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.

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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.

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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!

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Work in Progress: Poison Ivy Hallowe’en Costume

It’s getting to be that time of year, folks. And the annoying thing about posting seasonal stuff on a blog where you don’t necessarily plan too far ahead is that things like Hallowe’en costumes can’t be posted until *after* Hallowe’en, which is a little lame. But at least they can be inspiration for next year.

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This year, the Pie and I are heading out on vacation and we won’t be home for Hallowe’en. The Pie has a tournament in Toronto that weekend so I’m teaming up with Chel and her friends and we’re doing a group costume: Batman, Robin, and assorted villains. I am unreasonably excited to go as Poison Ivy and join the group. This costume has taken a considerable amount of planning, so it may even top Wolverine as one of my best costumes to date.

I’ll show you what I have come up with so far and hopefully it’ll inspire you as well.

One of the issues with female comic book characters, especially those written by DC, is that they tend to come scantily clad. And I don’t want to show that much skin. There will be children in our group. And sometimes it snows on Hallowe’en in Canada. And nobody likes being naked in the snow. So part of the challenge was to take the traditional PI getup and make it a bit more … modest. Because holy Hanna that is just not my style.

I started off with the basic corset, in green, and I found one on Amazon that also had a wee skirt that came with it (the skirt is MUCH shorter than advertised but oh well).

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After strapping myself into it in a rather undignified manner I realized that the flimsy, slippery ribbons that made up the laces were all that was holding the whole thing together. And I have quite a bit that needs holding in. I could see one of them snapping under the pressure and having a disaster on my hands.

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So I replaced the laces, front and back, with a sturdier material: parachute cord.  Not only was I now more confident that the corset bindings wouldn’t spontaneously explode, but it was actually easier to lace up because there was more friction with the cord.

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Now I could lace it up good and tight and it wasn’t going anywhere. Problem was, this thing is made for people with smaller … assets than I have, and there was some danger of a spill (and there will be children present), so I had to wear a bra underneath to keep everything where it should be. And the bra peeked over the top of the corset. Not good.

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I had to therefore disguise the bra as best I could (because there was no hiding it and I was sure as shooting not going without). Fortunately for me the local Fabricland is about five minutes from our house, so I popped in and found exactly what I needed.

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I basted some trim and sequins onto the bra wherever it was exposed. I also put some more trim at the bottom so that it would blend in with the similar trim at the top of the corset. The sequins might be overkill but I love them.

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Right. I’m not hanging out anywhere now. This is good. But I’m so tightly strapped into this thing that I’m having trouble breathing. It’s not like I can simply loosen the laces – the whole thing will fall off. And it has no give whatsoever. I needed a bit of a release valve built into this to save my lungs. I bought some 6″ wide elastic from Fabricland as well, and I will cut out two of the back panels and replace it with four pieces of sewn-together elastic. This way the corset can still be as tight as it needs to be but my ribcage can also expand and contract as needed. But I had to go out of town twice for work (I’m in Indiana as I write this and as you read this) so it’ll have to wait until I get back.

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Then, there was the issue of hair. PI’s hair is red and long. Mine is short and brown. Normally I dress as a dude for Hallowe’en simply because having short hair makes it easy to do. This year I had to go to extremes. I picked up this wig for super cheap (thanks Amazon), and after an interminable wait it arrived.

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It’s been about ten years since I’ve had hair this long, or this red.

But how am I going to stay warm, you ask? Well I found a pair of green fleece tights and a pair of fingerless green elbow gloves and those are going to be very handy.

And then there’s this. This is an opera cloak hand-sewn by my great grandmother about 100 or so years ago. I used to play dress-up with it all the time and amazingly it’s still in beautiful shape. It hasn’t fit me across the shoulders and chest since I was about nine years old, however (my great-grandmother being one of those tiny elfin type ladies). After some consultation with my mother we decided to remove the sleeves to give me some more room to move around. She’s working on it as we speak.

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I have some other grand plans including temporary tattoos, fake vines, and lots and lots of glitter. I’ll keep you posted about how they turn out!