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Dealing with the achy parts…a quick project

March 20th, 2020
Sarah Ann Smith's easy peasy arm support

How to deal with aches, be thrifty and creative

So in January I was diagnosed with bursitis in my right elbow. Seemingly overnight a big bubble popped up on the outside of the elbow–like half a golf ball big. ( I hear my father saying Keep your elbows off the table! Remember that?) It didn’t really hurt, but if I leaned on the table it was annoying. For a long while I used an empty squeeze bottle (one I use for dyeing). I had first brought it up to support my wrists at the computer instead of buying an expensive do-dad for such purpose. I realized I could use the bottle to elevate my forearm so I could sit at the table as I always do, lean on my arms, but not aggravate the bubble (by the way, two months later it is pretty much finally gone). But the cat kept stealing the bottle as a toy.

I remembered those wrist supports they sell and thought “I’ll bet I could make something.” So, I did. For a whopping $1.99 for a length of foam pipe insulation (I used the kind for 1/2″ diameter copper pipe, the one with the smallest hole in the center) and scraps of cloth, fusible and batting. Here’s what and how I did it, and what I’d do differently.

I measured how long I wanted the foam support to be, then cut a batting scrap (ya know those long skinny ones you can’t quite toss?) to fit around plus 1-1 1/2″ extra on the circumference, plus an extra 1 1/2″ on either end. Next, open up the sliced bit. Then, I used some, um…., “vintage” Aleene’s tacky glue, which meant I needed to spread it since it wouldn’t pour. Ahem.

I tucked the batting inside the slot, then filled in the hole in the center with remnants trimmed for extra pipe insulation. If I leaned on the tube, it sorta collapsed, so I just stuffed it. Do NOT glue this bit! You may opt to tuck things in.

THIS IS WHERE I’D DO IT DIFFERENT:
Next time, I think I would fuse the fabric to the batting first rather than later because the outside isn’t quite as smooth as I could like.

I refused my fabric (cheerful!) and fused it to the roll. If I were to make another, I’d fuse it to the batting first. I added the batting because I thought trying to fuse directly to the foam would not be successful–melted foam? No thanks.

I used a wave/pinking blade to trim the exposed edge of the fabric, overlapped the edges and fused together. Next time (if there is one), I would tuck the ends into the slice, then glue it shut.

For the ends, I snipped the excess at the ends to 1/4″ away from the foam pipe. I worked my way around from the underneath edge to the overlap edge of the fabric, fusing as I went. By not cutting to the outside edge I got a neat fold that won’t ravel.

Just place your iron on the end and fuse as you work your way around. When it’s all down, hold the iron on the end for a bit extra to get it to really stick.

PS: Best fusible in the world: MISTYFUSE. Hands down. The Best!

And here’s my end.

Using the roll as a support for my forearms, which keeps my wrists straight and not bent (since the arthritis in the wrists acts up when bent).

How I spend way too much of my life…at the laptop! Business and friends and internet happen!

Hope this mini tutorial will help you or someone you know. Thanks for reading!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 2 of 2)

March 12th, 2020
Today it’s time for part 2 of 2 in the “how to make cushions” tutorial! In this image, I’ve sewn the boxing strip–the bit on the edges/sides (black Galaxy fabric from Michael Miller Fabrics, Spring 2020) to one of the squares (top and bottom) to make sure I’ve got the fit right. Looks pretty good! The top on this one is the SuperFred fabric in gray (with this fun fox named Fred and a robot named Mike). Those glorious solids (SWOON) are part of the Cotton Couture collection. Colors are Acid (left), Yellow (top), Apricot (right), and Lilypad (bottom). Like I said, SWOON!

In my last post, we went through my deep-placket zipper construction that I use for home dec use. Sturdy and classy. You can find the free PDF pattern with gobs of photos here at Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. And here’s a link to the first post. And close up views of all the pillows are at the end of this post.

