Sunday, February 7, 2016

Making Pillow Forms out of a Bed Pillow

One problem with making decorative pillows as sewing practice is that you then need a pillow form to put inside them.  We have a lot of 20"x20" pillow forms in our house from the various no sew pillow shams I made ages ago, but I need some other odd sizes for my learn to sew projects.  Specifically I need 18"x18" and 12" x 16" pillow forms.  How can I get these without spending a fortune?

In my search for cheap pillow forms I came across many tutorials on how to make them yourself, but that would involve a lot of money in polyfill.  Then I found a tutorial on how to turn a king size pillow into two pillow forms.  What a great idea!  I picked up some $4 pillows from target, and this is just the right price to get the two less-common sized pillow forms that I need for my learn to sew projects.

The pillows did not have any dimensions written on them, but I know (thank you google!) that a standard pillow is 20" x 26".  This lines up when I measured the pillows that I purchased from Target.  The tutorial I liked to above shows how to make the pillow form with one cut, but I will need to do two cuts to get the size I need.

Step by Step as I create a 12" x 16" pillow form

I cut the first pillow lengthwise at 13", to give myself enough seam allowance and to be sure that the pillow will be large enough.  (If you're more confident with your cutting you only need a 1/2" allowance.) Push the stuffing down and pin a few inches away from the edge, giving yourself as much room to work with as possible.

Since this is a pillow form and not going to be visible, I'm not going to worry about raw edges.  Measure your form again to determine how big your seam needs to be.  To get my 12" wide pillow form I need to make a 1" seam.  The sewing itself is a little hard.  It is hard to keep in a straight line because the pillow is pushing up against your work.  Do the best that you can.

Double check your measurement with your seam and then sew a second seam just outside the first one for some strength.  You don't want the pillow to burst!  Remove the pins. and trim off excess seam allowance.

Now we have to repeat to stitch up the pillow in the other direction.   I cut a few inches off of the second end to give 17" and remove a little bit of stuffing (which I'll save for a future project.)  I was more aggressive this time moving the stuffing down and pinning it into place.  After the first seam I checked my measurements and then added a second seam just out side the first one.  I then trimmed off the excess seam allowance, removed the pins and fluffed up my finished pillow form.

Now is the moment of truth...  Inserting my DIY pillow form into the 12" x 16" decorative pillowcase I made.

What a marvelous fit!

What did I do with the other half of the pillow?  well I turned it into an odd shaped pillow form.  I'm sure I can design a decorative 19" x 13" pillow sham at some point.

18" x 18" pillow form

The second pillow form I needed, 18" square, I won't be able to get 2 pillows out of the standard pillow.  I suppose I could get a super skinny 6" x 19" pillow, but instead I'll just save the excess stuffing for another project.  Like the 12x16 pillow, I cut one side to 19" and then closed the edge, leaving it raw.  For the second side I didn't cut first, I pinned the stuffing down and stitched it closed to get from just over 19" to 18".  I then trimmed off the excess seam allowance and had my completed pillow.

As for the 26"x26" pillow, I just picked up an inexpensive inner pillow from Ikea. $7 is probably cheaper than I could make myself.

I hope that this post on making your own pillow forms out of cheap bed pillows was helpful!  I know that this was way cheaper than buying ready made forms myself, plus I have extra stuffing for many amigurumi!

project started 9/22/2015

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Skyline Pillow - My First Applique Project

I finished the simple hemming projects from 1, 2, 3 Sew and I am now on the 4th project, the Skyline Pillow.  I'm going to be playing with applique!

There are many customization options in this project, but I am going to follow the instructions as intended (with raw edges) so I can see what that ends up looking like.    I am calling this my first applique project, but I have used fusible interfacing before.  In 5th grade I made a poster quilt where I made a replica of Jamestown out of different fabrics.

I'm not the biggest fan of this black fabric, Premier Prints Indoor/Outdoor Dyed Solid Black (which seems to no longer be available under the item number I purchased). It seems to get dingy really fast, and shows some marks from where I knelt on it while cutting.  I quickly did the folded hems on the back pillow pieces finished that sewing.

Since this is a Halloween pillow, I have 8 really fun Halloween fabrics for these 2" strips.  Some of the fabrics I bought by the quarter yard at a local fabric store and others I purchased by the yard at  (This is the reason why some of these are repeated in so many projects!)

I purchased some two sided fusible adhesive, Pellon LIte EZ-Steam II.  Each side has pressure sensitive adhesive so I can attach it to the fabric without pressing, but then strengthen the bond with pressing.

I used the applique (which i cut out with scissors) as the pattern to cut out the strips using the rotary cutter.  I then nervously applied them to the front fabric canvas.

LOOK HOW AWESOME THIS LOOKS!  I am tooting my own horn here a bit, but I'm very proud of my cutting because all of the pieces fit on the pillow form.  Plus the patterns look really fun.  Now I just have to iron them on and then do the applique stitching.  I ironed on the cotton setting for 10 seconds in each place and then allowed the pillow top to cool completely before taking it downstairs to my sewing machine.

