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Entries in sewing (32)

Tuesday
Jul142015

Custom Curtains for our Lively Living Room

I've been hoarding this fabric since 2007 when it first came out and I snatched some up. My sister stored a few of my things for me when we left to go sailing. Along with memorabilia like my wedding dress, she kept a few of my most beloved fabrics. Yes, to me, wedding dresses and pretty fabric are kinda on the same par.

This is Fredrika trees fabric by designer Helen Trast for Ikea, 2007. Now out of print, I finally found the perfect use for it. I have two pieces of this fabric; one my sister kept for me, another came from a friend. The larger piece was just large enough to make some curtains for our living room.

When I first hung these up I wasn't happy with how the ends flared at the bottom. No problem. I just needed to press the creases, or train the fabric if you will, to hang the right way. I grabbed some clothes pins and rubber bands and folded the fabric the way it should hang from top to bottom.

See what I mean?

PS: I am so NOT going to apologize to you for that dirty window. The outside screens are screwed into the window frame and I've got this much desire to unscrew them and clean it. [How much desire? ZERO desire.]

You don't like my dirty window?

After a day of hanging like that, I took off the clips and left the rubber bands for awhile longer. Basically until the girls couldn't take it anymore and begged me to take them off so they could the curtains in all their glory.

And voilà:

Truly, much improved.

As Lyra says, "I LUB it!"

I added a thick, white lining fabric on the back and used the same fabric to make the tabs.

I realize this fabric is very white. And I have two small children. Don't worry, I have already prepared myself for the invetible little hand marks, marker marks, crayon marks, and chalk stains.

It's going to happen.

We'll probably be in this house for another two years and I'm frankly curious to see how well/poorly white fabric holds up around the kids. It's an experiment, okay?

Who knows? Maybe they'll suprise me.

Probably not.

I can offically say that our living room is complete now. That feels amazing.

For the details on the rest of our living room you can read these posts:

Our Entry Way

DIY Floor Couch

DIY Dress Up Cabinet

DIY Picture Gallery Wall

DIY Mason Jar Organizer

DIY Solar System Chalkboard Wall

Sunday
Jul122015

DIY Floor Couch | Bohemian Style Floor Cushion

When we first moved into the new house this was our "couch." It was just the cushions from the girls' former closet bed and a bunch of floor pillows I had made for our studio.

My brother mentioned he had a full size mattress we could use as a floor couch and I jumped at the opportunity. We already sit around a lowered table to eat, AND we have little kids, so why not keep everything low to the ground?

OMG they are so cute!The foam was in good shape, but the cover was not. I ditched the cover (and saved the zipper) and got out a bunch of fabric scraps to make a new cover.

Before long, this was covered with this:

Of course as cute as this pieced cover was, you are crazy-sauce if you think I'd leave it like that.

Did I mention I have little children?

On went a waterproof covering from Ikea.

And on top of THAT, I found a colorful sheet that would hide marks and stains, and that became the top layer of my DIY floor couch.

I actually bought the full sheet set in that print. I turned the flat sheet into a fitted sheet as well so now I have two covers for when one inevitably gets dirty or needs washing. 

I had made these gorgeous floor pillows for the studio. You can view all the detail photos of these floor cushions at Sew Sew Sew Your Boat. The problem with their size though, is that we just kept doing this when we used them:

Kind of a waste if you ask me. And since I was asking "me," I decided to do something about it

I straight up cut those suckers in half.

After I cut them, I created new seams and now I had a bunch of bolster-sized pillow forms. 

Before I show you what I did with the pillow cases, let me show you the giant body pillows I made as back rests.

Target sells a body pillow for $10. Not a bad price for a pre-made pillow with stuffing. I ordered four.

I knew that one wouldn't be firm enough so I cut them all open and took the filler from one and wrapped it around the filler from another. Then I repeated the process so I had two much firmer rolls of batting.

Those rolls got shoved (with Eric's help) back into the original pillowcases. The result was two very firm back rest pillows. One for our floor couch downstairs and one for the guest room floor couch upstairs (which I have yet to show!).

Eric approved.

I was ALMOST done. I took some spare fabric from the custom sheets I made for our upstairs bed and made the covers for the big back rest pillows, using coordinating fabric from the new sheeet set on each end to get some matchy-matchy going on.

Then I turned my eyes to all the smaller pillows I had created.

