I’ve been in the mood for sewing this week. My urge to stitch things tends to come in ebbs and flows and I’ve certainly been feeling the flow over the last few days.
In this week’s blog post, I’ll share the things I’ve made recently, specifically focusing on a couple of creative ways to use your old pillows once they’re no longer supporting your noggin sufficiently.
Summer (Goth Style)
The temperatures have been going up across the UK, even here in the northwest. As someone who wears almost exclusively black or dark clothing this is not ideal. In summer, I don’t change the colour of my wardrobe. The black items just get smaller.
Jeans become shorts.
T-shirts become vests.
Long-sleeved shirts become short-sleeved shirts. Quite literally in this case.
I love wearing shirts. For my last birthday, I treated myself to a bundle of second-hand shirts from Vinted and have been gradually tweaking and altering them to my size and styling. This one is the last to get the chop.
I made it a little more fitted in a previous sewing session but still haven’t been wearing it much. So, I decided to lop some length off the sleeves and put some more buttons on it and see if that made it more appealing to a bleary-eyed JoJo when deciding what to wear in the morning.
This method of making sleeves shorter is such a doddle and adds a little more detail for minimal effort. Simply chop off the cuffs, roll the remain fabric over a few times and stitch in place on the inside and outside of the arm. No sewing machine required, no need to worry about treating the raw edges and it creates a lovely little cuff to draw extra attention to the biceps I've been so diligently working on lately.
Button. Button. Who’s got the button? (If anyone picked up on this film reference please let me know in the comments. It will make my day!) Probably me. I have a lot of buttons.
Behold my many buttons.
If you’re a human being with a chest of any size, you may well have worn a shirt with buttons in all the wrong places. That was the case with this shirt. Fastening one too many buttons left the neckline looking strange and like I’d forgotten to do up the top. Fastening one button too few left more of my chest on show than I felt comfortable with.
The solution; more buttons!
I added another set of buttons and buttonholes in-between the existing ones to create the goldilocks ratio of closed shirt to open neckline. I had a couple of the same buttons left over so I popped them on the turned-up bits of sleeve to direct even more attention to my biceps.
I’m not totally convinced I’m finished with this shirt yet. I find it difficult to let totally plain black garments stay plain. The urge to add buttons, zips, and safety pins usually gets the better of me. But, for now, I’ll leave it at that and see how much I end up wearing it in the coming months.
Now, onto the main feature. What to do with unwanted bedding.
I got the idea for this little project from the knitting and crocheting wizard friend I mentioned in a previous post about learning to use a lathe. She made this beautifully crocheted velvet bee.
I was introduced to the bee, more formally known as Comfort Bee, while searching for somewhere to live in Cambridge. This was a stressful activity and having a quick cuddle with Comfort Bee certainly helped to settle my nerves during the whole endeavour.
I cannot crochet or knit. At all. My Mum tried to teach me to knit once, but it was a total disaster. My Mum is left-handed, so she assumed that she was knitting left-handed. I, as a right-handed person, tried to mirror what she was doing. Unfortunately, it turned out she was actually knitting right-handed and I, therefore, was knitting left-handed. Thus, after a brief hissy fit, my knitting career came to an abrupt end.
But I can sew! I decided to try and create something equally as soft and reassuring in fabric form.
As with many projects, I got a little carried away in the making of Comfort Bug (I didn’t have any suitable yellow and black fabric so mine is a generic bug rather than a bee) and forgot to take any photos along the way. I’ll give you a quick tour of the finished product then use another project to provide a bit more detail about transforming unwanted bedding into something more useful/cute.
Comfort Bug’s shell is a simple tube of fabric. I made a rough guess as to what the finished diameter of Comfort Bug should be by hugging various pillows and cushions to see which size felt most reassuring then applied some secondary-school geometry to the problem to work out the circumference. One rectangle of fabric and one seam later, I had a tube.
I closed the tail end by adding a drawstring to pull it tight and filled in the gap with an adorable little tail. The tail is another small tube, sewn to a point at one end and stuffed with old tights. I’m the infuriating personification of “it might come in handy one day”.
I stuffed the tube with rolled up wadding from old pillows to create the soft and squidgy centre. At first, I shoved the wadding into the tubular body all willy-nilly, but this ended up making Comfort Bug very lumpy and far from pleasing to hold. It turned out to be very important to roll the wadding neatly into the finished shape to give Comfort Bug its sausage like stature (more on re-shaping pillow wadding during the description of the next project).
