Sea Creature Floor Pillows 1 of 2 (with Cheater Box Cushions)

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Let it be known here that I hate sewing and I’m really, REALLY bad at it. One hundred percent of my sewing projects here at Ali Does It could be done one hundred percent better than they are. But I don’t have the patience or desire to do a better job, nor do I have the money to purchase these sorts of finished projects instead of doing them myself. I’m hoping that rather than being a direct how-to for all y’all out there in the hinternets, these sorts of half-assed half-assery will be more inspiration than instruction.

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That said, I can still do pretty awesome stuff sometimes.

I’ve been moving these old pillows from place to place. They’re not useful to us and they have a weird shape. But I thought they’d make nice little floor pillows, and now that LongJohn is spending more time on the floor it’s a good way for those of us with less flexible knees and older backs to join him. And because everything we make for him tends to be marine-related, I thought I’d make the cushions into sea creatures.

Whale Floor Cushion 1

What inspired that idea was this dress. This is a bridesmaid dress I wore to a wedding over a decade ago. I hated it then. I hate it now. It was really expensive to purchase the fabric and I had to have it professionally made because the pattern was too complicated and the fabric too finicky for my mother and I to deal with. And after it was done I felt like a WHALE in it. So let’s make a whale.

Whale Floor Cushion 2

This first cushion turned out wayyyy better than I expected, especially since I totally half-assed everything, didn’t measure a thing, and considering that this stupid stretchy velour crap is THE worst material in the world to work with. It didn’t even PHOTOGRAPH well. Every picture turned out BLURRY. GAH.

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With LongJohn looking on, I “measured” the pillow to the dress to gauge how much I was going to need to cut off.

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Cut made! Time to unpick all the stitches.

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Now I needed to kind of square off the pieces I had removed.

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See? KIND OF square. If I wasn’t catering to the patience of a seven-month-old, I would have used my rotary cutter and mat and done a better job. But meh. Cutting this stuff left little flecks of gray velour everywhere. Ick.

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I had some bits here from what I cut off that I thought could make a decent little tail for my whale. This is not going to be an anatomically correct whale – more the cartoonish sort.

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I took a Sharpie and drew a basic shape on the back.

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Then tried my best to cut it out of two pieces at the same time. This material is so slidey and stretchy though … The other piece there is for the bottom of the tail, to make it more substantial.

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And here is my poor approximation of a cartoon whale’s fin. I’m only doing the one fin because this whale is more like a flounder or sunfish and is entirely one-sided.

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Even pinning these pieces is next to impossible ….

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Sewing them together and getting the bottom panel in involved much swearing. Good thing LongJohn wasn’t listening.

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Then I grabbed some polyfill loft (actually I used twice what you see in the picture) and gave the tail and fin a thorough stuffing.

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They ended up looking way better than I expected them to.

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Then I hemmed the two back pieces of the cushion so that I could overlap them and have an opening without having any raw edges. I like to make my cushions so that I don’t have to add snaps or a zipper – just a little overlapping envelope of fabric. I’m lazy.

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But there’s still the front of the cushion to do, and that cushion needs a face.

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Here’s my attempt at a face. It’s really hard to sew non-stretchy materials to stretchy materials.

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So it ended up being all wrinkly like this. But it looks like a happy whale, right?

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Now to put the square pieces together. Again, nothing lines up, but it doesn’t matter because everything is so stretchy and impossible.

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I had to seal in the edges of the tail in order to sew it on without a disaster.

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And even that was tricky.

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Here it is all sewn together finally.

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With the cushion in place I put a pin where I wanted the fin to go. I ended up hand-sewing the fin on because it was impossible any other way.

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And I also attacked my super pointy corners. The pillow has rounded edges so I didn’t want those corners to stick out too far – whales are roundish after all. If you were doing this for real you’d be taking the corner of the cushion here (inside out) and flattening it at an angle that the seams you’ve sewn match up, one on top of the other. Then you iron it to make a pleat, and you pin it. I did none of those things, save more or less lining up the seams.

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Then you measure the height of your pillow or box (because in the assembly of your pillow you’ve left enough room to account for this) and you sew across the pillow corner to match that height. Again, I eyeballed this. I’m a terrible person.

