Sustainable furniture

July 24, 2013

Is there really such a thing as ‘green’ furniture?  As many of us seek a more sustainable way of living we are beginning to evaluate our material needs, which can evolve throughout the course of our lives.  How does this affect our choices when buying furniture? Where do we buy if the furniture in mainstream retail centres can’t be reused or recycled or maybe is not manufactured according to our own personal set of criteria regarding responsible production methods, ethics, and toxicity?

ShabbyChicChairBlue2P1060039

Shabby Chic Chair in Grey with Blue Patchwork Seat Cover

The most straightforward route to a new look and feel to a home might be first and foremost giving the chairs and sofa you already have a revamp, provided the pieces are sound and still match your requirements to some degree of comfort and practicality.  Wooden dining chairs can be painted or stripped and revarnished, using healthy and environmentally friendly products that will not harm you, your family or the planetary ecosystems, and seat pads or cushions can be recovered with organic, vintage and preloved fabrics.  Then there is the life cycle to consider, how long can we keep it in our homes, in a closed loop? Can the item be re-upholstered or painted to fit with evolving tastes.  Can it be disassembled and refashioned at some point in the future or at least recycled if you no longer want it or it becomes surplus to requirements if you downsize or move?  What looks fabulous in one home might not work in a more modern or traditional space.

IkeaBedtoSofaP1060778

Ikea Child’s Bed refashioned as a Sofa

With the eco furniture trend growing, an increasing number of companies now specialise in contemporary furniture that is sustainable.  Things to look out for are making sure that the wood comes from a certified sustainable source, checking whether it’s made with recycled materials, how easily it can be disassembled and ensuring that it is low in or free from toxicity.  Another route to consider is buying good solid vintage pieces and also wherever possible buying local.  There are some amazing finds on sites such as Freegle, Freecycle, and local community run schemes are popping up all over the place.  If you are handy with a few tools there are some inspirational things to be built from old palettes  and recycled wood.  Second hand furniture can often be refashioned at little effort and expense.  A table can be made by using palette wood for trestles with an old door as a table top.  An old blanket box can be cleaned and polished or painted and used as a window seat with a comfy box cushion in pretty fabric.  Old wooden crates can be stacked in creative configurations to create a wall unit or mounted on the wall directly for books and small collectables.  A garden bench can be made from two old logs with a scaffolding plank across.  All sorts of ideas are being shared online at open source sites such as Pinterest, and even many magazines now do articles on recycled and vintage projects.

Also good news is that many furniture designers are rethinking the way they work and taking into consideration a range of criteria to match consumer’s higher levels of discernment.  There are some great British designers using recycled and scrap wood, giving antique furniture a new lease of life, making pieces more functional and adaptable by allowing several chairs to be joined together to create a sofa,’re-imagined’ chairs made from recycled public transport seating, to name just a few. There are even green initiatives to create furniture from waste such as coffee grounds.

How lovely to have so many choices and the potential for such unique furnishings.  Could this finally bring back the life into our ‘community streets’?  Imagine instead of shop after shop stocking the same old pseudo chic, an eclectic mix of inspired creations made with loving care by gifted and talented artisans and craftspeople.  I’m in, how about you?

We can Change the World by the Power of our Purse

March 6, 2013

In these unsettling times we are becoming ever more aware of the pace of change and it’s easy to feel that things are beyond our control and that we don’t have a say.  But what if we decided to make our mark in our own way – not in the ‘old fashioned’ way of protest marching or casting the ballot for the same old party politics just with different coloured rosettes, but in a new way – with our purses and our feet.  What if everyone decided all at once that “same old, same old” wasn’t good enough, wasn’t what serves us or the planet, and from that moment on we all did things differently?

Take the example of textiles.  We all know just how much the textile industry pollutes clean water and how all the clothing and soft furnishings we buy are saturated with toxic chemicals which offgas into our rooms and are absorbed by our bodies through the skin.  We think we have no alternative, but you may be surprised:

