Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pants to Purse Upcycle

I randomly decided that I needed to make myself a new purse last week. Sometimes when I'm working on one (or more) large projects I just need to make something quick and simple. It actually helps when I've gotten too bogged down with the big project to have a little sewing commercial break, so to speak. In this case, a purse.

I'd seen the pattern for The Buttercup Bag at Made By Rae last summer, and I just loved it, so I finally printed out the pattern and decided to give it a try.  I have to say, one of the things that appealed to me most about this purse is the size. It's nice and small, which I love after years of carting around a diaper bag! Now, don't get me wrong, I love a tote bag....but I usually save those for project specific purposes like scrapbooking or knitting.

Another thing that I sometimes get hung up on is picking the right fabric for a project. Sometimes I see the fabric and just know what it needs to be, even if I don't have exactly the right furniture or pattern for it so of course I buy it anyway (which explains why I have so much fabric in my stash!).  But in this case, I had the pattern and several good fabric choices, and I couldn't pick one. But then I dug down to the bottom of my "working" basket and found an old pair of pants that I'd picked up at the thrift store last summer. And there it was, my purse fabric!

Yes, pants. Actually, women's size 14 capri pants to be exact. I remember seeing these in the store and thinking; love the fabric, but as pants?! So, I went ahead and bought them. I figured I'd find them a new purpose someday.

And it seems that I had. I gathered up the pattern pieces, the pants, the red polka dots for the lining and the black polka dot as a bias trim and got to work. 

For the most part I followed her instructions, which you can find step by step here. The only things I did differently, were to add 2 pockets in the lining instead of one, and a zipper rather than a snap as the top closure. 

So my lining ended up looking like this---

I added a strip of black polka dot bias between the top and bottom of the purse as well as the top of the pockets. So, when I had all the pieces assembled, here's what I had---

The zipper was tricky. I am sure there's an easier way to put a zipper in a purse than the way I did it, but last night I just couldn't figure it out, so I just sandwiched it between the outer purse fabric and the lining and topstitched it in place. I found these really fun zippers on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics so I left some of the zipper tape showing.

And now I have a cute new purse for the summer! Made from a pair of pants, how fun is that?

I think I am going to take it out to lunch tomorrow to celebrate!

What have you upcycled??

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Little Bits to Knit

I love knitting. I am sure I've mentioned that before, but I've gone off on another knitting spree, and this one is especially wonderful because it involves projects that can be finished in ONE evening! Ahhh, I love quick  projects that result in instant gratification, don't you?

It started about a month ago with a random ball of yarn. I bought one skein of purple cotton yarn from the sale table at one of Tucson's great local yarn shops, Kiwi Knitting Company.  One skein. 85 yards. To be honest, I can't remember if there were more on the table or not, but I bought only one. I have no idea what I was thinking. Most knitters (or crocheters) don't buy only one skein of anything. It's usually not enough to do anything with, unless you have a plan.

Which I did not. Call it an impulse buy. So after finishing up 2 knitted cowls in April, I was looking for a quick project and I found the purple ball of yarn at the bottom of one of my yarn bags. Then I went looking on Ravelry for a something small to knit, and sure enough, I found the perfect thing.

Knitted washcloths! I love them! They're easy to knit up, there are all kinds of different patterns, which is a good way to try something new or practice something you're struggling with. (I am still trying to master a feather and fan pattern.) Plus, my kids love them! They're actually sad when they have to use regular washcloths now.

Not long after I started on them, Michael's had a sale on it's cotton Sugar 'n Cream yarn. Only $1 for a small skein, so I went out and bought a bunch, naturally. But at least this time I had a plan! I am going to turn this beautiful pile of yarn into as many hand knitted washcloths as I can.

I've used a simple stockinette square with a garter stitch border, one with a basket weave pattern, the green one (color chosen by my son), is an alien pattern by Nicole Randome, and the purple is her butterfly cloth

And still I had a small amount of yarn left over from some of the washcloths! I hate to waste pretty yarn, so I was super excited when I found the pattern for these little Owls on Ravelry. Making these is also good practice for increasing, using double pointed needles, and how not to accidentally turn your work inside out while knitting in the round. (yes, that is the voice of experience speaking)

So, now I have a bunch of these little guys.

Aren't they cute??  Mostly, they hang out on our bookshelves.  I do move them around the house from time to time. Because they need a change of scenery.   I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I have a....flock? herd??....what is a bunch of owls called?

In the meantime, Happy Knitting!!

Edited to add: Thanks to heatherriffic for looking this up and letting me know, a group of owls is called a "parliament".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Queen Anne Chairs Drab to Fab

My first project for Chrissy's new house was a set of Queen Anne chairs left by the former owners. They are great chairs, nice and big and comfortable, but the fabric was old, worn and not to her taste at all. But if you have a chair frame in good condition, it's easy to make a chair new again simply by reupholstering it.

Here is the chair before. The fabric is in serious need of some updating, am I right?

So Chrissy went to the fabric store with some yardage estimates and brought back not one, but two gorgeous coordinating fabrics for the chairs. A grey stripe for the front, seat and arms and a yellow lattice for the back.

So, I got to work. I started by stripping the old fabric off the chairs, beginning in the back. (Usually, I'd start with the bottom, but the fabric on these chairs doesn't wrap underneath anywhere, so I didn't need to undo the bottom.) I started on the bottom and sides and worked my way to the top.

This is what it looked like once the back fabric was totally removed.  Next, I pulled off the piping around the edge and the pieces of batting so that I could get to the staples underneath.  Once that was done, I found myself looking at a ton of staples in the front piece of fabric, especially around the top curves. This is one thing I despise about stripping newer commercially made furniture, the total overuse of staples. It can be very aggravating, so my advice here would be to put on your most patient cap and take as many breaks as you need in order to avoid injury. Or getting so irritated that you're tempted to light the furniture on fire.

I am not exaggerating, that is a ridiculous amount of staples.  But let's move on.....

Once the fabric is loose from the frame, I just pulled it gently from the front and the back is stripped.

Next I took the bottom piece off. It's important with this kind of chair to pull the staples out using the tack puller from the fabric side. If you brace the tack puller on the wooden frame, it will get damaged.

Last I removed the arm fabric. I worked from the bottom then from the back to the front. Way less staples here, so it was much easier.

And finally, I had a naked chair! I did a happy dance.

Now for the fun part. The new fabric! I started with the bottom. Since I was using a fabric with nice wide stripes, I marked the center of the chair seat and back on the batting with a yellow Sharpie. Then I found the center of my stripe and lined them up. ( For beginners, I'd recommend pinning the fabric in place with straight pins to help hold it in place once you start pulling it taut.)

I started by stapling in the center front about 4-5 staples on either side, then turned and started at the center back pulling the fabric nice and tight. I alternated this way, back and forth until I was about 2-3 inches from the corners, then I turned the chair and started on the sides. Again, I started with one side near the center, clipping the fabric to go around the arms and started stapling.

I added a small piece of grey fabric underneath the arm to continue the stripe. As I worked back and forth, I pulled the wrinkles out by pulling the fabric tightly. (This is where the pins in the center help. It's important that you don't pull the stripes to one side or the other as you're pulling the fabric nice and tight.)  Once all the stapling was done, I used a small, sharp utility knife to trim away the extra fabric right along the wood frame.

Front view

Side view

I would usually do the back next, but I noticed when I was taking this chair apart, that some of the arm fabric was tucked and stapled underneath the back, so I went on to the arms.  I chose to use the black/yellow/light grey stripe on the top center.  My apologies for not photographing this step. But here is the chair with one of the arms done.

Next, the front of the back. I lined up my stripes on the top with the stripes on the seat. And again, beginning with the center at the top, put a few staples in, then pulled the fabric through the frame at the bottom and alternated stapling top and bottom pulling the fabric taut.

I clipped around the arms again, and worked back and forth on the sides, being careful not to distort the stripes. The front almost finished.

For the back, I made a single row of piping in the coordinating fabric and stapled it along the back sides and top of the chair to add some detail along the edge.  Then, using the coordinating fabric, I cut out a rectangular piece slightly larger than the back of the chair. I centered one of the motifs with the center of my stripes, flipped it over the top so I had the wrong side edge facing the back and began stapling from the center out. Again, I did not get a photo of this step. Sorry!

Then, I flipped the fabric to the back and stapled along the bottom edge of the chair.

For the sides I used a combination of tack strips (for more details about them see this post) and some hand stitching to finish the back. ***side note, isn't this fabric fantastic?!*** When the edges were finished, I trimmed the extra fabric on the bottom.

For the finishing touch, I made some double piping out of the grey stripe fabric. Starting at the center back, I used hot glue to glue it in place along the lower edge of the chair all the way around the bottom. 

And here is one finished at her house. (cool rug too!) From the front.

From the back.

And together as a cool conversation area.

One of the coolest things about upholstery is how it changes the whole feel of a piece of furniture. Looking at the beginning photos of these chairs, they seemed dated and kind of tired. And now with a simple update of the fabric they seem so much more modern and interesting. Chrissy has good taste in fabric!

Keep checking back for more projects for Chrissy's New House!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chrissy's New House

Welcome to my new series of projects. All of them are for.....yes, Chrissy's new house! Let me tell you how this happened.....

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my friend Chrissy. She and her family had just moved in to their new house and she was looking for some decorating help. Was I interested?


First of all, the house is stunning! Seriously, it is a gorgeous home, lots of open space, beautiful exterior, so much potential inside. Amazing. Secondly, this is a super nice family, very fun to be around, and Chrissy is fantastic to work with.

Lots of projects on the list, upholstery, drapes, window cushions, cornices, shower curtains....lots to do!

And of course I want to share them. So for the next several weeks, as I finish things, I will post them here.

So, stay tuned for the first project.  Queen Anne chairs drab to fab, coming soon!