Throw Pillows: Squirrels as My Muse

If you’ve been out of the habit of sewing for a while, throw pillows are a great way to get back in the game. They’re quick and easy and they’re a lot of fun.

Earlier this summer, while sewing new covers for the deck furniture, I made a couple of toss pillows for the garden swing. I bought a yard of unbleached muslin for a few dollars, cut it in half, and made a  pair of fold over slip covers. With squirrels as my muse, I enlarged a couple of photos from the garden, then printed them on inkjet fabric sheets.

The idea of printing on fabric is still a marvel to me. I used printable fabric once before to make a banner (bunting) for Fran who blogs at The Road To Serendipity.

burlap bunting finished

Bunting for Fran: Burlap and photos on printable fabric

I’ve been searching for a photo-fabric project ever since.

The neighborhood squirrels cause all sorts of mischief, but I love them anyway. I thought it would be funny to plop a pair of pillows at the “scene of the crime”, the very place where they like to chew on the swing cover.

I didn’t just make covers though. I bought a small, twine basket at the same fabric store and attached it to the tree nearby with a piece of twine. I filled the basket with left over fabric strips, cat fur, soft wool scraps from a felting project AND part of last year’s swing cover, previously nibbled on by the squirrels.

basket of nesting material

A basket of potential nesting material. Birds and squirrels welcome

nesting material basket august

Guess what? It worked! Not only is the swing cover unharmed, at least so far, but the nesting material is dwindling. It sat untouched for a while, then small amounts disappeared. Last week, they all but emptied the basket. Time to refill it, STAT.

If you’ve never used the printable fabric sheets, they’re quite amazing. You simply feed them through your printer like a piece of paper. After printing your photo, let it stand for 15 minutes. Then you peel of the backing, soak the fabric in room-temperature water for 10 minutes, rinse and lay flat to dry.

Squirrel photo printed on an inkjet fabric sheet

Fresh off the press: Squirrel photo printed on an inkjet fabric sheet

I used printable fabric sheets from The Electric Quilt Company but there are a number of brands on the market.

Here’s one more look at the pillows. I smile every time I see them.

Come nap with the squirrels

Come nap with the squirrels

Clothes Dryer Update:

If you’ve been following my clothes dryer saga, here’s the latest. I wish I could write the denouement, but alas that must wait for a time when all the stars align and I have a working appliance once again. [insert dramatic sigh here]

It was a dark and stormy night…in my head anyway. I called the sales rep at Airport Appliance, the company that sold us the dryer. I explained that the repairs provided by Meyer Appliance continued to fail. He was courteous and sympathetic, contacted a rep at Fisher & Paykel, the dryer manufacturer, and within an hour I received two calls, one from the regional sales manager. He said they had to make one more attempt to repair the appliance before they could replace it. They want to send out Meyer Appliance again even though they’ve failed to repair it in their shop or in my home, twice. Though they’ve been out four times, they only count the actual attempts at the repair. Meanwhile, the laundry piles up for our family of four as I try to find other ways to deal with my stress that don’t involve reaching for chocolate. Stay tuned.

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Re-covering the Garden Swing: The 2016 Edition

It’s become a bit of a hobby of mine. I like re-covering the garden swing every year.

Not!

I just finished sewing my third cover, not counting the original, for my beloved swing.

garden swing cover 2016

Garden swing cover, the bed sheet edition

I blame the squirrels. I’m not being mean here. I have photographic proof of the carnage. It’s become a bit of a neighborhood tradition to dismantle parts of my swing cover each year. Apparently they haul it off and line their nests.

My boys gave me this swing for Mother’s Day in 2009. I love it! It’s a relaxing place to hang out during the warmer months, and it gives me a wonderful view of my garden.

garden swing may 2009

Mother’s Day, May, 2009

The swing came with a tan-colored cover, suitable for the outdoors. It lasted a few years, but weather and time took its toll. I decided to buy some nice upholstery fabric to make a colorful slip cover for the swing. I bought contrasting pink fabric and soft, cotton piping for trim and fashioned my pattern after the original.

garden swing cover

My first swing cover, 2012

It turned out well.