Clothing

  • Buy vintage:  There are so many shops springing up offering good quality vintage clothing and often vintage fabric which predates the chemical saturation era.  Most is so well made that it may even have a longer shelf life than something you buy today.  And anyway who wants to be a High Street clone?  Oxfam offer a selection of vintage online.  Google vintage clothing with your town name or look on Yell in your local area or Freeindex.
  • Organise a swishing party with friends:  It’s the perfect time of year to declutter your wardrobe and have a fun evening trying on and swopping clothes with a group of girls over your favourite tea or a glass of wine.  Find out how to organise a swishing party here, or if there is one local to you. Some more info and rules
  • Revamp your wardrobe:  lay out anything that looks and feels a bit tired and step back.  That T shirt that’s always annoyed you because the sleeves were too long, could you just make it a short sleeve for the Spring?  What about adding some beads, ribbon, trim, embroidery, buttons to freshen it up or to match the colour of a favourite cardigan or skirt?  Or make one top into a vest, to wear over another.  Make a skirt out of a pair of jeans by opening up the inside leg seams, or get ahead with a new pair of shorts.  Use a scarf as a belt or make a bag out of an old felted pullover.  The ideas for upcycling are endless, like this
  • Jumble sales, community sales are making a comeback.  Check out your local newspaper or parish magazine for boot fairs many of which will be in full swing by Easter.

Home

  • Many of the above will apply:  local garage sales, swop shops, vintage shops, second hand shops.  Check if there is a local curtain exchange.  Look up eBay, Freecycle, etc,
  • Make patchwork curtains and cushions:  If your budget is tight and you have fabric to hand but not enough of any one, make a pretty patchwork or bands or stripes of colour.  Buy a small piece of fabric to enhance what you already have and to create a coherent theme, for example, if you have lots of pink or red florals, buy some blue striped fabric, or polka dots as a contrast. Great for completing that shabby chic look.  If your skills are a bit rusty, ask a friend or neighbour to help you.  It’s fun sewing together, with tea and cake!
Pink Patchwork Fabric

Pink Patchwork fabric

  • If you are just bored of the style and feel of the room, how about making a Roman Blind out of an old curtain?  This will make a room feel more fresh and modern in an instant.  You don’t have to spend lots of money on tracks either.  A wooden baton works just as well.
  • Prefer a minimalist look?  Wooden shutters are becoming more popular.  They last a lot longer than curtains and are easy to maintain.
  • When it comes to warmth and elegance, you just can’t beat a good pair of hand-made, interlined curtains though.  They can set the tone of the room, and bring a softness and feeling of intimacy to a space.

    Curtains in organic hemp by OEcotextiles

    Curtains in organic hemp by OEcotextiles

  • Organic fabrics  for are becoming more readily available and gradually more affordable as the technologies improve, demand increases and production prices of cheaper fabrics worldwide begin to rise.   You often only need to spend a little more to get healthy, quality organic cotton, linens and organic hemp which will last for years, meaning that over the  product life cycle they actually work out much cheaper, and don’t cost the earth. Get together and help each other to make curtains and clothes, or find someone local who has the skills and get them to teach you.

Being creative and sitting back in the warm fuzzy glow of having made something yourself beats any shopping spree. It’s fun, it’s satisfying, it’s original and is often a fraction of the cost.   So why not be the change and make more from less,  make conscious choices how we spend, who we give our energy to, how we share our resources?  Have you got an idea, a resource or a site to share?

We love wool

January 14, 2013
Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool

Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool

What a fantastic renaissance wool is having this season in the soft furnishing sector.  Thanks to it’s unique natural properties it has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest textiles known.  We hope you will also be inspired by the wonderful virtues of this fibre,

Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag

Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag

The fact that wool will only smoulder and not burn means it is naturally flame retardant, making it the perfect chemical free eco-friendly choice for upholstery and for creating a healthy home environment,  unlike synthetics which can be highly flammable.  On top of this the natural fibres absorb dye very easily, deeply and uniformly, without the use of chemicals.

Wool is such a versatile fibre as it is soft and light and drapes brilliantly making it ideal for both clothing and soft furnishings, including curtains, cushions, throws and blankets, as well as upholstery and a whole range of accessories such as bags, scarves and much more.  The fibres are naturally elastic and will stretch under pressure and then spring back into shape so that anything made from wool will not sag or bag.  And on top of that it is also dirt resistant!  The fibres have an outer layer of scales that are resistant to  dirt and dust penetration, so any stains will sit on top and not embed, making the fabric easier to clean.  Soiling is easily removed by gentle washing in warm soapy water. And even though it absorbs moisture, the scales have water repellent properties, perfect for rainy days, and your sofa.  Wow!