I shared this photo before, but didn’t point out the very hard to see black strapping handle which is in the center of the side facing us. If you look at the pop-socket on the ruler, come down to the cloth. Then look and you’ll see two Space Aliens, fussy cut from that fabric, at the ends.
My dear DIL is a kindergarten teacher, and these cushions and pillows are headed to her classroom for wee people to flop upon and read. Or just flop upon! She’ll need to be able to move them about easily. As she is TINY, we need to make this easy (not a bear hug thing just to move a pillow). I cut some of the Space Pals fabric into rectangles, centering one of the Pals so it would show. Sew the rectangle to the end of some webbing. I could only find 1 1/2″ wide locally in rural Maine. It works but I think 1″ wide would be better if you can find it. Sew the rectangle to the end of the webbing, then fold and press the side edges in, turn under the remaining raw edge, and sew. I use–get ready for this–washable glue stick instead of pins. When doing your folding and pressing, use a swipe of glue. Presto. Stays put. When you fold things together into a nice little package, a little dab of glue will do ya! (Who else remembers Dippity Do?) Center the handle exactly over the zipper and sew. I put some squares of old denim on the inside to reinforce the fabric. See next photo.
Next step: sew the boxing to one side. Start by finding the center of the zipper. Here, you can see those rectangles of denim (with overcast stitch to prevent raveling) I used to reinforce the handle which is on the right side of the fabric. Mark 12″ to the right and to the left of the zipper’s exact center. Then measure 24″ to mark the other corners on the boxing strip. I chose to put some reinforcing stitching (triple straight stitch–see below) at each corner–about an inch to either side of th marking pin. I sewed about 3/8″ from the edge. If your overall gusset/boxing length is a little off, you may need to remove the stitching for one of the zipper garages and adjust the overall circumference of the boxing strip/gusset so it is snug.

Put the boxing strip (now a loop) on the cushion inside out. It’s much easier to assemble and pin with the fabric held upright (and not floppy on the table)! Place the top fabric face down. If you use a print that is directional, as I did, I put the top of their heads on the zipper side of the cushion. Pin all the way around.

You’ll want to clip each corner about 3/8″–so to the reinforcing stitching / almost to the very seamline in each corner. I clip right before stitching.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch when I need a strong seam with some flex. This is on my Janome M7 Continental, but almost all machines other than straight-stitch only have something similar. This is what I used to reinforce the corners AND sew the seams. Since the corners are clipped, this provides a little insurance against tears, especially in the cushion stuffing/wrestling stage. Or when anticipating wee people thumping their little bodies all over the place.
With the top of the cushion on the bottom and the boxing/gusset on top, sew together with a 1/2″ seam. I sewed this with the triple straight stitch, again because I expect these cushions to see some enthusiastic use in a classroom. Sturdy is wise. Sew RIGHT UP to the CORNER and stop with the needle down. You can see some of the reinforcing stitching just to the left of the needle. You can also see that clipping has allowed the boxing strip to make a 90 degree turn at the corner, and that a bit of the boxing has folded over and is pushing into the next side to be stitched.
With the needle still DOWN, lift the presser foot. Ease the boxing to the left to remove that little pushed bit you see in the photo above. Notice the reinforcing stitching that goes down to the pin. I will sew on or just a thread’s width to the left of that when I sew the seam. Make sure the raw edges are aligned–you’ll see a perfect little square of the fabric on the bottom as the boxing strip pivots around the corner/needle. Sew the next side.
And here we are, corner turned, ready to roll. Or sew. Or have a something rewarding. Wine? Pina Colada? Nap? Chocolate?
Anyway, Repeat until you have reached where you began!

Then do it again with the other side. REMEMBER to leave the ZIPPER OPEN just enough to reach your arm inside. Makes turning the cushion right side out a whole lot easier. Ahem. Yeah, didn’t do that when I first began working for that interior designer. I was able to fiddle the zipper pull and get it open. Trust me, gap is better.
OMG–almost done!!!!! Most furniture cushions are foam wrapped with dacron (outdoor cushions are the exception). There are different grades of foam. Softer ones are generally used for seat backs, firmer foam for seat cushions. There is even this miraculous “outdoor” flow-through foam–instead of being sponge-like and holding water, it drains out. The foam is kinda very firm, but think about it…no mildew! Anyway…back to this program. Upholsterers then use a spray glue to adhere the Dacron wrap (like quilt batting but fluffier, scratchier, cheaper I think, I had leftover, only partly mouse-munched in the shed). I had a vintage can of the spray upholsterers use but I think an artist’s spray glue **might maybe** work–check the label to see if it says anything about eating/eroding foam. And test. You can also just hand baste the edges. When using spray glue, I just spray the surface, pat the one huge, long and wide-enough-to-cover-the-edges Dacron in place and then trim it to the edges.

