70s cushion revamp!

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70s cushion revamp!

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Continuing with my marathon of making cushions in all shapes and sizes, my mum asked me to recover the cushion from her trusty old stool in her studio. Amazingly, she has had it since the 70s or 80s and it was designed by her dad (my granddad).

The original cover was completely falling to bits but somehow the foam inner cushion looked fairly intact. Mum's favourite colour is bright pink and she already had a director's chair in her studio in bright pink (and covered in flamingos!), so I picked a beautiful lamb's leather in fuchsia that I've had in my leather stash for years. 

I used a sample sale purchase of bright pink ribbed upholstery fabric for the gusset and a super long invisible zip, which I struggled to sew round the curved edges of the cushion - so it doesn't quite zip up the whole way.  But this is such an improvement from what I started with...I don't think I care that much! More importantly, neither does mum!

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The original cushion...looking in desperate need of some attention.

The original cushion...looking in desperate need of some attention.

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Beautiful sofa cushions

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Beautiful sofa cushions

I am lucky enough to have access to sample sales at my current job, where I can pick up interesting food or random Christmas decorations in the middle of July! But occasionally, the fabric department sends over loads of ex-display upholstery fabric samples...and then, I just can't help myself! Although the fabric samples are fairly small (about 60 x 60 cm), some of them are like works of art. I've not heard of most of the fabric companies, but I could never justify paying the full retail price for a whole metre anyway. The samples are a perfect size for creating cushions and we recently bought a cream sofa which is in desperate need of some colours pops of colour.

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Armed with an array of beautiful fabric samples to choose from, I managed to select a couple of samples that were strikingly different but complemented each other:

  • First up is an African inspired print "Noir & or" "black and gold" from Pierre Frey Paris (part of their Majestic Velvet range). The fabric is a viscose/polycotton mix but the photos just don't do this fabric justice - the charcoal grey background is a heavy cotton-like tightly woven fabric with the velvet squiggle design sitting on top almost like devore. the back of the cushion is a rich gold silk fabric, but there was no label on the sample so I don't know where it is from/its composition;
  • The second cushion was made from a linen/viscose fabric in "Cinnamon" from the Lustre range of a company called Zoffany. According to their website, fabric in the Lustre range is finished with a light glaze to give a subtle sheen; the fabric also has a wonderful drape. The back sample was plainand the front sample was printed from their Edo-Fabric range, "Kanoko" in gold had a striking design in a rich gold. The zig zag design is inspired by a 1930’s Japanese Shibori document from Zoffany's archives.
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Now that I've made up these 2 cushions, I need to work out what other fabrics will complement these 2 designs and bring out the rest of the colours in our living room, including the beautiful tiles on the Victorian fireplace.

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Comfy bedroom cushions

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Comfy bedroom cushions

This is a simple project, but one I've been meaning to do for a few months now.

Apart from the beautiful charcoal coloured Victorian fireplace, the colour scheme in our bedroom is very neutral. The walls are painted in light grey and there's a cream carpet left over from the previous owners - I haven't helped much by adding soft grey bed linen and white lacquer drawers!

To add some personality and a focal point to the room I've hung one of my mum's brightly coloured paintings of Saint Tropez over the charcoal Victorian fireplace. These cushions add a bold touch against the plain bed linen and the warm wood of the bed frame, although I think I could have been more adventurous by adding a punchy magenta piping or pompom trim! The ceiling lampshade is made from some beautiful silver crushed velvet (in Voyage Mimosa - £30 a metre from John Lewis) and I made sure that I bought extra at the time so that I could incorporate it into some other soft furnishings in the bedroom.

I finally tackled an invisible zip closure rather than my lazy pillow case fold...well I was forced into doing this or otherwise I didn't have enough silver velvet to back all three cushions! But I'm pleased that I did as they give a much more professional finish to my cushions. I also reused some feather cushion inserts rather than the cheap polyester ones and they make such a difference to the way the cushions look and feel.

