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FO and MOS 11 – 13/52: a necklace, cushions, and tees

28 Oct

As I’ve said, not all of my 52 moments of satisfaction have to be big things. Sometimes the small things are important to do.

So here is a round-up of three projects I’ve done so far this year.

Grace’s necklace

When I wore my flame dress to the 2012 Feet with Heat ball, I didn’t really have any suitable jewellery. My dear friend Miss Busty La Belle kindly lent me a necklace, earrings, and flowers for my hair. But when I took the necklace off I noticed it was broken in one place. So I held onto the necklace, dismantled it, and remade it for her as a tiny token of thanks. Easy and satisfying. And of course, now I need to make something similar for me to wear as it worked so well with my outfits!

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It's red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It’s red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

Velvet cord cushions

Another dear friend wanted to learn to sew, and I offered to show her the basics. So in 2012, when she had new curtains made, she decided to make matching cushions out of the leftovers. She brought over the cushions and the offcuts and we set about making the cushions. We decided we wanted an offset back zip, and drafted all the pieces while I told her the basics as we went. But starting to sew is a slow business. We cut out all four cushions but made only one of them. She was thrilled to take that home but the rest stayed at my place.

The same day she told me she was pregnant! (I’ve since given her knitted booties). Since then we were both so busy that catch-ups were infrequent, with certainly no sit-down-and-sew time.

Much later I came across the cushion inners and cut out fabric while tidying up and thought to myself. “She’s only weeks away from birth. She’s up to her ears in renovations. Eight of her relatives are coming over from the UK in a couple of weeks and they’re all staying in her house. And then she’ll have her baby. Yeah – she won’t be sewing any time soon.”  So I decided to finish the remaining three cushions for her as a present.

The fabric is a rusty pumpkin velvet-like cord and a pain in the ass to deal with, as most fabrics with a pile are, shifting all over the place regardless of pins. I wasn’t going to hand baste cushions for crying out loud so I ended up using double sided fusible hem tape to “baste” the seams in place, and stitched just inside the tape. Even with the stuffing around with the hem tape the covers came together in only a couple of sewing sessions, and their new owner is delighted to have cushions in their freshly renovated lounge. I’m thrilled to have helped her out, thrilled not to be storing the project any longer, and delighted that my three centred zips came out great!

One velvet cord cushion! I'm never sewing with this stuff again.

One velvet cord cushion with perfect zip! But I’m never sewing with this stuff again.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend's sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend’s sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

Heat set vinyl tees

Last year a friend told me he really wanted a “Han Shot First” tee and as I was looking for ideas for a birthday present for him, I mentally pinned that. But after some googling I didn’t really find anything that hit the right balance of coolness and price. So, of course, I decided to make him one. I asked around some friends for recommendations of getting shirts printed and found a friend of a friend with a vinyl cutter who offered to cut some heat set vinyl for me.

Thrilled by this, I extend my plan to include a tee shirt with an in-joke for another friend of mine, and a teeshirt for my Mechanic Man partner branded with his business logo.

I asked another friend, a graphic designer, to put together the digital files needed to talk to the vinyl cutter and emailed them off.

Then one lovely night I went around to vinyl-cutter friend’s house and watched as she set her machine a whirling. Then we companionable sat and talked while she showed me how to prep the vinyl and helped me iron the vinyl onto some RTW teeshirts – which requires a surprising amount of muscle.

And ta-dah! Three custom designed and printed tees. Now I know in some ways I didn’t actually make anything – one friend made the digital files, another operated the vinyl cutter, and the tees were ready made, but I’m claiming this as a project because I’d been thinking about it for ages, it was all my idea and my coordination, and because it’s my blog and my head and my life and what exactly are you going to do about it?

Well, he did.

Well, he did.

It's an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

It’s an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

The back of my Mechanic Man's tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

The back of my Mechanic Man’s tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

Mechanic Man was so delighted with his tee that it took another three months before it was off him long enough for me to iron on our logo to the front.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement. Another lousy photo, WTF am I doing?

They may only be little things, but they made me happy to do, and that is what it’s all about, right?

MOS 4/52: The Grand Cushion Adventure

26 Jul

Want to know about one of the Two Enormous Project that consumed all of my time recently? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.

You see, recently, a clever creative type decided to set up a vintage enthusiasts’ event for Wellington called Vintage-Orama. Vintage-Orama was going to have a vintage market, dance classes, demos, and cool events. When I found out about it I had sudden visions of a market stall, selling retro, kitsch, and rockabilly cushions and other items, all made from beautiful and quirky prints.