Then one 4th of July I came home to a squirrel chewing on the back of the swing. She was after the soft cotton piping. How she knew it was there under the fabric is anyone’s guess. She chewed through the fabric to access the cord, then pulled it out and was on her way. Our block party was under way, so I couldn’t stay long. I came back inside, found the leftover piping and cut it into smaller strips. I draped them over the back of the swing, and sure enough, they were all carted away by the following day. Sadly, they didn’t stop there and by year’s end they had damaged the slip cover AND part of the original cover, this time after the fluff.

aqua swing cover collage

Garden swing rehab using a thrift store shower curtain, 2015

Last summer I went with a quick and easy cover. I found a blue cotton shower curtain at a thrift store for $4. Instead of putting a lot of time into sewing a cover, I simply attached a few ties to the back using a scrap of material on hand and called it done. Of course I had to re-stuff and repair the swing seat first, which I did using an old pillow and a tired looking tea towel.

My shower curtain fix worked for months, but eventually the squirrels got to it as well. Not quite as bad, but chewed nonetheless.

Off I went to my favorite thrift store, but this year no luck. I couldn’t find any shower curtains or fabric remnants that would work. I drooled over some pretty fabric at JoAnn’s Fabrics, but left after coming to my senses. I finally settled for a set of soft, cotton sheets from Target.

I used the fitted sheet to make the cover and bought some $3 bias trim in a coordinating color to trim the bottom edge. Now I have a second sheet to use next year and a pair of pillowcases for another project. Score!

I removed the elasticized edge of the fitted sheet and set it aside. In order to keep the sheet cover from slipping, I stitched the elasticized pieces together into one long length, then tied it at the back of the swing.

garden swing elastic

Removing the elastic from the fitted sheet

garden swing cover sewing machine detail

Stitching the lengths of elastic together to hold the swing cover in place

garden swing cover detail

This holds the cover in place, staying hidden under the fold

Here’s the definition of a hobby:

noun:

1.
an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.
“her hobbies are reading and gardening”

Using this definition, it makes perfect sense that I would “regularly” make a garden swing cover “in my leisure time” while the squirrels laugh at me “for pleasure.”

Little stinkers!

squirrel closeup on umbrella

A Stitch in Time

Do you know the expression, “A stitch in time saves nine?” It’s a sewing metaphor, admonishing that if you don’t fix it now, you’ll have even more work down the line.

That’s no fun.

Instead I’m going with “A stitch in time is fine”…and lovely, and extraordinary and appreciated beyond measure. (Oh no, another sewing metaphor).

Check out  the lovely stitches from my dear friends Marlene and Marcia.

Marlene loves to sew and quilt. She’s also a master of machine embroidery. Look at this gorgeous piece.

Marlene's embroidery books and flowers

Embroidered Panel

I dropped a metaphorical stitch when I unwrapped it. Isn’t it lovely? She’s captured my passion for gardening and books, my love of color and flower-arranging and wrapped it all up with beautifully blended threads and the perfect quote:

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

I would add that if you have friends like Marlene, you are lucky indeed.

Marlene shares her generous talents far and wide. She quilts for a cause, makes beautiful gifts for friends and writes warm, caring and thoughtful comments throughout the blogosphere. If you haven’t had the pleasure, you can find her at In Search of it All.

This beautiful tea towel is also a gift from Marlene. When I was a girl, personalized items were all the rage, but I could never find anything with the name Alys. I still get a little boost from seeing my name embroidered on this towel.

Marlene's embroidery Alys' kitchen

Embroidered Tea Towel

This whimsical linen calendar is a gift from my friend, Marcia. We met over thirty years ago when we worked together in a costume shop in Santa Rosa. Marcia is a skilled pattern maker and a wonderful seamstress. Like Marlene, her hands are always busy sewing and crocheting lovely gifts. Last year she sent a hand-made apron, wrapped in a fabric remnant.