I used two different fabrics for the front side of the cushions. The square cushion is made from a square remnant of a Designers Guild fabric (that I picked up for £1!) and the rectangular cushions I printed myself using my Rennie Mackintosh inspired screen print design on some navy silk taffeta. 

It was tricky to get the pictures right as there is so much sunlight streaming into the bedroom that most of my photos end up overexposed! That said, I'm very pleased with the results of the individual cushions and overall improvement to the whole room :) 

My furry little model Winston! This was the only shot where he stayed still long enough for me to take the photo...shame that you can't really see the cushions.

My furry little model Winston! This was the only shot where he stayed still long enough for me to take the photo...shame that you can't really see the cushions.

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White summer jacket with embroidered back (using ByHand London Victoria Blazer)

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White summer jacket with embroidered back (using ByHand London Victoria Blazer)

One of the benefits of working in retail (particularly fashion retail) is the access to sample sales. Last summer, whilst hunting through piles of clothes at one of these, I found a beautiful fabric sample of a large crest embroidered on chiffon and grabbed it without another thought, knowing that I could make use of it somehow.

After thinking about how to make the best out of the sample, I settled on the idea of using it as the back panel of a jacket. 

The only jacket pattern I've ever made is the ByHand London Victoria jacket (which I've done a couple of times). It seemed like a sensible choice as it has a loose fit and would work well with draped fabrics, plus the fact that the embroidered panel was the exact size of the back panel pattern piece helped!

The panel itself was soft grey polyester chiffon with bright white embroidery for the crest design. I wanted to keep the colour palette light and neutral, perfect for summer and easy to wear with lots of outfits. 

Aiming for something a little sturdier to compensate for the delicate back panel, I made the front panels and lining made out of a cotton canvas type fabric (I don't actually know what it is, as I picked it up in the clearance section of Missan Textiles on Berwick Street). Although it was a very different fabric in both weight and texture, the cotton was fairly close in colour to the chiffon and complimented it perfectly. To continue with the theme of contrasting textures and fabrics, I chose a white woven fabric (also from Missan Textiles' clearance section...) for the sleeves and cuffs. Finally, to bring together the multitude of fabrics, I used the sleeve fabric on the collar, and the front panel fabric on the lapels. 

Despite the variety of fabrics and textures, I think the end result looks fairly balanced and falls well...its just a shame that I can't see the beautiful back panel when I wear it.  

Extra details:

  • Back Panel: I cut a second back panel out of the same fabric that I used for the front panels, which I attached the embroidered panel onto (it also doubled up as a lining).
  • Lining: to avoid the whole jacket becoming stiff or creating an imbalance in the weight of front panels versus the back, I partially lined the front panels (with no additional lining of the back), and finished all the raw seams neatly with (a bright yellow!) bias binding.
  • Cuffs: For extra definition, I used a lightweight interfacing on the cuffs, but left the collar and lapels without interfacing to allow for a softer look around the front.
  • Bottom Hem: I always have trouble with the way the bottom hem falls on this pattern, so i decided to hem the chiffon panel and cotton lining separately so they would fall nicely (first time using a rolled hem footer with my chiffon and it worked surprisingly well).

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Bright red tote bag (with hand printed lining and pom pom trim!)

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Bright red tote bag (with hand printed lining and pom pom trim!)

My handbags never seem to be large enough to fit everything that I need and I'm often carrying around a second bag, so I decided to make a large leather tote for my next project. 

I picked up this beautiful pillar box red leather hide from the Tandy Leather factory stand at one of the London craft fairs (they sell online too) well over a year ago and I've always had it earmarked for a project like this. 

To avoid spending hours creating a new bag design, I chose a simple T-shape construction similar to my turquoise leather clutch (minus the flap), with long handles so the bag would sit comfortably on my shoulder. I didn't want to bother with any sort of closure so i added an inside zip pocket into the lining of the bag.

I used some sandy coloured linen for the lining that I had already screen printed with a bright red zebra motif design (the design is based on the body of a zebra, which was then cropped, rotated and repeated in order to create the design). Just before I was about to insert the lining into the bag, I came up with the idea  of adding a pompom trim to the inside of the lining, which I think adds a bit of fun to what is otherwise quite a simple bag!