I knew this was A Bad Idea (The time! The cost! The risk!) but was consumed by enthusiasm and an itch to make-and-sell that I couldn’t scratch. So I caved, paid for a stall and bought lots (and I mean LOTS) of fabric online.

My fabric arrived just after I finished my seriously yellow skirt. FIrst up there was prewashing. Lots and lots of prewashing. Thankfully a beautiful sunny, windy, if cold winter’s weekend in early May meant I could get it all done pretty quick! I did get a picture of all of the beautiful fabrics billowing in the breeze, but then lost it. Oops.

Although I had visions of cushions, scarves, bags, ties, all sorts of grand ideas, I decided to start with what I was most excited about, cushions. I had figured out my pattern piece dimensions so I knew how much fabric to get but due to a slight issue with my brain malfunctioning I had completely over ordered fabric (hmm, lemme see, it’ll take 1 yard of 112cm fabric to make a cushion as that’s how much I’ll need to cut two fronts and two backs… oh, now that I’ve ordered I’ve realised my cushion design doesn’t HAVE TWO FRONTS and I can get a whole cushion out of half a yard!)

Of my fabrics, 4 or 5 had prints unsuitable to my cushion size, but 18 I knew were going to be perfect, and due to the excess fabric I decided to make two cushions out of each of these. Yep, I was planning on making 36 centre-back zip cushion covers.

In about 5 weeks.

While also in the middle of my other Enormous Project (to be disclosed separately…)

LET THE SEWING COMMENCE!

My cushions were all retro, kitsch, or rockabilly, with pin-up girls, day of the dead and sugar skulls, old cars, roller skates, tattoo art, leopard print, anchors, skulls, flamingos, moustaches, and comic strips all making an appearance. This is just a selection of the 18 designs I featured!

My cushions were all retro, kitsch, or rockabilly, with pin-up girls, day of the dead and sugar skulls, old cars, roller skates, tattoo art, leopard print, anchors, skulls, flamingos, moustaches, and comic strips all making an appearance. This is just a selection of the 18 designs I featured!

But how was I to manage both Enormous Projects? Luckily, I had a secret weapon. Mechanic Man went away on holiday for a couple of weeks to the bach up in Whangarei, and offered to bring my mum home with him, as she lives near there.* This meant I could focus primarily on cushions for the first few weeks, as Mum would help me with Enormous Project 2 (EP2) when she arrived. So I sewed as much as I could, while still working on EP2 as needed knowing that Mum would rescue me. I managed to make 24 cushions.

This is one of my favourtie designs. I might have bought enough of this one to make a shirt or skirt too. The cushion design is 14 inches/36cm wide, with a "frill" made by using a French Seam technique in reverse, otherwise known as topstitching a couple of cms in from the outer edge to enclose the seam allowances and create the flat frill.

This is one of my favourite designs. I might have bought enough of this one to make a shirt or skirt too. The cushion design is 14 inches/36cm wide, with a “frill” made by using a French seam technique in reverse, otherwise known as topstitching a couple of cms in from the outer edge to enclose the seam allowances and create the flat frill.

All of my centre back zips were lapped. I am so glad I got a new zip foot for this exercise, it made a huge difference - and Sunni's Craftsy zip course was helpful too!

All of my centre back zips were lapped. I am so glad I got a new zip foot for this exercise, it made a huge difference – and Sunni’s Craftsy zip course was helpful too!

On Friday before the market, Mum arrived in Wellington, having braved 13 hours over two days in a van with Mechanic Man (“does your mum like Pantera? Well, she will soon!”)

I got home from work on Friday night, so excited to see Mum, and promptly dragged her out to a rock and roll social gig, organised by Feet With Heat and featuring The X-Ray Cats, one of the official Vintage-Orama events for the weekend. It was great fun to whirl and twirl away and mum watched and took photos, and the vintage crowd turned up dressed to the nines!

When we got home around midnight, we picked up the last 12 cushions and started sewing. Mum helped by pressing and unpicking the zip basting as I stitched away. Mum flagged about 1.30 and by 4am I realised I conceded that I had sewn all I was going to sew and gave up to snatch 2 hours sleep.

By the day of the market, Saturday the 15th, with the help of my amazing mum (and an awesome new zip foot), I had made 30 of 36 cushion covers.

