A Serendipitous Pouf for Scraptember

I am one of those people who hoard scraps. I blame my mother, who used to fetch things that might still have life in them from rubbish tossed by my siblings and me. She’d rescue tossed and torn clothing for rags, half-used notebooks, and unwanted other things, stored in one room of the house, with our supply of toilet paper for when the apocalypse happened and you really needed the loo. I blame my father, who used to take me to garage sales at ludicrous pre-dawn hours (my father was *that garage sale customer*; I was his interpreter) to buy a miscellaney of things for the house. He used to store his treasure under the roof of our car-port. We got new kitchen and laundry sinks regularly, but he would not toss out the replaced one (they often became garden pots). My favourite of his scrap(sorry,treasure)-made items was the chicken coop made from old wire bed springs, old doors, and old kitchen sinks.  It was the most wonderfully creative riot of rusty wire and crumbling wood, just demanding you go off to have tetanus shots.

I now have a lot of fabric scraps. I find them really difficult to throw out. (I blame my mother.) If a garment might still be made from leftover fabric (1 metre plus), it remains stored with the fabric stash on my shelves. The larger potentially useful, scraps I wrap up, tied with their selvedges, and store in a plastic box, which lives under my sewing tables. After I have cut up fabric, I slice off selvedges and keep them as ties (they make great, and wonderfully colourful, garden ties). The completely not useful scrap (i.e., you cannot make a garment or a tiny drawstring bag out of these …) go into two drawstring bags, one for knits and one for wovens.

Both drawstring bags were overflowing, and I was on the brink of just throwing them in the bin, except … I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. (I blame my father.)

Recently, I discovered the blog of someone who uses fabric scraps in a delightful way: Minki keeps every little itty bitty scrap and turns them into gorgeous fabric art and useful items, like decorated tote bags. I am not that artistic, but I am inspired! Inspired to NOT throw out my scraps, which is not helpful. Not helpful at all, Minki. But goodness, the gorgeousness. I love the idea of embroidery but I passionately despise hand-sewing. I might give free motion machine embroidery a try. I need more hobbies, just like I need those tetanus shots.

My other idea was to use the useless scraps as stuffing for Something. I had no idea what. We have a lot of cushions in the house already, including four awesome floor cushions made by my partner’s mother. These have been with us wherever we have lived, and I adore them. They are covered in patchwork from scraps made from my partner’s mother’s sewing projects! So they will never be replaced. Refilled, yes. Replaced, never.

Eventually, I came up with two ideas (pathetic, no?) and polled my partner for the one that was more useful in the near future. Out of (1) pouf and (2) armrests for the sofa-bed, he chose (1) pouf. My constituency had spoken, so I set about working out how to make one by googling and googling and googling some more.

Here are some useful tutorials I found:-

I decided I wanted a round, drum-like pouf, with a zipper somewhere and a handle somewhere else.

A zipper was necessary so as to have no hand sewing in the project (in addition to hating hand sewing, I’m nervous that a hand sewn closure will not hold in all the stuffing) and for adding stuffing (and continuing to add stuffing when the stuffing gets compacted, as it invariably will.) The placement of the zipper was what flummoxed me the most. Eventually I settled on having it at the base of the pouf. However, we have wooden floors and I did not want the zipper pull scratching the floor, so I resolved to work out how to install a lapped zipper.

