DIY: Patio Friendly Pile-Up Cushions filled with Styrofoam Peanuts

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The weather was nice for a few days in April, uncharacteristically, and began the countdown to the Pacific Northwest Summer. Ahhh; the handful of blissful weeks that makes you fall in love with the trees again, and wipes the memory of the last 8 gray months.

Safety Husband and I have been trying to be more mindful, and that extends to the way we interact with our home. We are who we are [not catalog people] and we want everything at our house to be conducive to the way we live. (Safety Husband is really into Ham Radio, so he would also like to make a great deal of the house conductive*, but that’s a different story.) We have several outdoor areas that would make great external living spaces, but we haven’t done a great job of outfitting them for the task.

All this to explain why I decided I needed to make a giant pile of outdoor cushions that I could lay upon like the Princess and the Pea. I wanted them to be cheap, washable, refurbishable, and also work with our inside decor. Fabric and wood don’t do well outside over the Seattle winter, and I can’t store things in out non-existent storage space. So I put together a handful of pillow forms from scrap material, filled with recycled styrofoam peanuts; then covered them with painted canvas covers. In one afternoon I had 7 assorted cushions, and dreams of the perfect summer.

SUPPLIES

  • Fabric scissors and optional pinking shears
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Pillow Form Fabric: approximately 24″ (2/3 yard) of 45″-wide lightweight scrap fabric per pillow
  • Pillow Cover: approximately 24″ (2/3 yard) of 52″ to 60″-wide canvas-type material per pillow
  • Styrofoam Peanuts: about a grocery sack full per pillow. Make sure that you are using styrofoam peanuts instead of the cornstarch ones that melt under water. Imagine the mess!

DECORATING SUPPLIES

  • Tulip Color Shot Fabric Color:  I used Teal, Blue, and Green.
  • Scissors
  • Tape: masking, packing, cello, washi. Whatever you want!
  • Con-Tact Paper: A great option for cutting out larger masks or covering more material.
  • Decorative punches and scissors
  • Compass, or fun shapes to trace

 

Step 1: Making the Pillow Forms

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Take your scrap pillow-form material and fold it so that the selvedged edges touch. Cut the other two sides with pinking shears so that you have an approximately 23″ square (45″x23″ unfolded.) Sew a 1/2″ seam along the two pinked edges, then do the same for about half of the remaining side.

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Fill the form about halfway full with peanuts, then sew the opening closed to seal your pillow form.

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Hire a professional to test the security of your stitching.

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Repeat until you have run out of material. (I made 7 pillows so that I could make a GIANT PILE.)

Step 2: Making the Pillow Covers

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There is dirt outside, so you want to make sure that your pillow cover can be easily removed and laundered; this also means you want to pre-wash your fabrics so there is no future shrinkage.

Cut your fabric to about 23″ wide. With the back side showing, fold the width of the fabric into a tube about 22″ wide. The overlapped pieces will make the flap for inserting and removing your pillow form.

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Stitch up the two open ends of your tube approximately 1/4″ in.

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Then turn the cover inside out using the open flaps. Make sure to press the corner all the way out with your finger or a pencil.

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Stitch around the outside edges of your pillow cover, about 3/8″ in- then you’re done!

Step 3: Decorating the Cushions to Match your Life.

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Decorating the pillows was definitely the biggest fun in this project (other than sitting in the sun on the cushions later.) If you’re a selfless person, you could share that fun with your family and friends, and let each person design a mask for their own pillow. Masking the pillow is as easy as using tape and scissors. Build shapes out of strips of tape, or cut shapes out of contact paper. (ABOVE: I used a compass to draw circles, then cut and arranged them on the front of my cover.) You could have the initials of everyone in your family, silhouettes of your pets and favorite animals… anything really.

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Once you’ve settled on a masked design, take it outside and spray it down with your fabric spray paint. (I used Tulip Color Shot Fabric Color which is washable and flexible.) Remember that spray paint doesn’t ever go on consistently, so embrace the irregularity and leave some patches lighter than others.

After you’ve got a nice coat of paint on, let your cover dry for an hour or so before pulling off the mask.

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Then let your covers air out for a few more hours.

When everything is dry (not sticky or smelly) you can put your pillow forms into your covers. Slip the form into the open flap, then push it down under the inner over-lapping flap. Press the corners of the form into the corners of the cover and shake and stomp it until everything looks nice.