I showed up at Vintage-Orama, in my flame dress, with my mum and my cushions and set up shop. It was great fun! I really enjoy selling at markets so this was a great way to spend the day. Years ago Mum and I ventured into the market scene for a while selling bags, so the last of our stock got hauled out and taken along too; and I also put out some fabric for MrsC.

Blurry cell phone photo of my table at Vintage-Orama

Blurry cell phone photo of my table at Vintage-Orama

Of course, I poked around the rest of the market, which was great fun, where I scored an enormous haul of vintage patterns which was very exciting (if somewhat profit reducing…). And quite flatteringly, I had my picture taken for street style blog Little Death!

One of the many vintage clothing sellers at Vintage-Orama. I've got lots of photos of the event, but they're all universally terrible.

One of the many vintage clothing sellers at Vintage-Orama. I’ve got lots of photos of the event, but they’re all universally terrible.

Of course, I didn’t sell all 30 cushions, so last weekend I had my first stall at the Wellington Undergound Market in Frank Kitts Carpark, at their Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market. I made the last 6 cushions up in time for that and once again had a great time.

My stall at the Wellington Underground Market's Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market.

My stall at the Wellington Underground Market’s Retro, Recycled, Restored theme market. Also blurry. Need to stop using my cell phone for important pictures. 

 

I still have more cushions left, and of course heaps more fabric, so I guess I’ll have to find more markets!

All in all, Enormous Project 1 –The Grand Cushion Adventure was great fun, if somewhat exhausting, and I am now an absolute whizz at setting lapped zips! But the craziness only got crazier after Vintage-Orama, as then I had to go home and start on the final countdown for Enormous Project 2!

Stay tuned…

*How fabulous is it to have your mum come and stay!? I am a HUGE fan of my mum.

FO and MOS 1/52: banana seat cushion

30 Jan

While not the first thing I finished this year, my banana seat cushion is the first thing I got photos of, so it gets the dubious honour of getting the first of my 52 moments of satisfaction posts. Once again, it has terrible photos, due largely to the fact I had to take most of them with my cell phone.

I made a giant cushion. Yep, a giant cushion.

You see, I have a giant cane banana chair. It rocks. It swivels. It’s super comfy. And it’s huge!

The base of my super comfy, huge, banana chair. Despite my blog photo failure, I had this buried away from a brief thought of selling it online. But I couldn't part with it!

The base of my super comfy, huge, banana chair. Despite my blog photo failure, I had this photo buried away from a brief thought of selling it online. But I couldn’t part with it!

We really didn’t have room in our home for it any more. But being so comfy, I was loathe to get rid of it. So we decided to take it up to our bach in Whangarei, where it can be comfy while we’re on holiday and enjoy a lot more spacious surroundings. It also suits another one of our bach requirements. Because we don’t go up there very often, all soft furnishings get locked away in cupboards in case of rodents. So all furniture must have cushions that can be removed completely. This chair fit the bill.

So we loaded it into our seemingly Tardis-like van (along with a 2 seater couch, folding table, double futon frame, a sewing machine, assorted motorcycle equipment, and enormous Christmas presents) and took it with us up north at Christmas time.

But as well as being comfy and huge, my chair is also old. I got it off my Nana 10 years ago. She’d had it for at least a decade. And she might have bought it second hand! So unsurprisingly, the cushion on it was in dire need of replacement. The stuffing was decayed and had no sproing left, the ties and buttons had all come off, and the fabric, fashionable 20+ years ago, was hideous and faded. So I decided that I’d replace the cushion while on holiday and leave the new one behind.

The tired old cushion, slumped, miserable, and low on stuffing. Also from my "I should sell this!" days. Foolish me!

The tired old cushion, slumped, miserable, and low on stuffing. Photo also from my “I should sell this!” days. Foolish me!

G dropped me and the cushion at my mum’s and took the seat with him to our bach and after lots of other fun things were out of the way I got into it.

First was removing the stuffing. It was stuffed with foam chip which had all perished, leaving it crumbly and yuk. Even so, getting it out was a hilarious three person exercise resulting in 2 big rubbish bags of foam chip, and little bits of foam stuck to our clothes. For days. Every now and then a little foam ball would blow past outside as well.

Then I unpicked all the sewing to get the original pieces, analysing the construction as I went, and harvested the original zips (which I didn’t even realise it had!)

Then at this point it occurred to me I should take photos of the process but by now was unable to get a Before shot. Grr. Blog fail again.

