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Inspiration: Wrap Dress

November 16, 2014

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

These days I do more dreaming about sewing than actual sewing.  Juggling a nine-month-old cutie, a hundred house renovation projects, and an all-consuming science writing project has proven to be as much as I can handle most days.  Even my running has taken a hit! As my sewing machine collects dust, my mind still continues to wander through all the projects that I want to sew as soon as things slow down a bit.

One thing that has been at the top of my dream list for awhile is a wrap dress, especially since this year is the 40th anniversary of the iconic dress.  I’ve never been convinced that I had the figure for a wrap dress.  I’ve always thought I was a bit too straight up and down for what I imagined was a curve-loving dress.  But, that hasn’t stopped me from longing for one. I’ve had my eye out for a pattern, but have you seen how much a Vogue Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern can go for on eBay?!  I once found my size listed for $100, and that felt like a steal!  Crazy, right?  No, I couldn’t justify buying that pattern, but it was gone within a day, so someone else thought it was too good to pass up. My wrap-dress fever became all the worse after following the Curvy Sewing Collective’s Wrap-Along and Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza.  After one too many of their wrap dress posts, I remember digging through all of my patterns to see if I had anything that might give me a starting point.  I thought for a second about the Sewaholic Yaletown (first made here), but I decided neither it nor anything else I had really felt right.

Enter Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

There, on page 132 was a Diane von Furstenberg-esque wrap dress pattern!  The pattern even included a waistline seam, attached belt, long sleeves, and flared skirt – the key elements I decided I had to have after reading Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza wrap-up post.  I pulled out the bright blue silk jersey that I’ve been saving for just such a dress, and now all I need to do is find a bit of time.  I’m currently pretending like December is going to be my month to sew all the things since I hope to be done with my science paper draft by then and would like to honor the 40th anniversary of this dress.

Okay, the real reason Chronicle Books sent me this book was for a review.  They had no idea I’d been dreaming about wrap dresses for longer than I’d like to admit.  Good for me, good for them!

From the cover we learn that this book includes little black dresses made famous over the decades by their iconic wearers.  And, it promises patterns for 20 garments, so that’s brings its price to about a buck a pattern.  I counted, and the 20 patterns are made up of 16 dresses, 2 skirts, and 2 tops.  So, this book is really for the lover of the dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

When you open it up, you’re greeted with the patterns in an envelope on the left and the book on the right.  The patterns are all printed on paper that seems to me to be similar to newsprint. They are not nested like Japanese sewing book or Burda magazine patterns, so if you’re a pattern cutter instead of a pattern tracer, this book is fair game.  (Though the book does instruct you to trace!)

The first section of the book is devoted to techniques, and then the entire rest of the book is devoted to pattern instructions.

The book includes ten iconic little black dresses, like this one inspired by this Kate Moss lace dress:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

This dress makes me crave a date night with my husband.  And long, thick hair.

The book pairs each little black dress with a colorful variation, like so:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

You can see the similarity in the dress body, but this particular variation has a new neckline, includes a hem band, and removes the sleeves.

The Diane von Furstenberg-style wrap dress is actually the colorful variation of this Liza Minnelli look:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The Liza wrap dress is sleeveless and includes a narrow skirt.

And, that’s only four of the 20 patterns!  The one thing I wish this book had was a visual table of contents. There’s no way to quickly glance over all of the patterns when are dreaming about sewing.  So, I made one for this review.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

First up we have a Coco Chanel-inspired knit dress with its sleeveless variation and a Joan Crawford-inspired woven dress with its bias-cut skirt variation.  Each new icon is introduced with a bit of history and a quote.  The quote included for Joan Crawford just kills me:

I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star.  If you want the girl next door, go next door. -Joan Crawford

I often go to the grocery store forgetting that I’m wearing slippers.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The next round includes an Ava Gardner-inspired halter dress with its full-coverage, gathered-skirt variation and an Audrey Hepburn-inspired full-skirted, princess-seamed dress with its narrow-skirted variation.  Ava Gardner’s included quote also kills me:

I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. -Ava Gardner

I just don’t have what it takes to be iconic!