The linen calendar came wrapped in a pattern piece. Cool, eh?  She finished the top of the calendar  with seam-binding to allow for a dowel. The edges are a pretty zig-zag pattern. Again, all my favorite colors and themes: watering cans, flowers, birds and cats and the wonderful color palette.

The calendar is hanging in our guest room and it looks right at home.

All three of these pieces inspire me, and make me realize how much I miss sewing.

I’m going to turn Marlene’s embroidery into a cushion cover now, and will do the same with Marcia’s calendar when the year is over.

How about you? Have friends inspired you to creativity this year?

 

Marcia's calendar

Linen Calendar

Napping Pillows

garden swing cushions side view

Napping pillows

It’s been a whole week since I slip-covered my swing. Emboldened by my success (no shredding squirrels) I went ahead and made a couple of pillows to go with it. If you’re going to nap on a swing, pillows are a must.

Using the same criteria for the cover, i.e. cheap and easy, here is what I did:

I bought a pillow sham from our local Goodwill for $1.59. On the plus side, the tiny aqua polka dots coordinated well with my new slip cover and you can’t beat the price. The downside: all those fussy ruffles.  On careful inspection, I knew I could remove them without damaging the rest of the sham.

Pillow sham with ruffles

Thrift store pillow sham with ruffles

After cutting away the larger sections of the ruffle, I used my seam ripper to remove the remaining thread. This sort of ‘lap work’ is therapeutic.

Pillow sham with ruffles removed-001

Pillow sham after removing ruffles

With the ruffles and stitches gone, I cut the sham in half. I did the same with an old pillow.

old pillow

Tired pillow gets a new life

I inserted each half of the pillow with the open end first so that the finished pillow seam pointed up. This made it easier to sew the opening of the sham closed. Voila, napping pillows at the ready.

garden swing with cushions

Nap-ready

What were you up to this weekend?

Campus Quilt Gem

t shirt side of quilt-005

For years I’ve seen ads like this in the back of magazines. You send in a pile of t-shirts and they come back to you as a quilt. A few of my clients have mentioned the idea to me as well but I don’t know anyone who followed through.

Though I love to sew, I’ve never learned to quilt. I lack the patience, but love the idea and the finished results. The idea of making sentimental clothing into a functioning quilt however, intrigued me. In the ‘old days’ most discarded clothing saw a new life as a quilt. Nothing went to waste.

So after helping my sister clean out some drawers, we decided to turn her small pile of keepsake t-shirts into a sentimental quilt.

sharon explains the quilt

Sharon worked on this ad campaign at The Mercury News

Campus Quilts has the ordering process down to a science. I made a deposit online, then ordered a package with directions. They send you a large waterproof envelope for mailing your shirts, along with assorted fabric swatches and a detailed order form. You let them know what order to place your shirts, what kind of backing you want and if you want strips of fabric between each shirt. We opted for the strips and it turned out nicely.

t shirt side of quilt

Four shirts, including one with a button placket

The dark fabric frames each panel.  There are two styles of machine quilting and even an option to add photo panels or an embroidered name.

t shirt side of quilt-001

Closeup of purple flannel backing and machine stitches

Our design is a simple one, but turned out even better than we imagined. Sharon chose her favorite color for the back of the quilt and black for the framing.

We’re tickled pink.

Sharon with quilt

The quilt is big and cozy

tshirt side of quilt-005

The boys were nice enough to hold up the quilt for the photo, but asked to remain incognito

The Shirts:

Top row, San Jose Mercury News and a pair of wildlife t-shirts
2nd row, A gift from Mike, work shirts from Zazzle and Pindar (no she never went to prison)
3rd row, More shirts from Pindar
4th row, Shirts from the Spartan Daily, San Jose State University

Swinging into Action

aqua swing collage
I like to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a small pile of mending. The cats gather ’round as buttons return to their proper place. It’s therapeutic.

