Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to make pillow covers; Bedroom Makeover Part 2

The throw pillows before recovering.
This week I finally finished the bedroom textiles I've been working on. I wrote a step-by-step tutorial on sewing drapes in my last post, and today I'm going to show you how to make pillow and cushion covers. I am working with throw pillows for a bed, but you can use this same technique to recover removable couch cushions or chair pillows too.

Taking apart the original covers to use as patterns and to re-use the zippers.
I started by removing the original covers and carefully picking them apart using a seam ripper. I used the pieces as a pattern. I wanted to save the zippers so I wouldn't have to spend extra money and time driving to the fabric store. Besides that, the zippers are turquoise, which can be a difficult color to find at the fabric store. Most special colors are dyed to match for commercial customers.

Using the pieces for a pattern.
Next, I pinned the pieces of the original covers flat to use as a pattern. I write more about this in my Night and Day post, which shows how to recover couch cushions. If you don't have a cover to use as a pattern, you will need to measure the cushion, or even trace around it with chalk onto the back of the new fabric. Don't forget to add inches to account for the depth of the cushion. So, if your pillow is 12x12 on the front and back, but it is 6 inches in girth (or fat), you need to add 3 inches to the outside edges of the front and back so the cover will fit. Then, add your seam allowance, usually 5/8 inch, to all the pieces before you cut. You can lower the seam allowance if you want to save material, but try to stay at 1/4 inch or more to avoid having the fabric pull out of the seam during use.

When I laid the fabric out to cut the covers I had an unpleasant surprise. When the clerk cut the fabric it wasn't straight, so when I tried to line up the fabric along the selvage (the finished edge) so the grain was straight, I was short a good two inches off the yard I paid for, as you can see in the photo. I was still able to eke out the covers, but it took some finesse.

Cushion cover pieces laid out to cut.
I had to open the fabric up and cut each piece separately. Since this fabric has a nap (a noticeable, one-directional pattern), I had to be careful to make sure the pieces are cut facing the same way. You can see, the dominant turquoise squares are the first pieces I cut and I laid them out on the remaining fabric so they would fit. One reason I chose this quilted fabric was for the reversible pattern. This gives me a lot of options to change the look later if I want. Nap doesn't just apply to the pattern of the fabric; fabrics with a noticeable difference in sheen, like velvet, must also be laid out with nap. Knits are another fabric that need to be laid out so the fabric is stretching in the same direction on all pieces.

When you are making cushions that use trim, like cording, you need to add that before you sew the rest of the cushion. I got this really nice matching trim marked down in the remnants box.

Apply trims first.
Always check the remnants first if you just need a small amount of fabric or trim; you can save a lot of money!
This trim would have been out of my budget, but I was able to get it discounted as a remnant.
To sew cording, use a zipper foot so you can get the seam as close as possible. To finish the edges of the cord with the least amount of lumping, I unravel a tiny bit of each end and over lap them, pushing the raw edges into the seam allowance. I also treat the ends with Fray Check after the cover is finished, because cord is notorious for pulling out of the seam and unravelling.

Use a zipper foot with cord, and unravel and overlap the edges to finish.
Once any trims are applied, you can go ahead and add the zipper if you are using a zipper. If you have a cushion cover that is pieced from multiple fabrics, go ahead and piece it together and press it before adding the zipper to that piece. You will keep using the zipper foot during this step.

Add the zipper first, after adding trims.
Once the zipper is installed and you've pressed the seam allowance away from the zipper teeth you can pin the covers together, right sides together, and sew the three remaining sides. Here's a good tip: unzip the zipper at least partway first so you can turn the cover right side out when you are finished sewing. I forgot this step on one of the covers and had a hard time opening the zipper from the wrong side!

I skipped my run Friday night because my foot had been hurting and because I wanted to finish the cover. I sewed and sewed and got the cover all done. Jerry and I planned to watch the encore pilot of The Following. I am in deep mourning now that Fringe, my favorite show, ended, and my friend told me she thought I would like The Following. I went to put the finished cover on the pillow insert.

These pillows are really nice, as I mentioned in my last post. The pieces were all finished with overlock stitching before they were sewn together. The pillow inserts are feather and down. I got these marked way down in the clearance aisle at Homegoods about 10 years ago and we've been using them ever since. The covers were getting ratty, but I figured the new covers would spruce them right up. So, I go to insert the pillow and...the zipper BROKE! I was so upset, Jerry suggested I take a bath and then we would watch The Following, which he'd recorded on the DVR while he and the boys watched a hockey game. We could just figure out what to do about the zipper tomorrow, he said. So, I get out of the tub and go to watch the show and found out it didn't record after all! Friday was not a good night! I went to bed in disgruntlement and on Saturday I hand-sewed the open edge. If I want to dry clean the cover I'll have to just open the seam with a seam ripper and then re-sew it when it's clean.
The finished pillows and curtains.
Finally, the bedroom is finished, at least in terms of the textiles and paint. I still want to replace the carpet. I would like to get a chair for a corner by the window, and I want to paint a picture to go on the wall opposite the bed. I used to have a vintage mirrored shelf there, but I am using it above the piano in this house.