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The book also includes a Grace Kelly-inspired collared dress with its pencil skirt variation and a Mary Quant-inspired mini dress with its sleeveless variation.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

Finally, we have an Angelica Houston-inspired jersey dress with its bias-cut top variation and a Princess Diana-inspired princess-seamed dress with its button-back top variation.

So many of these patterns remind me of my favorite patterns or patterns I never bought but felt like I was missing out on. I’ve made a bunch of pencil skirts like the Grace Kelly variation in the past (here, here, and here) and have even had one half sewn since August. My Paco Peralta cowl-necked top reminds me of the Angelica Houston variation.  I love my princess-seamed Sewaholic Pendrell shell and think one with buttons down the back like the Princess Diana variation would be awfully cute. As for the patterns I missed…  I started blogging back in the day when the Colette Pattern’s macaroon pattern was popular.  I remember always wanting to try it but never having the courage since I was new to sewing and wasn’t yet ready to conquer the small-bust adjustment.  I think the Mary Quant variation could satisfy that long ago craving.  I also missed out on the Lady Skater craze, and I’m curious whether the Coco-inspired dress would fit the bill.

I’m eager to get back into a rhythm where sewing fits into most of my days.  When I do, I plan to pull out this book and try out a few of these patterns.  That wrap dress will be first!  How about you?  What kind of dresses have you been dreaming about?

Chronicle Books sent me Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress for review.  If you like what you’ve seen and buy the book through the Amazon affiliate link above, a few pennies will end up in my pocket.  Neither the free book nor those pennies are enough to bias my opinion.  (Maybe if someone wanted to pay for my kitchen renovation… Ha!)

A Black Kitten for Halloween

November 1, 2014

Did you see Liza Jane’s daughter as a darling kitten earlier this week? She went all out!  My little girl was also a kitten for Halloween this year, but in more of an abstract because-she-has-a-tail way.  If you didn’t catch the post on MSN yesterday, here is my now nine-month-old daughter playing dress up for her first Halloween!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Happy Halloween everyone! When I was prioritizing my sewing plans for this month (so many plans, so little time!), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make baby girl a costume for her very first Halloween.  She just loves cats, and I thought it would be pretty easy to make her a cat costume.  Well, more like a kitten costume!

First, I needed a little fabric.  I chose Mood Fabric’s black wool crepe (first used in these pants) because of course she had to be a black cat.  It is Halloween after all!  Next, I needed a cute pattern.  I dug through my stash and came up with the Oliver + S Bubble Dress (first made here).  The bubble skirt just kills me every time.  After that, all that was left was planning the extra cat details, like a crafty tail and ears.  Ideally, she’d also have a little painted-on nose and whiskers, but I don’t trust her to keep face paint on for more than five seconds!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

When I started to cut out the pieces from the wool crepe, I actually had second thoughts about making an all-black dress for a little girl.  There was something a bit too morbid about it, even for this lover of all things Halloween.  So, I decided to make the skirt from Mood’s black and gray striped wool jersey instead (first used in this swing dress and in this Drape Drape 2 top).

It was really easy to add a tail.  I just sewed a curvy tube of wool crepe, flipped it right-side out, stuffed it with a bit of polyfil, and pinned it into the center back seam when I was sewing the dress together.  The ears are made of fabric glued to cardboard and sewn to fold-over elastic.  They were a good idea in theory, but poor in practice.  Sadly, most of the time they’re drooped forward like so:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Sad ears, but, hey, look!  A tail!