I think a handle is necessary too, for moving it about the place, but my partner thought it superfluous. Whatevs, I’m the one making it, not him.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Make Pattern Pieces: Basically you are making a cyclinder, so the pattern bits you need are two circles and a rectangle.
    • I made a pattern piece – a really large circle – using the lid from a saute pan, and then adding an inch all around. I sat on the pattern piece to be sure it was big enough. It was.
    • Add seam allowance: I added a half-inch for my seam allowance because I like half inches and 3/8 seam allowances. I don’t like 5/8 seam allowances so much. Just a thing.
    • Cut two of these but not yet
  2. Work out the pattern piece for the sides of your drum (the rectangle)
    • Measure the circumference of your circle, not including the seam allowance, this is the length of your rectangle
    • Work out what height you would like it. I wanted mine so I could sit at the coffee table, so I trotted off and measured the distance from the floor to the underside of the coffee table.
    • Add seam allowance
    • As it’s just a rectangle, I didn’t bother making a pattern piece; I simply notLed down the measurements.
  3. Work out which scraps you have that are suitable for the pattern pieces. This might involve destroying your beautifully organised stash, requiring commencement of that favourite game of OCD seamstresses everywhere: Time to Tidy! I am very good at this game.
  4. Block fuse everything now. (That is, fuse interfacing to fabric before cutting it out.)
    • I find block fusing much easier and more palatable than fusing pieces individually.
    • The kind of interfacing you use will depend on the fabric you have. The end result you want is something pretty stiff. I was using upholstery weight fabric that was fairly thick already, so I fused medium weight interfacing to it. Not to all of it because I did not have enough medium weight interfacing so I fused two layers of lightweight interfacing to some bits. No one will ever know. Except the internet.
  5. Cut pieces
    • 1 x rectangle piece
    • 1 x smaller rectangle piece for the handle. I just eyeballed this. You want the piece as long as you like and four times as wide as you want the finished piece to end up. Mine was approximately 12″ x 10″ but I did not measure it.
    • 1 circle piece for the top
    • 1 rough square at least two inches wider than the diameter of the circle piece for the base
  6. Make the base
    • Cut your large square in half, making sure that more than half the circle piece will fit on it.
    • Sew pieces together with a zip in between.
      • I am not going to give you instructions on how to do a lapped zipper, because I don’t think I did it right, and you may want to insert a different type of zipper. Zippers are not hard to insert! They’re just fiddly.
      • Google how to insert a zipper. You’ll find lots of excellent tutorials. My personal favourite is Erin’s of Dog Under My Desk.  She designed the Two Zip Hipster, and she can really insert a zipper! I don’t like any tutorial that tells me to cut things and fold things back and blah blah blah. The easiest way I find to insert a zipper is when you have two separate pieces and it is inserted flat.
      • I also added a zipper guard to make it easier to close the zip when the pouf is filled.  To do this, I simply sewed the zip right side up onto a strip of lining fabric before sewing the zip onto the base pieces.
      • For the ‘lap’ (the bit that overlays and hides the zipper pull) I sort of followed instructions in Christine Haynes’ book and also kinda winged it. Tip: if winging it, use basting stitches. Just sayin’.
    • Once you have joined your two pieces together with a zipper in the middle, cut out the circle base. Unzip partway, and pin the lap down, to make sure you do not accidentally cut off your zipper pull!
  7. Sew handle & Attach to rectangle
    • Fold rectangle in half (right sides together) and sew short ends
    • Flip right side out and halve it again by tucking the raw edges inside
    • Edge stitch all around, and sew a few lines of stitching parallel to the long edge
    • Sew onto the rectangle piece approximately halfway along and halfway up. Sew boxes for security and strength and because boxes with crosses in them make you feel like maybe you could do freehand motion embroidery. What hubris.
  8. Attach circles to rectangle. This bit is fiddly. Pin and wrangle and ease and swear under your breath.  Swearing makes it work.
  9. Finish your seams: I had cut my pieces with pinking shears, but the fabric was still fraying like nothing else so I bias bound everything with scrap bias binding. The insides look a bit … harlequinesque.
  10. Stuff!
    • I did not actually have enough stuffing! It now sits open, waiting for more until I can get it nice and full and firm. Might need to go sew some more dresses. (Oh, the cruelty.)

Zipper plus lining.

Harlequin bound insides.

I think, once this is filled, I may as well make another one and fill it with scrappy fabric scraps as I go.  And another.  And another, and so on forever and ever.

I am not a hoarder. I have turned my hoard into something useful.  It is therefore necessary to keep things in case I can find a use for them. I am not my mother. I am not my father.  Well, I am always worrying about running out of toilet paper and I do loves me a garage sale. 

Mocktails* (Melbourne Frocktails)

*Do not fear.  Alcohol was indeed imbibed at this event.

The Melbourne Frocktails event – Mocktails – went off with lots of sparkle** and laughter at Brunswick Mess Hall on Saturday night just past.

** Actually, all the sparkle was courtesy of Lara.

All up, there were 17 attendees.  I had a large post-it note to do a roll-call*, but I handed that over to our waitress, Rosie, because I had also written dietary requirements upon it!  So, no roll-call.  (*not really; but I did need reminding of who was coming, in case anyone got lost.  I’m a bit of a mother hen. No one got lost.  I handed over my post-it note with nary a thought.)  We had a few drop-outs for various very understandable reasons, and missed those who could not make it – next time! There will be multiple next times!

