Way back in May this year, I started making a larger version of my Starfruit Cushion , as a footstool. You may have spotted it in the photos of my stand at Australian Quilt Market. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, so I thought I would do a quick post on it’s vital statistics.
You follow the tutorial method in exactly the same way, but you start with fifteen 9″ squares of upholstery fabric, and sew them up with 1/2″ seam allowances (instead of 1/4″). Squares of this size will not hold their shape unless they are upholstery weight, although if you were determined to use lighter fabrics, then I guess you could interface it. I used dental floss to attach the buttons.
This baby takes a lot of stuffing, (you can see it half-stuffed in the photo above). I used about 1 1/2 to 2 bags, plus a whole lot of rags. The rags are used at the bottom, with stuffing around them so that the footstool doesn’t end up looking lumpy. The rags lend a nice weight to it, considering it is for feet and not meant to be too soft. I used corn based stuffing and it was perfect for this application, with the thicker fabric.
I wanted to share this method, that I use to turn small softie pieces out the right way. I use 2 simple tools. The first tool is an empty pen barrel, thick straw, or in this case the empty barrel of a “crayola twistable”. The second tool is a paintbrush, crochet hook or knitting needle, as long as it is not so pointy that it will make a hole in the fabric.The only constraints are that; a) the pen barrel should be able to fit inside the piece you need to turn, and b) the end of the paintbrush needs to be able to fit inside the end of the pen barrel (it does not need to fit all the way in, just in the end).
1) Put the pen barrel inside the softie pieces that needs to be turned out, which in this case is my Monster Chef Tentacle. Push it right up to the closed end.
2) Take the pointy end of the paintbrush, and push it into the end of the pen barrel, which will push a small part of the fabric in there too.
3) Slide the fabric up the pen barrel, towards the paintbrush, while keeping the end of the paintbrush firmly inside the pen barrel.
4) Keep sliding the fabric towards the paintbrush, while exerting enough pressure so that the end of the paintbrush is still inside the end of the pen barrel.
5) Keep sliding the fabric up the paintbrush. Now it has started turning out the right way.
6) The pen barrel may remain hanging on the end, but it is not necessary anymore. Keep sliding the fabric up the paintbrush.
7) Almost finished.
8) Run the paintbrush gently around all the seams to make sure they are entirely turned out the right way.
Finished. You can see me perform this same trick on an even smaller bunny ear here.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I will endeavor to answer them in the comments.
Check out my new, (modified by me), Threadless t-shirt – “Water Balloons”.
I just love Threadless T-Shirts, but have long been frustrated with the shape of the neckline on the ladies tees (tiny and round – close to the neck). They now produce some of their tees with an altered neckline – but not in my size (for “tall” ladies).
Now I don’t need Trinny and Susannah to tell me that I look terrible in tees that have tiny, round necks. I know I look much better in scoop or vee necks (as does any lady with fair sized ‘boobage’), but I really wanted this tee, so I took the scissors in hand and cut off that tiny neck. You can see the original neckline here (it’s the girly tee – not the boat-neck).
I looked at many online tutorials on altering necklines on tees, but mostly came across ones that left the neckline raw, or finished it with binding. I didn’t have any left-over fabric to make binding, and wanted something that looked a little more professional than a raw edge. I decided to try to work out how to sew a “self-bound” edge. As you can see above, it turned out pretty well, (in spite of all my fears).
At this point I have to acknowledge the superior sewing know-how of my mother. She couldn’t really picture how I was going to finish the neck (from the other end of the phone line) but advised me to get some of that clear stretchy stuff to stabilize it. I am sure it made the difference between me proudly wearing my shirt, or having it languish in my chest of drawers.
If I knew it was going to work out so well, I would have taken pictures of the steps involved, as I worked on this top – instead I will have to recreate them.
So, here is the tutorial for altering a t-shirt neckline and finishing it with “self-binding”.
Self-binding is a method that actually uses the fabric edge itself, folded and sewn to look like binding – “faux-binding” if you will, as the raw edge is still visible on the inside of the t-shirt.
You will need: The small necked tee (pictured is my finished neckline), another tee with a great neckline, water soluble marking pen, scissors, pins, 1 yard (or 1 metre) of 1/4″ wide clear elastic tape, polyester sewing thread, jersey (ball point) sewing-machine-needles, sewing machine, and an iron.
1) The first step is to put your tiny-necked-tee inside another tee that already has a great neckline (scoop, not vee), and trace the desired neckline onto your tiny-neck-tee. Your finished neckline will end up about 1/2″ lower than the line you trace, so bear that in mind.
