WIP: Swap Pillows


I’ve recently joined the Modernista Homemade (a sewing swap), but this one is a bigger swap, so the finished items we send are more involved.  There are fewer of these swaps around to join partly because they take longer and are more work.  The zipper pouch and small swaps I’ve been joining are fun, but they’re over so quickly because the items are small and less time-consuming projects.

In this swap, we make one large item for the living room (the theme for this swap), and one small item of our choice, both made to suit our partner’s tastes.  My partner requested a set of pillows for her sofa, so I’m working on making those first.   She had a picture of cathedral windows in her swap mosaic picture, and then I found several other pictures like that in her favorites.  I’ve made a practice swatch of these before, so I decided to go with that.


At first I was planning to make the entire pillow out of that, but cathedral windows involve a lot of hand sewing, and since she wanted two pillows, I thought I would do them for part of the pillow and then add other fabrics to finish out the pillow.  It also uses a lot of fabric (two pillows would have taken over six yards of the solid gray!), so I thought an accent piece might be better.  As it is, my accent piece will be just over a third of the pillow front in the middle.

I love the color combo I’m using.  She told me about the colors in her living room, but it’s hard to know what shades are there, so the blue might be too dark, but I still love the way it looks, so I’m just going with it.  I don’t think pillows like these need to be matchy-matchy with the room décor, anyway.  Sometimes I think it looks better if accent pieces like this stand out.


I’ve learned a few things about cathedral windows this time around.  When I did my little swatch a while back, I only put fabric in the “windows” and didn’t use the extra square underneath.  In this piece, I’ve used two different fabrics, and it’s a bit trickier to keep raw fabric edges from showing on the orange.  I’m not sure how stable this would be if it were to be washed repeatedly.  To fix that, I’m planning to stay stitch at the points where they’re peeking out and then sew a button on top to cover up the stay-stitching.  I improved this  a bit on my second piece, but I still think you’d have to do some fancy fabric folding to prevent raw edges on something like this.

I’ve also learned that I simply do not have the patience to make a large quilt like this.  I’ve always wanted to as I love cathedral windows, but I just despise the pressing/ironing part when folding the fabric.  The hand sewing part doesn’t bother me a bit, but I’m SO happy to have all of that ironing done!  So, as a compromise, I might make myself a pillow like this sometime.

Laundry Basket Dressers


For a while now I’ve been struggling with a laundry room that is perpetually a mess.  Although I only have one child for now, another one will be along shortly, and I do about three times as much laundry for my husband as I do for myself.  He has a work uniform, casual clothes he wears at home, and work clothes he wears while doing dirty remodeling jobs.  Sometimes he goes through three sets of clothes in a day, and he doesn’t like to re-wear stuff often.  All that adds up to a big pile of laundry.

While I’m pretty good at staying on top of actually washing the clothes, I’m not so good at putting them away, and there was really no place to stack stuff in my laundry room, so piles would end up being toppled, undoing all of my folding work.  Recently on pinterest I found plans for these laundry basket dressers, and they seemed like the perfect solution.  You can find the plans at ana-white.com, which is another discovery I made in the process.  She has plans for all kinds of DIY furniture, and I definitely have a few more pieces on the list to make.  There are a couple of different configurations for these dressers, so you can choose which makes the best use of your space, but I chose the taller ones that hold four baskets each.  Each unit uses one sheet of 3/4” plywood.


I made these with my dad, but they are really very simple, so if you have some basic tools and have someone cut your boards for you if you don’t have a saw (the store will sometimes do this for free or for a small fee), then you should have no problem doing them by yourself.  The only change I made to the plans was to add some decorative molding to the front edges so the rougher plywood edge wouldn’t show.


I’m super happy with how these turned out, and they’ve been just as helpful at containing the laundry mess as I had hoped.  Now I just fill up the baskets as I do laundry, and once they’re full, I put them away.  The idea is for my kids to put their own clothes away once they get old enough, but that’s a few years off.  I also decided to make two dressers instead of one because as a family, we already fill up the one.  Add in another possible future child, and I would need another one anyhow.  This way, I have a couple of extra baskets.  My husband has two—one for work clothes and one for regular clothes, and I use another for items to go downstairs (kitchen linens, tablecloths, downstairs towels, etc.).  I’ve also overtaken a couple for ongoing craft projects…but hopefully those will empty out soon.

