Sunday, September 25, 2011

from delusions to illusions

It looks rather like a slipcover.  That's the intent anyway - the illusion of a slipcover.
This is about 95% finished
I didn't have the nerve to tell you (in yesterday's post) that I only had 6.75 yards of fabric.  This is sooooo not enough.  A small sofa like this requires more than double that, but this was the fabric I wanted and I stubbornly plowed ahead.  I wound up piecing quite a few panels and using leftover blackout lining to stretch my yardage.

My back-up plan is /was to consider this a wearable muslin.  I have the same Sunset book recommended by Bunny who is currently sewing spectacular cushions.  Between the book, Bunny's posts, other online resources and my own high expectations, I knew a full-on slipcover job was just a little beyond my skill level (as of last Friday, anyway!)  But, as of this evening, I know I can sew slipcovers, and my next attempt will be successful.  I am the type who needs to try things out first, and THEN read the directions.  I learn a lot easier this way.

Here is how it works:
There are three basic pieces: the back, the arms and the cushion cover with attached skirt.

The back attaches with long strips of sticky-back velcro and it works surprisingly well.
If it stops working well, I will add a piece of fabric, but it won't match, so
the sofa has to stay against the wall.
I thought about buying come coordinating fabric and doing a mix & match sort of look, but it wasn't what I really want in the long run, so I nixed that idea.
Getting the back done gave me the courage to forge ahead.  It was pretty easy and it looked good.  The white fabric on the lower edge is leftover blackout curtain lining.  I used it everywhere it wouldn't show, and there is a pretty long piece tucked down into the sofa.  What you see laying on the sofa is the arm cover.

The arm covers are attached independently of the back and the cushion cover.  
Now the third piece, the cushion cover with attached skirt, is on and tucked in between the back of the cushions and the back of the sofa.  The white fabric is strategically pieced so it doesn't show when the back cushions are added next.
After tucking, fold the cushion cover forward and place back cushions on sofa.

Flip the cushion cover up and over the back cushions.

From the back, before tucking the fabric behind the back cushions.

Cushion cover is now tucked in behind the back cushions.
Rather than sewing all three pieces together (four if you count each arm separately) I will sew velcro strips to the only places where it matters.  A slipcover is like a gown - awfully big and hard to handle.
Leftovers.  Seriously.

By the time I got to this curve, I was warmed up and used to working with the chalk to mark stitching lines.  At this point it was actually fun, because I knew I had squeaked through with my skimpy 6.75 yards and I knew I had a slipcover of sorts.  Time will tell whether it's OK, or whether I see every little imperfection and try again.
I never realized it would be so hard to find sufficient yardage.  First of all, it takes a lot of looking and taking home samples to see what looks good in the room.  When I found the right fabric it was very disappointing that the store did not have enough, nor would they be getting any more in stock.  The only good news was getting it on sale and it cost less than $70 to make this slipcover.

Since then, I found a better source for home decorating fabric from Emily Henderson's blog Secrets from a Stylist.  In this post, she hung very long linen draperies and she got the fabric for only $7/yard from Grey Line Linen in New York.  I really would like washable linen slipcovers someday, so it's good to know where to get a decent price.

So, how was your weekend?  Get any exercise? I did.  How about getting outdoors?  Nope, not me, but I got a great workout making this slipcover; crawling around and hoisting this monster repeatedly as I dressed and undressed the sofa.  

Next up, I am a pattern tester for someone and I can't remember whether I am allowed to talk about it or  not, so I'll just say I am looking forward to some secret sewing this week.  
Tomorrow is Monday - I hope you got your creative juices stoked this weekend, whether by doing, by surfing the internet or by dreaming up ideas.

More later, friends!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

delusional sewing - the telltale signs

How hard can it be?
It will be a blanket-type thing.
See, it already looks good.
It won't take long.
This time, I'll keep it simple.
It won't be disruptive.
I think a few pillows would be nice - I am sure I will have time.
True or False:  Does this fabric match the cat?
Yes, it's true, I am decorating around our cat Pepper.
She came from a shelter, but I think she looks just like a Maine Coon cat.
So anyway, I had THE BEST TIME EVER today because I got to work on my big sofa project.  Maybe I can finish tomorrow?  I may be delusional.

