An upcycled pillow

My niece’s initials are HK, and my sister, an ardent thrift store addict, found a t-shirt with those initials and asked me to make a pillow out of it for my niece’s birthday.  It has been sitting around waiting for my fickle attention, and today I finally looked at the calendar and counted the days until the birthday and realized I’d better get cracking.

HK pillow - front

No progress pics because it went so quickly I didn’t pause to think to take them.  To stabilize the knit fabric I fused to a square from a sheet that was another thrift store purchase once upon a time.  The picture isn’t quite centered due to needing to cut away the neck ribbing.

For the back I made two hemmed red pieces to overlap to make the pillow removeable for washing.  A quick seam around the edges, clipped corners, flipped right side out and stuffed, and a pillow is born.

HK pillow - back

If there is no picture, did it happen?

My son, who is nine, got a rare invitation to a girl’s birthday party today.  When he asked her what she wanted for her birthday, since we are more used to buying boy presents, she said she wanted a blanket.  ???  I asked for more details from her mom when I RSVP’d, because that was a little unusual as present requests go, and the mom laughed and said her daughter has been asking for a cuddly throw.  She may get ten of them at this party, but we contributed to the quest for warmth.

I got some zebra print fleece and some red fleece with large white polka dots for the reverse, sewed the two pieces right sides together, flipped it right side out, and stitched around the edge twice for a sturdy border, and a blanket was done.  Easy peasy.

And then I forgot to take a picture before wrapping it.

So this is all the proof I have that I was crafting today:

 image

The history of my $120 t-shirt

In October I took a class from Modern Domestic in Portland to learn how to sew knits. I’m really tired of the last few years of shorter hems meaning that every time I raise my arms in most store bought t-shirts, my stomach shows. My stomach is not one that should be parading around in public. But I’m not willing to stop using my arms either.

I also want to make a lot of night gown t-shirts to sleep in. Finding them in 100% cotton isn’t always easy.

The class was entertaining and informative and I had a scary but fascinating time using a serger for the first time. We also learned how to adjust a zig zig stitch on an ordinary machine to sew knits. It was also my first time using a jersey needle and a double needle (which is unbelievably cool!)

The $120 part comes from totaling up the cost of the class, the pattern, the various needles and tools I didn’t already have, and the fabric. But, I ended up with a pullover that fits just the way I wanted to and immediately began to hunt for yardage to start making many more.

A really unflattering and badly lit pic of my so comfy $120 t-shirt:

However, it turns out that finding all (or mostly) cotton knits isn’t as easy as I assumed. Lots of solids, but very little patterned fabric that isn’t horizontal stripes or children’s designs. Also, lots of pink. The few I found that fit in with what I want were $20+ dollars a yard. That is going to require quite the sale!

So I’m experimenting a little. At Fabric Depot I found some heathery soft blue cotton ribbed knit and a strange loopy white/gray thicker cotton. I got both to see if the pattern is flexible enough to deal with them.

My Brother sewing machine, which will do zig zags, has been in the shop, but I got it back this week. The Juki is great, but not useful for my knit sewing adventures.

Last night (to recover from The Great Tunic Failure) I got started with the cotton ribbed fabric. It went well, once I remembered to change the needle from sharp to jersey. (Oops.) the pattern only has five pieces, so it sews together quickly. A brief trip to JoAnn’s for the right color thread for the top stitching, and it is done! My sister and mom have already put in requests for theirs.

The fabric is quite heavy and the neckline stretched a bit more than the first shirt, but it is still OK, and its first trip through the dryer should help that a little. I broke the double needle by hitting the presser foot and had to use a sharp one instead of the jersey one, and that may be why I ended up with a pretty ruffley hem. I may just cut it off, zig zag it, and leave it raw edged since this is a kicking around the house shirt. But overall I’m counting this one a success.

Next up, the weird loopy knit fabric.

Moving on

Some days I have to remind myself that there is joy in the process, not just the product. Today was one of those days. After cutting and sewing and puzzling out pattern directions and sewing and ripping and sewing again, I got far enough along with the pullover cotton shirt I’ve really wanted to have to try it on.

Let’s just say it did not go well.