The skirt features some of my best stripe matching yet.  Take a look at those stripes above! Also, it turns out wool + crawling on the floor + two cats + a house that’s not cleaned as often as it should be = an extra realistic cat costume covered in actual cat fur!  Would you believe I rolled all the lint off this costume before putting it on her?  It doesn’t take long though for a little girl to find all the best dust bunnies, especially when playing peek-a-boo in the curtains!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Since it’s a little hard to see the dress on a little girl who won’t stop moving, here it is on a hanger:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

The dress closes in the back with three buttons:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

The bodice is lined with a bit of Mood’s purple silk crepe de chine (first used in these pants, this skirt, and this dress), and the skirt is self lined:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Following the pattern and instructions led to a garment with really neat insides.  The lining of the bodice is machine sewn to the bodice in such a way as to enclose both the neckline and armholes, the lining of the skirt is machine sewn to the skirt in such a way as to form the bubble hem, and the lining of the bodice is then hand sewn to the skirt in such a way as to enclose the waist seam.  The only downside is that you can only machine under stitch a few inches of the neckline the way the garment is constructed.  I ended up hand under stitching around both the neckline and the armholes in order to keep the lining from peeking out.  Next time I will cut the lining a wee bit smaller than the outer bodice to help keep it tucked inside better. Finally, I followed the instructions and topstitched the opening in the skirt below the button placket, but in hindsight it would have been just as easy to invisibly hand stitch it closed since I was already doing so much hand stitching on the inside.

I hope baby girl enjoys her very first Halloween.  We plan to walk in the neighborhood parade with her cousin, and then she’ll probably have to call it an early night – she is only nine-months old after all!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Trick or treat!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.

Friday Finds for Sewing Well

October 24, 2014

Hi friends!  It’s been busy around here to say the least.  I carved out a bit of time this evening to dust the cobwebs off this blog, but then it’s back to the grindstone again tomorrow.  The end of at least a large chunk of the crazy-busy is in sight though, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to glimpse light at the end of the tunnel.  Hooray for patience and perseverance!  Anyway, this week I finally have some Friday Finds to share.  These are mostly relevant to those reading in the Seattle area, but even if you’re half way around the world, at least take a look at the first one.

  • Seattle’s very own Helena of Gray All Day released her first indie pattern, the Sandpoint Top.  It’s a knit top with cute little cap sleeves and a fun cowl in the back.  And, through this weekend it’s 20% off over at her new site GrayDay Patterns using the coupon code “first week”.  Helena was actually the winner of the Project Indie Contest over at The Monthly Stitch, so this pattern is actually coming at you with lots of business experience behind it.  I’m eager to make up the Sandpoint myself, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for GrayDay!
  • If you’ve been to the Sewing in Seattle page on my blog recently, you might have noticed that I’ve started adding head shots along with the names and blog addresses of the local sewing bloggers I know.  I was hoping that it might help to make connections, both locally and virtually.  Maybe you’ll recognize a face, either from your local fabric store or from virtual sewing communities like Pattern Review, BurdaStyle, or Kollabora? I have fifteen photos of fifteen lovely sewing bloggers so far, and I’d love to keep filling in the list, so if you see your name here without a photo, leave me a comment or send me an email.  Also, if you live in the Seattle area and have a blog about sewing that isn’t listed yet, let me know as well!
Denise of The Stitcherie Erin of Seamstress Erin gMarie of gMarie Sews Gwen of Calm Under Tension
Amy of Sew Well Denise of The Stitcherie Erin of Seamstress Erin gMarie of G Marie Sews Gwen of Calm Under Tension
Helena at Gray All Day Jennifer of My Sewing Suite Leah of Away I Sew MaLora of Bird and Bicycle Maris of Sew Maris
Helena of Gray All Day Jennifer of My Sewing Suite Leah of Away I Sew! MaLora of Bird and Bicycle Maris of Sew Maris
Profile_Meris_square Missy of Missy's Craft Journal Patricia of Okan Arts Rebecca of Cup + Penny Sanae of Sanae Ishida
Meris of The Fabric Alchemist Missy of Missy’s Craft Journal Patricia of Okan Arts Rebecca of Cup + Penny Sanae of Sanae Ishida
  • Meris of The Fabric Alchemist will be leading a two-hour workshop on costume research and fabric choices on November 16th at Zeita Studios, a clothing and custom sewing business her friends opened this year. The focus will be on the upcoming cosplay season, but the workshop will be of interest for anyone who enjoys costume creation.  It sounds like there will also be two more classes in the series, a workshop on construction techniques and a fitting session.  You can read more about it on Meris’s blog and then sign up on the Zeita Studios’ workshop page.
  • Speaking of costumes, the Evergreen City Ballet is in search of some seamstresses who would enjoy working on costumes. They have a couple productions each year where they need help.  Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people.  Once my crazy officially ends, I think I’d enjoy trying my hand at a costume or two!  Especially after taking Meris’s class!
  • Finally, I’m thinking of hosting another gathering this fall, maybe even with another bunch of fabrics to give away.  If you don’t think I have your email but are interested in joining in on the fun, let me know in the comments.