To stitch down the applique with 1/8" margins I used the straight stitch (#2) with the needle on the left.  I kept the edge of the fabric in the center of the foot and I found it super easy to follow these straight lines.

The book has a great tip:  When sewing a project with a design on front that you want squared up, sew with this side facing up.  I pinned the back pieces (right sides in) to the pillow front and then stitched around with a 1/2" seem.

The finished size of this pillow case is just over 16"x12", right on target for the project.  Even after clipping the corners I couldn't poke them as square as I'd like, but the fabric is pretty bulky there.  I can't believe that I completed this project in under 3 hours (including breaks.) I am feeling amazed that even with more complex projects, sewing a completed project is much faster than knitting something.  I am also realizing that I should really try all of the projects in this book, even the ones that I'm not excited about, because the act of making something is improving my skill set so I can be more confident when I find a project that I really want to do.

I am in love with this pillow case, and now I just need a pillow form to fill it out with.  Sounds like another project for nap time!  I'll tell you more about how I created a pillow form out of a standard bed pillow in the next blog post.

Project started 9.18.2015

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Stash of Vogue Knitting Stitchionaries

Thanks to the package I purchased at Vogue Knitting Live for classes in 2014, I had a $200 gift certificate to spend at  This allowed me to add some books to my dream library!  I picked out four Vogue Knitting Stitchionaries that I thought would be the most useful to my design process:

When I opened up Volume Two: Cables immediately my jaw dropped.  I had opened on page 16 and saw the cable "op art" and immediately fell in love.  My mind started whirling about what I could incorporate this stitch pattern into, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The introduction ("how to use this book") highlighted the worsted weight yarn and needle size used in all of the swatches.  This is NOT a learn how to cable book, but a stitchionary showing many different cable swatches with both written instructions and charts.  The swatches are divided into five sections: Easy, Diamonds & Pretzles, Braids, All Over and combinations.  The easy section contains some simple cables, but many of them are more visually complex (although still simply constructed) than those found in my stitch of a day calendar.   All told there are over 200 different stitch motifs!

I wish I had something like this back before I designed my 14 cable hat!  Maybe it is time for a reprise...

I am very much a novice crocheter.  I am starting to feel more confident about different stitch patterns but I don't know the names of any basic shapes.  I selected Volume Four: Crochet to expose myself to motifs beyond using one stitch type at a time.  The book is divided into six sections: basics, geometrics, color, lace, edgings, and embellishments/unusual.

All motifs are charted in addition to having written instructions.  I am a huge fan of charts when it comes to knit cables but I haven't had to deal with crochet charts yet.  Since these go in multiple directions, rather than being in a grid like with knitting, I know that it will take some getting used to.  Seeing these charts right next to the finished motif really helps me visualize the construction.

The color section is really inspiring to me.  I haven't played around with color in my crochet very much yet, but this book is like a window into a world of possibility.  To my surprise, in the embellishments/unusual section there were even some samples of Tunisian crochet!  I have a crochet work that would work for this crochet/knitting hybrid so this is something that I cannot wait to explore more.

I LOVE knitting lace.  I want to learn more and more about how lace is constructed so I can design my own elegant patterns.  Volume Five: Lace Knitting is a prefect way to compare swatches to charts so I can start to understand the placement of increases and decreases to create my own motifs.  The book contains seven sections with more than 150 patterns: easy/mesh, edgings, chevrons, allover, panels, combos, and motifs.

The first section "easy/mesh" is a little disappointing.  I'm sure it will come in useful someday since there are so many variations of mesh in here, but they aren't exactly what I was hoping to find when I opened up this book.  The edgings section is fine, but since I already have 4 other edging knitting books in my collection I'm hoping for something more.  In chevrons a lot of the patterns look similar, but I am starting to appreciate the subtle differences in the fabric that lead to similar overall shapes.

In the "allover" section we're finally seeing the charts and combinations I was hoping to see.  I am seeing how lines curve based on where the yarn overs are placed.  This is the place where I can study as I start to design my own lace patterns.  These designs are more classic and meant to be repeated many times through a design.  Not quite the modern lace I'm hoping to create but certainly useful.

I held my breath when I saw the picture on the first page of "panels".  These lace socks are darling, so darling that I wished there were some patterns in the book.  (Trefoil #135 is the stitch pattern that caught my eye.  It is actually much simpler to knit that I would have expected.)

There isn't really any modern lace in this book, but I didn't expect their to be.  I see many shapes that are simple, and I hope that I can draw from these smaller motifs to expand them to create the modern lace shawlettes I crave to draw.


The last stitchionary I picked out was Volume Six: Edgings.  Why another book on edgings? Well the edging book interested me more than Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume One: Knit & Purl or The Vogue Knitting Stitchionary™ Volume Three: Color Knitting. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE textured patterns and color knitting, but I find many of these motifs online. I had a large gift certificate and I thought that the volumes of Cables, Crochet, lace and Edgings would best fill my collection. Hopefully these will provide me with a lot of design inspiration over the years.

This book has 7 sections: ribs, texture, cables, lace, color, unusual and crochet.  I'm not sure that there is a ton different from my other edging books, but this is still going to be a useful resource when I'm looking for something perfect to finish (or start) a project.