Next: Stuffing the cushion cover you just lovingly made. In the above photo, notice that I have used a dry cleaner bag (a big leaf bag works too) that I wrapped around the bottom of the cushion to facilitate wrestling it into the cushion cover. Do NOT put the cushion inside the bag–wrap plastic-something around the bottom. You need to be able to remove the plastic bag easily, and trying to tear a bag off the innards while stuffed inside the cover is not workable.
By having zippers that come halfway around the sides of the cushion, you have made this part–stuffing–a whole LOT easier. Place the cushion inside like you are putting a pillow inside a pillowcase. Then place the cushion on the floor, using your legs to hold it upright. Smooth and pull the cushion up the sides. Pull the plastic out, then slide your arm inside and coax the seam allowances toward to boxing on all sides. Tuck the corners of the foam on the top edge under the zipper, and zip closed . See next photo.
Here I’ve got the cushion on its side…see the zipper garage on the left? Use one hand to squish the foam/dacron down, and pull the zipper up over your hand (prevents getting dacron in the zipper). Slide your hand back, repeat. When you get to the corner, nudge the innards into the corners and continue until done. Park the zipper pull in the zipper garage on the other end. You may wish to fine tune where the seams are–straighten them, etc. Wearing quilting gloves or rubbery kitchen gloves gives your fingers a bit of grip and allows you to ease the fabric into perfect position.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!!!

Ta DAAAAA! DONE! Celebrate! Feel a bit chuffed (great Aussie word meaning proud or pleased).
The Space Pals in Gray side of the cushion. I put a different feature print on each side, so the kids can have Super Fred up on both cushions, or Space Aliens (next image), or one of each. Notice on the top of this one that black ripple? That’s the carry handle so the kids and DIL can tidy up! AND these cushions stand up on their edges, better for stashing in a crowded classroom. And yes, that’s my one and only (so far, I hope for another) magazine cover behind the love seat..my pink peony on Germany’s Patchwork magazine.
Are those Space Pals in Black not the cutest things ever? I think some pillows made in their image need to happen…
Close up of the Space Pals toss pillow. I got my pillow inserts from (Sigh…I go there sometimes…no one else within an hour’s drive has some of what they carry) WalMart for cheap.
And Super Fred in gray. Adorable. Although I think we need some gender equality…It’s gonna be Super Freddie, short for Frederica! for me.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. I know these have been long and detailed posts, but sometimes when you’re essentially teaching a day-long workshop in two blogposts, that happens! I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed the visit. THANK YOU!

Ask for it at your local shop!

And one last time… here’s the link to the free PDF pattern!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 1 of 2)

March 9th, 2020

Today’s projects are floor cushions and toss pillows from Michael Miller’s adorable new fabric line, SuperFred and Space Pals. As soon as I saw them I knew I’d love to make some floor cushions for my daughter-in-law’s Kindergarten classroom! You can find part 2 here as of March 12, 2020.

Pigwidgeon was asleep in front of the wood stove but allowed me to move him to another comfy spot to be my model. I am a Michael Miller 2020 Brand Ambassador for 2020, for which this is a monthly project. I’m also a Janome Artisan since 2003.

With the help of my trusty (just try to pry it out of my cold dead hands! I’m taking it with me) Janome M7 Continental, and some experience having done custom home dec work in a previous life, sewing these cushions was easy, and I’d like to share a free pattern for Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows with you and show you just how easy!

Super Fred! Ask for the collection at your local shop!

Fabric requirements are at the bottom of this post and on the free pattern (link in the previous paragraph). The pattern also has all the other “stuff” you’ll need (zipper, interfacing, and so on) and ridiculously detailed instructions. I will focus on bigger pictures for the “how-to” things in this and my next post even though there are plenty of photos in the pattern.

My Deep-Pocket Placket

So many home dec books and pieces of furniture are made with skimpy zipper plackets that gap open and show the zipper teeth–boo hiss! The designer for whom I worked eons ago had *very* high-end clients, so I developed what I think is a much nicer zipper method. Yes, it uses a couple more inches of fabric, but the zipper is fully concealed, doesn’t gap, and even has a little “garage” at the end to hide the zipper pull. I have leftover (miles of leftover) upholstery zipper tape and pulls from doing custom home dec work, but you can order #5 weight zippers or use heavy duty zippers available at big box stores.

If you’re going to make it at home, make it better than stuff you buy!

The pattern has exact cutting dimensions for the finished zipper gusset (the section of the boxing/sides of a cushion that has the zipper), but honestly I usually cut my strips about an inch wide than I think I’ll need. This gives me some fudging room to get the zipper centered. Once the zipper is sewn in, then I trim it to the desired finished measurements and complete making the gusset.