Apparently, my weight gain has been a lot more – is impactful a word? – than I had realized.

And it isn’t as if this was a tight fitting outfit! It is a damn tunic! I’m bitter.

Bitter, but I also got on the treadmill for an hour, so the process part of all this continues.

As for the product, it now belongs to my mother. Who, I’m sorry to say, is gloating a little bit about the fact that it fits her. I’m no longer sorry I made her climb on that chair in the wind and rain yesterday!

I made version D with the long, cuffed sleeves. Both Mom and I didn’t like the width or stiffness of the cuffs, so despite all the wrestling and ripping out and resewing I did to get the covered plackets right, in the end I whacked them off and did turned up 3/4 sleeves. Much better.

I’m not giving up on having something new to wear. I dialed back the ambition and got out the pattern for a V neck t-shirt that I know fits me and I’m sewing again.

On the road

This is one of my favorite quilts that I’ve made.  I like so much about it – the combination of four patch and half square triangles.  The fabric.  The colors.  The size, which is perfect for couch napping.

The top was made with a layer cake and a charm pack of the fabric line Road 15 by Sweetwater for Moda.  I bought Kona solids in matching colors and started to slice.  I used almost every scrap of the fabric, cutting the final square blocks to 8 1/2 inches.

The backing fabric was a great green and white houses design.  I didn’t have quite enough, so I added some additional Road 15 yardage, and bought some crosshatched deep red fabric for the binding.

This is the third project I’ve made with Road 15.  I sewed a Go Anywhere bag from a Noodlehead pattern and a matching ipad cover from the red houses print, which is my favorite of the favorites.  Something about those little houses just really appeals to me.  I have additional yardage of it to play with in the future.

Edit this

Black and white

I was going to say that it has been a productive day, but that would imply actually completing tasks from the to-do list, or even packing for the weekend away that starts in a about an hour. So instead I’ll say it was an activity filled day.

Started off right with two 60% off coupons that let me buy a new cutting mat and a smaller square ruler to make things go more smoothly with planned projects. Such a deal with the discounts!

Then I went online and bought this pattern for a lover’s knot block (though the designer calls it a carpenter’s square) to make into a mini quilt for our bedroom wall. Our room is black and white overall, with a little yellow and tan thrown in, and I want to make a few minis to cover a blank wall by the closet.

This block requires a lot of precision, in both cutting and sewing.

Neither of those are my strongest skills, but working on this should help.

I’m adding extra rows to make it a little bigger. The dramatic contrast is great, but if I do it again (and I plan to) I will put a color square in the very center. Yellow, perhaps.

This is also giving me practice with my new Juki sewing machine. I’m crazy about the auto cut feature, but I keep forgetting I can use the foot pedal to use it. And the leg lever to lift the foot makes things so much faster. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get to use the rabbit speed though. Medium seems like I’m racing beyond my fingers as it is.

Improved ironing – a fast DIY

I don’t use an ironing board when I do my quilting – at least not the traditional long, narrow, collapsible type. There just isn’t enough surface space. So I made my own. The first one was a 2 x 2 square, which was just the right she for my sewing table top, and very portable, but too short for sewing long seams. And if I put my little cutting board on it, there wasn’t much ironing room left.

Cutting board on ironing surface

So today I made a new, larger board.

Cutting board

This one is 2 x 4 – a lot less portable, but definitely a lot more ironing surface.

These are really easy to make if you have a staple gun. I got my board at Home Depot. They sell both the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 sizes precut. The only other materials I needed were all cotton batting and a heavy cotton fabric. I used a printed canvas floral.

Then it is just layering, folding, and stapling. The board is the smallest element, then the batting, and the outer fabric the largest to wrap around all the rest.

Iron board in progress - layers

I cut off the fabric and batting in triangles at the corners to make it less bulky and folded it like wrapping a present. Making the batting smaller than the outer fabric meant I could fold the edges of the fabric over the batting and staple it under, so there were no raw edges to worry about.

My plan is to get a cart for the sewing room and place this on top so I can move it around to where I need it, depending on the type of project. For now, it works really well on the dining room table. I can iron longer pieces or iron and cut smaller pieces without having to move everything.