My mum kindly donated some op shop fabric for the cushion, a soft sage green with fine navy pinstripe denim and a heavier weight blue denim. Both of them had minor fade lines in them, enough to prevent Mum from following through on her original sewing plans, but fine for a cushion for a chair for a bach.  There wasn’t enough of either fabric to do both sides, so I decided to put the heavier denim underneath where it’ll run against the cane, and the softer denim skin side. I cut directly around the old pieces, and was amazed at how perfectly the fabric fitted – I had barely anything leftover.

Mid cutting out the new seat cushion

Mid cutting out the new seat cushion

Sewing it together was pretty easy. The front is unsurprisingly a giant oval. The rear is three pieces, two half ovals with a strip in the middle that goes between the two zips. The zips go in, the whole thing is sewn together, and then it is bagged out through a zip. After bagging, a seam goes through both layers, in the middle of the strip between the zips, which ends up with two hinged pockets. I added three ties to the top (sewn onto the back before the cushion is assembled) and two in the middle on the back (caught into the horizontal “hinge” seam). The trickiest bit was putting the zips in, mainly because of the size of the pieces I was working with and the thickness of the denim, but I’m actually pretty happy with them – I’d wear them that way on a garment. I did use the original zips so the colours don’t match, but hey, free or cheap right?

The zips, centre ties, and "hinge"

The zips, centre ties, and “hinge” with bonus charging cord in shot

When G picked me up from Mum’s to go spend a few days at the bach with him, the new seat cushion was all good to go except for stuffing and buttons. Kerikeri, being a small town, didn’t have anything to suit so we stopped in Whangarei on our way out to our place to pick up the necessities. Foam chip was surprisingly easy to find. But disaster! The store G dropped me in for buttons did not have any that suited in sufficient quantities! (On a side note, this was unexpected. Arthur’s Emporium has more buttons in one location than I’ve ever seen in a NZ shop. I consoled myself by buying vast quantities of other, uneeded, crafting supplies.) I picked up a few button options though.  As our bach needs some work to make it habitable again (like a new long drop and water tank) we actually stayed in the workers cottage on the farm. So that was where we were when we stuffed the cushion.

Remnants of stuffing the cushion (and ensuring foam  fight)

Remnants of foam scattered over the floor after stuffing the cushion (and ensuing foam fight)

G and I had great fun stuffing the cushion. The foam chip was crazy static and there may have been one or two foam fights that resulted in us trying to pick foam out of our hair, off our clothes, and in G’s case, off his arm hair (hehehe). We realised when we stuffed the new chip in how much bouncier and sproingier it was then the old cruddy stuff and were almost tempted to bring the whole thing home again! We weren’t sure if we’d overstuffed it and the chair itself was in the bach but it looked ok and was so comfy! We spent a couple of days with it on the floor where we used it for napping. G banned me from getting a photo of him curled up like a cat on it though!

Front of the finished and stuffed cushion!

Front of the finished and stuffed cushion!

Back of the finished and stuffed cushion!

Back of the finished and stuffed cushion!

The ties at the top of the back of the cushion

The ties at the top and centre of the back of the cushion

So now it was almost done! The only thing left is the buttons.

The buttons are not for a closure. They go through both layers of the cushion, helping to control the foam and particularly to stop the foam in the vertical pocket from slumping into the bottom. What I really wanted was a shanked button with a smooth domed surface and reasonable diameter. The selection I bought were much too small a diameter to be much good, as I’d suspected in store. And I hadn’t bought any larger diameter ones as they were all textured, decorative things. I had bought some for fabric covering, but I’d bought all they’d had in store and it wasn’t enough. We were half an hour away from town and far too busy (swimming, sleeping, eating) to go back and try Spotlight, so what to do!

In the end we decided to leave it there unbuttoned. As I probably won’t be back until next Christmas, over the year I’ll find the right buttons and then next year I’ll take them with me and sew them on.

Finally, we took it to the bach in its unbuttoned state and tied it on the chair. Eek! It might be a little overstuffed! But the buttoning will help control that so until I can button it, that’s how it’ll stay.

Cushion stuffed into chair base, awaiting the addition of buttons next summer

Cushion stuffed into chair base, awaiting the addition of buttons next summer

So yes, you could argue that my first blogged finished object of 2013 isn’t actually finished. And you’d be right. But it’s my challenge and I feel that I met the spirit of it. I was so very pleased to get it done (even though I will only get to enjoy it a couple of weeks a year!) and the reason I didn’t finish it was outside of my control, for now. So I’m awarding myself the point and actually, there’s nothing you can do about it.