Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How to make a cushion or pillow case.

Last week's blog was "How to make a quilted panel"  to be part of a steampunk fabric  cushion. Top stitching this panel on to an existing  pillow case could prove difficult. If I simply stitched directly onto the case it would be very easy to stitch through both layers of the pillow case. I also didn't have pillow case at hand which I thought would fit well with the room.  With this in mind I thought I would make my own pillow case. This way I could top stitch the panel onto one side of the case before making the whole case up.  Making a pillow case or cushion cover is pretty simple, the only tricky thing is the  envelope opening at one end. This envelope style is useful as it doesn't require buttons, Velcro or zips which can be uncomfortable when you lay against them.

You will need:

Two strips of fabric one 3cm longer than your pillow and 6 cm wider.The second piece has to be 15cm longer again.

Step one
Cut out the two rectangles of fabric. About the width of your pillow with 6cm added to width of both rectangles and 3cm longer than your pillow on one piece and 15cm longer on the other (this extra length will form your envelope). Hem one of the short sides of each rectangle. A trained kitten to hold the fabric in place is useful here. An untrained kitten on the other hand makes things a lot harder.  Check here to see how to hem .

Step two
If you're adding a panel to your cushion or pillow case then now is the best time to top stitch it in place. Decide which side of the pillow or cushion case you want your panel to be on. If it's on the shorter piece then place the panel in the middle. If you want it on the longer side remember it does not go in the middle, but 15cm to the side of the middle to allow for the envelop opening of the pillow case.

At times it can be tempting to try and hurry through stages like this. However it is often quicker to take your time. In this case I positioned the panel in the middle of pillow case panel and pinned it in place before carefully top stitching the middle section to the pillow case.  This secures the panel to allow you to then smooth out the fabric and pin and sew the outer edge of the panel to the pillow case panel.
Top stitch the out edge to the pillowcase.

Step three.
Place both panel pieces right sides together, lining up the NON-HEMMED short sides. One piece (in this case my red piece) will be longer than the other.

Fold the extra length of fabric over the shorter piece. Now pin and stitch the two sections together, leaving a 1cm seam.  Sew lone edges together (at the ends you will be sewing through 3 layers of fabric). Sew the un-hemmed short edges together as well.

Pull the pillowcase right side out, and hey presto you have a pillow case.  Once you have the hang of making pillow and cushion cases you will find you can run one up very quickly. These projects are perfect for using up any old odds and ends of fabric you may have at home. So get creative !

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

How to make a quilted panel for a cushion.

I have a chair I absolutely love. A leather captain;'s chair is a superb piece of Steampunk furniture. Whilst this creation of brass and oxblood leather may look superb it is not very well padded. I decided that  instead of just buying a cushion I would make a padded, quilted panel to adorn a pillow case to use as a cushion.

I scavenged my pile of remnants for some suitable steampunk fabrics. Check out this blog on tips for how to store fabrics.  A basic quilt can be made with small squares of fabric. I found a red fabric with a beautiful design about twice the size of my intended quilting squares. I decided this would become the central feature of my panel. 

Each square  of fabric would have a seam allowance of about 1cm. The central panel would have to be 1cm smaller on each side than TWO quilting  squares to make allowances for the fact  that it would not loose fabric to a seam allowance half way along it's length (as it was all in one piece)

The easiest way to sew lots of squares together is to sew them into strips and then to sew these strips together.

Right sides together  pin and sew one square to another, and repeat to make a strip of three squares.
Repeat this until you have 4 stripes of fabric. Press the seams open. 

Now line up one end of the strip to the central panel and right sides together sew along the length of the panel. This SHOULD leave one square not sewn to the central panel.

Now place the next strip along the other edge of the central panel, begin by sewing the end to the square of the first strip that is not sewn to the central panel. Now fold out and right sides together sew this strip to the edge of the panel. 

Repeat for the remaining two strips. You should now have a square or diamond of patchwork. This by it'self can look very attractive, but I wanted to add an extra dimension.  To give the panel a padded effect cat out two pieces of fabric the same size as your patchwork and some nice thick wadding. Sandwich the wadding 
between the patchwork and one piece of the fabric WRONG SIDES together. Pin in place and starting from your central piece top stitch where one square of fabric meets another. 

You should now have a beautiful padded panel. to finish the work place the second fabric piece over your quilted project RIGHT sides together and sew along the edges, leaving a gap to let you turn everything right sides out. Slip stitch this gap shut and you now have a stunning padded panel.

By itself this padded patchwork makes a nice decorative cushion, however the next blog will show you how to make a matching cushion cover opr pillow case to stitch it onto.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Sewing without a pattern

I  love working in our fabric shop in Colchester in Essex. As I often say on these blogs one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is meeting interesting people and helping them out (mean and boring people don't sew or knit I've decided). Often I help people pick fabric or a pattern  or advice them on what sewing needles to use.  Sometimes I serve  someone who wants to make something very simple but is afraid of not having a pattern as they are unsure about how to construct their project. With this in mind I thought I'd show some of the basic sewing techniques that are useful when making a simple project. I picked a simple tunic for a child (one of the most common projects for school plays). I folded a piece of fabric (right sides together) and sketched a simple neckline, shoulders and arm holes (just measure  the child and add 5cm ease) the width of the fabric is half the chest plus 4cm seam allowances (2 on either side) and 5 cm ease.

Inside out, Right sides together.

If you read enough sewing patterns you'll see the words "with right sides together"  so often you'll start mumbling them in your sleep.  Traditionally when  we sew we make up a garment inside out, this means when we turn the garment right side out  the seam (or the narrow strip of fabric next to the where we've sewn) is on the inside.

How to get rid of "unfinished" edges.

An unfinished seam or edge of a garment is where the fabric is rough, and has just been cut. An exposed rough edge never looks nice and can fray very quickly ruining your work. There are a few classic ways of getting around this problem.

Line the Garment

Lining a garment involves making a second version of the garment (normally in a lighter weight fabric) and then sewing them together, right sides together (see there's that phrase again). This sounds like a lot of work but once you get the hang of it you'll see some advantages. Often for a simple outfit it's quicker to cut out to copies of your project and sew them together than to try fiddling with finishing off the edges. Also lined garments tend to last longer.  When lining remember that you're going to have to turn the garment right side out so you need to leave a small gap to pull the fabric through. For an idea of what you need to think about when making a lined garment check out - how to make a waistcoat 

Hem the edge

Hemming simply involves folding the edge of the fabric over by a small amount, pressing, and folding over again. Then stitch in place. Perfect for the hem of a dress, or trouser legs or a toga/tunic. However this can be tricky for a curved edge, such as a neckline, arm hole or circle skirt.  

Bias Binding

At first glance bias binding looks just like ribbon.However on it's under side you'll see the fabric is folded at each side, meeting in the middle.  Bias binding is made from a strip of fabric cut "on the bias" or at an angle. This means it can stretch and shrink on either side, letting you turn corners with it!

 Wrap the raw edge in the bias and top stitch into place. This is a very quick and easy way to finish off neck and arm holes and can look great whether on club gear or school play costumes. I like to use a contrasting colour bias when I make petticoats. 

Keep these simple points in mind and have a go at going freestyle on a simple project. you may surprise yourself!