For this project, I knew the cushions would get a LOT of wear and tear, so I decided to reinforce all of the quilting-weight-cotton fabric with mid-weight fusible interfacing. Then I began assembling the components starting with the zipper. Of course, I was so excited to get started that the interfacing isn’t (yet) on the fabric shown below….I fixed that!

Attach the bottom part of the zipper gusset with the zipper foot. I set the foot so the left edge is next to the zipper teeth; this helps me sew a consistent distance. I set the needle to the center of the foot at first, but decided after checking that was too far away, so see the needle position in the next photo. Be careful not to move the needle to where it will hit the foot. Hand-walk the needle to test position!
Here’s I’ve adjusted the needle position to use the left opening, but moved to the right–again, hand-walk after changing needle position to make sure you aren’t going to hit the zipper foot itself. I use the fingers of my right hand to squish the fabric down so I can see and feel where the teeth are.
This photo shows the second pass along the zipper, this time with the overcast foot. This is similar to using a serger to clean-finish the edges and it reinforces the stitching. On the M7, it is stitch 15, but there are several choices for an overcast edge stitch. Use something similar on your machine.

The video below shows me using the Janome M7’s “M” foot. Most machines have something similar. The three little wires help hold the fabric flat, the blade keeps the stitch perfectly positioned on the edge of the seam so you get a good-looking, functional, and non-puckered stitch.

Once the lower fabric strip is sewn and edge-stitched (orange arrows point to edge stitching…hard to see black on black!), I press it away from the zipper teeth and edge stitch. This prevents the fabric from trying to roll up toward the zipper teeth and further reinforces the seam since there is a fair amount of pressure once the cushions is stuffed and being used. This photo also shows that I have attached the upper strip. See photos below for more on how to create a perfectly even and deep placket.

Next, sew the wider upper side of the zipper gusset to the zipper tape using the edge-stitch foot only–you don’t need to do the straight seam close to the teeth as you did with the lower side of the gusset.

This photo shows TWO zipper gussets. The one on top is as-sewn so you see zipper-interfaced lower edge, upper edge. The lower zipper gusset is the one I’m working on. Pin the lower edge of the zipper to your ironing board, making sure it is perfectly straight–long ruler helps.
Pin the top edge of your zipper gusset to be 5″ away from the lower edge. This will form a placket to cover the zipper teeth. I found the green Clover hem gauge to be the best tool because the dark green bit snugs up against the raw lower edge and the “wings” are wider making it easier to keep it aligned properly (tilted ever so slightly in this photo), but a small quilting ruler also works to measure width. I highlighted the edge of the placket with orange in Photoshop because you can’t really see the fold of the black fabric!
Press the placket. Then, pin the placket along the folded edge (out of the way of sewing in the next step). Turn the whole shebang over and stitch about 1/8″ from the edge of the zipper tape. This secures the upper side of the zipper. Notice the pinheads holding the placket in place–so glad I got that ginormous wool press thing-a-ma-doo-dad which makes this easy-peasy.

Your next step is to attach the rest of the boxing a.k.a. sides a.k.a. gusset–the fabric that goes around the edge of the cushion. First, use the overcast foot to sew the ends together. BE CAREFUL to NOT stitch through the ZIPPER TEETH! Just lift your presser foot and move over the clunky zipper teeth before finishing that seam. Repeat on the other side.

This image shows the seam, edge-stitching, and forming and pinning the “zipper garage”–the little pocket that hides the zipper pull.

Make the first of the little zipper garage / pockets at the zipper ends. You really only need one at the closed end, but I like the cushions to be symmetrical (about the only time I love symmetry in my work!) so I do both ends the same way. In the photo above, you can see that I have made a pocket about 1 1/2″ deep by making a Z-fold (or S- depending on which side you look at). Pin in place (lower part of photo above) and then stitch a straight line about 1/2″ from the raw edges.

At this point, before sewing the second zipper garage, I place the gusset on the dacron-wrapped foam cushion for a test fit. You want it QUITE snug–fabric is flexible and you don’t want it looking stretched out and worn! Center the zipper on the one side, pinning the boxing/gusset onto the cushion from the sewn garage all the way around to the other side. Your excess fabric will create the second zipper-pull garage.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch, a basic stitch that is found on almost all machines other than straight-stitch only.
The photo waaaaay back at the top and this one show the stitched zipper garage. You might notice that I have also basted the sides of the garage within the seam allowance–it makes sewing the boxing /gusset to the top and bottom easier.