Happy Sewing, fellow fanatics-

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

African waxed cotton fabric & Dr. Seuss

I took a little sewing detour and went crafty on you.  The main body of this apron is African waxed cotton and the trim (ADE-10791-203is from the Celebrate Seuss collection designed by Robert Kaufman.
It's a good thing this was the only remaining stock where I shopped.
I fear I'd have gone wild if the rest of the prints had been available.
The pattern is view B from More Retro Aprons by Cindy Taylor Oates, a book I picked up while vacation last week.
The instructions would have you line the apron, but I didn't have enough of the African fabric and it would have made it too bulky anyway.  I hope my DSD is busy with the start of the new school year, so she doesn't see this post and spoil the surprise.  A friend of hers brought the fabric back from a trip to Africa and Kelly had no idea what to do with it.  It is a lot of look, I have to agree.  The fabric has a pretty stiff hand, so it could have been made into a jacket, but she couldn't see herself wearing it.  Home decor?  It didn't work in her home, either.  The fabric came from a very good friend, though, so my bet is that she will be delighted with an apron.

First I sewed the straps and attached them to the body, which has shaping darts.  That's a nice touch - everyone wants to look shapely in their apron, right?

Then I added the ruffle:
And finally, I added bias tape to finish all the edges.  By this time, I had completely departed from the pattern instructions, but I think they were pretty good if you want to make cute aprons.  Now would be a good time to do some holiday sewing, if you are so inclined.
(I don't think I am.  It's time to sew for me next!)

There are more apron patterns in this book, so I imagine it will come in handy in the future:
The best part about this pattern is the way it ties in the back - I believe the crossed straps make it a little more comfortable to wear:
Do you think 4 hours is too long to spend on a project like this?  It surprises me that it wasn't faster, but maybe it's because I had to cut all that bias binding without the benefit of my cutting table.  Now that my daughter is back home, I have relinquished a bookcase I'd been using in my cutting area, and all of my interfacings & linings got dumped onto the cutting table.  Lordie, it is a never-ending chore to just get organized!

On a non-related sewing note, the painting is finished and new blinds were installed.  There is nothing hung on the walls yet, but the entire main floor of our house is now freshly painted and I am calling the renovations complete.  Flooring, blinds, countertop, backsplash, light fixture and new appliances are all installed.  As soon as a few finishing touches are added,  I can have my free time back for serious sewing.
It is time for ME now for a little while.
Me, me, me  - it's all about me!

By the way, don't you think this would be cute in an apron?

Yes, I think so.

Happy sewing to me (and to you, too!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

So much for taking a break ...

And why should a person take a break from something fun?  I love to blog and it was really relaxed this week at the beach.  Today it is chilly, but utterly gorgeous.

sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean
Different weather every day - how entertaining!

I did not finish my pink swimsuit until yesterday because I had run out of thread.  While enjoying the lovely town of Lewes, I spotted a quilting shop called Mare's Bears.  Of course, quilters use cotton thread so that's what I bought and it is just fine.  In fact, I bet my homemade suit will last a long time.   The store-bought one needed mending after only 2 days.  The cup came detached from the bodice!  Major wardrobe malfunction, but we survived.

Most of the time I wore a tank top (leftover fabric from this dress)  and athletic shorts.
When I am posing for pictures I exaggerate straight posture.  Memo to self: exaggerate good posture all the time.
The report card on this swimming costume is A+++.  It was so comfortable and I prefer less nakedness compared to a regular swimsuit.  Both of these garments are very fast and easy to sew, too.

This is how the underpinning works.  This get-up was fast-drying and comfortable.
Another new-to-me garment was the skirted swimsuit bottom that I bought the first day we were here.  I like how the skirt hides that the bottoms don't exactly fit right.  It does flap around when playing in the waves and that felt weird, but overall, the modesty benefit outweighed the negatives.  And it matched nicely with my home-made top.
This tank top is lined with swimsuit lining I found at Spandex World in the NYC garment district.  I just cut 2 of each piece, machine basted around the edges, then handled each piece as one.  Couldn't be easier.
There you have it!  A middle-aged woman who likes to play pin-up girl now and then, while tossing around the word "modest" fairly often.  I did wear very skimpy bikinis when I was young but I can barely remember that long ago.   Kids, we didn't have the internet or mobile phones or GPS navigators or anything!  We had to go to the library to look up facts.