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But then when you flip it inside out again, all those pointy corners have disappeared! If you have stretchy material and a round cushion, you now have rounded edges. If you have non-stretchy material and a square cushion you now have box edges. Congratulations!

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Everything turned out with a few gathers and wrinkles but I blame the fabric for that.

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LongJohn doesn’t care. He just likes to punch it a bunch while yelling. And that’s really all I was going for.

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The next cushion will be a box fish – wish me luck!

One Lamp, Two Lamp, Old Lamp, New Lamp!

My final quarantine project was one I’d been meaning to get done since we moved into the house over a year ago. When we moved in together we bought a matching set of IKEA lamps: two table lamps and a larger floor lamp with crumpled paper shades. They were literally the WORST shades as the things that held the shades up so they looked crumpled fell out and were lost so you just had this wrinkly, torn, dusty, discoloured piece of paper sitting here and we really started to hate them. But they were cheap and they worked so we moved them across the country and back.

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BUT NO MORE.

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My plan was to use the wire frame of the shades to create a new surface for a slightly more durable fabric shade. So I carefully measured the dimensions of the existing lamps.

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Then I took enormous pleasure in ripping the paper off.

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I soaked the wires in warm soapy water for a bit to get the excess glue and paper off.

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Then I measured and cut the fabric Cait and I had bought from Joann like forever ago.

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I don’t own any fabric markers so I use washable Crayolas instead. I measured an inch of overlap from the edges to wrap around the frames.

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Then I used pins to fix everything into place.

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One side done.

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Both sides done.

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I left the side seams open for now just because it was easier to manipulate them with it open.

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The best way to get this permanently affixed was to set it up so it hung properly, and the best way to do THAT was to put it back on the lamp.

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Now I pinned the side seams.

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Then I used Mod Podge for fabric and just glued all my flaps closed.

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It didn’t take long. I made sure to take the pins out while the glue was still wet.

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Once it was dry I sprayed the whole thing with Stiffen Stuff, which is sort of a spray starch for making things like bows and ornaments rigid. Another option would have been to wash the fabric with liquid starch and iron them flat before pinning. It might have had a more uniform look to the finished product but it would have been more difficult to manipulate.

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I let the starch dry in the sun.

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The finished product, off.

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And on.

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I did the big one too. I’m quite pleased!

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Bench Cover Thingy with Cait

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Cait and I share a calendar, because when you live on totally opposite sides of the city it makes it easier to stalk each other. So when we planned for this particular DIY event (because we are that nerdy), this is the title Cait gave it in the calendar. So that’s the title you’re getting.

Cait commandeered a large amount of shelving and other furniture from her aunt’s house and wanted to incorporate it into hers, but with a twist. So this little bench thingy? It’s a little underwhelming as-is, and because all the furniture Cait got was black, the colour is a bit much.

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We’re gonna jazz it up a little and soften it up a little as well by adding a cute cushion to the top of it. Maybe two different cushions, for variety’s sake. We didn’t take any measurements, and who knows if your furniture is the same size, so this is just a series of photos for you to take inspiration from.

I did get to cut through some 2″ foam padding with a bread knife which was satisfying. Holy moley though foam padding is expensive!

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Pinning it in place and making sure there was enough overlap on the seams.

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You can’t tell in this photo but I’m actually in mid-pin-stab and am about to yell some bad words. I hate sewing.

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Okay so in addition to the grownup one we made a Batman one too. You can see Cait in the background, sewing snaps on the other cushion. She also hates sewing.

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We used velcro and sewed straps to hold the cushion onto the bench. Luckily the bench is actually some kind of entertainment console so we could thread the straps through the holes easily.

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Adhesive velcro rocks for getting things where you want them exactly. You do need to sew it afterwards, which is a total pain, but it is a useful thing.

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Straps in action.

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Batman suits it.

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The grown-up one is nice, too. The fabric is reversible so I’m also making Cait some small square cushion covers to accent the whole thing.