2) Cut a nick in the too small neckline, to make a start, and then cut it away until you have the drawn neckline with a 1/2″ remaining seam allowance. For the photos I have used a piece of woven patterned cotton, because I didn’t have another tee to cut up, and I thought the pattern would make showing right and wrong sides easier. Sadly this means that you will have to image a rounded, knit neckline; instead of a straight, woven edge.
3) Fold the 1/2″ seam allowance to the inside of the tee (the drawn line will be on the fold).
4) Concertina fold the seam allowance back, towards the right-side of the tee and pin (the pin is through 3 layers of fabric, with a fold to either side). You may have to make a small clip, in the seam allowance, at the shoulder seams, to ease the curve of the fabric smoothly. Use lots of pins to get a smooth finish.
5) Pin one end of your length of clear elastic tape to the middle-back of your new neckline, (don’t pin any more than this) about where the label usually is. The pins in the picture above represent the stitching line, which is where you will want the clear stretchy stuff.
6) Select a stretch stitch on your sewing machine – mine was somewhere between a straight-stitch, and a zig-zag – sort of z shaped. Start sewing at the centre-back (where you pinned the elastic), about 1/4″ from the raw edge. As you sew, hold the clear elastic in one hand, slightly stretched (this is why you don’t pin it any further), while you guide the fabric of your tee with the other. Go very slowly and stop frequently (with the needle down) to remove pins as you go. Each time you stop, manipulate the fabric to make sure that the right side of your t-shirt body is not puckered on the part that you are about to sew – did I mention go slowly ;-). Overlap the stretchy stuff, slightly, to finish, and cut off the remaining clear elastic (you will not need the entire metre or yard).
7) Using steam, carefully press the finished “binding” up, away from the front of the tee – it will look somewhat like this. Use a pressing cloth to avoid ironing on any screen printing on your tee and avoid ironing on the clear elastic (because I am not sure how much heat it can take). I had my iron set on medium or “silk”.
Well that was a much longer blogging break than I expected. I am still here, and slowly getting back to being creative, which is the best tonic there is for me.
I have finished my “Tea in the Garden” Block (completed with traditional needle turn applique) and the general consensus (especially at my quilting guild) is to turn this into a medallion quilt.
While I was finishing this, I thought I would take some photos to illustrate the method of “Off the Block” applique construction. This is a technique where 2 or more layers of the applique are joined, prior to joining the applique unit to the background (or Block).
In this case, the wing-spots on the Butterfly are appliqued to the upper-wings, before the wings are cut out of the chosen upper-wing fabric. First the wing-spots and the upper-wings are marked on their respective fabrics, but only the wing-spots are cut out, with a scant 1/4 seam allowance (a seam allowance which is a smidgen shy of 1/4 “).
A Positioning Overlay is used to position the wing-spots in just the right place on the upper-wings. A positioning overlay is a tracing of all the elements in a design, onto something clear – in this case a sheet of Overhead Transparency.
The wing-spots are pinned in place and appliqued on, along the two inner edges. Next the whole upper-wing unit is cut out, with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.
To remove bulk from the final applique, you can cut away behind the top layer.
I never cut away the background fabric behind appliques, (as some people do) I think it weakens the finished product – but this does no damage. The “Off the Block” sewing is now complete.
The whole upper-wing unit is positioned onto the block, with the help of the positioning overlay, and the unit is appliqued into place, as if it were a single piece. The only difference is that there is a change of thread during the stitching, in order to keep the thread colour the same as the applique pieces.
I hope this all made sense – feel free to ask questions if you need me to clarify anything.
This cushion is really a large version of a Lotus Biscornu, and used May Britt’s Pincushion Tutorial as a starting point (with her permission). I thought it ended up looking like a cut piece of Star Fruit, hence the name. This cushion is about 14 3/4″ in diameter and about 7 1/2 ” high.
You will need:
15 x 6″ squares, in three different colours (it looks great if the 3 colours are similar, but progressively darker). If you have fat quarters on hand, you will definitely get 5 x 6″ squares from each fat quarter.
Approx 1/2 kg of stuffing (enough for an middle sized cushion)
3 buttons – 2 Large ones for the top and the bottom, and a third one (of any size) that you will use temporarily to hold things in place. My large buttons measure approx. 3 1/4″ or 3cm.
30″ of 6 stranded embroidery floss (or 60″ of dental floss, doubled over)
A very long needle (such as those used for doll making or upholstery)
A quilting ruler with grids marked in 1/4 inches.
