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.


The Seamstress of Swing: Sew What?

Before and After

I can swing again!

Several interruptions, one broken needle, and thirty minutes of hair-pulling later trying to trouble shoot the fancy electronics on the Bernina and the swing cover is finally done.  Working without a pattern was challenging, but I enjoyed myself.  Alternating between sewing machine and garden, I worked my way through trial fittings as I went along.

I made bias tape for the piping, trim and ties using a continuous bias technique I’ve not used in years.  Thank you Google search and my fellow bloggers for the tutorials.

The swing cover slips on and off in less than two minutes, so it will be a breeze to remove it for cleaning.

We celebrate Mike’s 50th tomorrow with a small gathering of friends (in the back yard of course).  Do you think it would be unseemly for me to take a nap mid-party?

Sew What? A Swing Cover

Sultan of Swing

Sultan of Swing

Make it Modern: How to sew continuous bias or binding.

Friday Already?

Progress?  It’s my middle name.  But…still much to do.


The swing needed a good cleaning so I scrubbed it twice to remove the winter muck.  It looks and smells better, but now it’s wet and drying in the sun.

Swing Cover:

In between scrubbing, I took measurements and cut the fabric for the swing cover.  Instead of re-upholstering the entire swing, I’m making a slip cover that will fit snugly but remove easily for cleaning and off-season storage.  Imagine my delight when I found wide elastic in the two colors I need, green for the front and tan for the back.  The plan is to secure the cover by crossing straps over the back and around the middle, like a belt.  I’m going to experiment with a few scraps of elastic to give it a more upholstered look by stitching it to the back side of the seat cover to emulate tucks.

Fabric and Trim

Garden Bench/Buffet:

My former garden bench now serves as a buffet or side bar, sitting next to our outdoor table. I’ve considered sanding and repainting it, but I’ve grown fond of the bench’s slightly battered charm. The earthquake kit resides inside the bench, but the top is the perfect surface to set up drinks. I found three inexpensive place-mats at Target, that when placed side by side, make a perfect surface cover. They can be wiped clean and stored off-season as well.

Side Board with New Place Mats

Close Up: I like the matching chevron

Fairy Garden Redux:

Back in April when we planted the back garden, my son wanted to add a small fountain nestled in the rocks near the fairy garden. He was gracious about it, suggesting we relocate the fairy garden to the other side of the yard. The big rocks were the ideal location for a fountain, he reasoned, and I agreed. Since the wee garden was more about creative expression than any thing else, I let him go ahead and experiment with his own creativity.   He used the small water pump from one of his building kits, an old Tupperware bowl and a trash bag, creating a trickling waterfall and a fountain.  Just as quickly, he lost interest.

Earlier this week I removed the sheet of black plastic used for the fountain, unearthing an ant colony. Hundreds of ants scattered everywhere. I waited for the nest activity to settle down  Then I pulled a small clay pot and a plant saucer from the side yard, added a few Impatiens and created a portable fairy garden in its place. I reused the hydroponic clay and the “stepping-stones” from the earlier fairy garden to create a mini patio.The table stand is a peat pod draped with a fern table-cloth, accessorized with a pair of magnets. The chairs are part of a stacking game.

Portable Fairy Garden

Fairy Garden Close-up


Mike brought home a bouquet of mixed flowers yesterday, and to my delight and surprise, there are exactly two, long-stemmed yellow blooms! They’ll look great in the cobalt blue beer bottles I set aside, along with the pink flowers tucked into one of my soy candle jars.

My sewing machine awaits!

Magic of Swing

I dreamed of a garden swing for years, but it seemed like such an extravagance. Stylish and pricey swings graced the pages of Grandin Road catalogs and the garden section of Sunset Magazine, teasing me with the seductive possibilities of life with a swing. When my youngest son was still small we would “test drive” all the display models at our local Home Depot garden center.

Then in 2009 I spotted a swing in town for under $200. Though it wasn’t a high-end model it looked sturdy and it was comfortable. The seats were cushioned and the back had built-in head rests and a canopy to fend off the sun. It was perfect! We snapped one up and my husband assembled it for me for Mother’s Day.

Had I known that swings had magical powers I would have splurged years ago! Whenever I wandered outside to sit on my swing, a kind of hypnotic trance took over. Suddenly, swinging was more important than answering email or tossing a load of laundry into the dryer. Invisible hands lulled me. I could barely move.

My boys were drawn to the swing, too. I would trek outdoors and before I knew it I had company on the swing. Back and forth we would go, swish-swish, swish-swish, swish-swish. Feuding cats set aside their differences and joined me on the magical swing, paws curled in as they settled into the deep cushions.

If I had to make a phone call, I figured I may as well do it from the swing. I pretended to read my book out there, but in short order the sun and swing led to slumber.

After three seasons under the noon day sun, my swing needs a little TLC.  I’ve got my eye on some new fabric, part revitalization, part disguise.  If the shopkeeper ever learned about the magical powers they would undoubtedly find a way to double the price.

Mother's Day Two-Fer