I painted the dressers red to add some color to the room, and I just love the way they turned out.  I primed with a brush first, and it took me about six hours for both.  I wasn’t about to do that again, so I had my husband use spray paint, and it was a really good choice.  It took about three coats and several cans, but it gave a very smooth finish, took less time, and cost about half what a gallon of paint would have cost.  The rungs are difficult to paint around, which is why it took so long with a brush.  I suppose it also would have been easier to paint the insides before they were assembled, but I didn’t think of that at the time.


Honestly, one of the parts I love the most about these dressers are the cute little tags I made to label them.  I’m quite proud of them because I designed them in Photoshop with my seriously limited skills.  I installed a new font and for the background I used a picture of the fabric from fabric.com, where I bought my curtain fabric.  I then laminated the tags and tied them on with red ribbon—it must match, of course!  Anyhow, they’re very functional and sturdy as well.  I’ve been carrying the baskets around the house, and they are quite secure.

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The finishing touch for the project was making an organizer (I’ll post more on that soon) in coordinating fabric to go over the top and down each side.  I wanted a mat of some sort for the top since I planned to set things up there and possibly slide things around like laundry detergent.  It also helps tie the two units together and prevents anything from falling in the little crack between the two.  I could have made it all one unit, but I like having them separate in case I decide to move them or change my configuration at some point.  The sides were pretty much wasted space, but with the organizer, I have pockets on both sides now.  On the laundry side it holds a bleach pen, lingerie bag, etc. and on the sewing desk side, I’ve filled it up with scissors, rulers, pencils, and other sewing notions.


One of these days I hope to make some basket liners out of the fabric I have left….it’s going on the list, but for now I’m very happy with the way things have turned out.  The room is much more functional, feels more spacious, and the bright happy colors make me smile when I go in, even if it is to do laundry.

Pleated window panel tutorial


Since the rest of my craft/laundry room was getting a face lift with new bookcases and laundry basket dressers, I decided to make a new curtain to go along with it.  There isn’t really anything wrong with my existing curtain, and I really like the little fabric flowers I made, but I just wanted something with a little more color.  I bought this curtain from Goodwill (originally a Simply Shabby Chic panel from Target) and dressed it up a little with ribbon and pinned on fabric flowers.  Since I’m taking it down,  I now have a bunch of fabric flowers to use for something else.  I’m thinking purses…

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I found this fabric by Premier Prints called "Harmony" that I just loved. I thought about using it in our rec room/playroom, but while the colors would be great for a playroom, it doesn’t mesh so well with the rest of our house, and it’s highly visible from other places.  However, it’s perfect in my craft room.  I found the zig-zag print first, called “ZoomZoom” and then also bought a few of the coordinating prints to use for accessories and basket liners to help tie everything together.

I wanted a simple panel with something cute along the top, so I went with fabric covered buttons and made a pleated “bell” type gather every few inches.  I attached it to the rod with clip rings, which can be found almost everywhere.  Mine came from Joann’s.  For the tie back (I really need one of those because of the window A/C unit in the summer), I just made a long strip of fabric and tied it in a knot.

This panel was quite easy, especially if you skip the lining part.  Here’s how I did it:


1.  You need to measure your window length and width.  My window was very narrow (about 20 inches, not including moldings), so I only wanted one panel, but if yours is wider, you can just make two panels instead of one.  In general, fabric should be twice as wide as the window so you have some fullness, but this isn’t an exact science, so you can give or take a little width depending on how full you want your curtains to be.   For the length, first decide where your curtain rod will be and how much length your clip rings will add, and measure from there to the floor, or wherever you want your panel to end.  This will be the finished length of your panel.  I wanted mine just above the floor, and my finished length needed to be exactly 84”.  I added four inches to the top and three to the bottom to account for  hem allowances.  So, I cut my fabric 91” long x the width of the fabric (selvage to selvage).

2.  If using lining, do the same, except make your width about 3” less than your printed fabric.  My fabric was heavy enough that it didn’t really need lining, but I had some on hand and decided to do it anyway.  It will help with insulation in the winter.  If using lining, at this point you should sew your fabric, right sides together, on each side seam.  When you turn it right side out, you’ll have about an inch on either side where your printed fabric folds over and creates a nice finished edge.  If you aren’t using lining, sew a side hem on each side about 1” wide.

3.  Top and bottom hems:  Iron down 4” along the top and 3” along the bottom.  I then turned under about 3/4” to make a clean edge to sew:


At this point, you’ll want to sew your hems either by hand or by machine.  My machine has a nifty function that does a blind hem without having to hem by hand.  I used this.  Basically, you fold it just as you would for a hem an then fold the long fabric part back about 1/4” (you’re working from the back at this point).