I sewed the pillow covers so I can reverse them for a different look if I want that later, or if we need a new bedspread. I find our bedspreads typically wear out after about 5 years or so, no matter how much or how little I spend on them. The curtains and pillows last longer, though, so I want a lot of versatility.

I am using the pillows now with the turquoise dominant side on the Euro pillows and a little of the curtain fabric pieced into the small pillow. I have enough left that I might be able to do a neckroll pillow as well. I'm still trying to decide if I need one.

The finished pillows.
Then, if I want I can reverse all of them. I don't know how much reversing the small pillow will bother me, though, because I didn't have enough of either fabric to keep the nap in the same direction, so the bird fabric had to be laid out sideways on that one. Those sorts of little things just drive me crazy. Jerry calls me "Monkette", after Adrian Monk, the fictional detective, when I obsess over these little details, but I just can't help it!

The pillows are reversible.
I'm happy we finally got the bedroom looking pretty good. The side I haven't shown in the pictures is still full of boxes that need to go upstairs into the attics once they're finished. They were supposed to be done Friday before last, but we've had all kinds of delays. The contractor promises they'll be done tomorrow, though. I sure hope so!

Unfinished Portrait of a Girl in Blue, oil on wood panel
I thought I'd show another inspiration for the color palette. I found this unfinished oil portrait in the trash when the art teacher at our high school was cleaning out the art room storage closet. She said I could take it if I wanted it, so I did! It's a really good portrait, even though the artist never finished it. I don't know who painted it. People ask me all the time if it's a portrait of me, which I think is odd. I don't have blue eyes and I haven't been that blond since I was about 4 years old, but I guess the face looks a little like mine. You can really see the wall color well in this shot, too.

Jerry and I bought the mahogany dresser from a woman, and artist, who lived in a trailer in the woods outside Chapel Hill. She had all this gorgeous old furniture she'd inherited from her grandmother but she didn't like it, so she sold us the dresser for $65 and threw in a mahogany occasional table for free! They were both in awful shape, but Jerry refinished the dresser and I think it's beautiful. It has really nice, deep drawers of the sort you can't get in modern furniture. It used to have a bevel edge, mahogany framed mirror, but Jerry backed his truck into that by accident when he had it out in the garage to refinish, so it is no more! The flower arrangement has certainly seen better days, but my grandmother did that one and had it in her living room for years. I took it thinking I would just use the blue vase, but I ended up being more sentimental about it than I thought, so I haven't taken it apart yet.
Me and my dad in 1977.
The little framed photos are precious. This one is of me and my dad, taken a week or so before he died. I remember that day well. My mom had me all dressed to go to the store, but when we went outside Dad was washing the car and he sprayed me with the hose. He and I thought that was just great, but my mom was mad. I was pretty much the quintessential blond, naked, California baby!

This film was still in the camera when he died, or I wouldn't have this picture at all. He always had everything developed onto slides, and so all my baby pictures are on slides. My mom has been keeping them in the basement for over 30 years, and we don't have a slide projector. Jerry bought me a slide scanner so I can convert any that aren't ruined from being in the damp basement, so as soon as I can go back and haul them all here I am going to start scanning them. I need to scan in this photo too, before it fades away entirely. I like to keep this out to look at and remember that day. It's just about the last time in my whole life I can remember feeling safe and happy and innocent.

This is mine and Jerry's engagement picture, taken around 1996. We're standing in front of the Tar River in Greenville. That was another happy day I love to remember. Jerry looked to handsome in his uniform, but he was not supposed to wear it without his hat. He'd forgotten his hat or something and he was all worried some Air Force officer would appear out of the blue and he'd get in trouble for being "out" of uniform. Jerry is a veteran of the first Gulf War, as well as the operations in the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, and Haiti and Mogadishu (he was at the Black Hawk Down incident), and pretty much every other hellhole you can think of from the 1990s, so this was a rare time that he was able to get home. Really, the Gulf War had ended by the time Jerry arrived, but since it hadn't yet been declared over he has a National Defense Medal.

I'm really happy to have been able to do something just for the two of us. In the past, we've always gotten the kids' rooms looking really nice, like with murals and matching window treatments and artwork and everything, but our room has always mostly been just a repository for all the mismatched furniture that didn't fit elsewhere, and often our room never even was painted. I thought, after all we've been through lately, we should focus on something just for us. Today when we were putting the new pillows in we saw a bluebird outside the window. I hope it's a portent of happiness to come!

I think I will work on more throw pillows for the Day/Nighters next. As soon as the attics are done, we can get the bonus room back. It's also full of boxes that will need to go in there. Now, though, Joe Dirt is on, so I'm going to watch it with Jerry. I love that movie!


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