Monday, August 24, 2009

Not sewing, but inspiration

Today I went downtown with a few friends to visit the O Street Mansion. I'd never heard of it; turns out it is a private club/hotel/event space near Dupont Circle. Once a year they have an extravagant rummage sale, opening all the rooms in the mansion; everything in the place is for sale.

First of all, the place is totally overwhelming. There is stuff crammed on every shelf, nook and horizontal surface -- including the floor. The rooms are decorated in unique styles, from high modern to lodge rustic, and everything in between. The whole place is a rabbit warren of passages, stairways, doorways, nooks, crannies and hidey-holes. Totally fun.

It was difficult to capture the flavor of the place in photographs, so these really don't do it justice, but should give you an idea of the kind of place it is.

This bookcase covered the wall of this tiny back staircase. I'm not sure how we were supposed to access the items on the upper shelves.

This Yellow Submarine themed jukebox was in the billiards room, which was festooned with Beatles memorabilia. The jukebox was priced at $12,000.

One of the guest rooms. Every room had lush bedding and at least a dozen pillows.

Another guest bed. The walls were all covered in artwork; all of it for sale. It made me wish I had more wall space in my house.

This was a very interesting bathroom. Here you see the shower stall, and a soaking tub to the left of it. What is not easy to see is that the shower and tub are at least four feet higher than the rest of the bathroom.

Hmm. I really couldn't figure out how one was supposed to get up to that platform to use the shower? Then someone in our group figured it out.

Pulling on the railing revealed the hidden steps to access the shower and tub. It was beautifully made!! And, quite clever, I thought.

An adorable little door knocker on one of the guest room doors. I think it was only about 3 inches high.

Another bathroom done to excess; this one had a wooden tub. You can just see the corner of the glass table at the lower right that held a chess set. Chess in the bathroom?!?

Yet another bedroom, sumptuously arrayed. These were two twin four-poster beds put together to make a king-sized bed.

The sitting area in another one of the bedrooms. There were a lot of these little nooks and conversation spaces scattered throughout the mansion.

I loved this clever ceiling treatment. The lattice served as both crown moulding and cornices for the windows. The ceiling was painted to resemble a dawn sky, tinged with pink. If you look closely you can see the vines painted over the trellis, and there are also some bugs thrown in too. The closets in this room were also decorated with branches painted on the wall; on one of them, the artist included a tent caterpillar nest.

So what did I buy?
I only purchased a few items, but my favorite of all of them is a genuine ostrich egg. This is now sitting on a shelf in our "Anthropology Room" -- the room containing the odd little items from our travels, and from our parents' travels. It looks right at home!

I think this was one of my favorite rooms. It was completely draped in fabric, and was filled with John Lennon memorabilia, even in the bathroom.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My sewing marathon is done!

I am so thrilled that I have finished ALL the sewing projects Diana asked for, in plenty of time for her to bring them to school in two days.

Door Sign
First up, she wanted some kind of sign for her dorm room door to indicate whose room it was. So I found a design from Embroidery Library that I had purchased some years ago and had added the words "Peace, Love, Happiness". I don't see the design on their site anymore, though.

Diana liked it, but because she's a foodie, she wanted it to read "Peace, Love, Really Good Food". So I added a tongue to the happy face and changed the words, and embroidered it on some old denim cut off from a leg of my old jeans. Since the sign had to be really lightweight, I glued the fabric to a piece of firmaflex and backed it with a piece of suede.

Duffel Bag
For the occasional weekend trip or trek back home, Diana wanted a bag that could be stored in minimal space. The dorm rooms are tiny (hers is 10' x 15'), so storage space is at a premium. I made her a duffel bag that could easily be rolled into a small bundle.

Don't ask me what pattern I used; I didn't. It's just a tube with a zipper and two circles for the ends. Dimensions: about 14" for the ends (plus seam allowance) and a length of 28".

I had found this lock-and-key fabric at Joann's Fabric a few months ago and gotten a few yards because Diana is really into locks and keys at the moment. It's a lightweight woven, and would have made a nice blouse. For some reason, Diana really wanted it as the outside of the duffel bag. Hmm.

I ended up fusing the fabric to a backing of heavy canvas, left over from when I covered my work table. I used Pellon Wonder-Web to fuse the two layers together. This is the first time I've used Wonder-Web, and so far I'm quite impressed. It gave a very firm bond and was easy to work with. You can see in the picture above that the seams show on the inside.