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Basically, the machine sews a straight line for about a centimeter, and then it does a zig zag left where it “bites into the top layer.  It looks like the above picture on the back, but from the front, it’s an “invisible” hem,  better than I could do by hand and much faster.  I honestly think you could do this with the zig zag function on any machine.  You would have to get your spacing right, it would be a bit more difficult, and you would have more frequent “bites” on the front, but it would work in almost the same way.  Here’s the view from the front:


The green zig zag is where my hemline runs, and you can’t even see it in the photo and can barely see it in person.  After you’ve hemmed the top and bottom of the panel, it’s time to make you’re pleats.

4.  I decided my pleats should span about 3”.  I pinned 4” from each end (you will still only gather a 3” section, but the extra inch on each end allows for making our bells later), marked off a 3” section in the middle, and then I had four more sections to mark (I always choose an odd number because it’s more pleasing to the eye).  In my case, I have seven bell pleats.  For the other two, they’re harder to space correctly, so I just used trial and error with a ruler until I got them approximately the same distance apart.  This is why I used pins instead of a marker—pins are easily moved.


5.  After I got the pleated sections marked, I took one strand of heavy duty thread and hand sewed a straight stitch, using big stitches, between the two pins across the 3” section.  Clip the thread, leaving a tail, pull tight, and tie a knot with the two ends.  This gives you your pleat.

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6.  After all your pleats are tied, sew a straight line along the back to complete the bell look and make it more stable.  I couldn’t sew all the way down, but sewing 3/4 of the way from the top toward the bottom of the hem will do what you need as far as holding the pleats in place.  You won’t see this sewing line from the front once you’re finished.  On the ends, I sewed along the very edge of my fabric.  If you remember, we left an extra inch on each end to allow extra fabric for making the bell on the ends.


7.  Now it’s time to make your fabric covered buttons.  I bought a kit just because it’s easy and professional looking.  I have heard of people using existing buttons, sewing a gathering line around the edge and then pulling tight to cover the buttons.  This works, and I even used it for my little boy’s ring bearer vest because it would be worn once, and I didn’t want to buy the kit.  However, for this, I wanted a more professional look, and I also didn’t have buttons to cover anyway, so I would have had to buy something no matter what.  I used the Dritz Cover Button Kitin the 1 1/8” size.  They come three in a package, so unfortunately I had to buy three packages just for one extra.  You can also buy refill kits without the pusher and mold, which is what I did after the first package, since those are cheaper.  This is a very easy process, and there are directions and a pattern for your fabric circle on the back of the package.

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8.  After your buttons are all covered, simply sew them on where you tied your pleats, and you’re done!  I used seven clip rings, one for each pleat, and clipped them to the backs of my bell pleats. 


For the tie back, I cut a fabric strip 6.5”x width of the fabric, cut the ends at a 45 degree angle, and sewed along the edges, leaving a space to turn.  I then turned the strip, hand sewed the opening closed, and tied it in a knot.  You can do all sorts of different things for your tie back, providing you even want one.  I’ll use this mostly in the summer when the window A/C unit is in place.  In the winter, I don’t need one, really.

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I hope this works for you!  Leave a comment with any questions.

A craft Room Project

I recently visited my best friend, who lives in Pittsburgh.  Coincidentally, there’s an Ikea in Pittsburgh.  Once we decided a trip there would be in the plans, I started looking online and making plans.


I’ve seen some awesome Ikea projects online, especially the faux built in Billy bookcases that everyone seems to be DIYing.  Here’s the pinned image that started the whole plan for me: DIY bookshelves

This bookcase is on justagirlblog.com, and her post can be found here.  She discusses the building process in more detail than some of the other posts I’ve read.  Although she says hers is in a craft room as well, I intend to use my shelves more for storage than for display.  I plan to try to dress things up a bit with some basket liners, but it will be mostly open shelving for fabric and stamps.

I recently started thinking more about my craft/sewing room when I made laundry basket dressers with my dad a couple of weeks ago.  My craft space is in a tiny (probably 6’x 10’ room) that also functions as a laundry room.  The room is so small because our house was built in 1883 without bathrooms, and the former bedroom was divided in half in order to add a bathroom way back whenever plumbing became common in houses.  Luckily, I do have a nice big closet in there for storage.  Nonetheless, it’s quite crowded, and storage is always an issue.