It is such a lot of fun to meet with like-minded folks and talk a wee bit of sewing, a wee bit travel, some politics (that happens if you ask me certain questions) and lots of tales of sewing mishaps (also, yeah, maybe just me).  Obviously I can only report on the conversations that I was party to, though clearly everyone was having a great time because I attempted to move about and join other conversations but found many already in full flow, so I slunk off until there was a conversation I could interrupt with tales of pinning my partner into his Jedediah trousers.  Hilarity all round.

I find utterly fascinating and heartwarming that we all get along so enthusiastically, united by this ostensibly solo hobby of ours.  And it never fails to delight me when we turn up our hems for each other.

Brunswick Mess Hall did a sterling job, including having a big picture of a puffin up, just for me (this last might or might not be true).  My only criticism of BMH was that it was too noisy for conversation.  That is why my idea for a future event is a picnic.  Also, I am pathetic and getting home at midnight is much too late for me.

Everyone looked, unsurprisinly, utterly fabulous.  Fabulous enough to elicit quite a few unsolicitations.  The BMH staff, in particular, really wanted to know who we all were and why we all looked so great. (“Just because we’re fabulous, darling,” seemed to be an insufficiently informative response.  I love channelling Patsy, although I am Patsy’s diametric opposite.)

There was a wee bit of that favourite game of seamstresses everywhere – Spot the Pattern!

Here’s who attended and what we all wore (I’ll update with links to blog posts as they come in, if they come in.  No blogging pressure being applied here.)  I did not take any decent photos to speak of.  Because, you know, that’s not the point.

  • Abby wore Simplicity 2444 made up in stunning floral fabric with carnations, geraniums and bell-flowers (I love playing Spot Whether the Flower was Accurately Drawn on the Fabric game. I’ve accumulated many points.)
  • Alison wore a dramatic, floor sweeping Mission Maxi (I think! Correct me if I’m wrong!) Alison has confirmed that I was right. One point for Alison, Bonus points for me.
  • Belle was stunning in a gorgeous Sew Liberated Clara dress
  • Carita astounded us with her red wool Anna, although no thigh high split shenanigans occurred…
  • Claire was also in an Anna, but not in red wool.  I must admit to being unsure of the colour (I blame the lighting, Claire!) Claire says, ” It was purple! A lovely dark dusky purple…”. I am inclined to agree!
  • Helen wore her Ballan Collection “Go Anywhere” dress –  It will go anywhere as long as that place is fabulous enough.
  • Jackie dazzled in her licorice all sorts colourful stripey skirt.
  • Jenny snuck in wearing a collarless polka dotty Alder dress.
  • Lara was sparkly!  I think if there were prizes, Lara should have won all of them.  Especially when the lights went down.  I could still read my menu as I was sitting beside Lara.  Lara’s blogpost here.
  • Laura in a sweet cherry Cambie with matching cherry brooch.
  • Liz was another Franken-patterned in her Emery / Elisalex hybrid.
  • Nee wore a lovely & beautifully fitted Flora.
  • Nichola joined the fancy knit dress crew in a royally purple Moneta.
  • Renee shone in geometric voile Staple dress.
  • Ros joined us landlocked lubbers in arrrr Pirate Washi dress me hearties.
  • Sasky wore something very sassy indeed.  I don’t have the spunk to describe it with words.
  •  And I, despite threats of Hudson pants, wore my red knit pattern smooshed Renfrew Day to Skate-done Night dress

It appears that By Hand London have won this round of “What did the Seamstresses Wear?” and that the Indies still have it over the Big 3/4/5.  We shall see how it pans out at the next meet up.

{Life is always a game and/or a competition.  Everyone’s a winner.  That’s the truth.}

Trouser Saga

Oh the vexed matter of making one’s own trousers (or pants.  tee hee.)

Although I had wanted to sew clothes for a while, Sewaholic’s Thurlow trousers is what inspired me to properly commit to garment sewing.  I very much have a uniform: trousers and a shirt.  If it’s a workday, a button-up shirt; if it’s non-work, a t-shirt, and the trousers are more likely to be jeans.  I even have a particular style of trousers and jeans that I’ve worn since becoming an adult and which the vagaries of fashion have not moved me from.  Roughly straight legged, mid-rise, slash pockets.  There was a time in the late 90s, when trousers were cut exactly as I liked them.  Alas, that time is past.  I of course wear leggings for legging-relevant activities, and trackie-daks for trackie-dak related activities (like going to the shops in the middle of the night for ice-cream).  But even my preferred hiking trousers fit exactly this mold.