A Sewing machine with a quarter inch foot. Thread your machine with polyester thread which is stronger than cotton, the firm stuffing will put the seams under a fair bit of stress.
General sewing supplies.
1) On the back of each square, in every corner, mark a dot 1/4″ in from each side. These dots will show you where to start and stop sewing.
2) Locate the 5 squares of fabric you have chosen for the top of your cushion (if you are using fabric with stripes, read step 6 before continuing). Place 2 of the squares right sides together, and stitch along one side, between the dots, with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Make sure you back stitch about 5 stitches at the beginning and end, but do not go past the pencil dots.
3) Sew 4 of the squares together with 3 seams, so they look like the photo above. Finger press each seam open as you go.
As you progress with this tutorial, sometimes you will need to hold other layers out of the way, as you stitch close to the starting and finishing dots.
You should be able to pull the other fabrics far enough out of the way, unless you have stitched past the dots.
4) Pin the fifth square to one side of the gap in the other four, and sew together between the dots.
5) Pin this fifth square to the other side of the gap – it will help to fold the top as I have done above. Sew up this last seam and you top should end up looking like this below……
6) Now it is time to locate the five squares of fabric that you have chosen for your underside.
Repeat steps 1) to 5) with these pieces.
A Note About Stripes. I have used striped fabrics for the bottom of my cushion. If you are using them for the top or bottom of your cushion, a little attention to the stripe direction can make all the difference. As you sew the squares together, make sure that you orientate the stripes so that they run perpendicular to the stripes on the other square of that seam. e.g. If one side of the seam has horizontal stripes, turn your square so that the other side will have vertical stripes. If you do this for each of the first 4 seams, you will find that the final 5th seam works itself out, as you can see above.
7) Lay out the bottom piece as you see above. Pin the first of the side squares in exactly this position, and sew it in place (this is one of the stages where things can go awry with the shape).
8 ) Lay it down again on your table top in the same position. The arrow above indicates where you will be sewing your next seam.
You will need to fold the bottom like this to sew this next seam.
You cushion bottom should now look like this (above).
9) Orient your cushion bottom in the same way as the photo above, and pin the next side-square in the corresponding place. Sew this square in place, from dot to dot.
10) The arrow (shown left) indicates where you will be sewing your next seam. You will need to fold your cushion bottom like this, (see below right) to sew this seam.
After you have completed step 10), your cushion bottom should look like this (above).
11) Add the remaining 3 side squares in the same manner, as indicated by the arrows above.
The result should look like this (above).
12) Find your top piece, and place it right-side-down on your table in the same position as I have. On the bottom right square, mark a line 1/4″ from the bottom edge, that runs from the left dot, and is 1″ long. Do the same on the other side, from the right dot. These are sewing lines, and the space in between is a gap you will leave for turning right-side-out, and for stuffing the cushion. The gap will be 3 1/2″ wide – if you think your hand will need a wider gap, mark slightly shorter lines.
13) Joining the Top to the Bottom. Place the Bottom/Sides component of the cushion on your table, with the right side in, as shown above.
14) With the top part right-side-in, place it on top, so that the “points” of the squares meet as shown above.
This will mean that the seam between the squares on the top piece is meeting the intersection of three squares on the bottom pieces.
Pin the top and bottom/sides pieces all the way around, like so.
15) Sew around the top in 5 sections. Follow the photo above for each section, back stitching at the start and end of each square segment.
When you sew the segment that has the gap-for-turning marked on it, follow the picture above. You will be sewing two separate sections with 4 lots of back stitching.
16) Once you have finished sewing the Top and Bottom/Sides together, turn the cushion out the right way through the gap. Use the wrong end of a paintbrush, or other similar tool to push all the edges out.
It should look like this (photo on left).
17)Finger press back the 1/4″ seam allowance of the opening in the cushion, to get a nice clean edge (see above).
18) Start stuffing three of the “petals” furthermost from the opening. Pay particular attention to getting stuffing up into the points of the “petals”. Once half you cushion is firmly stuffed, put your cushion aside and locate you three buttons, embroidery thread and super-long needle.
19) Thread your needle with the 30″length of 6 stranded embroidery thread. Knot the end. Take the large button you have chosen for the underside of the cushion, and bring the needle through one of the holes, from the back of the button to the front. *NB: If you are worried about the stress on the stranded cotton, you might like to use doubled, knotted dental floss if you have some*
20) Near the knot, split the thread so that there are three stands on each side, and pass your needle through this gap.