I'm so pleased with the end result - for once I didn't rush any part of the construction, so the quality of the finishing looks pretty professional!

A close up of the pom pom trim and inside pocked detail

A close up of the pom pom trim and inside pocked detail

The all important details: 

  • T-shaped construction: as with my turquoise leather clutch, I drafted the bag design using teh T-shaped construction method.
  • Straps: In order to create perfectly straight straps for my bag, I used a "strap cutter" for the first time (bought from the Tandy Leather Factory). This is a fantastic tool that takes all the hassle out of cutting long thin strips of leather. 
  • Securing the Straps: I picked up some brass screw rivets from the Tandy Leather factory (apparently they are called "Chicago Screws"), which were just right for attaching my handles to the main bag.
  • Inside Pocket: since my bag wasn't going to have a zip/closure to protect my valuables from pesky thieves, I added an inside pocket to the lining - which was fairly straightforward to do (searching on Pinterest came up with a few tutorials).
  • Finishing the raw edges: I'm not lucky enough to own a skiving machine, so all my bags tend to have raw finished edges (which tends to make them look a bit homemade. To make sure they looked super professional I used the following on the raw edges (all available from Tandy Leather):
    • Eco-Flo Gum Tragacanth: a thin layer of this transparent glue is applied to the raw edges. Before the glue dries, you use an "edge slicker" (see below for photos) to repeatedly rub the edges. The heat produced from friction of rubbing the wet glue with the edge slicker appears to smooth out the corners of the raw leather edges. This process is known as burnishing and can be repeated several times to achieve the desired level of burnish; and
    • Fiebings Edge Kote: once the edges have been neatened up with the Gum Tragacanth, you can "paint" the raw edges with Edge Kote (available in a multitude of colours and comes either in acrylic or dye) for a final professional touch. I chose black acrylic which was nice contrast against the bright red leather.
  • Optional Detail: I hadn't noticed that the leather had some scratch marks and other imperfections across much of the hide (that'll teach me for buying it on the cheap!). I was going to add a strip of  black suede leather to sit over the centre of each side of the bag to cover some of these marks (screen printed with the same zebra motif design used for the lining) but ultimately I decided against it...
I used a simple T-shaped construction for my bag, with the top of the bag being wider than the bottom to create the classic tote bag shape.

I used a simple T-shaped construction for my bag, with the top of the bag being wider than the bottom to create the classic tote bag shape.

Pattern pieces for the leather and lining all cut out and ready to sew (the leather hide wasn't big enough so I had to cut the bag in 2 pieces

Pattern pieces for the leather and lining all cut out and ready to sew (the leather hide wasn't big enough so I had to cut the bag in 2 pieces

A close up of the handles showing how accurate that strap cutter was (and my stitching wasn't too bad either!)

A close up of the handles showing how accurate that strap cutter was (and my stitching wasn't too bad either!)

The lining of the bag, before the pom pom trim was attached, showing my hand printed zebra design and inside pocket detail.

The lining of the bag, before the pom pom trim was attached, showing my hand printed zebra design and inside pocket detail.

essential pieces of equipment:

The fantastic strap cutter, which eliminates all the stress of cutting long strips accurately! You can just about see how it works from the bottom diagram on the instruction sheet.

The fantastic strap cutter, which eliminates all the stress of cutting long strips accurately! You can just about see how it works from the bottom diagram on the instruction sheet.

Clockwise from left to right: the edge slicker; used in conjunction with the Gum Tragacanth to burnish and neaten the raw edges; Fiebing's leathercraft cement (i.e. leather glue!); Edge Kote to paint the raw edges; and finally the brass screw rivets (or Chicago screws as the website calls them).

Clockwise from left to right: the edge slicker; used in conjunction with the Gum Tragacanth to burnish and neaten the raw edges; Fiebing's leathercraft cement (i.e. leather glue!); Edge Kote to paint the raw edges; and finally the brass screw rivets (or Chicago screws as the website calls them).

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