Garden Swing Cushions: Version 3.0

Reworking the decorative cushions, along with the cover for our garden swing is now a seasonal tradition.

Let’s stay in bed fingertip towel

The swing sits below an umbrella and the shade of the orange tree but the fabric is still no match for the hot San Jose sun. The swing cover also needs regular reworking as it proves irresistible to the neighborhood squirrels. The cover often ends the season with chew-marks, big and small.

Chewed but still serviceable (former shower curtain)

I’ve reused the same retired bed pillow as a base for several years as it holds up surprisingly well. It’s easily washed and dried and ready for the next season.

I cut the old bed pillow in half and made two smaller cushions for decorative purposes and for impromptu napping.

One year I covered the two pillow halves with a thrift store pillow sham.  The color-coordinated cover is also a thrift store find: a cotton shower curtain pictured below. The squirrels enjoyed working them over as well.

A thrift store pillow sham remade it to cushion covers

The next iteration embraced our mischievous squirrel’s personalities.

I enlarged a couple of my squirrel photos and printed them on inkjet fabric sheets designed to pass through a standard printer. I bought a yard of heavy muslin, cut it in half, and made a simple envelope-style pillow cover. I attached the squirrel photo using fusible tape, then ran a piece of trim on either side.

Squirrel Pillow

My garden oasis (note basket of fabric and fluff as an offering in the nearby orange tree) This year’s cover: a bedsheet with some bias trim

The squirrel pillows lasted four years, but the bedsheet, above only lasted for two. Alas, those cute squirrel faces have faded badly. They look more tatty than vintage so off they go.

Now-faded squirrel print

Faded squirrel photo

The good news is that once again, I’m reusing the same bed pillow and I’ve also reused the muslin and trim. I bought a couple of fingertip towels with a clever play on words last year at a fabric store. I gave one as a gift but I saved the other two towels to once again refurbish the swing cushions.

Muslin finger-tip towels: Let’s stay in bed and Talk dirt to me

Spring 2020: Shower curtain swing cover and reworked cushions

Muslin cushions made with finger-tip towels and recycled trim

My 2020 swing cover is a rerun from last summer: a retired cloth shower curtain. My garden-pun, finger-tip-towels turned cushions give it a fresh new look.

The first time I made a cover for my swing, I spent time and dollars buying beautiful garden-themed upholstery and contrasting trim. I made a bias trim for the peplum and covered cording for the edges. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday with a garden party that year and I wanted it to look nice.

My first swing cover made with outdoor upholstery fabric, contrasting bias trim, and covered cording.

Then a squirrel came along and chewed the entire corner to get access to the soft cotton cording inside. How did she know? I thought at first it would be a simple repair, but she returned to gnaw the bottom half of the swing. That squirrel had a super-soft nest that year.  In the end, the swing cover was a complete loss.

You can’t outsmart nature and you will *never* outsmart a squirrel. Instead, I find inexpensive ways to revive my little oasis from year to year.

Napping on the swing

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

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?

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

A Nesting We Will Go

What do garden swing covers and shower curtains have in common?

Give up?

They’re almost exactly the same size. Serendipity!

After a nesting squirrel did this

squirrel ard at work

Squirrel hard at work

and this

damaged cording, exposed batting

The squirrels have a field day

I knew the swing cover I’d sewn was beyond repair. Eventually I brought in the tattered cover, washed it, and put it in a bag in the car. I planned to use it as a pattern when I got around to making a new one.

The soft cord inside the piping of the cover seemed to be the prize. I cut a strand of leftover cording and draped it on the back of the swing to test my theory. Sure enough, I returned home to find it gone. I took the rest of the cord, cut it into strips, and placed it at the scene of the crime.

There the cord sat. It sat and sat. No more squirrels. Perhaps nesting was complete for the season. Eventually I brought in indoors, figuring I would put it out again next spring.  I don’t want to put the time and effort into a new swing cover, only to have it shredded once again.

Sigh. I acted too soon.

A few weeks ago, an anonymous squirrel was at it again. The swing looked bad enough without the cover when this happened.

shredding the original cover

Shredding the original cover

fluff inside garden swing

Fluff and stuff

It was demoralizing staring at the swing in its damaged state, but I couldn’t muster the energy to do much about it.

Well, this past weekend the husband of a friend came to call, all the way from Australia. We planned a coffee and catch up in the garden, and I wanted a quick fix for the unsightly swing.

Backing up a bit, three years ago I bought a brightly colored shower curtain to use as a patio tablecloth. I couldn’t find a cheerful tablecloth at the time nor did I have the time to sew one.  Twenty-dollars later a tablecloth was born.

Now it’s getting a second life as an impromptu swing cover. Serendipity!

shower curtain swing cover

Quick shower curtain fix

shower curtain swing cover

Shower curtain, side and back. I eventually added binder clips to hold it in place.

Although I can’t speak with authority, I expect to see a dray of baby squirrels traversing the wires any day now.

Caught in the Act!

My apologies to the rats, crows and mice of the neighborhood.  You’ve all been unjustly blamed for the damage to my swing cover. Today this brazen squirrel continued her destruction.  Here she is: caught in the act!

squirrel Gathering nesting material

Gathering nesting material

squirrel on garden swing

Let me just put this back for you

She barely looked up when the camera flashed, then went back to the  business of chewing. She ran off when I stepped outside. I decided to cut my losses at that point, and pulled out what remained of the soft cord.  I draped it along the back of the swing, fairly sure she’d return when I turned my back.

