Create an envelope cushion

I recently made four envelope cushions as a birthday present for Adam's mum (Hi Frances!) and thought I would share the construction with you. They really are very simple to make but they do require a teeny bit of maths. I've detailed the construction of a very simple cover but you can customise to your hearts content! 

What you need:

A Cushion to cover

Fabric

Trims such as piping, buttons (optional) 

Step one

Let's get the maths out of the way, otherwise you won't know what size to cut your fabric. First, you need to know the size of the cushion you are going to cover. 

You will need to create three pieces for the cover. The front is cut to the exact measurements of your cushion. You will sew the cover together with a 1cm seam allowance - this will give the cushion a more upholstered, filled look. 

For the back pieces, they will be the same height as your cushion but they won't be as wide. You need to decide how much overlap you want on these pieces. Many decide on a third of the width of the cushion but I went for a little more so none of the filler could be seen. You then need to add 2cm for the seam allowance. 

Here are the measurements I used:

Front: 50cm x 50cm

Back: 50cm x 39cm (half the width of cushion + generous overlap + 2cm seam allowance) You can see the generous overlap in the photo below, it is about 12cm. 

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Step two

Mark your fabric with your measurements and cut out the pieces. If you are adding detail to the front cover such as a pleat add this now. I did for one of the designs. 

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Step three

Add your piping or trim to the right side of the front cover. Do this by starting somewhere inconspicuous enough to hide the join. I would suggest at the centre of the bottom seam. Pin the raw edges together but leave a tail of a few centimetres. When you reach the corner, turn the piping/trim into a tight corner and pin in place. Continue all the way around. 

The join will be different for piping to a trim.

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Trim

Begin stitching the trim in place a few centimetres from the centre. Stitch all the way round and finish a few centimetres from the centre. Fold the fabric in half and pin the trim at this point being careful not to catch the main fabric. Stitch the trim along that line and then trim the seam allowance. Finish sewing the trim in place. 

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Piping

You want to create a curve with the edges of the piping at the join. Do this by laying one end of the pining across the other before you begin stitching. Stitch all the way around the sides. Continue stitching in a straight line when you reach the join. Trim the seam allowance. 

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Step four

Take your back pieces. Turn under the overlapping seam by 1cm and then another 1cm. Stitch in place. 

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Step five

Pin one back piece to the front cover and then the other. They will overlap at the top and bottom. Stitch all the way around using a 1cm seam allowance. 

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Step six

Turn the cover through to the right sides and press if needed. Add the cushion filler and you're finished!

Here are close ups of the ones I made. I can't take credit for choosing the fabric though, Adam chose them. 

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Make an ironing board cover

After all of the wonderful comments about the map fabric I bought in Birmingham, I thought I should step to it and replace the cover of our ironing board. Turns out the language on the fabric is German, amazing what you don't notice when you're so caught up with a fabric!

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Our ironing board is HUGE and was in desperate need of a makeover. You can see the discolouration below which had seeped through to the polyurethane pad. I suspect this caused the discolouring as moisture can't escape through a non-natural fibre. I also had a feeling that one of the layers below the cover had split, or melted, and I was right, there was a rather large hole in the foam layer where it had tried to fuse itself to the metal frame. 

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So why make my own? "It's only an ironing board cover!" I hear you say.  But I have to look at that cover a lot when I'm sewing. Every now and then I would look for new covers and decide that all of them were not what I wanted. The range of offer was appalling in places! Turns out is rather simple to make your own.

What you need:

Cotton fabric as your top layer

Cotton muslin or similar (I used a cotton sheet)

100% cotton batting

Bias tape, enough to go around your fabric

String or elastic

Make sure that you have 100% cotton materials otherwise you won't be able to use the highest heat on your iron. I haven't supplied quantities as each ironing board is different. Measure the board's length and widest part, then add 7cm or so for each side to allow for the extra fabric hiding under the board. 