This will form a secure knot on your button.
21) Turn your cushion face down on the table. Take the needle through a point just beside the 5 seam intersection, and draw it right through to the front of the cushion, bringing it up in the middle of the 5 seam intersection. While the cushion is only half stuffed, this should be easy enough to do.
22) Thread the button you have chosen for the top onto the thread, and tie off your third temporary button, at the very end of the thread. This will prevent your thread from disappearing back inside the cushion while you continue stuffing.
23) Keep stuffing the other half of the cushion. Before it gets too firm you will need to pass the needle back through the cushion to the back again. To do this just cut off the small temporary button, and take the needle back through another hole in the top button and out through to back button again.
Take two more passes with the needle – back through to the top and again to the back. Don’t knot off the thread, just leave the long tail and tie that extra button on the end of the thread again.
24) Keep Stuffing until the cushion gets really firm, remembering to stuff the “petal” points as firmly as possible.
25) The last “petal” will be difficult until you start closing up the gap. Take a small needle and thread (polyester for strength) and start ladder stitching up the gap, starting from the pointy end of the “petal”. As you sew, stop every few stitches to stuff more of the “petal” point. Melly has a great tutorial for Ladder Stitch. Keep stuffing and sewing until your cushion is very firm and your gap is closed.
You are nearly there! Your cushion should look like this (above).
25) Cut off your extra button. Thread your big needle again, and take the thread to the underside of the back button, but not through the cushion again. Pull on the thread. Carefully and gradually, draw the two button closer together, changing the shape of the cushion.
If the worst should happen, and you thread breaks, I have a little tip for you. Insert the needle into the cushion. Place a very small tin, under the cushion, where you have just inserted the needle. Use both hands to push down on the cushion, to send the needle back through the full width of the fully stuffed cushion – something to avoid if at all possible!
26) Take your needle off the thread and wrap it around the underside of the button a few times.
27) Split the thread into two lots of three strands (see left).
28) Tie a knot with these two lots of threads.
29) Take the two threads to the other side of the button and repeat (above). Do this 5 or 6 times, alternating sides each time.
30) Bring both lots of threads together again and thread them back onto the needle. Send the needle through the cushion and out again nearby, hold the thread taught and cut the thread, where it exits the cushion. This will bury the thread tail, out of sight. Phew. Finally, you are done.
Now you can sit back and enjoy looking at your sculptural creation. Please send me a picture of any Star Fruit Cushions you make with this tutorial, I would love to see them. Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions. claire (at)matchingpegs(dot)com
7 December 2012: Edited to add…If you want to make a Starfruit Footstool, you will need to use upholstery fabric (or interfacing on lighter fabrics). Use fifteen 9″ squares, and a 1/2″ seam allowance (instead of 1/4″). You will need very strong thread for sewing on the buttons, I used dental floss. You will need lots and lots of stuffing to fill it up. I used stuffing around the edges and for the whole top half, but I stuffed the bottom half with rags. Enjoy!
Since we moved into our new home at the end of October, we have already received a couple of packages that were intended for the neighbours on either side of us. Each of the three houses (including ours) had inconspicuous house numbers that were small or hard to spot.
I have finally found the time to whip up an Eight! I made our Eight to hang on the front of the house, on a wide piece of wall between two windows. It would not have looked right with a portrait shaped canvas, but neither would the number 8 all on it’s lonesome on a landscape canvas – hence the Eight spelled out with letters.
I happened to have this floral canvas hanging around that I had used to decorate the mantle in the old house while we were selling. I just love this fabric, and I thought it went rather nicely with the bricks. The first step was to prime the fabric with ModPodge (or other Acrylic Medium/Varnish).
I found a font I liked, (I thought it went well with the floral) printed it onto ordinary paper, and cut a template. Then it was just a matter of tracing the outline, and getting painting, with a good brush and a steady hand. I used more of the paint I had left over from painting my new cutting table – a very, very dark blue.
I knew there would be a contrast problem if i just painted on the letters, so I painted out the surround, just like I did for the old house number.
If you would like to try this yourself, have a look here*. I followed the method called “Fabric Silhouette Painting” that Anna Maria Horner demonstrated on Martha Stewart’s show at some stage – a link I found on Anna Maria’s blog.
My only contribution to this method is a couple of hints.
I have found that giving the fabric a very light spritz with water prior to stapling, allows you to get it nice and taut over the canvas, to avoid wrinkling once you varnish it. I didn’t quite achieve a snug enough fit with this one, as I had attached the fabric quite a while ago with no intention of varnishing it at a later stage.