I cut the pillow cases in half, just like I had cut the pillow forms. Then I re-sewed them and slipped them back on.

:::::::::::::::Drum roll please:::::::::::::::::::::

Ta-da!

I give you our cozy family, boho-style floor couch.

My loves.

Total project cost was $75. $40 for for the four body pillows I ordered, $20 for the sheet set I got on sale, and $15 for the water-proof cover under the sheet.

BOOM! I may never go back to a real couch again. 

Bonus? It can double as a bed for overnight guests!

Monday
Jun292015

I Didn't Set Out to Write about Depression

This weekend I set out to organize the last part of the house I had yet to tackle, all my sewing and work supplies. I've been doing technical writing as a part-time job over the last six months and have not taken a lot of sewing work. I recently picked up a few custom jobs this summer and now I have my writing, my sewing, and two little kids to care for.

In other words, I'm pretty busy. Having my tools and supplies out of sorts has been a hindrance because I need to work smart and manage my time. Rummaging around for what I need is not optional.

It took me a day and a half to bring it all to heel. I started snapping photos of the organizational wonder that began to emerge. What I saw in the photos was a blissful order and what I realized I was sitting down to write was actually a post about relief.

For the last five months I have been dealing with a serious round of depression and anxiety. 

Cora took this photo of me in February.

This is an accurate representation of how I felt at the time. Blurry. Foggy.

I didn't realize I was spiraling downward in February but looking back it should have been obvious. January was the first anniversary of re-posting the article about my father. It was traumatic to post it last year and  it was just as traumatic this year too. Months after re-posting it I was in my therapist's office trying to dissect why I was depressed again and she gently explained that I was re-visiting the trauma over and over every time I had to look at that article.

I can only be so strong. I will leave the article up so it can serve as the warning and Public Service Announcement that it is, but I don't think I'll have the emotional energy to re-post it every year. Justice probably will never be served. I have to move on.

Of course January was not the only 'first anniversary' that visited me this year. April had one too.

As the date of the loss of Rebel Heart approached I could feel the anxiety welling inside me. I began to re-live every day of the trip prep, of the passage, of the two weeks of madness that really swirled around the entire event. The time came and went but by April I was deeply ensconced in a maddening circle of depression and anxiety.

March was the worst of it.

Me in March 2015.

Can you tell I'm depressed in that photo? I can always see it in my pictures.

It is even worse when I look in the mirror: the face that looks back at me is a passive mask. The hair, limp and unattractive. The skin dull. My eyes flat pools. I retreat from friends. I hide at home. It is apparent that every person I meet must see how I'm feeling, apparent to me at least. I imagine they notice in the same way as if my arm were in a cast or my face bruised and swollen. They must see the giant neon arrow bearing down at my skull blaring to everyone the way I feel, "DO YOU SEE?" it screams, bouncing angrily off my skull. "YOU CAN SEE IT IN HER, RIGHT?"

I went to two psychiatrists. The second one is now my official psychiatrist. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist. How avant-garde, no? Actually what is avant-garde is that I'm talking about it. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. As my doctor and then my psychiatrists switched first my meds and then their amounts, I railed against the changes to Eric. I too, fall victim to the stigma.

"This means I'm weak."

"I should be able to pull myself out of this."

"I don't want to be crazy."

"Why can't I feel happy?"

"I'll be on meds for the rest of my life!"

"I don't want to tell the girls. What if Cora tells someone that 'Mommy's brain is sick?'"

There was no denying, however the physical symptoms. Climbing stairs was a monumental effort. Walking around felt as if two giant hands were pushing down on my shoulders, curling my body forward under their weight. My eyelids were tired.  

I couldn't focus on my work, or on reading. I couldn't write. That really stung.

The girls seemed to talk to me from the end of a tunnel. Seeing friends, and pretending to be "normal" was excruciating. It almost always ended in panic attacks by the time I could get back home, or even just back to the car. I'd be hyperventilating as I buckled the girls into their seat belts, my hands shaking as I buckled my own. And so I stopped driving anywhere with the girls at all. When I realized I was basically imprisoned in my own home from the disease I acquiesced to the med changes. I couldn't live like that anymore.

As the meds started to help, I was able to think clearly enough to realize how very little I knew about depression and mental illness.  I regained the mental energy to read again and I discovered The Noonday Demon, an Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon.

