Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Easy instructions for sewing cushions with zips

As a child I loved playing "make believe" games, pretending I was a teacher, a librarian, a shopkeeper, a housekeeper, a secretary, a radio announcer, a baker, an author, a magazine editor etc etc. Nothing unusual there. As an adult, I still like to pretend I'm something I'm not every now and then. I don't see why kids should have all the fun.

Recently, I've been pretending to be my friend SM's interior decorator and sewing lady in my spare time. My "client" needed some new cushions for her navy couch and the brief was pretty clear - European pillow covers made from a cotton with a soft feel so they would be comfortable to cuddle up with when watching movies and smaller cushions for show in a more durable fabric. The Euro pillows were to have an envelope opening and no zip to ensure comfort when laying on them. The others were to have zips so that they looked great on both sides. The fabric needed to tie in with the navy couch and a green lamp shade. We settled on a fine navy and white stripe for the Euros and a reversible green and off white geometric chain pattern for the others.

I started by sewing the Euro pillows as I could easily adapt the pattern I had from a pair of yellow ones I made for our guest bed (see here). Then it was onto the more challenging task of the zippered cushions. My experience with zips is limited to the skirt I sewed in a class earlier this year and a striped cushion I created for our living room by studying another cushion cover and freestyling. I decided to follow some illustrated instructions from The Laura Ashley Book of Decorating this time to do it "properly". The 1987 edition of this book was given to me a few months ago and I have been worried what on earth I am going to do with it. It's very uninspiring (the photos and decor are quite hideous) but it has step by step instructions for all sorts of soft furnishings and crafts.

I found that the instructions for a cushion cover really simplified the process of inserting a zip for a novice like me. Apparently that Laura Ashley knows a trick or two about these things! So I thought I'd share the instructions and illustrations on how to sew a square or rectangular cushion cover with a zip opening. If I can do this, so can you!

1. Measure the width and length of your cushion insert. Add 12mm (1/2 inch) all round and cut two pieces of fabric to these dimensions.
2. With right sides facing, pin the seamline on one side and machine stitch (12mm from edge), leaving a centrally positioned space for the zip opening (see image below marked Fig 4). On a 30cm square cushion, for example, a 20cm zip would be about right. I used 46cm zips for 55cm cushions.

3. Lay the two pieces of fabric flat, wrong sides up, and press (iron) the seam open.  Sew the seam allowances in place (see image below marked Fig 5).

4. Pin the zip in place centrally over the seam and between the machine stitching. Undo the zip a little. Using a zipper foot, machine stitch all round the zip teeth as shown in Fig 6 (pictured below).

My notes/tips:
  • While doing this hold the material in place (or pin it together) over the zipper teeth (if it's not covering the zip while you sew, the little flap you are creating will not conceal the zip in your finished cushion). 
  • I sew back and forth at either end to make the ends strong.
  • It may be hard to sew around the slider and pull tab of the zipper. When your machine's foot gets close to it, wind the needle down, raise the machine's foot, slide the zipper up (in the opposite direction from where you are about to sew), lower the machine foot and continue sewing.
5. Once you've sewn all around, open the zip and, with right sides together, join the back and the front of the cover by stitching the remaining three sides. Trim corners (as in the picture below), turn right side out and press (iron).

Et voila!

I couldn't quite believe how proper they looked! Like real, legitimate zippered cushions!

I loved delivering these to my "client" and completing the "installation" so to speak, but I've now lived out my fantasy of being a seamstress. I couldn't see it being a lucrative career and, once I became faster, I could see it becoming a boring process. So, it's back to being a sewing hobbyest for now. I do want to sew some Christmas stockings to hang on my new mantle but at any given moment I can go back to the drawing board, ask myself "who do I want to be today?" (Trinny and Susannah style) and embrace my next career-for-a-moment. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest post: Turquoise and red bedrooms

Today I'm welcoming a guest blogger to Charles Whyte to inspire my own red and turquoise bedroom. Take it away Jenn! xEllise
Hi everyone! I'm Jenn and I write for Arcadian Home Decor, an e-commerce website that specializes in top home decor ideas around the world. I helped my mom redecorate my bedroom when I was a teenager and I've been addicted to interior design ever since. Now I get to write about home decor for a living and I get to guest post for amazing blogs like Charles Whyte, where owner Ellise's ideas keep me coming back daily. Thanks for letting me write here today Ellise! Sometimes the most unusual of colours look incredible when paired up in a great home decor plan, and an example of this are turquoise and red bedrooms. These two flashy hues come together in stylish harmony to help streamline and add visual impact to both modern and traditional spaces. Check out these eight one-of-a-kind turquoise and red bedrooms.