I have occasionally tried to branch out and wear other styles of trousers: higher-waisted, wider legged, harem (lordy, what was I thinking?) and fisherman (dear god why?). Those trousers invariably hung in my wardrobe watching their straight legged, mid-rise counterparts get worn to such an extent that they become threadbare and the knees permanently bag out.   

The Thurlows look exactly like the trouser I have always worn.

I made Thurlow shorts a long, long time ago.  I did a bunch of things wrong, but they were my practise pair, and I thought the fit was alright.  I recently (ish) made a muslin (!!) of the Thurlow trousers and they are huge on me.  Huge all round and especially huge in the derriere department (please read that with a terrible Pepe le Pew faux French accent).  I pinned out excess fabric and thought long and hard and researched longer and harder about the changes I would need to make to the pattern.  I had neglected to consider one key factor: Sewaholic does not design for me.  Tasia designs for the pear-shaped woman, and I am very happy she does. particularly as you with booty who have sewn her patterns appear to think that she does a sterling job.  I love the Alma.  The Cambie is also very sweet.  I am not a pear-shaped woman (mouthy stick with shoulders, remember?) and I decided maybe I needed to find another pattern.

There is no one, that I’m aware of, designing for a mouthy stick with shoulders, but that’s okay.  I’ll just try me some other patterns until something works.  I thought it might be easier to modify a different pattern, rather than work on the Thurlows.  But I do rather like the Thurlows so maybe one day I will return to it when I have more fitting expertise.  My unfinished projects are never discarded.  They visit a lovely resting place until I’m ready for them again.

I put my Thurlow muslin on to take photos for the blogpost, and lo and behold: it is not as bad as I remember.  I can only think magic sewing elves fixed it for me while it hung on my WIP rack.

There is someone designing for the petite woman, and she has designed a pair of trousers that look about right, but I have two issues: (1) I really don’t like the brand name and (2) though I’m short, I’m not sure I actually qualify as petite.  Petite is 5’4″ and under.  I’m just on that, but I’ve never really found RTW petite clothing fits me, so maybe I am proportioned averagely rather than petite-ly?  I’ll keep an eye on the patterns, but I just don’t feel persuaded enough to overcome my dislike of the brand name to purchase a pattern.  

Style Arc has a bunch of patterns that I’ve “pinned” (which being also a sewing term is practically like making them, right?) and I even bought the Audrey trousers, which came with a pair of free Lola trousers.  I’ve made the Lola but I did not like it.  Because it was not a pair of mid-rise, straight-legged trousers!  (I’m really an idiot, sometimes.)  And actually, the Lola trouser is a woven version of True Bias’ Hudson Pants (tee hee), which I have made three times and liked *a lot* but the Hudsons make no pretense of being anything other than fancy trackie-daks.  Woven trackie-daks? Not for me. I just cannot think of any occasion when I would wear them.  If it’s casual, I may as well wear trackie-daks.  If I want to look nice, well, I would not be wearing trackie-daks.  See?

I’ve settled on my next trouser pattern: the Sew Loft Emma pants (tee hee. Oh, you northern Americans.)  They’re like a skinnified Thurlow.

Muslin sewing is fast, though muslin photos are always terrible.  The Emma pants are pretty good! I was right (how gratifying). 

Sew Loft is a new to me pattern company, and I’m keen on these trousers and the Harper blouse, although I feel like a stranger to myself when I want to wear a sleeveless top.  The PDFs are well designed and not at all wasteful of paper or annoying to piece together.  I haven’t sewn anything yet, so I cannot say (nor am I particularly knowledgeable on the matter) whether the patterns are well drafted.

Finally, in my Epic Trouser Saga, I’ve signed on for a sewing class with Thread Den, here in Melbourne.  The class is called “Perfect Pants Pattern” (please interject tee hee in the correct place if you too are juvenile).  That’s a big call, no? We shall see, we shall see.  I’m fairly confident of my sewing (and unpicking and sewing again) skills, but I just feel all flummoxed when it comes to fitting.  I haven’t had any major issues so far: take in a bit here; let out a bit there, lengthen, or shorten and we’re done. And usually it is only one issue on a pattern.  But trousers have a whole lot of cascading issues and I think I need someone to hold my hand, and provide me lots of fortifying chocolate.

Wish me luck, and keep a beady eye on your feed readers for the next installment of Oanh’s Trouser Saga!  Coming probably not very soon to an internet near you!