Grey wool cushion with hemp

Grey Wool Cushion with hemp

And just when you were thinking it can’t get any better, it does, because wool is also hard wearing.  The fibres are strong and less likely to break, and resist piling and snagging, so wool fabrics will look good indefinitely and typically have a longer life span than synthetic fabrics.  No wonder fathers used to hand their overcoats down to their oldest sons!  What mileage.  Great for both your wardrobe and home soft furnishing budget then.

Oh and I almost forgot to say, that wool is also a natural insulator, so it keeps us warm!  The crimp in the wool fibres mean tiny air pockets heat up when any moisture in the centre of the fibre heats up, thus holding the warmth.  This works both in a wool jacket as well as for curtains.

And last but not least the acoustic and insulation properties deserve a mention.  Wool carpet helps minimise noise levels in the home, while the fibres are also making their mark as insulation for loft spaces and walls, as a natural alternative to petro-chemical derived products for those wishing to become more green.

Let us know what you love about wool.

How to make Lavender Hearts

November 6, 2012
Lavender Hearts in striped ticking

Lavender Hearts in Striped Ticking

If you had lavender in your garden this summer and were able to save some of the flowers then making lavender hearts is a lovely way to use them.  The heady scent is great in amongst the fresh laundry or in underwear drawers, and it also acts as a good repellent for any roving moths.

  1. Place the heart shaped template on the fabric, lining up any stripes or patterns
Use template to cut out heart shape

Use template to cut out heart shape

2. Cut two pieces, front and back

Cut a front and back of heart

Cut a front and back piece

3. Place right sides together and pin in position, matching stripes carefully.  Sew round edges leaving a 2″ gap on each side away from the centre top to allow a gap for stuffing.  See picture.

Sew round the edges of heart

Sew round the edges of the heart leaving a 2″ gap each side of the centre

4.  Turn right side out

Turn Heart inside out

Turn Heart inside out

5.  Fold in the top edges the same amount as your seam allowance and use a little fabric glue to hold in place and prevent fraying.   Position the ribbon folded in two in the centre of the back of the heart on the inside and glue lightly as this will make it easier to pin and sew once the lavender filling has been added.

Use a little glue along top edges of heart

Use a little fabric glue along the top edges of the heart

5.  Add lavender filling and stitch across the top edge, finishing off all ends securely.  Et voila!

6.  You can also make Christmas Hearts and fill them with wadding, or for an even more Christmassy feel use cloves, cardamom or anis.  Shabby chic edging looks good, too.

Christmas Hearts

Christmas Hearts

Really eco-friendly Christmas decorations.  Hang on the tree, in a window or use little ones to personalise your gift wrapping.  Lovely stocking fillers, too!  A good way to become more green.

Have fun being creative in the long winter evenings.  You’re welcome to share your ideas here.

Why are Sofas drenched in Fire Retardant Chemicals?

August 9, 2012

According to recent findings in the US it may be that:

  • Chemicals that are used in household furnishings such as sofas and chairs to inhibit them from catching fire do not work.
  • Some fire retardant materials used over the years may pose serious health risks and have been linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. Most modern household furniture is saturated in flame retardant chemicals which escape from the furniture and settle in dust. That’s particularly dangerous for toddlers, who play on the floor and put things in their mouths.

It would appear that our furniture first became full of flame retardants thanks to the tobacco industry.  A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, as so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes.  Flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, was put forward as the best way to reduce house fires.  Cigarette lobbyists organized an advocacy group which succeeded in covertly manipulating bodies of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders. to push for measures to be introduced.  The Citizens for Fire Safety group has only three members, which also happen to be the three major companies that manufacture flame retardants.  Surprised? Apparently a prominent burn doctor’s misleading testimony was part of a campaign of deception and distortion on the efficacy of these chemicals. The chemical industry “has disseminated misleading research findings so frequently that they essentially have been adopted as fact,” the authors wrote.

Organic Linen and Cotton Canvas for upholstery in four colours

Winthrop Organic Linen and Cotton Canvas for Upholstery in Four Colours, White, Grey and Delphinium and Sandwash Blue

So how do we create a more healthy home?  Fortunately companies like OEcotextiles are making it possible to furnish a home safely.  The new Two Sisters range of natural eco fabrics for soft furnishings is now available in the UK and can be found at www.designercushionsandthrows.co.uk.  If you are thinking about recovering a sofa or some chairs and want to safeguard your family’s health and well-being, the organic linen and cotton canvas blend upholstery fabric is an exceptional quality weave with tightly twisted yarns that comes in a range of 17 colours, something to complement every design scheme.