In my very earliest memories, when people complimented my dress, I proudly told them my mother made it and that elicited even more examination and compliments.  Then came a phase when the clothes we made were somehow not as good are store-bought clothes.  Now it has come around as something to celebrate.  Craftiness and hand-made things are appreciated now.  Sewing is really my art.  I feel like an artist on the inside and if I didn't sew, I would paint or sing or ...something!  But sewing is somehow the best one for me.

What a lovely vacation I have had.  We will drive home today and see what has happened there.  A few months ago, I bought a Groupon for painting services and I left my daughter in charge a couple of Russians who didn't really want to take orders from a 24-year-old at first.  I hear they all worked it out and a lot of painting got done.  YAY.  I cannot tell you how happy I am that we are really finished with this update-the-home thing.  It was a major freshening and I hope it lasts a long time.

Happy Friday - I hope you have nice things planned for the weekend!
and Happy Sewing

Monday, September 12, 2011

a little sewing at the beach

You are not surprised, are you?  I am sewing at the beach.
Until my husband reversed his dislike of beaches last year, I had not vacationed at a beach for over a decade.  He's funny that way, he will hate something for a while and change his mind and now he freely admits he pulled a bait 'n' switch on me.  If you haven't guessed, I don't much care for the beach.  Also, if you hadn't guessed, I was a middle-aged bride and I am still learning how to do marriage.  Oh, it's hard work, alright!  Falling in love, getting married and participating in the wide world of being-part-of-a-couple is a lot of fun, but also a lot of adjustment for someone like me.  Because my dad died while I was fairly young, I grew up with a very strong mother role model.  I wonder if I will ever not try to take charge of everything?  He is a take charge kind of person, too.  I'll leave you to fill in the blanks on that one.
Fortunately, Howie is very agreeable in many ways, hence we brought my sewing machine, a bag of elastics & swimsuit materials, an unfinished tank top and fabric for pajamas.  There is no chance I will get bored, which is always my worst nightmare.

So, yeah, the vacation thing is working out really well!  We do all the same stuff at the beach that we do at home.  I sew, he cooks, and we both read a lot.  Instead of going to work, we go to the beach.  Who knew?  Oh right, all the people who go to the beach every summer - they know about this.  And Suzie, who posted a comment to my last post.  Suzie, you are a person of great fortitude to to work in Funland for a whole summer!  Almost all of the people working here are European (and young and beautiful) which is quite pleasant.

We have seen some interesting things.  These are all iPhone pictures because I didn't want to risk getting sand on my good camera.
a rainbow during a light rain

a wedding on the beach
The great things about vacationing after Labor Day are smaller crowds and lower prices.  It did not occur to me that all the summer clothing would be on sale and I could stock up on sorely needed casual wear, including a swimsuit.  I always alter store-bought clothing and fortunately I have bobbins with similar thread colors.
And what is the alteration, you wonder?  I have to pick out the waistband along the front so I can add extra elastic.  How can people stand to wear tight elastic around the waist?  I don't understand it.  Perhaps my waist is really that much bigger than the manufacturer thinks it should be?  whatever!  This is why I hate to shop, but I am so glad I can sew.

I am really glad I got pushed out of my comfort zone.  No, I don't think I will ever really like being hot and sticky and all that stuff, but I can make the most of it and conform a little bit.  I guess that is what I am doing, I am conforming a little bit.  And it's OK.
The tank top just needed fold-over elastic and now it's finished.
The pajama fabrics are wonderful shirtings from a sale at Michaels.
Claudine made a really cool shirt of this same fabric.

Talk To You Later, sewing friends.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A little break in the action

This week:
The Jones Falls is usually a little stream, not a river!
We were advised to evacuate yesterday afternoon
 or risk spending the night at work.  I opted to leave.

Next week:
I hope the dolphins are ready to play!

Regardless of the weather next week, it will be nice to slow down.  Heck, I don't care if it rains, I'll just read books and contemplate what's for dinner.  And yes, I am taking my sewing machine.  Just in case.