To give the bag a little shape, I added cording to the ends. The straps were made with the face fabric, stabilized with a fusible stabilizer and strengthened with a strip of canvas inside. I used a cushion zipper (I buy them by the roll) for the closure. Also, I added a removable shoulder strap.

Laundry Bag
Diana had definite ideas on what kind of laundry bag she wanted. Nothing free-standing, like a hamper. Nothing so big that it would encourage her to put off doing her laundry. And she wanted something no one else had. It was her idea to put the "Biohazard" symbol on the bag. And, she said, she wanted just the word "ew."

I digitized the Biohazard design in Embird Studio and added the lettering beneath it with their font generator plug-in.

Again, this was done without a pattern. The bottom is 14" across (15" with seam allowance), and there's a layer of Timtex sandwiched in between the two pieces to give the bottom a little firmness. The body of the bag is about 22" high, with a 1.5" casing for the drawstring.

The back of the bag shows the pocket for the detergent bottle. It's 3" deep and 6" wide and tall enough to keep the bottle in place. The top has a casing through which I threaded elastic. It was all stitched in place by machine.

The strap is a 6" wide piece of the same denim fabric, folded down to 1/5". One end is secured in the bottom seam and the other is stitched to the outside of the bag near the top. Diana only wanted one sturdy strap to carry the bag. There's a drawstring closure.

I'm so glad to have been able to complete all these projects for Diana to take with her to the next great adventure of her life. Now her boyfriend Alex has indicated a desire to learn how to sew, so I'll probably be seeing more of him in the coming months.

Don't be afraid of sewing projects like these without patterns!! Three of the things I made for Diana this week are just cylinders. I used an online circumference calculator to help me figure out what size I should make the tubes based on the diameters I wanted. The rest was really just figuring it out as I went along. This is functional stuff, meant to be used and abused, rather than fancy projects. And yet, somehow, I think the things I've made for her this week will see many years of hard use. And she'll think of me every time she reaches for them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More sewing for my daughter

When Diana and I went shopping a few weeks ago, we stopped at World Market in Rockville, one of our favorite stores. While browsing, we spotted the following bag:
It was a simple canvas bag, printed with "STUFF". Diana loved it, but I wasn't fond of the $10 price tag. Instead, I went home and copied the bag, embroidering the word on some canvas I had in my stash.

Here's the result:
It's bigger than the one in the store, and only has one handle, but Diana really likes it!

One feature I really like is the reinforcement of the lip of the bag with cording. To do this, I serged the top edge, turned it under 1/4" and stitched the edge down. I then inserted the cording, folding the edge over the cording and leaving about 1/2" lip inside the bag. Two lines of stitching secured the edge, and a loop of canvas stitched in as a handle.

One more thing being packed for this weekend's exodus!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sewing for my Daughter

Diana leaves for college in just five days, so I've been working on things for her to take to school with her. Yeah, I know... I was supposed to be cleaning up my sewing room. I'm making progress, but sure didn't make my deadline of getting the place cleaned up by the end of July. In the meantime, I've actually been sewing.
One of the items Diana really wanted was a quilt made of all the t-shirts from her high school drama productions. She was very proud of participating in eight different productions, and asked me to make the quilt once she graduated. How could I refuse? Even if I hadn't made a t-shirt quilt before?
No matter. In the last few years I've become very fond of an iron-on stabilizer from Rowley Company. It's designed for the drapery industry, and is higher-quality than the stuff found in craft stores. I buy it by the bolt and use it for everything.
So I had to take these eight long-sleeve t-shirts and turn them into a quilt.
The first step was to carefully cut the shirts apart. Each shirt had designs on the front, back, and one sleeve. So I had to trim, flatten, iron and stabilize 24 pieces of t-shirt.
Then came the fun part: fitting all the pieces together. It took a bit of shuffling, but I finally came up with a satisfactory arrangment.
Sewing it together went pretty quickly, and yesterday I gave Diana the finished product.

She asked me to back it with purple minky.

To hold the layers together, I tied it at some of the intersections with purple embroidery floss, knotting the threads, sealing the knots with Fray Block, and clipping off the ends.

Diana's boyfriend, Alex, likes it too (although I suspect he likes what's wrapped in it more).