The House of Eliott

October 9, 2014

Awhile back I wrote a post lamenting the lack of sewing-related documentaries.  In the comments of that post, you guys repeatedly recommended I check out the BBC costume drama The House of Eliott.

I looked for it on Netflix, but my search came up empty.

I looked for it on YouTube, and I got hopeful when my search produced a link to every episode. I even started dreaming of the fun I’d have hosting a “Watch Along”.  But, every single episode came up as unavailable.

I found it on Amazon, but I wasn’t ready to commit to buying it.

I ended up getting it from my local library (thanks Gina!).

I now want to pass along the recommendation to all of you.  Perhaps you’ll be able to find the episodes online.  If not, don’t forget to check your local library!

Man in Blue

October 1, 2014

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I sometimes wonder what my go-to uniform would be if I were challenged to only wear one silhouette (one week one uniform, anyone?!).  It’s an idea I’m having fun exploring these days, though I haven’t come up with any easy answers so far.  Yet, when it comes to my husband, I know what his uniform would be - a blue button-up shirt and slacks.  And, thanks to this lovely chambray blue cotton poplin from Mood Fabrics and a bit of my sewing time, my husband has yet another blue shirt to add to his daily rotation.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I’ve made this pattern, vintage Butterick 4712, several times now.  Each time I’ve made it, I’ve tried to create a unique shirt through my choice of fabric:  linen and silk, plaid flannel, solid and striped shirting, and now poplin. This poplin fabric is definitely a favorite, both in color and in feel. It’s described as both ‘cobalt’ and ‘chambray blue’ in color, and I’d say if you thought about a mix between cobalt and chambray, you’d be pretty close to the true color of the fabric.  It’s pretty perfect for someone who likes blue, like my husband.  These photos make the fabric look a little more vibrant than it really is, despite any attempts on my end to enhance the colors.  It has a slightly softer hand than the shirting I used previously, and it doesn’t wrinkle as much as the linen either.  It was my first time sewing with cotton poplin, and everything went so smoothly that I now have my eye on several other Mood poplins (hello polka dots, nice to meet you vibrant purple, how do you do crazy floral?!).

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Also, each time I’ve made this button-up shirt pattern, I’ve had a slightly different experience.  The first couple of times it took me awhile to work my head around the instructions for the front button placket.  Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, I feel confident experimenting with ways to better hide the interfacing and finish the seams, and I’m very pleased with the results here.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though.  One little hiccup came with the pocket.  My husband had asked for one pocket on the front left, which was easy enough to agree to make happen.  Since things seemed to be on the up-and-up after the positive placket experience, I decided to step up my pocket game.  After looking at a few of his ready-to-wear shirts and seeing that many of them had pockets with nice, soft, rounded corners, I set out to make a similar style pocket.  I made myself a little template, cut out my fabric, and tried to man handle the rounded corners into submission.  But, it just wasn’t working.  I even tried to see whether gathering the seam allowances using a basting stitch would help.  In the end I gave up, cut off the offending round corners, turned in the now straight edges, and called it a day.  Later I had wondered if starch could have helped.  Any tips out there for getting those neat rounded corners?