The other hint is about cutting out words (or numbers). Some letters, like o’s, have a space in the middle that ends up getting cut out, even though you want it there for the stencil. Others letters you might choose to cut have thin delicate areas that might shift as you trace through the stencil. I make little sticky-tape bridges to hold these areas in place. I just cut very thin pieces of tape and apply them on both the front and the back to hold things in place. In the case of a centre of an O, I cut around half, make a s-t bridge on that side, and then cut out the other and repeat.
Once your stencil is in placed on the canvas, you can still see through the cut out area for positioning. Trace the whole area that you can, remove the stencil and join up the lines where the little bridges prevented you from tracing. You can put the stencil back on to check that you joined it up in the right places.
So that’s how I made my house number, and while I have remained coy about exactly where we live, now you know it is at number 8.
Do you have an interesting house number?
* This link opens on Martha Stewart’s website, with a video tutorial of the “Fabric Silhouette Painting”, but if you click the video closed, there are written step by step instructions behind it.
White clothes are crisp, fresh and summery – on other people.
White makes me look pale and insipid – this creature is one of colour!
I am also a creature that prefers comfortable pyjamas – so I bought my favourite cotton top from Giordano’s . I just could not get it in a better colour to go with my new pyjama pants, so I thought, get the white and dress it up to match.
The pyjamas pants were quite a bargain (20% off Target) and the mauve and aqua pair will go really well with the lavender long sleeved Tee I already had from a couple of years back at Giordano’s.
Their Tees wear really well. This style used to be marketed as non-gender-specific and come it a rainbow of colours.
Now the same Tee is marketed as just a Men’s Tee, and the colour range is much reduced – but I love them for Pj’s because they are a little longer in the arm and torso. I thought I would share how I made my Patchwork Tee, so here is a simple tutorial.
Patchwork Tee Tutorial
You will need:
A plain coloured Tee (The plain cotton ones are better than the fitted stretch-blend ones, that are worn really close to the body).
Double- Sided-Fusible-Web (such as Vlisofix, Wonder Under etc.)
Scraps of your favourite patchwork cotton fabrics
Co-ordinating sewing thread
Sewing machine, Iron, Rotary Cutter , Cutting Mat and Ruler.
Firstly make a pile of co-ordinating fabrics (mine were all to match my PJ pants, but you could just pick out a pile of favourite colours).
Lay your Tee down on a wide flat surface that you can use an iron on – mine was my kitchen bench, with a folded quilt on top – you could also use a blanket.
Next pull out some of your smaller scraps and made sure they are square (square them up with your ruler and rotary cutter). Lay these out on your Tee, which will start building a framework, (I started with the top and bottom strips, and the large purple square, which I already had).
Cut pieces of your remaining fabrics to size, in order to leave about 1/4″ between each fabric rectangle. Make sure you cut each fabric scrap square. It helps to audition some fabrics before cutting them to size, (as you can see in the above photo).
Once you are happy with your placement, take each scrap, and cut a piece of Vlisofix (or other double-sided-fusible-web) that is 1/4″ smaller in each direction.
Centre this piece on the back of your scrap and iron it in place (following the fusible-web manufacturer’s instructions for iron temperature etc.) This should leave 1/8″ of raw fabric around the perimeter of your scrap. If you do this with each scrap, one at a time, you can keep your layout on the Tee intact.
Peel the paper backing off each piece, one at a time – taking care to place them back in position, maintaining a 1/4″ gap between each fabric rectangle.
Gently press the fabric rectangles in place, taking care not to let them shift as you iron them. You may need to carefully hold some in place with your hand while you do this.
Using a narrow and short zig-zag stitch (mine was set on a stitch length of 1.5 and a width of 2.0) , stitch each fabric rectangle in place with the stitching just over 1/8″ in from the edge of each fabric rectangle. This will ensure that the stitching is on the bonded section of the fabric.
Take all threads to the back (inside) of the Tee, and knot corresponding threads together.
Thread them onto a needle and take the needle through between the tee and the ironed on fabric, and out again.
Pull the end of the thread so that the fabric gathers slightly, and cut off the excess. The thread end will slip in behind the fabric and be buried.
Your Patchwork Tee is completed. As you wash and wear your Tee, the edges of the of the fabric rectangles will fray slightly.
Here is one I prepared earlier – 3 years earlier.
Have fun and drop me a line if you make one – I would love to see it.