Step one

You need to create a pattern for your cover. Remove your current cover and see if there is a polyurethane pad included. If so, pin that to your fabric and add an extra 7cm before cutting. Do this for the cover, the muslin and batting. 

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Step two

Create a sandwich with your layers in the following order, from bottom to top: muslin, batting, cover. Baste into place. If you have ever made a quilt you can understand that this is the most time consuming part as you ensure you don't get any creases or bumps!

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Step three

Create your bias tape, if making your own. Open the tape and pin one edge to the raw edge of your sandwiched cover. Begin at the end where your elastic/string pulls tight. Machine sew all the way round. 

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Step four

Fold over the bias tape and stitch along the line you have just sewn, this will create a case for your string or elastic. Ensure that you leave a gap to insert the string/elastic. 

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Step five

Using a safety pin, thread your elastic/string all the way round. Another way to do this, if you're feeling brave and using string (elastic tends to be too wide) is to encase the string as you pin the tape but be careful not to get it caught in the stitches. Remove your basting stitches.

Step six

Put your new cover onto your ironing board and pull the elastic/string until the cover is taught. Tie off with a knot/bow. 

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Viola! You have a new ironing board cover. 

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And yes, I'm still very pleased that I went for the maps! 

Gathering tip

One of the most common skills in sewing is knowing how to make even gathers. I love gathers but getting them to look even can be a challenge. Last night I discovered a neat trick to make this process easier. I'm going to start at the beginning in case there are people reading this who haven't gathered before. You should have marked your fabric with the gathering marks when you transferred the markings from your pattern where the area to be gathered is often marked by circles. They are the black x's on my fabric. 

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Next stitch between these marks. You need to use a long stitch length (I used 4 here) and sew two lines - one at 1/4" and one 3/8" in from the edge of your fabric. Make sure you leave long tails at both ends otherwise you won't be able to pull the fabric together. 

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Keeping the tails free, pin your pieces of fabric together at the ends. Next, gather the excess fabric by pulling gently on the tails, one end at a time. You'll see the fabric gather among the stitches. 

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Now for the tip. Place a pin where the tails begin (the red pins) and wrap the tail threads around them in a figure of eight. 

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This will hold them neatly and securely while you move the excess fabric among the stitches until they are even. 

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Continue to sew in your preferred manner by basting the gathers in place and then machine stitching or just machine stitch.

I'll definitely be using this every time I have to gather! 

French Seams

French seams featured quite a lot in the Great British Sewing Bee and I have been asked several times about them. French seams are a fantastic way to give your garments a very neat and professional look. It works by encasing the raw edge of the fabric. They work best with lightweight and delicate fabrics and I am using this style of seam on my latest project. Creating French seams is easy! Here's how:  

Pin your fabric wrong sides together. 

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Sew using a narrow 1/4" seam. Press the seam flat and then trim fairly close to the seam. 

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Press the seam down to the side. Turn your fabric over so the right sides are now together. Press again. 

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Return to your machine and stitch a 3/8" seam. This will ensure that the raw edge is encased. Press to the side. 

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There you are - lovely, clean and neat seams. 

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Making your own bias binding

I’ve been making a lot of bias binding recently. While there is nothing wrong with the stuff you can buy in the shops, none of them have quite matched the fabrics I have been using and there is something nice about creating your own. I generally use one of two methods, the continuous loop or the piecing method. The piecing method was my favourite until I mastered the potentially tricky step to join the sides in the continuous loop method. Anyone else have problems with it or was it just me?!

Here’s how to make about 100” of bias tape from a 10x10” piece of fabric. Although growing up with metric, for some reason I still use the imperial measurements for making this.

Step One

Cut out a 10x10” square of your chosen fabric. Fold it in half diagonally (along the bias) and cut along that line.

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Step Two

Lay one piece over the other, matching the sides not the diagonal line. Pin in place.

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Edge stitch. Press open the seam. You should get a parallelogram like this.