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Everything else went pretty smoothly.  I still remember how puzzled I was the first time I sewed together a collar and collar stand.  I was following Peter of Male Pattern BoldnessMen’s Shirt Sew-Along so I was already having my hand held at the time, but I still had to sit down with the instructions and go slowly step-by-step to make sure I understood the process. Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, it’s fun to experiment, try changing up the order of the steps (inspired by Andrea of Four Square Wall‘s tutorial), and trust that I’ll still get great results.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

I used the burrito method to get a nice finish to my yoke, and I used my stitch-in-the-ditch foot with my needle slightly off-center to get nice, even edge stitching.

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

The sleeve plackets came together well, too.  Or, so I thought until seeing in these photos that this placket’s peak might be slightly off center.  Good thing no one’s grading this shirt for perfection!  My husband isn’t one to care about little things like that, and he certainly hasn’t said anything about the placket peak placement!

Navy buttons and a neatly turned hem complete the shirt.  Speaking of hems, that’s another spot where I’ve tried different methods to see how to best get nice, neat results around all those curves.  I’ve tried folding up a quarter inch twice; serging and then either folding up once or twice (using the serging as a guide to get a nice, even fold); and using bias binding as a hem facing.  I’m curious what other methods for hemming a shirt are out there?  What is your go-to method?

Sew Well - Men's button-up shirt made from #moodfabrics

Finally, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve made a pattern, I’m still pretty much guaranteed to learn something new with every make.  This time around the lesson was about pre-washing cotton.  I only pre-washed this 100% cotton fabric once, and since it’s now been worn many, many times since it was first finished (see what I’m saying about his ‘uniform’ - he likes blue shirts!) and, thus, washed many, many times since that first pre-washing, it’s now noticeably smaller, particularly in the length.  It still fits, and he can easily roll up the sleeves whenever the missing length starts to bug him, so it’s not a big deal, but in the future I plan to pre-wash my 100% cotton fabrics at least three times before I cut into them.

What about you – what are your big take homes on making shirts, wearing uniforms, or pre-washing cottons?  Any good tips out there?!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.

Also, since I still think of this blog as a sewing diary of sorts, I’ll confess to having made this shirt last fall in a pregnancy sewing frenzy. I miss those days of sewing freedom, but I also wouldn’t trade my time with baby girl for anything right now.

Photography: Composition

September 19, 2014

Sew Well - Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs. - Review

Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs.  Awesome title, right?!

I’ve been meaning to write one more post in the SOS Photography series, but it’s been a busy month with my parents in town.  Not only have we been tackling projects like reupholstering an ottoman, but we’ve also been making headway on our kitchen renovation.  It’s been busy, but fun…  and dusty.

In the previous weeks I’d talked a bit about smilinglighting, gear, and posing.  In this final post (at least final for now!) I wanted to talk a bit about photo composition.  Much of the time sewing blogging photos are just going to be a fairly simple composition – basically, a person in a new, handmade garment standing in front of a background.  But, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to liven that up a bit if we want.

When I started this series, I lamented having all of my photography books still packed in boxes in the basement.  Laurence King Publishing reached out and asked if I’d like to review a copy of Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs. by Henry Carroll.  With a title like that, yes please!

The book showed up the week I was planning on writing about posing, and as I read through it that week, it didn’t take me long to wish I’d had it at the beginning of the series, not the end!  This book has sections on light and lenses, two of the topics I’d covered in previous weeks, as well as sections on composition, exposure, and seeing.

The book starts off with Carroll imploring the reader to “start by ignoring everything” – particularly everything that seems complicated about your camera - and focus on the fact that your camera is really just “a box with a hole in it”.  Carroll goes on to say that after reading through this book “you’ll see that taking great pictures is less about technical knowhow and much more about mastering that most valuable piece of kit – your eyes.”  A valuable piece of advice for those of us who are afraid of our cameras.  Following the introduction the book segues into the section on composition.  Since Carroll decided to put composition first and foremost, I figured I’d feature it in today’s post.