I'm thrilled with my new collection.  I cannot wait to use these to help me as I'm planning out new designs!   What are your favorite stitch dictionaries in your library?  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chevron Halloween Table Runner with Pockets

I'm flying through the 1, 2, 3 Sew projects!  The third project is the "Set the Table Runner."  In keeping with my Halloween decor theme, I am going to sew this pocketed table runner out of some awesome Halloween chevron fabric.

The pattern wants you to cut a piece of fabric 16" x 56" wide, but I knew that this chevron fabric was only 44" wide before washing (and I've prewashed the fabric.)  I'm not expecting this runner to go over the edge of my table but rather to sit nicely on top and bring some color to a family meal (or Halloween Birthday Party.)

Thankfully with a pattern this bold lining up the fabric to cut is going to be much easier.  Or so I thought.  The chevron is not printed 100% on with the fabric, so I'm going to have to make a decision.  Cut with the pattern or with the squared edges.  I chose to cut with the pattern.  I squared off at the tip of an orange chevron and measured 16" down to the inside tips of a black chevron.

It looks like only one of the edges is actually off squared, but things look even when I fold the fabric in half.  After squaring off the crooked edge the piece of fabric measures approximately 44" x 16"

I'm feeling a little ambitious, but I am NOT going to cut the fabric for the pockets until I've hemmed the main piece of fabric.  I want to try to line up the pattern and to do this I need to know approximately where I want the pockets to go in the first place.  I just have to hem (1/4" then 5/8") and then create mitered corners just like in the previous project.

I'm really happy with how the pattern looks after I've pressed it.  It looks even and centered and hopefully I can do the pockets justice by matching them to the pattern.

The mitered corners went pretty smoothly this time.  I found that starting with the needle down lets me align the crease right by the needle without starting the stitches too far back from the edge.  I also realized that marking this crease with my air soluble pen makes it easier to see and that I'm happier with the corner that I get.

The fabric is pretty thin.  This isn't an ideal table runner for anything other than once a year or so... which makes the Halloween theme spot on.  I suppose if I wanted something like this for heavier use then I should use a heavier weight fabric or back this somehow to make it thicker.  But I LOVED this pattern when I saw it so I will make it work!

I'm so glad I have a whole yard of fabric.  There is plenty of space to match up the pockets.  There are some decisions that I have to make.  It won't be too hard to line up the pattern in the vertical direction, but I have to decide where I want the pockets to be placed so I can try to line up the pockets in the horizontal direction.  This takes a little bit of planning, but I think that I'll be able to get pretty close.

The entire hemmed base is 40" long.  Each pocket will be just shy of 14" wide, let's say 13".  The width not covered by pockets is 14".  I should aim to have the pockets 4.5" from each edge and then have 5" between them on the runner.  I used frog tape to mark the approximate location of the pockets as I know they will shift a bit depending on how well I cut the fabric.  The pocket areas are market by the space inside each piece of tape.

Now it is time to cut.  Oh boy.  The pattern will help me a bit here to line things up.  I made a mistake when cutting the first pocket and clipped half an inch off of one corner.  I think that missing corner makes it possible to see the pocket fabric laid out across the the runner.  Match #1 is done!

Match #2 was a little easier, but I think I shifted the pocket over a bit too much.  In the end I know that I'm going to have to make a decision about lining up the pattern versus the pocket placement...  I think I'll pick pattern matching!  I could adjust with how I make my seams on the pockets, but Id rather focus on trying to sew straight.

Before folding under the raw edge, I checked how the pockets aligned on the runner.  Not too bad.  They aren't even, but they are really close and can match up with the fabric. Because of the cutting error there is about a half inch difference in the pocket width, something I'm not going to worry about at all.  I wish that I could get the pockets closer to the edge of the runner, but they are almost evenly spaced.

After pressing the pockets, I pinned the pockets to the runner on all 4 sides.  You almost can't see them at all!

To stitch 1/8 around the edge I am using stitch #2 on my machine, which is the standard straight stitch but moved the needle over to the left edge of the foot.  I will then try to keep the edge of the pocket in the center of the foot as I'm sewing.  I took out pins as I went so I wouldn't have to bump over them.  In my first attempt I started drifting over a bit in a very obvious way.  I ripped out the seam and started over.

The half way point of one pocket was 6 3/8" and the other was 6.5"  That is pretty close!  Wahoo!  I used frog tape to mark where I wanted to sew and pinned on either side of the tape.

Sewing along frog tape was so easy!  I think these might be my straightest lines yet.  Now I just have to press my table runner and take some pictures... on the floor.  My dining room table is currently covered by my sewing machine and other paraphernalia.  (I need to go to Ikea to pick up a sewing table!)

I would have shared a picture of the runner with the pockets empty, but you can barely see the pockets in any of the photos since I did such an amazing job matching up the pattern.  You can almost make out the pockets in the above picture based on where the silverware stems disappear.

Isn't she pretty?  This table runner is going to make a statement at Lucky's 2nd birthday party!

Project started 9.14.2015