Unfortunately my garden swing is too big to bring indoors. So as the sun set on a warm Sunday afternoon, I sat in the garden instead. More specifically, I knelt, squatted and contorted my body around the edges of my damaged swing. You can read more about the squirrel damage here.

torn swing

Busy squirrels make quick work of my swing

I’ve been gathering materials for the job at hand with the following criteria: the repairs had to be cheap and easy. I spent hours on the original swing cover only to see it destroyed by a nesting squirrel. I love all animals, including squirrels and after all, Sunday was Mother’s Day. Mama squirrel is just looking for fluff to line her nest. My goal: restore the swing so that it’s attractive and functional, but with a minimal investment of time and money.

Here’s what I did:

After trimming away the damaged cover I cut the remaining polyfill stuffing till the edges were even. Using the stuffing from a worn out cushion, I filled in the area, then covered it with part of an old tea towel. It was challenging, working my needle and thread around the edges of the swing, but I wanted the stitches to be small and taught. It doesn’t look pretty, but once covered it doesn’t matter.

swing repair with tea towel

Tea towel repair

I used a bit of Nature’s Miracle to clean the rest of the surface stains. Now to make it look pretty again.

I found a cloth shower curtain at a local thrift store. I liked the cheerful print and the fact that it matches my blue end-tables. It took about 15 minutes to make the cover with minimal sewing.

I draped the curtain over the swing, tucking a few inches underneath the built in pillow running along the swing’s top edge. I draped the rest of the curtain over the back. By hand, I took a few stitches through the folds of the swing cover, then attached a couple of ties to hold it in place.

Covering the built-in cushion

Covering the built-in cushion

new swing cover ties

Swing ties for easy removal

recovered swing aqua

Swinging into action

All told, I probably spent a few hours putting it all together and for under $10.

Materials On Hand:

  • polyfill batting from old cushion
  • tea towel from the rag-bag
  • fabric ties made from thrift store remnant

Purchased:

  • thrift shop shower curtain, $6
swing, table and flowers

Ready for relaxing (pot filled with stuffing nearby)

As for the squirrels, I’ve left them a peace-offering. I took all the scraps from the damaged swing, shredded them into small pieces, and stuffed them into an empty pot near the swing.  As I was finishing up, I heard rustling in the bushes, then saw what I think is a baby possum climbing the fence. I called to my boys to grab the camera and they shot a few pics as the little one ambled along the fence. She exited the yard through the lattice. At least she was heading away from the swing.

opossum or rat?

Baby opossum or rat?

 

Revitalizing my Garden Swing: The Squirrel Dilemma

garden swing cover

Making a cover for the swing

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I made a cover for my swing a few years ago after one too many years in the sun and rain. It looked great for a couple of seasons, but last July a nesting squirrel started taking it apart. The soft cotton cording was the first to go. Mama squirrel returned to remove the rest of the upper corner and at that point the cover was beyond repair. Originally I thought I would sew a new cover, but omit the nest-worthy piping. Apparently the poly fill is just as appealing. They’ve been making off with that for the last month as well.

garden swing damage

The squirrel folded back the corner, then chewed through the piping

garden swing exposed stuffing

My half-hearted attempt at covering the swing with a bright shower curtain

My neighbor saw the squirrel race through his yard with a mouthful of white batting last month and thought the squirrel was foaming at the mouth. We had a good laugh over that one. Last week I found a small scrap of the pink fabric used for the piping underneath the orange tree. We now have two squirrel’s nests in the tree in addition to the ‘condo’s going up in our neighbor’s tree.

swing stuffing and blanket

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse

So, what do I do with the swing? At this point, I need to replace the stuffing and make a new cover. I’m reluctant to spend money on the higher-quality outdoor fabric, only to have it shredded once again, but anything cheaper will fade quickly, so that doesn’t seem like a good use of money either. I did provide a nice offering for their nest last year, but it wasn’t enough. They took all the leftover piping, the strands of yarn, part of the swing upholstery and the batting.

What would you do?

2015 Squirrels in the garden

Mischievous and cute