It’s been a long while since I’ve had the opportunity to spread out some sewing things. We were taught the rudiments of sewing at my primary school. I still use the needlecase I made then – it’s not elegant but it works and I like the fact that it’s still around, although the project bags we tied dyed in a messy lesson in an empty classroom and then sewed up on our teachers hand cranked Singer has long since disappeared sadly.
When I was around 11 years old my mother showed me the basics of dressmaking and then rather bravely let me loose on her workhorse of an Elna (which is the one we still use now; it’s the same age as me or possibly older!) and throughout my teens I happily made a lot of my clothes, buying up remnants with my meagre funds and experimenting with adapting patterns and copying the clothes my better-off pocket moneyed friends bought (for some reason this annoyed some of them…) I’d window shop in town and sketch fashions that I liked and try to make my own. Once my youngest brother had gone to university I took over his huge desk our father had made for him and the sewing machine and other bits and pieces could stay out and I’d cut out on the floor without worrying about pins getting stuck in anyone’s shoes – or paws. Sewing was my main hobby other than music throughout my teens and I thought it always would be. I loathed knitting with a passion and had yet to discover spinning but with needle and thread I was happy and busy.
Once we’d moved to the country however, sewing had to take a back seat. Downsizing from a large comfortable surburban family house to a typical Welsh stone cottage, 2 up/2 down, with slate floors and acres and acres of mud and grit outside as far as the eye could see meant that the days of cutting out on floors and leaving craft items out for easy use were over. Once or twice I did take over our shared living space to run up some clothes for me or to make commissions; a silk dress for a friend for her 21st, a cherry red wool jacket for my mother, a grey wool and silk waistcoat for a Christmas present for my father (actually I sewed that one mostly by hand in my bedroom to keep it a surprise) and some costumes for a local YFC pantomime where I had to kit out the Panto Dame with several changes of clothing including a red and white striped bathing dress complete with ample stuffed fake bosoms which took some stretching over the muscular frame of young farmer Dave who had landed the role. The final straw came when a colleague volunteered me to make white chiffon silk stoles for a wedding she was bridesmaid for and bought the fabric before actually asking me. I considered the fine layer of coal soot gracing our living room (unavoidable when you have solid fuel stoves or fires), my well meaning but overenthusiastic labrador’s clumsy paws and the inevitable pet hair dust bunnies that swirl around when you have animals in the house and blanched. I rang some friends and commandeered their spare bedroom for sewing the stoles in and after that pretty much gave up on sewing altogether.
Fast forward another decade and I now have space to stretch out in again and places that are clean enough to cut out on. My own spare room doubles as a hobby room with a newly installed arrangement of desk and storage (bless you IKEA!) and the sewing machine can be set up and left, something so vital to larger sewing projects where the hassle of getting everything out and putting it away again for mealtimes and so on means that more often than not the sewing gets postponed until you can have a clear run at it. And somehow that clear run never materialises.
So far I haven’t worked up the enthusiasm to run up any clothes and I feel a bit rusty and out of practice anyway. But I’ve had great fun in the past couple of weeks doing a few small sewing things and easing myself back in gently. I made an apron which I use every day at the moment (I do love my aprons, as with tea towels and crockery I’m quite happy to collect them!) and some seat cushions for my kitchen chairs.
A while back I made this notice board for my kitchen from some fabric, buttons and East of India ribbon I’d stashed some years ago because “oooo…WANT all the shiny pretty things”. Stashing looks like a bad habit to non crafters but every maker will know that an extensive stash is vital to crafting and it eases the mind to know there is a back catalogue of precious raw materials squirrelled away for rainy days and “just in case”. This was one of those projects that is complete justification for acquisition and so it made me doubly happy to create this.
But I still had three quarters of the fabric left over. I’d always planned to make cushions for the kitchen chairs you can just see at the bottom of the picture with the rest of it but waited until I had a plan.
I love these chairs – simple beech construction and with a beautiful worn patina, they were given to me by my friend Mel who had stored them in her loft not wanting to get rid of them but not having a real need for them anymore. She’d always thought she’d paint them one day but was delighted to find they were just what I was after and so I adopted them. She sternly warned me they needed some TLC as the heat and dry in the loftspace had loosened some of the joints but although wobbly they were OK for the time being and I use three of them round my table each day. The fourth was a makeshift bedside table with a tottering pile of bedtime reading material on it’s seat for a while until one day some friends came for lunch and I brought this chair out to join it’s mates. Unfortunately my mum happened to have that place and we discovered that Mel had been right about the joints needing reglueing. One minute mum was there, beaming at our guests and passing the bread basket around and then next she’d vanished. Peering over the edge of the table we discovered her sitting on the floor looking rather shocked amid the legs and stretchers of the chair that had parted company under her courtesy of the loose joints. Thankfully it happened so quickly she didn’t have time to try save herself and was shaken but not hurt and no broken wrists (and we saved the bread from going flying too) but the chair is now in the naughty corner awaiting surgery…
I’d never made buttoned cushions before but decided it couldn’t be that hard. I bought some thin foam and wrapped it in two layers of wadding, basting it to itself to make a padded cushion. This took a surprising amount of time given I was just whipping the edges together but eventually I had a pile of these.
There are 4 cushions but for some reason I seem to only take photos of 3 of them!!
I didn’t have enough of the blue fabric to make both sides in it so I decided to make the undersides of the cushions in a fawn cotton fabric – you see very little of them anyway, just a bit round the edge. I cut out the fabric a little larger than the original card template I’d made for cutting the foam to allow for the bigger seat pad since the wadding was added. I had a little supervision from Moth at this stage…
And once I’d pinned and sewn the fabric together, not forgetting the grosgrain tapes sewn into the seams to tie the cushions to the chair spindles, I wrangled the seat pads into the new covers which took a bit of doing but in the end I won. Here they are awaiting finishing.
I slip stitched the covers by hand…
…had some fun making self cover buttons from the top fabric and then buttoned the seat cushions with strong cotton using a plain duck egg blue buttons (from stash – naturally!) to button the underside that doesn’t get seen.
I fitted them to the chairs, tied the tapes and had a cup of tea. And a sit down!