I'll see you back here in 10 days or so.  While I am gone,
*Happy Sewing*

Monday, September 5, 2011

color therapy

Thinking about the the power of the color wheel...

You may recall, I am in the midst of redecorating the main floor in our home.   The kitchen is finished and now we are painting the walls and the woodwork.   Brace yourself  - being "in progress" is not for the faint of heart.  But - there is some fun to be had in developing a color scheme.

I am open to painting the bookcase and the round cafe table & most of the little tables won't be part of the new room.
I took the paint swatches with me to G Street Fabrics and visited the Home Decorating department.  Having the paint swatches was critical to shopping fun, because it helped quickly eliminate fabrics that didn't work with the color palette.  On the chair (below) is a lovely silk that ties together the new paint colors with the existing upholstery and rug.
At the start of this project I said, "oh I can make my own slipcovers if necessary".  But now - at this point - I really can't.  You know what I mean.  I am capable of it, but that doesn't mean I want to sew slipcovers.  I cannot go another month without sewing clothing.  I am reaching my breaking point and this room just needs to get finished!
This is the only existing carpet to incorporate - the rest of our floors are bare because of pet issues.
That is fine with me, I'd rather have pets than carpets anyway.
Now here is where the fun comes in - without regard for fabric type (e.g. silk, linen, chenille, etc) pattern (e.g. floral, stripes, paisley, etc.)  or purpose, I zoomed in on colors and whether they were pleasing with the paint samples.  Also, I ignored price tags because I just need inspiration.  The only piece I bought was the half yard of the large silk plaid because a sample could not capture all of the colors.

The goal is to identify colors that can come in through accessories and artwork.  My fear is that the rooms will be bland because accessorizing is not my strong point.  Using fabric as inspiration, I will identify contrasting colors.  If the inspiration fabric is too dressy or flowery (or whatever) it might not even get made into throw pillows - but it will provide a broader color palette than I have now.
I'd like to paint the little round cafe table in an unexpected color - but what?  Fabric designers are pretty brilliant, thank goodness!

In addition to any existing artwork that fits in, we will hang our own family & artsy photos.  Yes, I thought it would be convenient to become a good photographer.  Howie & I are planning a downtown date - we will have a meal, have some fun, take a photography tour with PhotoTour DC and come out of it as brilliant photographers.  Great plan, eh?  He's going to use an old 35mm film camera of unknown origin (he thinks I brought it into the marriage and I think he brought it into the marriage) and I am going to use our Nikon digital SLR.

And I am sewing!  Yep, we are going on vacation next week so I am finally getting around to a swimsuit.  I got swimsuit lining when I was in NYC recently, and bought the pink earlier this summer.
Last year's swimsuit was a last minute deal and it was a disappointment in the drying department.  I made sure to buy fast-drying fabric this year.  And my pattern this year is even simpler.  I am using the same basic pattern idea.  We are headed to the beach - for the first week after high season ends and bargains abound.  I'll probably post again before then, though.

Happy sewing all y'all....

Friday, September 2, 2011

September - National Sewing Month

National Sewing Month Infographic from
Shop for sewing machines
For more infographics visit the Community

Pretty cool article, eh?  Over the last couple of years, I have bought 3 sewing machines from, all Janomes, as gifts for family members.  Stock varies, but I've paid about $100 each time.  Sometimes they were refurbished, other times they were discontinued Sears models with a Janome badge.  It's hard to get a better machine at that price.  I was not paid or perked to post this, but I like and I do love all the trivia in this post.

What else is new?  My mailbox is sadly empty of the Vogue Patterns magazine :( poor me, I just keep waiting!  And there is lots of DIY home decorating happening here.  I am wrapping up the painting,  window treatments and finishing touches.   I love to read home decor ("shelter") blogs but I don't like doing it nearly as much as I like to sew clothing.  I look forward to just living in our home and enjoying it.  You know, I think it's good timing anyway.  My mojo is stalled because we are between summer and autumn, so I may as well focus and finish.
I'll post a few before and after pics towards the end of September.

Hope you are doing OK - Happy Sewing Month, too!