For those with children and small babies concerned about chemicals in the home, you can read more here

Whats is GOTS?

July 13, 2012

If you are at all concerned about the possible health implications to your family of the number of chemicals in the home and in particular used in the processing of textiles for clothing and home furnishings you may have already come across the letters GOTS. But what do they stand for and what does it mean to us as “shoppers”.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a tool for an international common understanding of environmentally friendly production systems and social accountability in the textile sector;  it covers the  production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, exportation, importation and distribution of all natural fibres.  In brief, this means that all dyestuffs are free of AZO colorants, heavy metals and other chemicals of concern, and no chemicals are used during weaving or finishing which might harm you, so you can use any fabric which has been GOTS certified knowing that it is safe for you and your family.  For a full list of things that are specifically prohibited and much more go to the Global Standards website.

A fabric which is produced to the GOTS is more than just a fabric.  It’s a promise to keep our air and water pure through high standards.  Mills are required to treat wastewater and return it back into the system at drinking water quality. At  this point in time an organic fabric processed to these standards is the safest, most responsible choice possible in terms of both stewardship of the earth and preserving health for both ourselves and future generations by limiting toxicity and reducing carbon footprint.  Growing organic fibres also helps to maintain balance of the soil. Thank goodness for companies like OEcotextiles who are committed to producing fabrics that are safe for our families and for the world.

Organic hemp curtains and cushion

Organic Hemp Curtains and Cushion in Mist Grey and Alabaster White – fabric by OEcotextiles

Finally the standards ensure that workers are treated well and are paid fair wages. Working conditions are good (such as air purification systems, adequate light and ventilation) and child labour is not permitted.  Hard to believe that this is not always the case in the 21st century!

Surely we all want the same thing, a healthy home for our children to thrive in.  There is great power in our decisions, in the choices we make every day.  Sometimes it seems as if our lifestyle is in direct conflict with the well-being of the planet and all eco systems. How can we become more green in the home when it fells like there is limited time and income at our disposal?  But it is important to remember that we do have a choice, and by choosing where we spend our money we make a direct contribution to the changes we wish to see in the world, we must be the change.

How to Make a Simple Shopping Bag

June 15, 2012
Grey striped ticking shopping bag

Sytlish Shopping Bag in Grey Striped Ticking

Whether you are just starting out and learning to sew or just love making things with fabric, making a simple bag is a fun way to spend a wet afternoon.

Unless your lifestyle is totally Zen you are bound to have something around the house that lends itself to recycling or more correctly, upcycling.  Tea towels for example are excellent, or old pillow cases, sheets or duvet covers, as long as the fabric is strong and still in good order.  Old cushion covers can also be good candidates.  We’ve used old jeans, too.

To make a tote bag 17″ deep x 15″ wide (43 x 38cm), you will need:

2 pieces of fabric 18″ x 16″ (46 x 40cm), this includes seam allowance

2 long strips of fabric for straps, 20″ (51cm) long x 3 1/2″ (9cm) wide

Sewing cotton

Grey Striped Ticking for Shopping Bag

Edge the Grey Striped Ticking pieces and pin together

Begin by edging the two pieces of fabric if it is likely to fray, either with a zigzag stitch or an overlock stitch if your machine has one.  Pin the two pieces right sides together.  Sew down the sides and across the bottom, leaving top edges open.

Side seams for Grey Striped Ticking Shopping Bag

Press seams open

Press seams open.  We’ve used Grey Striped Ticking for the front of the bag and a plain white canvas for the back.

Bottom corner edge for grey striped ticking shopping bag

Pin the seams together

In each of the corners match the side seam with the bottom seam creating a point.  Pin in place.

Stitch securely across the corner at right angles   Cut off excess fabric and seal edges.  This gives the bag a greater carrying capacity as it will accommodate larger items more easily

Top edge of grey striped ticking shopping bag

Fold in 1″, press and sew

At the top of the bag, turn 1″ to the inside, press and stitch into place, about 1/2″ from the edge

Making the straps for Grey Striped Ticking shopping bag

Fold in the rough edges and press, then fold together and pin, then sew in place

Make straps.  Fold in 1″ along the whole length of the long edge and press. Repeat this for the other side, leaving a small gap in the middle so there is no overlap when the two sides are folded together. Fold, press again, pin and sew in place.  Oversew ends or press under 1/2″ to get a clean edge.

