ScrapHappy April

I’m joining Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia once again for her monthly scrap-happy blog post. The challenge is to use scraps from other projects to make something useful, beautiful or both. Several bloggers post once a month showcasing a project made entirely from scraps.

pair of cats for adoption

Lily and Petunia waiting for adoption while enjoying their cat beds. Photo credit: B. Solovei

This has been a two-part project. I wanted to make cat beds for an animal rescue group using scraps of fabric, old pillows and discarded clothing. I started last summer before the triple-digit heat set in.  It was simply too hot to do anything but huddle together in the one room with our portable AC unit. I made three cat beds, and then put the entire project on hold till the weather cooled.

The first photograph below, shows all my scraps spread out on the floor along with some old bed pillows passed on to me by a client.

The grey sweater and aqua terry cloth robe belonged to my sister. They were ready for the scrap heap, but instead I repurposed them into cat beds as pictured above.

Scraps of material and clothing cast-offs

Cutting and repairing my sister’s grey sweater for one side of the pillow. Using a terry cloth pool coverup and part of my swing cover for a second pillow. Lindy loved having piles of scraps all over the floor

Tessa loved playing in the pile of scraps. She was still a kitten when I took these pics.

Cat beds made from fabric scraps

I stuffed the pillow on the left with fabric scraps and bit of batting. The scraps proved too heavy, so I made the rest of the cat beds using old pillows. The grey sweater made it into two pillows. Two old items of clothing are used on the reverse side of each pillow

Setting this project aside had an upside. Belinda, who volunteers for Nike animal rescue let me know that smaller, narrower pillows would be a better fit for the temporary cat enclosures.

cat beds

The second batch of cat beds

My second batch of cat beds are smaller. Tessa hopped up on the bench while I took photos, lending perspective to their size.

Tessa on the potting bench with cat beds

Tessa likes to be where the action is

Tessa with cat beds

Tessa checking out the cat beds

Each of the cat beds has a little story.

cat beds, side one

Cat beds, side one

The floral fabric is left over from recovering my patio furniture a few years ago. I sewed two scraps together to make it large enough for the pillow. The second pillow is a remnant my friend Marcia used to wrap a Christmas gift a few years back. The third pillow uses part of one of the pillows I used to stuff the cat beds. I covered the last two with leftover leopard fabric from a Halloween costume I made a few years back.

cat beds, side two

Cat beds, side two

I backed each cat bed with additional scraps scavenged from my sister’s worn pool cover up, a client’s old, stained sweatshirt and my tattered purple workout jacket.

I still have two, king-sized pillows to use for future cat beds. I really enjoyed this “scrap-happy” project.

Nike Animal Rescue Foundation

Nike Animal Rescue Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to providing assistance to cats and dogs in need. All the cats and dogs available for adoption can be viewed here on the site. We hold adoption fairs in the South Bay several times a month where you can see all the pets in person. You can read more about their volunteer efforts here.

From Kate’s blog:

“ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? You can email Kate at the address on her  Contact Me page. New members are welcome. No long-term commitment required. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.”

Have you made something entirely out of scraps lately? Please share your link in the comments section, below.

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?

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

Blogging 101: All About Alys and Some Bunting for Fran

There’s a first time for everything, right? I’ve never included my name in the title before, and frankly it’s a bit weird. Since one of the goals of Blogging 101 is to stretch yourself, I’m doing just that. So, there it is Alys, front and center.

We’re tackling our About Page today. We start by jotting down a few ideas along with descriptors of who we are and what we’re about. With scribbled notes and ideas in hand, we’re to write enticing prose that will attract readers far and wide. Not just any old reader, but the reader who waits breathlessly for your next post.

Or something like that.

In other words, if you write a decent about page, you’ll attract ‘your people.’

Last week Pauline suggested I take an excerpt from one of my posts and include it on my about page. Then up popped this assignment. Life is grand when the dots connect.

Bunting for Fran

Speaking of Pauline, she proposed a Random Act of Kindness on her blog in November, then collaborated with The Snail of Happiness. You can read more about this charming act of giving here and here. Together they decided that Fran’s garden needed bunting. For those of us joining in, the only parameters were to include a margin a the top of the bunting for threading and since it would hang in her garden sanctuary, could it please be weatherproofed. I hemmed and hawed over this one, a bit stumped for suitable outdoor material. Eventually I settled on burlap. Not only is it natural and rugged, but it reminds me of the material enclosing Sanctuary on all sides. Fran and Steve garden in Tasmania, Australia, home to a LOT of voracious creatures. Without its enclosure, the garden becomes a free for all.

Something Old, Something New

Here’s what I did. I bought a roll of narrow burlap, then divided it into seven sections. After creating a notched template out of a piece of cardboard, I cut and hemmed each section at the top. All the other edges are raw. With my sewing machine, I zig-zag stitched all the remaining edges to discourage unraveling.

burlap bunting template

The new part for me was printing on sheets of fabric. That was so cool!  The sheets, manufactured by The Electric Quilt Company, feed through your printer. There are only six sheets to a package so I crossed my fingers and toes and hoped the printer was in a good mood that day.

I downloaded seven photos from Fran’s blog, then printed them as 4 x 6 images on to the cotton satin fabric sheets. It worked!

photos printed on cotton

After peeling the backing, I ironed the cloth, then cut all four edges with my scalloped paper-cutter, again holding my breath. I practiced on a few scraps, then I went for it.

burlap bunting collage

Bunting Assembly: Garden photos copyrighted The Road to Serendipity

Finally, I attached the photos at the corners with a bit of thread and some crystal beads to catch the light. The panels thread through a strand of parachute cord, available at craft stores for about three bucks.

crystal bead detail

Detail: small crystal beads sewn at each corner

burlap bunting closeup

Burlap Bunting Close-up

burlap bunting finished

Burlap Bunting

I’m almost certain there is one more banner floating around the blogosphere, so if I’ve missed anyone, please share the link and I’ll edit this post accordingly.

Just one more thing before you go: if you have a minute, will you please take a look at my About Page? Constructive criticism welcome. This has been the most difficult assignment to date.