A blast of colour
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
There's no shortage of colour in this eclectic bedroom - the turquoise headboard and red leopard-print cushion, as well as the orange accents, make a surprising match.

Patterns show the way
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
In this beautiful bedroom, turquoise and red patterns in the bedding and window treatments meld in a unique yet pretty way.

Subtle style
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
More muted tones of turquoise and red in this bedroom still creates a serene environment - the flowery accoutrements used throughout the space help to tie everything together.

Darling daybed
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This cozy daybed is flanked by a red fabric headboard and a turquoise accent wall, which takes centre stage and is truly the star of the show.

Gorgeous great room
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This modest apartment is decked out in complementary shades of turquoise and red, seen in the soft red accent wall behind the bed and the funky turquoise glass light fixtures with table decorations.

Boutique hotel chic
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This guest bedroom looks well-dressed in red damask along with turquoise and white stripes. The hues are mimicked in the wall hanging as well as the wall colour.

Perfect for baby
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
Turquoise and red (along with a dash of yellow) are calming but still trendy colours for a modern nursery. Image credits: { 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 } What do you think of the turquoise and red color bedroom ideas? Don't forget to check out Arcadian Home Decor for more home decor ideas!

Thank you Jenn and Arcadian Home Decor! My favourites are the 'darling daybed' and the 'blast of colour'. These images are so bright and have inspired me to swing my attention back to my own bedroom. It incorporates these colours but needs a few finishing touches (see here for the painting my mum did to start it all).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A whipped frenzy of sconces

 JK Place Hotel via Decor Pad

This is not a post about scones fresh from the oven smothered in jam and whipped cream. No, it's not, although I do like eating the evidence of those posts. This is a post about something just as old school that has become palatable again in recent times - sconces. According to my friend the internet a sconce is a holder of a candle or other light source, attached to a wall with an ornamental bracket. Through my incessant trawling of blogs, I sometimes stumble across little trends (or revivals of old trends as is usually the case) in interiors, sconces beeing one of them.
Double French sconce from Neenas Lighting

One of the first things I noticed while visiting my cousin at her new place last week was a cute pair of old sconces flanking her fireplace complete with little black shades (not unlike the ones pictured above). At first Amy and her partner didn't like them but now that they've added their own touches to the space, they're growing rather fond on them. She is one talented and creative being, my cousin, and since our childhood days I have loved visiting any room she inhabits and subsequently stamps with her personality, books, art, trinkets and piles of invitations she's designed. A little aside: Amy was kind enough to use her design talents to makeover Charles Whyte and I am absolutely loving the new look for the blog. So much fresher and stylish, don't you think? All her designs and invitations get me excited. If you too love letterpress printing and boutique design that conjures the elegance of a bygone era, visit her blog or business website, Saint Gertrude Design and Letterpress. 

Libby Langdon via Hamptons.com

So sconces, in all their vintage glory are really the kind of thing Amy should love and these pictures will be sure to win her over if she is still a little unsure. Around a fireplace or mantle, especially in a living room, is one of the obvious places for them. In the picture above they are extended all round the room.

The top picture in this blog post is heaven to me. The mantle, the bust, the trim, the huge mirror, the chairs (oh the chairs!), the pop of pink from the orchid and of course, the sconces that just complete the serene, elegant space. Bathrooms are also home to many scounces, though in the following pictures the fancy spaces might be better described as powder rooms.

 Image via Decor Pad

Patrick J Baglino Interior Design let a sconce add something extra to toile wallpaper (love the roman blind with the black trim too). 
Image source: Decor Pad

Monique Lhuillier knows that a sconce with Imperial Trellis wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler makes a real impact. 

The sconces here add to the bold, almost medieval bathroom. In fact, sconces pop up anywhere, not just in living rooms and bathrooms. In the picture below, they add to the sophistication of the menswear department in the Bergdorf Goodman department store.

So now you know, if you didn't already, that a sconce is not a scone but a lovely little morsel in its own right. 

On Thursday I'll be welcoming Jenn, a guest blogger from Arcadian Home Decor, to Charles Whyte. She's got some inspiration images for me on red and turquoise bedrooms. I have been adding this colour combination to my own boudoir so I'm very excited! See you then.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Living room makeover: the big reveal

I've been writing about it since February and pottering away on related projects all year, but now I can say with great pleasure that the living room makeover is now complete. Of course, there are always little things to be done and new ideas to see through, but it's good enough now to give you a tour. Most projects have been posted about previously so I will link to them rather than drone on. As my inspiration file post detailed, I wanted a black and white base with some modern, vintage glamour!

