We can Change the World by the Power of our Purse

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?

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How to make Lavender Hearts

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.

How to Make a Simple Shopping Bag

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.

Make a Rag Rug

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

How to use Throws creatively!

 

Luxury Purple Velvet Throw
Maroc Blackberry Purple Velvet Throw

On a dark, gloomy winter day what could be more of a pick me up than adding a splash of colour to a design scheme?  Strong colours such as purple, magenta and red give an instant lift to the senses, making a statement in a neutral space and can be introduced in an instant in the form of a throw.  These really useful home accessories are both practical and versatile.  With such a wide range of styles and colours available to buy, there is something for every taste and every pocket.

Throws in different colours and textures
Throws come in different styles, textures and colours. Something for everyone!

Luxurious velvets and wools are fabulous for the winter season.  Not only can these sensous textiles enhance a room visually, they also introduce a feeling of softness and intimacy, particularly in a bedroom.

Old Cane Chair Before
Old Cane Chair Before

Got a chair that is looking a little tired or which no longer matches your design scheme? Transform the look of a room in an instant.  For a fraction of the cost of a new chair a throw can create stunning and amazing feel good effects in seconds.

Magenta Chenille Throw over a Cane Chair
Transform with a Magenta Chenille Throw

Or maybe you prefer the Shabby Chic look?

Blue Shabby Chic Style Patchwork Throw over Cane Chair
Blue Shabby Chic Style Patchwork Throw over Cane Chair

And throws are so versatile.  In the warmer seasons of the year a heavy weight throw can be stored away and cooler shades can be given precedence once more, so your home environment adapts with the seasons.  In the Spring and Summer, choosing a throw in a lighter cooler texture such as cotton or linen and in pastel or natural tones brings a fresher feel to the room and reflects light adding to the cooling, envigorating sensation.

Pink Patchwork Throw on a Day Bed
Pink Patchwork Throw on a Day Bed

Not only can a throw create a decorative feature in a room, it can also be used in a practical way, such as on a bed in the winter as a topper, for extra warmth.  A throw on a sofa is also handy for snuggling under on cold winter evenings in front of the fire or on home movie nights.  Or enjoy the pleasure of a picnic in the garden, in style.  See more

Or to get the look on a budget, why not take a look in some charity shops and see if you can find some old curtains.  If the fabric is still in good condition and you can wash them you can edge one in a contrasting colour or sew two right sides together and then turn them out so you have a backed throw.  Or buy several pieces of fabric and make your own patchwork on a long winter’s evening?  Have fun!

Vintage Footstool goes Shabby Chic

As the seasons change we see our “stuff” literally in a different light.  But before we decide to part with something, it might be worth taking a moment before sending something to landfill to consider if it could be given a new lease of life.  Even if an item no longer has pride of place in our own home, it might still be of use or value to someone else, either as a gift, or possibly in exchange for an unused object or collectable in their bottom drawer, or even to sell on.  After years of “Highstreet-ality” and seeing the same old same old in every shop in every town, interest in the original and unusual is beginning to grow once more.  It’s so refreshing to be different!

Recycling is a concept we are all now very familiar with.  Giving something a makeover is not only recycling at its best it’s also satisfying.

Shabby Chic Footstool
Vintage Footstool goes Shabby Chic

We took one old vintage footstool that was in very tired shape and gave it the works.  The legs were shortened to give it a more modern feel and then the base and legs were given a coat of paint in a soft shabby chic grey.  French Grey is a very popular colour, but you can mix your own shade using a standard water based quick dry satin in white and adding a similar quality black in the amount of your choice to achieve the desired shade, which you might wish to vary according to the item you are painting.   This gives you a lot of paint shade choices at minimal cost.  Just be sure to mix enough to complete the project in hand as having to remix a new batch might result in colour variations.

The cover is made in a patchwork of a selection of florals, checks, stripes and plain in linen and cottons in complementary shades of Duck Egg Blue, Naturals and Offwhite by designer company ROMO.  These top quality furnishing fabrics will give lasting pleasure across many seasons, not just one.  As well as being perfect for putting up your feet after a long day, the footstool can also be used as a meditation stool, or as a small side table for a tray with your favourite cuppa and biscuits as you relax in front of the fire.

Shabby Chic Sidetable
Shabby Chic Sidetable

Got time and paint left over…….?

How to Make a Patchwork Throw

Use to cover a chair, as a picnic blanket or a child’s play mat

Close up of Patchwork in pink, yellow and green
Close up of Patchwork
Patchwork Throw on a Lloyd Loom Chair
Patchwork Throw on a wicker Lloyd Loom Chair

You will need:

  • 15 pieces of material 35 x 25cm each in complimentary colours in fabrics of equal weight and thickness.  Being eco-friendly, we used 100% curtain weight cotton fabric from an old pattern book
  • Two strips of plain fabric 135cm long and 17cm wide for the top and bottom borders
  • Two strips of plain fabric 115cm and 17 cm wide for side borders
  • 1.5m Lining fabric or plain cotton fabric (137cm or more wide) for backing
  • Sewing thread in appropriate colour/s

A 1.5cm seam was used throughout.  We recommend pressing seams open as you go for more accurate results

How to make the throw

  1. Lay out the fabric squares and decide best how to arrange them
  2. Sew together the top row of three and press seams open
  3. Continue by sewing the next three together, press, and follow with the third , fourth, and fifth rows
  4. When all the rows are sewn together, join the top row to the second row, being careful to match the seams of the squares by placing a pin into the seam at right angles to hold the two together ready for stitching.  Stich together and press seams open carefully
  5. Continue in this way until all five rows have been sewn together making a finished area of three squares by five
  6. Find the middle of a long border strip, and mark with a pin, fold or pencil dot on the wrong side of the fabric.  Do the same for the patchworked piece and match the centre points.  Pin carefully in place and sew together, leaving ends extending away from sides (approx 17cm).  Repeat for the bottom edge.
  7. Repeat the above for the side borders, trimming away any excess length once you have matched the lower part of the side strip to the sides of the top/bottom borders, which now lies between.
  8. At this point you can add a layer of wadding if you wish for a warmer, padded quilt.  Pin the wadding at regular intervals making sure that the fabric lies flat and that there are no folds catching in anywhere. Basting the wadding in place will help to reduce any movement.
  9. Lay out the completed top layer, right side up, either on a large table or on the floor, and taking exact measurements of the finished piece cut the lining fabric to size.  Place the lining fabric over the completed patchwork with right sides together matching side seams and corners.
  10. Sew around the outside edges of the throw leaving 40cm open along the bottom edge.  Turn the throw inside out and press around the edges, folding in and pressing the seam allowance at the bottom opening, and then handstitching this closed.
  11. Press the whole throw until you have a good finish to the edges and the seams are all well settled.  Top stitch around all four edges about 0.5cm in, and again on the inside of the border edge.  You can use the same colour or choose a contrasting colour as a feature.
  12. To anchor the throw in the middle section, we used a small decorative flower feature stitch in the corners of every other square.  This holds the layers together while  allowing them to be flexible at the same time.  For a more quilted effect you can sew down every seam from top to bottom, and across in a grid, but bear in mind that this requires greater accuracy in the preparation of your piece as any discrepancies in measurements will surface at this stage.  You can also use crochet cotton to “tie in” the layers at the corners of the patches.  Stitch through from the top with the thread leaving the end free, coming back up, down and up again, then double tie  and trim the ends leaving tufts, for a more rustic or shabby chic style finish.  Again you can make a feature by using a stronger colour.

From a recycling perspective, you could also use fabric from old curtains, or old shirts to make this throw, as long as the fabrics are of a comparable weight, clean and in good condition.  A variety of textures and colours can be fun.

Making eco soft-furnishings yourself with recycled materials contibutes to a more sustainable way of living and brings great pleasure both in the making and use of the finished item.  If you would like to let us know how you get on, or have ideas to share, or other examples of upcycling,  we’d love to read them in the comments box.

Happy making!

Pink Patchwork Throw folded view
Use as a picnic blanket or a baby play mat

 

Some later projects…

Pink Patchwork Throw
Pink Patchwork Throw
Blue Patchwork Throw
Blue Patchwork Throw
Red Patchwork Throw
Red Patchwork Throw