I came back mid-afternoon after a few appointments and there she was again, this time under the swing. She’d pulled the cover half off. Rather than shredding the offered cord, she took the entire length back to her presumed nest. I’m sorry to have missed that photo opportunity.

My swing cover is beyond repair now. Perhaps the ‘silver lining’ is knowing that part of the cover will be keeping tiny squirrels warm and comfortable in a nearby tree.

Enjoying the 4th

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States. My teenage boys have outgrown the 4th of July parade, so I’ve re-purposed all their 4th of July sparkle. I gathered the ribbons, pinwheels,and other bits of red, white and blue once used to adorn their bikes and added some bling to the garden.  Doesn’t the pumpkin patch look festive?

pumpkin patch 4th of July

Pumpkins, sunflowers and some 4th of July bling

4th of July decorations

Patriotic watering can

fairy garden candles

Fairy garden bling

It’s a funny thing celebrating American Independence Day when you’re a Canadian ex-patriot with a British father. I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud. So in my heart I’ll celebrate independence for all the citizens of the world. Let freedom ring.

My Beloved Garden Swing Takes a Hit

Our bedroom has the best view from the house thanks to a sliding glass door that runs the width of the room. Looking out into the garden is a great way to start my day. We have a tiny fountain on the patio, a hummingbird feeder nearby, trees, flowers and my beloved garden swing.

Re-covered Garden Swing

Re-covered Garden Swing

My family gave me the swing for Mother’s Day several years ago, something I’ve always longed for.  It’s lovely sitting there in the evenings with my husband or one of the cats. When my boys were younger, they would sit with me too.

The metal frame of the swing held up nicely, but the cushions took a beating from their time in the sun.  A few years ago I made a slip cover, giving it a fresh new look. I spent a fair amount of time at the fabric store, mulling over my choices, and figuring out a pattern in my head. The swing went from a weathered, tan-colored seat to a bright floral.

I bought the outdoor upholstery fabric on sale, along with piping cord and elastic to hold the cover in place. Using a coordinating fabric, I made strips of pink bias to trim the skirt and to pipe the edges.

garden swing cover

In other words, this wasn’t just any old swing cover.

When my eyes swept the landscape early yesterday morning, I noticed the swing cover folded back.  My mind couldn’t quite make sense of this, since I tie the corners securely with neat little bows.

garden swing damage

What happened here?

I investigated and found this:

damaged cording, exposed batting

This is the soft center they were after

To my dismay, a critter with determination and sharp teeth chewed through the ties and the trim in order to get to the soft cord inside. How could they have known it was there? The entire corner of the cover is toast.

left cover

The left corner…

right corner cover

…and the right corner.

I know there’s a lesson here, because that’s what is often said about life. Am I right? I’m just too dismayed at the moment to figure that out.

The Tale of the Traveling Shoji Screen

 

I’m a big fan of Shoji Screens, the light-weight room dividers originating in Japan.  In my alternate universe, the one without cats and boys and a clumsy gardener (that’s me) I have a house with sliding paper walls.  In my real world, I almost pulled it off…

The Screen:

Damaged Shoji Screen

Damaged Shoji Screen

My son created a “technology corner” in the living room a few years back, a cozy place to hang out and to store his hand-held gaming system.  It was an unsightly collection of cords and blankets, but who was I to stifle his creativity.  That said, I was desperate for an attractive way to hide it from view. His upended gym mat did the job but offended my sense of aesthetics.

On the other side of town, my friend Barbara was ready to part with a paper Shoji screen.  Lucky me!  It was the perfect solution.  For months the lovely white screen hid things from view and everyone was happy.

The Deck:

You’ve no-doubt heard that boys become young men. Sitting at a desk with a real computer suddenly has more appeal.  In a flash, the Shoji screen was no longer necessary.  Happy to use it elsewhere, I took it outside to use on the deck.  It looked so pretty with the sun shining through, while effectively filtering the heat.  Within minutes a breeze upended the screen, toppled it over the settee and tore a gaping hole in the paper-like covering.  No!!!

The Dye:

Tie Dye at Laura's

Tie Dye at Laura’s

My crafty, self-described hippie friend Laura took one look at the damaged screen and suggested I re-cover it with a panel of tie-dyed silk.  What a great idea! She hosts a tie-dye party in her driveway each year, setting up assorted dyes for a free-for-all.  It’s great fun.

We shopped for silk, but found it pricey at $25 a yard. Instead, I bought an end-piece of cotton muslin wide enough to cover all three panels for less than $12 bucks.

The Shift:

Re-covered Garden Swing

Re-covered Garden Swing

After dying, setting and re-washing the fabric, it was ready to go. I was nervous tackling this new project, so I kept putting it off.  Yesterday, as I cleaned and prepped for my book club, I had a garden epiphany. While brushing pine needles off the garden swing I remembered the extra fabric. In early May I re-covered the swing and planned on making toss cushions with the remnants. I wondered if I had enough to make a matching screen instead?

Re-covered Shoji Screen

Re-covered Shoji Screen

Kismet!  I had exactly enough fabric to cover the screen.  The heavy-duty, sun-friendly Sunbrella fabric would be the perfect complement to the swing, while at the same time providing a sturdy panel. The leftover pink trim was just enough to cover the sideboard.

I had a similar mental shift when I realized that my tie-dyed panel would make a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, softly draping table-cloth.

Oops! Cheese-Lover

Oops! Cheese-Lover

I glued and stapled my way to a paneled screen, then hauled out the iron and the pinking-shears and by days end I was able to entertain my book-loving friends in style.

Call me crazy!  Then share a story of your own in the comments below.