PHEW…that’s Zipper Wisdom according to Sarah. We are now blessedly done with the zipper–I swear it takes longer to explain it in writing than actually do it…well except for the fussing to make sure it is absolutely perfectly straight and nice! In my next post I’ll show constructing and stuffing the floor cushions. And, there are TONS of photos in the pattern, too. One more time, here’s the PDF for the Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. Check back in 3 days for Part 2!

And one last minute goodie–my fellow Brand Ambassador Charisma Horton has made this adorable quilt out of different color ways of Super Fred–what a great combination for a kiddo: my cushions and pillows and her quilt! Check it out here on her blog, or the Far, Far Away pattern in her Etsy shop, in both download or paper versions.

Both print and digital versions of Far, Far Away are available in Charisma’s Corner Etsy shop, here. Go to page 3 of the Etsy shop and scroll down to find the patterns.

Fabric requirements for two 24” square floor pillows and two 14×20” toss pillows:

Preshrink all fabrics!

NOTE:  Yardage is to make two floor and two toss pillows. Additional materials (zippers, foam and so on) as well as cutting and construction details in the free PDF show measurements and how to make each pillow. 

Available now–ask your local shop to order it

  • Focus Fabric 1:  Space Pals Black                 3/4 yard (will yield two 19” center squares)
  • Focus Fabric 2:  SuperFred Grey                 3/4 yard (will yield two 19” center squares)
  • Solids:  
    • Yellow                                         1/2 yard
    • Apricot                                        1/2 yard        
    • Acid                                            1/2 yard
    • Lilypad                                        1/2 yard
    • OPTION:  you can use the same fabric for all of the sides if you prefer
  • Boxing / sides fabric:  Galactic Black            2 yards

My interview with Create Whimsy

March 6th, 2020

I was absolutely delighted when Create Whimsy wrote to ask if I’d like to do a Spotlight interview with them–so many people I admire have interviews that you can still see and read. It was even more fun when the Editor, Chardel Blaine, realized that I had taught at a shop she worked at–Quiltworks Northwest in Bellevue, Washington–and we had met about 15 YEARS ago!

Here’s the link to my interview… I hope you enjoy reading the flotsam and jetsam of my life and mind. I opened up a half dozen interviews to review and prepare which led me to a new artist I admire, and I’m planning on opening another half dozen for lunchtime reading. Thank you Chardel and Create Whimsy!

Kindest Website Comment in the past year or more

March 4th, 2020

This morning I was checking my spam folder, because the spam filter (I get at least a hundred spam messages most days) frequently leaves spam in the inbox and puts a few “good” messages in the spam folder. Today’s discovery is WHY I do check diligently….sometimes I’ve found inquiries from guilds asking me to teach, but this is even better.

Coach’s Clipboard: Win by Fall, which was just on display in the Better World Exhibition at the Mancuso’s Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival. It shows my husband, the coach with the clipboard, and younger son Eli about to get a pin. It celebrates those adults around the world who give of themselves, their time, knowledge, wisdom, and example, to help young people grow into fine human beings through the avenue of athletics.

I’ve X’d out some of the details to protect the privacy of the person who wrote, but it brought tears to my eyes.

 “I just saw your quilt “Coach’s Clipboard: Win by Fall” at the Mid Atlantic Quilt Show in Hampton, VA. I can not tell how much joy I felt when I rounded a corner and saw it. It was worth the xxx hour drive to Hampton and back just to see it!! I looked for wrestling themed fabric or patterns for ages and had given up. Wrestling was the best thing that ever happened to my socially awkward ADHD 5th grade son (now age 2x) and his first coach in particular was an inspiration and mentor to both kids and parents. Since graduation my son now referees for youth league and JV matches. I now especially enjoy watching all the girls who now wrestle, learning to be strong and fearless. Olympic wrestler xxxxx xxxxx, who originally attended my son’s high school, has inspired a lot of kids in the area. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful work and thank your husband on behalf of all the moms out there whose children have benefitted from having another adult in their lives who care about them and help them be better people.”

THANK YOU, L.P. in the mid-Atlantic….you have no idea how much your comment means to me. Our older son was ADHD and is also in his 20s, and wrestling benefitted him. Our younger son, pictured in this quilt, has just finished is senior year in college, including four years on a D1 wrestling team. To his dismay, between lack of top training before college and three major injuries/surgeries/recoveries, his college career wasn’t what he had hoped. But he has learned and grown, and I know that every minute of his athletic career has helped make him the amazing young man that he is.

So THANK YOU AGAIN L.P.! You have given me something that I will remember for a very, very long time.