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Step Three

You now need to mark your cutting lines using chalk or a washable fabric pen and a ruler. Begin at the edge of the fabric and draw lines 1” apart. The lines should be diagonal and will be parallel to the edges. The more accurate you are here, the more tape you will make. Make sure you mark the wrong side of the fabric and leave your scissors alone at the moment!

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Step Four

This is often the trickiest step. Fold the edges towards the middle to create a square with right sides together. Offset the marked lines by one and fold the tips under. It should look like this but with the tips folded under!

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You now need to pin the lines in place. Make sure that the lines match up at the seam line (¼” in) and not at the edges. (This is the bit that took me a while to work out!) The easiest way to do this is to put a pin through the connecting lines ¼” in.  Stitch a narrow ¼” hem then press the seam open. You should have a tube like shape.

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Step Five

Time to pick up your scissors! Starting with the first offset row, carefully cut along your marked lines all the way to the end.

Step Six

If you have a bias tape maker, pass the strip through it while pressing the folds. If, like me, you don’t have one here is an alternative way. Press the strip in half and then lay the tape open. Fold in the edges to the centre fold and press. This may take a little longer but it works! 

Please don't judge me on the state of our ironing board cover. 

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And there you have it! Beautiful handmade bias binding. 

Do you have a preferred method or a different way of creating it? 

Mission complete

And what a mission it was! I completely underestimated just how long this would take - 8 hours from start to finish! In case you're not sure what I am talking about check out the last post. Turns out the lining for this coat is made up of 12 pieces! I didn't expect that and clearly I didn't look hard enough when I was working out how much fabric to buy. 

Anyway, here's how I did it:

First, I took pictures of how the lining was attached to act as a reference when it came to inserting the new lining. I then removed the original lining from the coat using a seam ripper (one my biggest friends in sewing!) Unpicking the sides took a while as there is a ribbon trim that I wanted to keep. I ended up ripping the fabric away from the collar as I got bored by this point. If you're going to do this yourself I would recommend unpicking as it is neater. 

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Once I had the unlined coat and the lining shell, I unpicked the individual pieces for half of the lining to use as my pattern. This is where I discovered the number of pieces! I had hoped that I could just slice the lining up the centre back line and work with about four pieces but never mind... 

I laid out the pieces on my new lining fabric, pinning the centre back pieces on the fold. (Please ignore the mess in the corner of the picture) 

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Many of the seam allowances looked like the had been trimmed so I marked a 5/8 inch seam allowance around each piece with tailor's chalk. I cut along the marked lines for each piece. 

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Now I could start stitching. Luckily I had numbered the original pieces so I knew which order to sew the top section. You could use the other half of your lining or the photos for reference. I started with the pleat in the centre back and the rest came together very easily. Suddenly I had this:

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I pressed under the seam allowances for the sleeves and the body hem. It was now time to join the lining to the coat and progress slowed. I pinned the lining to the front of the facings with the ribbon I had saved. After stitching in the lining I had to slip stitch the lining to the ribbons as the lining was lifting up a little too much. Apologies for the photo, I couldn't get a clear shot of black and brown together except with the flash which made it all shiny. 

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It was then time to attach the lining to the collar and shoulder areas. I had to fudge this area as I couldn't work out how to attach the lining to the collar without taking it apart. Instead I pressed under the seam allowance and lined it up with the stitches and sewed it into place. I then hand stitched the lining to the cuffs and finally sewed the the body hem.  And this is the finished result.

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I'm really pleased with it although I do miss the shine of the original lining. I swapped 100% acetate for a cotton sateen which lost it shine in the dyeing process. However, it fits well and I can pull the coat on and off without difficulty. 

Will I do this again? Hopefully not in the immediate future as this took a long time.  Saying that, Adam has a couple of jackets that need the sleeve lining replaced and I have another request to line an unlined jacket so it might be sooner than rather than later!