To make the wings (after some more geometry) I sewed together two hexagons with a bit of felt in the middle for a little extra texture. I then added the top stitching for to make the whole thing feel a bit more buggy. I imagined it would look like honeycomb. I'll let you be the judge of how well that worked out.
The face of Comfort Bug was created in a somewhat laboured session of folding and pinning, tweaking, and folding and pinning again. If I were to make another Comfort Bug I would do this differently and hopefully more efficiently.
I shaped darts into the face end so the edges of the fabric eventually met in the middle. I then covered the raw edges with a (definitely off centre) circle of matching fabric that would have made a lovely nose if my folding had been executed more evenly. Finally, I added some button-based facial features and some hand-stitched quizzical eyebrows and Comfort Bug was complete!
It’s safe to say Comfort Bug didn’t turn out as cute as Comfort Bee no matter how hard I tried to make the face look less sinister. Aside from my questionable embroidery skills, I’m very happy with Comfort Bug. It’s a lovely size to hold and provides me with a similarly soothing and supportive feeling as Comfort Bee.
It also makes an excellent yoga bolster.
I still had a couple of pillows left over after completing Comfort Bug so I turned to a more conventional method of reusing unwanted bedding . . .
My dog, Amber, isn’t fussy about what she rests her pointy head on after a long day of zoomies. All her bedding has been made from our cast-offs and she seems perfectly happy with it.
When sewing anything that's going to be worn or used regularly, especially when it’s for a dog, you should always think about how you’re going to wash it before you start making it. All of the beds I’ve made for Amber have an inner cushion and a removable cover that can both go in the washing machine. This was an oversight I made with Comfort Bug.
The shell of Comfort Bug is sewn straight around the wadding and cannot be removed meaning it will have to washed as a whole. Considering the fact that the wadding won’t get as smelly as the wadding in the dog bed it won’t need washing as regularly. Having a removable cover that could go in with the rest of our laundry would have been the more convenient and economical design. We live and learn.
As with Comfort Bug’s internal padding, the wadding for the dog bed needed to be reshaped and molded into an appropriately comfy configuration before being covered in fabric. As you can hopefully see, I’ve opened out the wadding from the two pillows and placed them on top of each other. I’ve used some of the leftovers from Comfort Bug to plug a gap across the middle of one side to give it a more uniform and flatter surface.
To get the wadding to stay together I used two techniques. To keep the main layers united I roughly felted them together by pushing and rubbing them against each other, so the fibres gently interlocked. I attached the small pieces, like the patch in the middle, with some ugly chunky stitches. This is never going to be seen so I dispensed with neatness and went for function over finesse.
I made the cover for the wadding out of some heavy cotton I picked up from someone on Freecycle. It’s made of two squares of fabric sewn along three sides with rights sides together, turned the right way out, then sewn together along the last side, which I overlocked to finish the raw edge off neatly.
To finish the inner cushion, I stitched through from one side to the other in four places. These stitches stop the wadding moving around as Amber wriggles around on it and as it tumbles around in the washing machine. I didn’t bother to put these stitches in the first bed like this that I made for Amber and came to regret it when I had to rearrange all the wadding after every wash.
Each of these stitches also goes through a button on each side. This is a good place to use up some of your uglier buttons. The purpose of these buttons is to take the pressure off the fabric, which can tear under the tension of the stitches. Another lesson I learned from previous dog bed projects.
The outer cushion is made in exactly the same way as the inner cushion but with fasteners along one side so it can be removed and washed. I folded the edges of the fabric over twice on the open side to hide the raw edge and create a sturdy platform for the fasteners. The fasteners I’ve chosen are super tough and hefty poppers that even a wriggly creature like Amber has yet to pull open. I hand-stitched these on and then checked with Amber to see if it met her approval.
She seemed satisfied with it.
Bedding is one of those things that is difficult to get rid of in an environmentally friendly way. For hygiene reasons it’s not ideal to sell it on and, with pillows especially, once it’s lost its structure and shape it becomes uncomfortable and ultimately unusable in its original form.
By reshaping the wadding and giving it a new purpose, you can keep it out of the landfill a little longer and even make a pointy dog a little comfier.