would like to think of someone who follows directions, after all I don’t have a problem following knitting patterns and I certainly didn’t have a problem working through lab procedures while getting my Biology. With this in mind, it’s “easy” to conquer new sewing patterns because it’s “just a matter of following the directions”. Except I totally missed the seam allowance requirements and ended up with a bodice that was 4 inches too big! (Note: The pattern was very beginner friendly, I simply made the dress at a time when I didn’t really understand how much seam allowance matters. Never fear friends, I totally get it now xD). Between adjusting the fit to accommodate this and needing to further shorten the straps, the back is not as clean and crisp as it was when I started.

Another learning opportunity for me occurred during the gathering stage. While I’m slowly becoming more confident with my gathers, I didn’t realize that I should have begun my basting stitches as close to the seams as possible. To compensate for this error, I manually bunched areas instead of redoing the basting stitches.

Mistakes were made and there’s a little bit of Frankensteining to make it work, but it’s the third dress I’ve ever made and I’m thrilled with how it came together. I haven’t decided whether or not I will ever make a second dress out of this pattern (in the end I’m not sure I like the pleating of the skirt, perhaps I would do a full father next time?), but I am confident that I will be reaching for another Sew Over It pattern again in the future.

A young woman twirling with her arms stretched wide wearing a white dress with a floral print.

Crafting Breaks

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you don’t feel motivated. Sometimes you’re waiting on supplies. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it. Whatever the reason(s) you have for not crafting are valid reasons and you shouldn’t feel bad about taking a break.

I’m someone who brings her knitting everywhere, last week I left the house multiple times without packing my knitting. I have fabric that I’m excited about, I didn’t turn my sewing machine on once. I warped my loom with some beautiful yarn, wove a handful of rows and then put it down. None of these things mean that I’m giving up making, they just mean that I needed some time away.

When your craft becomes part of your identity, it’s hard to step away. It’s also hard not to feel guilty about stepping away. This past week, I’ve taken more walks and snuggled my dog instead of knitting during a movie. I enjoyed the space created by not having my ironing board out.

When my last sewing class met I made a comment that I thought I was sewing the dress pattern at the wrong time. That my pandemic brain needed something different. Isn’t it funny, that we can be kind and supportive for other people and then struggle to be just as kind to ourselves? This week I was kind to myself by not knitting. By not sewing. By not weaving. I’ve allowed myself to be tired and uninspired instead of forcing myself to knit one more row.

This happens to me from time to time and I usually end up excited about something when my break is over. If you’re in a crafting rut or lull, be kind to yourself. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t a maker, it just means that you’ve been making hard!

Upcycling a Reading Chair

Patinaed wooden chair with gold patterned turquoise cushions.

Allow me to set the scene: Your belly is pleasantly full of diner eggs and toast. You’ve consumed just the right level of your morning drink of choice (I’m on team tea!) and have made a productive home depot run. While driving home, you remark to your partner/fiancé/friend/husband/wife/sibling/parent/child that you should take the long way so that you can enjoy a short hike before the weather warms up. Stopping at the thrift store just before the trailhead wasn’t really part of that plan, but the parking lot’s almost never so empty and you can’t help it. After wandering around for about five minutes, you find a solid wood chair with gross cushions on it. The price is right. There’s room in the boot (trunk). It would be perfect in the family room and you’re semi confident that you can make new cushions. Would you go for it? We did, went for our hike and then threw the cushions out as soon as we got home.

The chair in question has caused a lot of inspiration and discussion in our household. Do we sand and re-stain it? What about throwing on some chalk paint? How on earth does one sew a cushion? What kind of fabric should I use and how much do I need? Joann’s down the hill sells large amounts of foam… right?

We ended up purchasing 4 yards of denim fabric from Spoonflower and 2 yards of 5 inch foam from Joann’s. Then came the google searching, has anyone done this before? In case you’re curious, the answer is yes! There are a lot of tutorials out there, but when it comes to drafting a pattern for your custom cushion Online Fabric Store had the most straightforward tutorial. Another pro tip we discovered is that a bread knife will work just as good as one of those expensive electric cutters!

Both cushions were sewn up in an evening, the hardest part was the little bit of Frankensteining that I did in order to create the bottom cushion’s t-shape (both sides have a hand sewing piece in order to make the curve). Honestly, it would have looked smoother if I had used matching thread, but you can’t really see it anyway. This is one of the few projects I’ve sewn where the “fit” of the final object would make or break it. Sure, I’ve made dresses before, but you can sort of fix those after the fact.

I’m super proud of the way the two cushions came out, even if the only piece of the original chair that remains is the frame. To the original cushion’s credit, the plan had started out as keeping them and putting new covers on. Even with fabric and foam cost taken into account, we could not have gotten a better chair for our space within that price range. My partner has already fallen asleep in it twice, I think it’s safe to say that this one is not style of substance.

Geranium Dress(s?)

I still remember the first time that I sat down at a sew machine (7th grade home economics if anyone is curious) and have made a couple of things over the last couple of years (a dice dress, a dog bed, some catnip toys, a pillow, a gnome bag and a chili peppers dress to name a few), but the last couple of months I’ve been revisiting sewing as a way to learn new things and hone existing skills. Some of this may be because I finally caved and bought my own sewing machine after working on a vintage one and a hand-me-down for so long. It’s fun to sew on a machine with settings and features that you’ve purposely selected for yourself.

During our winter break, I found myself taking a break from knitting to make an everyday bag out of some purposefully selected gnome fabric. Working with leather and rivets for the first time, I realized that sewing has the ability to provide me with something that knitting doesn’t anymore: feeling like a beginner.

It’s fun to be a beginner at something because you get the thrill of completing something while also needing to patiently work through mistakes and mishaps. You get to smile at your imperfection as opposed to thinking: I’ve been doing this so long it should be better. I’m more patient with myself as a beginner, something that feels good as we reach the final stretch of this pandemic.

When my coworker mentioned a local fabric store was offering virtual classes, the timing felt right. It was time to learn the whys around things and maybe be pushed into trying a few skills I didn’t think I was ready for. So I signed up for “Sewing for Baby” and ordered fabric to make a bib, burp cloth and a little dress.

Let me just start by saying, I think baby clothes are the perfect way to learn new skills if I haven’t said that on this blog before. The projects are small enough that you’re finished quickly, while being complex enough that you can learn some new skills. The burp cloth and bib force me to practice smooth (and tight!) round edges, while also diving into the land of hammer in snaps (which I’m still not 100% sure I’ve secured properly). I’m currently waiting on 3 fat quarters to make 3 more of each because practice practice practice. These simple projects have helped me get to know my machine and have shown me that slow is all well and good, but some speed can actually give you more control.

The baby dress, however, has been so fun to make that I want to make like eight more. Geranium, by Made By Rae, is considered an intermediate sewing pattern and is the cutest little dress. This pattern is so beginner friendly, while also having different options so that you’re not making the same thing over and over. Between the detailed instructions and Mary Margaret from Notion’s videos, I learned so many things while making my niece a little dress for her birthday. Sleeve ruffles, finishing seams, making button holes with my machine, sewing on buttons with my machine, correctly gathering a skirt — so many new skills leading to so many new what about this questions.

Isn’t that the best part about learning a new skill though? Discovering what you can do and learning all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know? I’ve signed up for a dress making class via notion that starts later this month and am looking forward to learning more about what I don’t know. I’m also already plotting my next Geranium dress, it’s safe to say that this “sewing thing” is going to start competing with my “knitting thing”!

//www.instagram.com/embed.js