Straps for grey striped ticking shopping bag

Adding the straps  to the Shopping Bag

Measure 4 1/2″ in from the side seam and mark either with a pin or chalk.  Place one end of the strap alongside the pin or chalk mark or as close to this measurement as possible matching stripes as shown, and pin.  Repeat for all four straps. Stitch straps to bag with either a box or multiple rows of stitching to make sure the straps are strongly secured.

Press bag to finish.

The possibilities are endless, just let your creativity flow.  Some suggestions:

  • Add you own designs to the front panel, eg embroidery, hand-painted designs, applique, patch pocket from an old pair of jeans, buttons, beads, iron on patches.  It’s easier to do this before making up the bag, so plan your design first if you can. Choose a modern stripe, or if you’re a fan of shabby chic or boho chic go for it.
  • Make the bag bigger or smaller.  You can make it long and narrow, or make the bottom corner sections bigger so the bag becomes wider.
  • The straps can be made narrower or wider, or you can use twisted cord, leather straps, or wooden hoops.
  • If you want to use up lots of small pieces of fabric you can create a patchwork panel in the desired size with a plain back, or use patchwork for both.  Straps can also be made of multiple pieces as long as they are securely stitched and not too bulky.
  • For thinner fabrics you might need to use either double thickness or stitch the lighter fabric to a lining fabric, or you could use iron on vilene to get a firmer result.

Crafting is fun, and carrying your own bag is so much nicer than carrying some brand name around on your arm.  Your bag will last much longer than a plastic bag and will be washable and eco-friendly, too.  Advertise your own creativity, you never know someone might ask you to make one for them, and they make great presents.

Boot fairs can be good places to find odd pieces of fabric or check if your local church or scout troup are planning a garage sale.  You can find patchwork packs in our eBay shop or go to www.designercushionsandthrows.co.uk where we will soon be selling organic linen, cotton and hemp if you want to become more green.

Send in your photos and we can vote for the most creative.

Transitioning to a sustainable, life-enhancing,ethical business

April 24, 2012

“We have a duty to leave the Earth in a better state than we found it.”

Today I pledge to be “part of the solution rather than part of the problem”

An opportunity to join a group being brought into being by Transition Marlborough, “Practical Permaculture for Transition”, has come along at precisely the right time.  The discovery a couple of years ago of just how much pollution on the planet is created by the textile industy left me reeling and for a considerable time questioning how a soft furnishing business could be justified.

Blue Green Organic Cushion with Tulip Flower Applique

Blue Green Organic Cushion with Tulip Flower Applique

At that time the alternatives were either almost non existant or barely viable for those on run of the mill incomes.  So in the spirit of ‘Kaizen’, we started small, with a couple of meters of organic hemp.

Cushion in Natural Hemp with Party Girl Applique

Cushion in Natural Unbleached Hemp with Party Girl Applique

Later we tried some natural unbleached hemp, and also some vintage wool.

Looking at issues around waste, all the out of date pattern books loomed into view, and patchwork was born.  It was exciting to discover that even heavy weight upholstery fabrics can be used creatively for projects like bags, rugs, footstools, chairs and more.  This stops the books from ending up in landfill and they offer a variety of patterns in complementary colours and textures.  It’s worth checking out local small soft furnishing businesses to find out if they have books or offcuts left over from design projects, they will probably be delighted for you to take them off their hands, or you may be able to make them an offer for a bulk purchase.

Vintage Black Patchwork Shabby Chic Footstool

Vintage Black Patchwork Shabby Chic Footstool

So, in the spirit of Permaculture, Designer Cushions and Throws will from now only only be buying or using fabric for our soft furnishing projects that meets certain criteria and is:

  • produced in ways that are organic
  • eco-friendly and sustainably grown, for example, fibres that are naturally more resilient and thrive with little or no pesticides, such as bamboo and linen
  • locally produced, such as wool and linen from the Cotswold Woollen Weavers
  • respectful of ethical principles, without harming land or the people who are involved in production or sales processes
  • recycled, mostly fabric that would otherwise end its lifecycle in landfill (like pattern books, offcuts left over from curtain projects)
  • vintage, predating chemical saturation and a naturally healthier option

If there are other business out there aspiring to the same principles we would love to hear from you, share ideas and work with you towards a wiser future.  Or if you just love fabric and have comments to contribute, please get in touch.

Life after Plastic

March 28, 2012

Plastics are everywhere. But although it is a very affordable and convenient material, plastic is very often toxic to produce, toxic to use and also toxic in its disposal.