It changed my life.

Night after night I kept interrupting Eric's own reading to share passages from the book. He patiently listened to me every time I read.

I was going to quote some of my favorite passages from the book, but my Kindle died half way through reading it and I lost all my notes and bookmarks from the first half. C'est la vie.

Cliff notes? I learned I am not alone. I discovered that parts of me that I thought were simply "the way I am" are reflected in others who experience depression and anxiety. I was aghast at this revelation. There was a tinge of horror to it, to realize others had these same needling thoughts, but mostly I felt overwhelming relief. There was a name for so many things in my life.

Mr. Solomon, if you ever read this post, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing that book.

This photo was taken mid-April. At this point I knew we had found the right dosage for my meds and that I was going to be all right.

It is also astonishing but true that no matter what you say about your depression, people don't really believe you unless you seem acutely depressed as they look at and talk to you. - Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon [emphasis added]

By mid-June I was doing this again. Taking photos of the food I was preparing for my family and sharing it on social media. This photo equals energy, motivation, and a drive for social interaction.

All good things.

All Charlotte things. 

I have been socializing.

I have been exercising.

And I have been creating.

The relief I feel to know I've pulled out of the last few months is immense. I will be dealing with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. I'll be on meds for the rest of my life. And that is okay. I have learned so much more about myself over these last five months. I know now that I'm not alone. I have more support and more tools in my arsenal for beating this back when it rears its ugly head.

A final note: to my friends. It can't be easy to have a friend who suffers from depression/anxiety. I'm sorry about that. If I seem distant sometimes, trust me, it's not you. I'm retreating backwards, even if I don't want to. I need your love and friendship very much indeed. When I'm capable, I try to show that in every way I can. Please also know that the new medication I take has a side effect of forgetfulness. It looks like mommy-brain isn't going away for me any time soon. I forget text messages. I forget where I put my earrings. I may read a message and then forget I read it entirely. I ask for your patience. And I'll never be perturbed if you ask me two times about the same subject. Promise. I'll take forgetfulness over the last five months ANY DAY. It is a price worth paying.

With that, I give you photos of the organizing I did this weekend. Perhaps you'll understand their significance to me now, for they represent the-things-I-could-not-do over the last few months.

In order I find comfort, bliss even. And when I am in the depths, there is no order.

Bias tape, binding and facing on the left, elastic, bungee, and embroidery thread on the right.

Welting, piping, cording, and trims in both of these boxes.

Zippers, glorious zippers.

Large spools of thread, webbing, and ribbon.

Heavy-duty/upholstery thread and bobbins on top, a rainbow of thread in the bottom two sections.

Tools. They aren't just for dudes, you know. I also put my Sailrite Edge Hot Knife in there too.

Sail makers kit, zipper pulls and stops, needles, Sailrite spare parts, hardware and accessories.

This box of beauty is my well organized Pres-N-Snap set. The red-handled tool is hog ring pliers. Hog rings are to the left of it.

I call this my "junk drawer," a well organized one at that.

Lyra had gleefully dumped this whole set out while I was installing some book shelves. Cora helped me re-organize everything.

Household bits-n-bobs.

I had been holding on to the paint colors for the rainbow mason jar organizer and from the girls' dress up armoire. Now I have them immortalized in photo. Into the recycling these went.

Ta-da!!!! Here is everything in its nicely ordered existence. 

Now I can begin to tackle the rest of the sewing projects. More to come.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A few final thoughts on Depression and Anxiety:

  1. It is not my thyroid.
  2. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it. 
  3. Yes, I probably will be on meds for the rest of my life. If you don't understand that, please educate yourself further. 
Monday
May182015

Tiny House Bed | DIY loft frame, mattress, and bedding

Remember the loft bed Eric and Dan built for our tiny studio last year? 

It was an epic bed set up for our tiny home. You can read about it here. This post is about the foam, mattress, and bedding, you know, the stuff I do :)

We ordered a piece of 4" high-density foam and had it cut to the size of a queen bed. I know people spend thousands of dollars on mattresses, but I have never slept better than when sleeping on this type of foam. We had the same high-density foam in our v-berth on Rebel Heart. It is the best.sleep.ever.

I made a cover for the foam out of some awesome home-dec weight fabric.

The only thing I would have changed about making this cover is to have added handles. I forgot and a mattress without handles is a pain to move.

Next up was making a mattress protector. I had a king-sized white fleece blanket that I thought I'd turn into one for us.

While it looks lovely, and it is, this was a project fail. I first cut it to size (of the queen bed top) and then added satin blanket binding.

The reason it failed? When I added the fabric to tuck around the sides and the bottom of the cover (to turn it into a fitted cover), I miscalculated. I made the measurements from the edge of the blanket but realized I didn't want to sew into the beautiful blanket binding. Instead, I sewed the edge/bottom fabric into the seam of where the binding meets the blanket, moving my math by 2".

See? I sewed the fabric to the red line to preserve the satin binding, but my inital measurements were for the blue line.

Of course this meant that I made the cover too small/tight.

Ugh.

Sometimes, however, perfect is the enemy of done. I pulled an "ain't-nobody-got-time-for-that" and just cut the fabric in a few places and stretched it around the corners, quickly putting our fitted top sheet on to hold it into place.

And that is how the project stayed for quite a while. Technically, it worked. But underneath the fitted top sheet, the messed up project sang to me, calling out to be refinished correctly.

I finally got around to it.

The small blanket came off and I set it aside so I could carefully use a seam ripper to detach the side fabric and keep the beautiful binding intact. Now we'd at least have another pretty blanket in the house.

This time I used a much bigger orange fleece blanket for the cover. (Fleece makes an excellent mattress protector.)

All I did was pin the corners to size and then sew those lines. No chopping, no cutting. When I want to turn this back into a blanket, I can rip those seams and it will be back in business.

Ta da!!

Meanwhile, Lyra is doing her thing in the bathroom. Love that kid.

A perfect, tiny, minimalist bed.

I also made a custom pillow case for my memory foam pillow.

From too-large pillow case to...

A pattern drawn to....

A custom, zippered, matching pillow case to our bedding.

Here is the loft bed in our old studio.

And our bed in the San Diego house. 

I love that it is simple. I love that is comfortable. And I love to put a custom, personal touch on where ever we are living, on land or at sea. 

Monday
Apr132015

DIY Fabric Easter Bags

I included a few photos of the bags I made for Cora and Lyra in my Easter 2015 post here. I've finished a third one so I thought I'd share all three finished products.

Ta da! They are Goldilocks style, with a small one, a slightly bigger one, and then a large one.

I used this image as inspiration and then hand drew my own pattern.

I made the littlest bag first and then expanded the pattern by about an inch and a half for each proceeding bag.

The littlest bag was for Lyra.

The exterior fabric is from a kitchen towel I bought at Target. I was so enamored with the towel that I put it in my fabric stash instead of the kitchen.

I forgot to take a close up shot of the interior but you can sort of see it in the photo below. It's just a nice, soft, yellow fabric with white flowers.

Cora's basket is the mid-sized one. I used some fabric a friend had passed on from her stash and carefully positioned that rocking pink bird in prominence on the front.

The interior fabric is from scraps I had from the bench I made for Mele last fall. The pink is from the piping I handmade for it.

More photos of the bench can be found here.

Oh to have trimmed that one tiny thread sticking out there on the left. The perfectionist in me cries out in protest. The realist in me refuses to get off the couch to take another photo.

Sometimes. Sometimes I dream about fabric.

True story.

Oooh, you can see the interior fabric in the fruit basket pretty well in that photo.

Isn't it cute how they stair-step in sizes?

Being nautically-minded, the biggest basket is my favorite.

The fabric is remnants from the home-dec weight fabric I bought to make a mattress cover for our bed

So, soon. Soon.

I.can't.even. with this lining fabric. Just look at that buttery-pale yellow & white stripe with the little beach terns trailing their prints behind them in the sand.

You may have noticed that I used a zig-zag stitch on the trim for all these baskets. 

Since I knew that the girls were going to be banging their bags around to kingdom-come, and because I want these to actually be used in real life instead of sitting on a shelf somewhere just looking pretty, I opted for zig-zag over straight stitch.

The former will do a perfect job of going the distance and keeping all the layers of the bag (exterior fabric, interfacing, lining fabric, interfacing, & bias tape) together.

The starfish bag is going out in the mail as a birthday present for a friend. I can't say who because that would ruin the surprise.

Also, here is Lyra just doing her thing.

Ta-ta for now!