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Sewing so easy even I can do it: Nursing Shawl

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Okay so it’s official: I’m going to be an aunt (again).  This time, though, unlike my lovely instant nieces Tego and HG I get to meet this niece or nephew at birth!  Krystopf and Atlas, the expectant parents, are coming to visit at the end of May.  It’s my big brother’s first time in Newfoundland, though Atlas was here back around the time of Doodle’s Newfoundland Express.  And neither Atlas nor I will let Krystopf forget the fact that SHE bravely came to visit us (by herself!) when she was a just brand new girlfriend, and HE (my own eldest brother) can’t organize himself enough to book a flight.  But for reals now they are coming and I couldn’t be more excited!  It’s a very brief trip but we’ll be sure to cram it with all sorts of fun stuff.

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While I fully plan to have their wedding present (from last July) finished before they get here,  I thought I would also get cracking on some baby-related things they might find useful in the near future (the baby is due in October).  Now we know that if you put me in front of a sewing machine I am likely to break it.  Like for real.  But this one I think I can handle, because it involves sewing precisely one line.  Even I can do that.  I hope.  Anyway, this post also kicks off my new Kidlet category here at Ali Does It.  Who says you can’t do it yourself when there’s children involved?

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What we’re going to make today is a nursing shawl, and it’s so simple it’s almost stupid.  But the great thing about this shawl (I think) is that it’s an easy (and fashionable) alternative to nursing bibs and trying to gather blankets around your shoulders and whatever.  And it covers your back, too, like a stylish poncho.  And it’s small enough you can just jam it anywhere in your bag.  And it doesn’t wrinkle.

Start off with some fabric, a nice jersey knit.  I found two that I liked, this pink cotton and then a silky gray polyester blend.  They were $2.99 a metre, which struck me as a good deal.

Nursing Shawl 1

After washing and drying the fabric (to remove sizing and get any shrinkage out of the way), fold the fabric right-side-in along its width (which should be about 60 inches (or about a metre and a half).  This will leave you with something about 30 inches wide.

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Because fabric stores cut this stuff very quickly, the edges are not exact.  I lined mine up as best I could and then used some sharp sewing scissors to cut along the outer edge to make it more square.

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Next, use a measuring tape to measure 25″ from the outer edge and pin several times to mark your place. This will run perpendicular to the folded edge.

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Cut along your markings so you are left with a rectangle that is about 25″ x 30″ (or 25″ x 60″ if you unfolded it).

Now you’ve got one folded edge and three open edges, right?  From one corner of your folded edge, measure 13″ along an open edge and pin to mark it.  This will be the head hole for your shawl.  Pin along the rest of the fabric to hold it in place.

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Now all you have to do is sew along that line, from the edge of the head-hole to the end of the fabric.  It’s only 17″ of sewing.  Of course, my sewing machine and I don’t get along.  And so rather than throw it across the room I just did these by hand with a needle and matching thread and it took no time at all.

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Then you just flip them right side out and they’re done.  Jersey knit doesn’t fray so you don’t have to worry about hemming the other sides (though you can if you want to, or embellish them with ribbons or whatever you would like).

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It’s a nice comfortable, breezy fit!

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At this point, Fussellette laughed and said, “I’m not fit yet for motherhood.”

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Thanks to Fussellette and Teddy Two for being my models!

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Simple Sewing Machine Cover

I used my sewing machine for the first time in a long while the other day.  It was so dusty that I had to clean it or use a lint-brush removing the dust from that which I was sewing. It took me forever, too, getting into all the little nooks and crannies and whatnot.  What a pain.

I remembered seeing something from Martha Stewart about this a while back.  Use a tea towel to make an easy cover for your sewing machine.

This particular tea towel was a gift from Hen in Sweden.  It makes me feel cheerful to see smiling vegetables.

Measure your towel on the machine first, to see that it will fit.

Cut four equal-length pieces of elastic.  You could use ribbons or twine as well and tie a bow if you wanted. 

Tuck under the end of the elastic (or ribbon) and pin it to the hem of the towel.  I pinned one at the bottom and one about a quarter of the way up the towel.  I did the same to the other side.

Sew the elastics to the hems.  You can of course use your machine for this but I did it by hand.

Fold the towel in half so that the bottom and top hems line up.  Tuck under the loose ends of the elastics and sew them to the opposite side of the folded towel.  Tada!  A cover in five minutes.