Scientists are increasingly finding that there may be hidden costs to our health. Some common plastics release harmful chemicals into the air and into food and drinks. Maybe you can’t see or taste it, but if your dinner came in a plastic tray, you’re likely eating a little bit of plastic with your dinner.

On top of this the use of plastics cause an enormous amount of enduring pollution as every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists, except for the small amount that has been incinerated,  releasing toxic chemicals in the process. Plastic waste is accumulating in huge quantities in the sea where fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which means they may become unfit for consumption.

So how can we reduce chemical in the home?

Making Better and Safer choices

  • Reduce use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc.
  • Look for items with less plastic packaging or better none at all. If you cannot avoid plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons or sewing cottons and bits).
  • Get to know your plastics – see guide below:

The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).  This list is just a rough guide and by no means definitive.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers

PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware

PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols

Other.  Includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research.

Green and White Flower Cotton Bag

Green and White Flower Cotton Bag

A few suggestions to become more green:

Textile bags are reusable, washable, biodegradable, eco-friendly and can be easily made from fabric remnants.   Watch for our post on How to make a Textile Shopping Bag – coming soon.  See here for textile bags or visit our eBay shop for bags and fabric remnants.

Make your own yoghurt and recycle the same pot each time, or use your own ceramic or glass pot. There are a number of online sites that give instructions and if you have an airing cupboard it is very easy and costs a fraction of the price in the shops (about 55-60p per 500ml using organic milk.

Have you got ideas to share?  Please let us know your ideas.

Make a Rag Rug

February 14, 2012
Rustich Shabby Chic Patchwork Wool Crewel Rug

Rustic Shabby Chic Patchwork Wool Crewel Rug

A while ago I came into possession  of an ex-display hanger of samples of wool crewel fabric in a range of 5 different colourways.  I considered upcycling one piece into a bag, but the heavyweight wool embroidery meant that the cloth was very bulky in places.  Then I remembered a piece of hessian that had been lying at the bottom of a basket for a while.  And an idea was born for a rug and an eco-friendly project.  Here’s how.

First of all make a template  5” x 5” and then cut the fabric up into squares. Alternatively, choose a size that will mean you can cut the maximum amount of squares out across the width of the cloth you have available.  If you have one, use an overlocker to stop the edges from fraying.  If you don’t have a machine, it is not too serious if the fabric you are going to use does not fray too badly as you will be sewing on a backing to give the rug more substance and durability.

Begin by arranging the squares in such a way that the colours and shapes are well distributed across the whole area of the rug giving it some form of cohesion.  When you are satisfied with the layout, begin sewing the squares together a row at a time.  Press all the seams open  in each row either as  you go or all together at the end.  Then begin joining the rows together, matching the seams carefully by placing pins at a vertical angle into the seams so that they stay well matched up and can’t slip or move while sewing together.

Adding a layer of batting

Candlewick bedspread as batting

Next some batting  –  I used part of an old candlewick bedspread.  You could use batting, or curtain interlining, or an old blanket.

Basting the patchwork and batting together

Basting the patchwork and batting together

Baste (or tack) the backing carefully to the patchwork taking care that all the seams remain open.

Stitching the hessian backing in place

Stitching the hessian backing in place

Pin a piece of hessian to the batting side of the work and then baste all three layers together.  Trim off any excess hessian at the edges.   Secure the hessian to the patchwork and batting by sewing through all layers in a large stitch.  You can either sew in straight lines top to bottom or left to right sewing between the joins (stitch in the ditch)  or you can zig zag across.  Ideally start from the centre and work out to the top and bottom  and sides always taking care that there are no folds and smoothing the base fabric (hessian) regularly as necessary.

Bind edges with heavy duty fabric tape or strips of fabric precut to fit, cutting pieces to fit two opposite sides first and once these are in place measuring across the whole width including the border to get the final length for the two remaining side, plus about 1” extra to turn under for a neat edge.

Binding the edges

Bindng the edges

Creating a patchwork is quite a fast way to make a rug and means there are no raw edges which works better for fabrics that fray easily, or that are very soft.  It also great if you’ve got natural fabrics and helps create a healthy home and contributes to low impact living.

Please do share any ideas you have or improvements to the technique above.  It would be lovely to start a discussion and sharing platform for creative ideas and projects.

To read about the Wonders of Wool go to www.designercushionsandthrows.co.uk/blog_page


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers