Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sofa Cushions For Dummies

Been a while since my last non-baking-related post, eh? I've been dragging my feet on this particular project because it involved a few firsts for me: piping and invisible zippers. I've barely gotten the hang of regular zippers so I was scared to see how I'd fare with these. Last night I was so excited to see my new and improved sofa that I finally pushed through my illness-related fatigue and my fear of learning new sewing skills and buckled down to finish.

Which means it's now time for the second installment of "Making My House Less of an Eyesore." Since burning the house to the ground and starting from scratch is not a viable option, I'm working at it bit by bit with small projects like this until something good starts to come together. You may remember my first foray into the world of adult decorating in the form of new covers for our kitchen chairs. It was a start, but there's still a lot more work to be done.

The more time I spend browsing other bloggers' sites, the more beautifully decorated homes I see. And the more beautiful homes I see the more jealous I get! While I wouldn't want to give up our year-round Halloween decor, there are times when it becomes an obstacle to proper color coordination. If our six-foot-tall animatronic vampire is wearing a bright red cape and everything else in the room is green and blue, I just have to learn to live with that. To make matters worse, when we moved in I randomly picked paint colors based solely on what I thought looked pretty with no thought to how the walls would coordinate with our decor. The thought didn't cross my mind because we had very little in the way of decor since we were just starting out financially, but now we've had a few years to build up a collection and make the place our own. Without any cohesive vision we've wound up with a crazy fun house of mixed designs, styles, and colors. Our knick knacks make me happy but do sometimes hurt my eyes.

Can you say boooring?

Our sofa is one of our more recent acquisitions. Because I have three cats and one very messy husband, the primary concern when choosing a sofa was how well it would repel stains and cat hair. Obviously we were also on a budget so when we found one in our price range in the right size and covered with the right sort of fabric we went for it. The green's not a bad color and it goes well with the existing curtains and (slightly hideous) arm chair my husband brought into the marriage. I just can't help but think that it's a little bland. It came with an ample number of extra throw cushions, which I'm grateful for, but they're all the same color as the sofa, which lends to the bland look. It wasn't until recently that I realized that all our humble sofa would need to perk itself up is some new cushions. I could sew some of those. In the words of Top Gear, "How hard can it be?"

Thinking either yellow or orange would add a nice pop and contrast to the blue of the walls and green of the sofa, I headed to my favorite online fabric shop. I took advantage of's design wall feature where you can display thumbnails of fabrics next to each other to see how they mesh. After trying many different combinations I settled on this Waverly bird fabric with a splash of yellow and a flocked brown, silver, and black fabric (no longer available). The flocked fabric is even more lovely in person than it looked online with embossed bits in a velour texture and a lovely sheen to the background. Even better is that the two fabrics look perfect together. Different enough style-wise to keep things interesting but the colors are spot on.

The flocked fabric is clearly of the spot clean only variety, so to make things easier for myself as a sewer I made simple covers for some 20" Ikea pillow forms and hand sewed them shut around the pillows. I figure if the fabric gets stained to the point where it needs anything more than spot cleaning I can just give up on it and recover the pillows with something new.

The price tag on this project was getting pretty high so I decided to recover two pillows from the mountain of unused pillows we have tucked away in the corner. Because of the ivory background on the Waverly fabric, which makes me nervous for anything my husband will touch and eat near, I want to be able to remove those covers and throw them in the wash if (when) they get messy. Hence the need for invisible zippers. And you know what? I needn't have worried one bit about those zippers or the piping. With the right sewing machine feet it was a breeze. I made sure to read through a few online tutorials first to get the basics, including this tutorial on Sew, Mama, Sew! for piping and this tutorial and this one for the invisible zippers. I cheated and used packaged piping since I was so nervous about things going wrong, but I think next time I'll go whole hog and make my own. Doesn't look too tricky and I like the idea of using something other than plain-colored fabric.

Pillows are so darn simple to sew and there must already be a million and one tutorials out there on the subject so I'll leave you to find those yourself. Instead I'll list a few tips and mistakes I didn't pick up on from any of the sites I visited.
  • If you're a perfectionist and are making a pair of pillows, be sure to match up the fabric while cutting it so you don't wind up with unsymmetrical pillows like my dark brown ones. While it won't really bother me I can't help but think it'll be the first thing my mom spots when she visits. If you're going that route, also make sure to buy extra fabric so you can have enough to match.

  • When sewing the invisible zipper, be sure to iron the coils as flat as possible. Also make sure you don't sew too close to the zipper teeth as it'll be near impossible to zip up if there's not enough give.

  • While it's always a good idea to use something like Fray Stop or pinking shears to keep your fabric from fraying, it's especially important to do it along the bottom edge where the zipper will be installed. I didn't think to do that with my first pillow and the darn strings from the fraying fabric kept getting caught in the zipper.

  • Don't be afraid to overstuff the pillow case and make it very fitted to the dimensions of your pillow form. I wound up taking in the brown pillowcases because I'd initially thought the 21" x 21" pieces of fabric I'd measured out would be too small so I cut a little extra. Bad idea. It looked like the pillows were wearing badly-fitted suits until I nipped it in to be exactly 20" x 20" (the dimensions printed on the pillow's tag).

New and improved sofa!

I am so happy with the results! It feels like a fresh, new sofa just because of a few new cushions. I feel a little guilty about all of the money I spent on this project, but considering that the throw pillows I like at Target are about $25 each these weren't a bad deal. They just don't fall into the category of bargain decorating, which is really what I want to achieve. It's tough to combine my desire to save money with my desire to have things just right in our house.

Price List:
Ikea cushion inserts: 2 @ $7 each = $14
22" invisible zippers: 2 @ $2 each = $4
Packaged piping: 2 @ $1.25 each = $2.50
Fabric: $26 (yikes!)
Total: $46.50 (double yikes!) or almost $12 each pillow (whew, that sounds much nicer!)


Clements Family said...

Great pillows! I would love to make my own...I am just so nervous I will mess them up!

Meg said...

Love the fabric choice! It looks MARVELOUS. (Love your blog name, too!)

I'm having a Target giveaway on my blog. I'd love it if you stopped by!

Lisa said...

Really pretty! I love your fabric choices and hopefully they'll hide some of that cat hair. I can sympathize!

the cape on the corner said...

i think that looks great. it's amazing what patterned pillows can do. but i am crying over that lamp. must. have. it!

stopping over from somewhat simple.

Nikki said...

Great fabric choices. I think $12 per pillow is pretty sweet.

Cathy @ The Far Fifty said...

Great job! I love your fabric choices. I love your lamp and wall colour too!

Anonymous said...

The new pillows look great! I love the fabric you chose. Great job with the piping...I'm way too scared to attempt that!

the momma (aka Shannon) said...

mmmm...yummy pillows...
i could die for that fabric. it looks stunning, and from here they look perfect :o) i really thought the first pic was your "inspiration photo" from a pottery barn catalogue or something!! great job.
your description of yourself...well, let's just say i could copy and paste it right into my "about me" section. minus the vampires, of course. i'm a little scared of vampires.
thanks so much for visiting my blog!

the momma (aka Shannon) said...

oh, ps--i LOVE your blog title too. why can't i know german? or at the very least some good german idioms?

Kim said...

I love the fabrics you found. Good for you for talking invisible zippers. It really takes the boring out of your sofa.