I got the symmetry I wanted in the form of lamps, lamp tables, and bold prints taken from designers like Kelly Wearstler, Florence Broadhurst and Jonathan Adler. 

Revamping the chandelier and adding curtains with Greek key trim helped add some vintage glamour. So too did the TV cabinet from eBay (it matches the side tables but the drawers still need to be converted to shelves for the DVD player etc. The front of the drawers will get fitted with hinges so that they become doors).

A second hand table made better use of this small space. I also learned to sew this year and got busy making cushions. 

 Making over the fireplace and mantle was the most time consuming project in the room but it was worth it.

I love looking in to the "new" room from the kitchen. The Dulux Domino walls of the kitchen look great next to the Whisper White and the Taubman's Mink Scorpio (quarter strength) in the living room.

We removed the door between these rooms and have enjoyed the openess it creates.

We also bode farewell to this cute, but rather odd, corner shelf.

Instead, we welcomed new friends like this chesterfield ottoman that had a little makeover of its own.

And of course, we have farewelled the worn grey carpet and welcomed a lighter, plusher variety. So, that's pretty much it. A little breather is in order and then we'll be launching into the next project. Hope you've enjoyed "the big reveal".


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fireplace & mantle: before & after

Bring out the trumpets people. Our living room makeover is now complete! It has been a very busy month around here but it's DONE. I won't lie, it has been tiring, often boring and very dirty but doing every single thing ourselves apart from installing the carpet has been satisfying too. The biggest job in the room was revamping our fireplace and mantle so this post is dedicated to that particular six-week slog.

In this earlier post, I showed you what we started with and our first steps plus finding and painting a mantle. Here are a few earlier pics for a quick recap.

After knocking out the bricks, some of the big holes were filled by replacing broken brick and covering with mortar. After leaving this to dry for a day, a coat of render was applied (below).

The render was then hand sanded smooth (below).

A coat of base coat plaster (below) was followed by a final coat plaster to give it a smooth finish.

Each layer needed a day to dry. This is what we ended up with after the final coat plaster.

At this point, our little old heater was looking worse and worse, although it was still doing a fine job of keeping us warm as you can see. We figured it couldn't hurt to try spray painting the brown woodgrain veneer using the black White Knight spray can we'd used on the chandelier.

After taping carefully, the Mister sprayed away et voila! A new lease on life for this old boy.

Tiling was next on the agenda but first we had to fix the surface beneath the old tiles. You can see we exposed a crazy mix of different wood under there so it had to go.

I got brave and used the circular saw to cut this piece of flooring, then screwed it down.

Next to go down was a piece of cement sheeting and some aluminium tile edge was measured up. A fair amount of YouTube tutorials were also viewed around this time! Who needs a tradie when you have your own two hands and YouTube :)

The Mister was busy replacing flooring in other parts of the room and fixing squeaky boards so I had to get on and lay some tiles. When a deadline is looming, it's amazing what you will just get on and do. The carpet was due to be installed three days later so what could I do but smear down some tile adhesive, shimmy a few tiles in place and push some spacers down? Apart from a scary moment near the end where I momentarily thought my careful measurements were off, it was too easy. 

Grouting the next night was the real challenge. We'd purchased ready made black grout in a tube and it seemed to get dry quickly and feel like it was setting before I could smooth it nicely between each tile. I may or may not have sworn at my husband in a state of stress! But I just kept smoothing it down as best I could then used a damp sponge a lot to get a nicer finish. By the time I fell into bed at 1.30am, I was feeling better about it.

In the morning, I saw this and felt rather pleased. After a bit of a clean up, I thought they looked a million bucks!

Later that morning, we had the carpet installed. It's a twist pile Godfrey Hirst carpet in a colour called Antique Linen. A few days later we drilled two holes into the chimney and inserted walls plugs and screws to hang the mantle. At some point we'll also reinforce the mantle with liquid nails. For now, we are just kicking back to admire it (and blog about it)!

Nothing better than a mantle to display beloved objects. I have already bought fabric to sew Christmas stockings that will hang on the mantlepiece! What a DIY nerd I have become. 

Oh, so much better, don't you think? Those green patterned bricks are but a distant memory. 


 The DIY Show Off Mod Vintage Life



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