Sew Well - Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs. - Review

Within the section on composition there are many individual lessons, each of which is given a page of text and a companion photograph demonstrating the lesson in action.  The lessons include…

  • leading lines
  • landscape or portrait
  • framing
  • foreground interest
  • getting close
  • symmetry
  • the rule of thirds
  • working the frame
  • visual weight
  • breaking the rules

You’ve got to love that last one, right?  As is always with these things, there really are no hard and fast rules, just guidelines.  And, a great photograph can still be taken even when ignoring all the guidelines!

Okay, so while most of you are probably not striving to take a photograph for the ages, Carroll’s tips on composition can enhance basic sewing blogging photography as well.  Let’s take “leading lines” for example.  If you wanted to show off a certain feature of a garment, say a neckline for example, you could touch it with your hand.  The line of your arm will visually lead your reader to that feature.

While this photograph of mine isn’t going to win any awards, it’s hard to miss the silk on the underside of my husband’s collar.  This photo also uses “the rule of thirds”.  While my husband’s collar is in the center of the frame, his face is at the one-third mark.

Landscape or portrait is all about how you take the photo – horizontal or vertical.  Carroll says, “Horizontal pictures (or landscape format) encourage our eyes to move from side to side.  Vertical pictures (or portrait format) make them move up and down.”  Now, I bet we can all agree that we typically want our reader to move their eyes up and down when they’re looking at full body shots of us, right?  Vertical format pictures are called “portrait” after all!  So, think about that next time you’re setting up your camera and tripod.  Tip the camera vertically when you’re trying to capture a Sartorialist-esque photo of you in your new garment.  But, don’t necessarily take all of your photos that way!  Sometimes you might want to encourage your readers to look from side to side.

We all love detail shots, right?  Well, that’s basically what “getting close” is all about.  Make your new dress fill the frame.  Carroll suggests you try to get close when you take the image, instead of just cropping it later, so that you really get the feeling your going after.

The rest of the book is pretty great, too.  Shutter speed (movement), aperture (focus), ISO (sensitivity), and exposure compensation are all explained in an easy to understand way on a handy diagram as well as in detail in the text. I also love the section on “seeing”.  Carroll definitely seems to suggest that sometimes you’ll need to take a bunch of photographs, constantly tweaking each one as you go, before you’ll find the right one.  I can relate when it comes to the number of photos I take versus the number I actually use to show off a finished garment!

If you’re interested at all in furthering your photography, I would highly recommend this book.  It breaks down a really complex topic in a very approachable way, with a lot of great photographic examples throughout.  Win-win!

Okay, so that’s a wrap on this SOS Photography series.  Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two.  I know I have!  If you’d like to add your own go-to tips on composition (or anything really!), please let us all know.  Or, if you have questions about photography (or anything really!), ask away!  It can be fodder for future series!

The Making of a Gold Zebra Ottoman

September 12, 2014

Yes, you read that right – a gold zebra ottoman!

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

This month I have an extra MSN project to share – a home dec project in celebration of Mood Fabric’s new space dedicated to home dec fabrics.  If you live in or near the NYC area, hopefully you’ve already had a chance to pop in and see it in its full glory.  Sadly, since I live 3000 miles away, I’ve only been to Mood’s online home dec shop.  The online store is pretty impressive on its own though with thousands of fabrics to choose from.

When Mood approached me about doing a home dec project, my only hesitation was time.  I have very little of it these days!  But, my little family and I recently bought our very first home, and I knew our old, hand-me-down, slip-covered furniture could use a little sprucing up to aid in our transition from students living-in-the-cheapest-apartment-possible to home owners.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try to recover our ottoman at the very least.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