After some planning and discussions with my husband, we decided to attempt the built-in Billy bookcases ourselves for my craft room.  I currently have one out of the box, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten so far.  I’m hoping we’ll make some headway over the upcoming holiday when my husband has a day off work.

In preparation for the Ikea trip, I measured my van to make sure everything would fit—and it would.  My friend (who drives a compact car) also wanted an Expedit bookcase while we had the van to get it home for her, and again, I thought her bookcase would fit as well.  However, not only did she end up getting the one bookcase, but she got a second one as well as a shoe cabinet and a very large mirror.  I was a little nervous, but we went for it, and this is how the van ended up:

034  This is, of course without the huge mirror.  We took that out the night before when we got home because we didn’t want it resting on its somewhat unstable frame all night long.

It was raining when we got home, so we decided to wait until the next day to unload.  I don’t think our van has ever been quite this full, and I was quite proud of it for carrying so much.  We could have packed even more in if we had wanted to—you can carry way more in a van than in an SUV, and almost as much as a truck.  My bookcases are all in the middle, and Laura’s are on the sides.  I think her boxes were actually bigger than mine, but mine were so long that they went up next to the front seats.


We’re not the only ones who were surprised at the tightly packed quarters.  The mirror was so long that we had to rest it on the tops of the middle row passenger seats.  It didn’t really bother my little boy, but he was definitely checking things out:

IMG_0706I suppose this isn’t really the safest mode of transportation, but I assumed we’d have even worse problems if we were actually in an accident.  There were plenty of potential projectiles in the van.  Luckily, nothing happened.  We did accidentally leave the back hatch unlatched after stowing some bags—oops.  When we got home, it was closed, but completely unlatched.  I suppose we’re lucky nothing went flying out on the interstate.

In the end, the actual bookcases cost about $300 with tax, which I think is an excellent deal for a wall full of shelves.  I also bought the extension packs, which was almost as much as the bookcases themselves.  However, we have high ceilings, and this is a way to maximize storage space, which is the goal in the first place.  I have plenty of items to store that I don’t use on a regular basis, so I’m sure I’ll be able to make good use of the higher storage shelves.

We’ll have to buy some molding and some paint and caulk to give it the built in look, but I think it will be well worth it in the end.  I can’t wait to see how things turn out.  I’ll post updates as things progress.  I’ve also ordered some fabric for new curtains, basket liners for baskets on the shelves, etc.  However, I’ll have to have the bookcases in and the room picked up again before I can start on those…this could take a while.

Baby boy nursery progress


I’m slowly making progress on the bedding set I’m making for my new baby’s room.  It won’t be needed (most likely) until late September, so I have plenty of time, but I also don’t want to leave it until the last minute.

Above is the bumper I made.  It’s fairly simple.  I used charm squares that I cut from yardage and added white to make an offset row of charms.  I wanted to keep it simple to show off the prints, and I’m very happy with the way this turned out.  I used cotton batting on either side of a thick poly batting, so this is quite thick.  I used the walking foot to quilt along the line of every charm square, and it turned out almost exactly like the bumper that came in my oldest boy’s crib set, so it should stand up in the crib and perform quite well. 

I’ve also finished the valances.  These need some ironing, but I’m not going to bother with it until I’m ready to hang them up.  I have the curtain panels mostly done, too, but I think I’m going to applique something on them, so they’re not technically finished.  These valances will be slightly gathered, and they have orange vents with ties up top every so often.

This is the crib skirt, and it matches the design on the bumper.  It’s simple as well, but I’m also very happy with how it turned out.  The fitted sheets are made out of the tree/dog/swing print, so the bedding part will go together nicely, I think.

The fitted sheets are finished as well, but there’s not much to see there, so I didn’t take a picture.  I have part of the quilt completed, too, but I want a solid to match a particular color in the prints, and I’m waiting for my brand new Kona color card to arrive before ordering.

I hated to spend $25 on a fabric swatch card, but I’ve already spent that much by buying fabric online that I think will match only to have to reorder because it didn’t.  Colors are never accurate on a computer screen, and I’m tired of playing a guessing game.  My local quilt shops don’t carry a wide range of solids, and prices are much better online anyway, so I think this color card is a good investment.  Once it arrives, I’ll be finishing the baby quilt as soon as I can order my (matching!) solid fabric.

It’s a boy! My sewing plans for the new nursery

Although this will be our second boy, and although deep down I was hoping for a girl, the new fabrics I’ve chosen for the nursery have perked me back up.  Initially, if it was a boy, I had planned to reuse my son’s bedding and his room decorations and move my oldest little boy into the new room.

We’ve since decided against that for several reasons, but one reason is that I think it’s important for me to fix up a room for the new baby, just like I would have done if he had been a girl.  For me the creative process of decorating is a big part of the excitement of a new baby, so this gives me something to look forward to and something new to do since we won’t be doing much other shopping at all because we can reuse all my son’s clothes and paraphernalia.

At first I thought I’d use Michael Miller’s “Children at Play” fabric since I love that line and had already begun a quilt with that for my older boy but had never finished it.  However our glider is a green checked print, and the colors would totally clash.

Then I remembered I had bought some Michael Miller “Backyard Baby” fabric a few months ago.  I paid full quilt shop price at the time (which is rare for me!) because I fell in love with it when I saw it.  I had no intended purpose at the time other than as a gift for someone eventually.  I’m really excited that I get to use it for my own little boy now!

I just ordered all the extra fabric that I’ll need to do the whole room from bedding to curtains, and I only spent $60.  I’m even making the sheets.  I was honestly quite surprised at how economic this is, considering I’m using designer fabric.  We spent $120 for my older son’s bedding, and it was one of the cheaper sets from Target!  The nice thing about making the bedding is that it will be exactly how I want it to be, and he’ll be able to keep the baby quilt that I made for him.

I plan to turn the “Children at Play” quilt into a smaller car quilt for this new baby.  My other son has a Dr. Seuss car quilt, so now they’ll both have their own.  It’s also nice to have a larger blanket stored in the car in case we go to someone’s house, and I need a play mat of sorts for the baby.

Part of me feels silly and wasteful for making all new bedding when the bedding we already have is in perfectly good shape.  However, sometimes it’s okay not to be practical.  I want to have the same excitement and energy about this baby as I did with my first one, and even though he won’t understand it at all, I want him to have something of his own.  It’s all for me, of course, but I’m okay with that.  I’m being practical with clothing and gear, so I’m letting myself splurge on the quilting/sewing/decorating end. :)

I’ll post updates as I work on the different bedding components.  I doubt it will take me too long to finish, and since it’s a boy and not a girl, the nursery is really my only baby project.  For some reason I just don’t get much satisfaction out of sewing clothes for a boy.  Now dresses on the other hand… oh well, maybe someday.

29 Day Organizational Challenge

My best friend, Laura, from confessionsofarecoveringchocoholic.com has joined an organizational challenge at Org Junkie.  Since I, too, have a room (okay, I have more than one room, but we’re only talking about one for right now) in dire need of attention, I’ve decided to join the challenge as well.

The challenge involves clearing one room of the clutter and reorganizing the space so that, in my case, it’s functional again.

Before I post the dreadful pictures, let me explain.  We’ve been doing some major remodeling on our 1890s house, and this room has been the catchall for everything– pictures that we can’t hang up because walls are being drywalled, boxes of baby clothes, curtain rods we can’t put up yet, 3 window unit air conditioners, a stockpile of diapers, and a random assortment of a lot of other things.  Oh, did I mention it’s also our “guest” room??  Hah.  I couldn’t have a guest stay there unless I had three months’ notice!

Anyhow, my plan is to get the clutter cleared out and have a functional guest room by March 1st.  This is one of the last two rooms to be remodeled, so even once it’s cleaned up, it still won’t look like much.  We have a corner where the wallpaper has been stripped to allow for a chimney repair last year, but the rest of the paper needs stripped, the dirty carpet pulled up and the wood floors refinished.  I don’t know how far in the future this will be, but I’ll be lucky if it happens this year.  Still, I know I would feel much better if I could at least walk in the room (being able to shut the door would be great, too!).

Without further ado, here’s the embarrassing proof (and yes, I did manage to climb in the room to get pictures from different angles):


Pretty scary, huh?  I definitely have my work cut out for me.  Here are two challenges I foresee:  first, I’ll be on a week long vacation during February, and I won’t be home to work on it.  Second, my husband has rewired most of our house, but the overhead light to this room isn’t hooked up yet.  This means I can only work in this room during the day.  My husband works second shift, and I do most of my housecleaning (what I do of the cleaning, that is) during the evenings while he’s at work.  However, it’s too dark to work in there after about 6 pm. 

So, I’ve asked my husband to hook up the electricity, and that’s planned for this weekend.  As for the vacation, I’ll just have to start ASAP and really put some time in on the room before I leave.  I’ll post progress pictures, so please keep me accountable!