I’ll admit I was a wee bit overwhelmed trying to play decorator.  All of our slip covers are beige.  All of the walls in our new house are a dark beige-y neutral as well.  For the ottoman I wanted to pick a fun fabric that would make a statement while not being too over the top by itself in the sea of beige.  I also was hoping to find a fabric that would grow with our family as we continue to decorate.  While a solid seemed the easiest choice, after years and years of solid-colored slip covers, I really wanted to try some sort of print.  I started paying attention to ottomans in magazines and online, and I started noticing pops of zebra here and there.  Crazy, right?  We’re pretty much a household of vegetarians, so going full-on black-and-white zebra pelt felt a little bit much for us, but a crazy mythical zebra print?  Sure, why not?!  After lots of hemming and hawing, I ended up choosing a gold zebra print brocade.  It calls itself ‘dijon’, but it’s hard to deny its gold bling when you see it in person.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

I used the Upholstery Basics book from the Singer Sewing Reference Library to guide me through the process of reupholstering.  All in all, it was much easier that I expected.  It was so easy that I’m now dreaming of recovering the wing backs…  It’s all just stretching fabric and using a staple gun!  The only time I had to turn on my sewing machine or make precise fabric cuts was for the piping!

First I took a bit of time to spruce up the legs.  A screw needed replacing and some of the stain needed touching up.  My dad is in town, and he used a furniture scratch remover marker to get rid of all the blemishes that had developed over the years.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

Next we had to remove what felt like a million staples.  First up was a layer of cambric that was stapled at approximately one inch intervals around the entire bottom edge of the ottoman.  Then there was a tack strip, then piping, and finally the main upholstery fabric – again, all staped at one inch intervals.  Once I freed each piece, I set it aside I could so that I could eventually reuse it. If I’d been planning to recover the ottoman exactly as it was, then I could have also saved the old fabric to use as a pattern.  But, I wanted to do away with the pillow top look, so only the piping could be saved.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

The original ottoman cushion was made of two pieces since the top was actually a separate pillow piece.  To transform it into a single piece, I stretched an extra layer of batting over both pieces and stapled it down to the sides.  I hope the tightly stretched batting will help the separate top pillow piece stay put.  From what I could gather from the upholstery book, cushions are typically glued to the base of this sort of ottoman, but glue was too committal for me at the time since I was still uncertain how well the resulting ottoman would turn out.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

Next up was stapling, stapling, stapling.  I’d borrowed my brother’s electric staple gun, and it took me a few tries before I got even a single successful staple.  I used hundreds of staples in this project – many of which are now in the trash, not in the ottoman!  To cover the ottoman, I stretched the fabric across the ottoman and staple basted (Yes! The instructions are to staple baste – same idea as in sewing!) once in the center of each of the four sides.  Then I pulled out the staple from one of the sides, pulled the fabric really taut, stapled again in the center, and then stapled towards one of the legs at approximately one-inch intervals until I got around three inches from the leg, all the while continuing to pull the fabric taut.  I then stapled from the center to the other leg.  This process was repeated for the opposite side, and then finally for each of the remaining two sides.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

The corners were a bit trickier.  Loosely following an example in the upholstery book, I decided to fold out the excess fabric, tuck it neatly inside the pleat, and then staple it in place.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

Everything was neatened with a bit of piping around the bottom edge.  To get around the leg, I carefully cut off the seam allowance and stretched it around to the other side.  The only thing holding it in place are the staples on either side of the leg!  Just like the main fabric, the piping was also stapled at approximately one-inch intervals.

The upholstery book actually suggested just butting the two ends of the piping together after folding the fabric in a bit to cover up the raw edges. I had assumed it would be a lot more complicated, but who am I to argue?! Reusing the tack strip was probably a bit silly since that stuff is pretty cheap, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I wasn’t stopping for another trip to the store!

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

Finally, with a few more staples to put the cambric back in place, the ottoman was finished!

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

I’m still debating whether it needs a row of upholstery tacks along the bottom, just above the piping.  But, since those will leave holes in the fabric, I’m trying out the ottoman without them for now.

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

I think the gold zebra is pretty fun.  It makes a statement without being too shocking against the beige.  And, while I hope this fabric will in fact continue to blend nicely as we decorate our new house, if it doesn’t, I’ve now learned that reupholstering is no big deal.  How about you – would you ever consider reupholstering to bring a bit of new life into an old piece of furniture?

Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.


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