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Then build the tower of pillow on which you will reign.

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Or, you know. Share with your friends.

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Wheeee! Pillows.

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*I have a feeling that SH will have something to say about this line in the post when and if he reads it, so I’m going to put a disclaimer- like all nerdy types, there is typically a method to his madness, so I am sure the most of the house will remain non-conductive, or resistive, or whatever. Just, you know, antennas. He likes antennas.

DIY: Finger Crochet a Round T-shirt Rag Rug

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Despite my sister’s best efforts I’ve never been able to make sense of real crochet. The “finger crochet” method I describe below is something that came out of a lot of experimentation, but I’m guessing you fiber wizards could whip up something even better! If you’ve done a similar project, or have suggestions to make this DIY more clear, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below.

When I finished re-weaving my t-shirt rug (updated photos at the bottom of that post) I figured out two important things.

  1. There is better way to cut a t-shirt into strips (fewer, longer strips.)
  2. Once you know how to cut t-shirts into long strips, no t-shirt is safe.

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Which translates to: I had a lot of leftover strips of jersey, and wanted to use them up! I started braiding, tying knots, and eventually settled on a method that can best be described as the frumpy cousin of crochet.

PREP: Cutting one long strip

Knotting small strips of jersey (demonstrated in the woven rug post) is time-consuming, so the longer the strip the better. After digging around a bit I found this video that shows how to turn a loop into one long strip.

IMG_2100_roundtshirtrugI started by cutting the large loop of the shirt from the top, and sliced across from one side, stopping about an inch from the other edge.


Then I slipped the loop over my arms, and starting at the end of one cut I cut diagonally towards the end of the next cut on the other side of the fabric. Then the whole thing unwound in a continuous strip.

MAKING THE RUG


To begin I tied a slip-knot near the end of the string by making a loop, reaching through and grabbing the strip, pulling it though and gently pulling to tighten. (There’s a great demonstration of a slip knot at the beginning of this video.)

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Then I reached through that loop, pinched the strip, and pulled it through to create my first chain stitch. (See steps 2 thru 4 on this Red Heart blog post). This whole project breaks down into pulling a new loop through an old loop.

I repeated this chain stitch about 5 times, then…


tucked the loose string end through the last chain stitch to loosely close the first set of chains into a circle.

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To connect the next ring of chains I pulled the next strip (navy) through two existing loops– the one I just made (pictured here closest to my thumb), and the inside of an earlier chain that lined up with my new one (closer to my fingertip).

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This way my newest loop connected my existing chain to the one inside of it. I then started a pattern of 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch…

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going around and around the circle.

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When I ran out of strips, I pulled the end of my string through the last loop, and tucked it into the rug– because one day I will have more t-shirts to dismantle, and this rug will keep getting bigger!

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TIPS

  • As you are working, make sure not to pull your loops too tight, or stretch your chain when you’re doing a connecting stitch. The looser you work the flatter the rug will sit.
  • Different shirts will make thicker or thinner strings based on the thickness of their fabric. I opted for a very irregular look with lots of inconsistencies in my strips (width ranging from 1″ – 2″) but if you want a more regular look, stick with shirts of a similar weight, and cut your strips about 1.25″ wide.
  • If it’s looking weird, pull out your loops and start over! Once you get the hang of this version of finger crochet you’ll fly through this project, so you will quickly make up the time redoing it. Practice has never been more fun.
  • If you can, work for longish stretches to keep your tension consistent. This is a great “while watching tv or daydreaming” activity.
  • As always, plan to make one more rug than you have cats.

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DIY: No Sew Woven T-Shirt Rag Rug

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A couple of months ago I tore up the carpet in my office and replaced it with a wood-ish surface. It’s been great through these warm months, but I want something to stand on when the cold sneaks in. Couple that need with a stack of t-shirts left over from the quilt project, and you have my newest best friend, the t-shirt rag rug.

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I built a 30″x30″ make-shift loom out of a piece of plywood and scrap wood, but if you search online you can find frames built from pretty much anything. (A Beautiful Mess used cotton scraps and a big piece of cardboard. Also, Pinterest)

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I put nails along each end, 1 inch apart. Good hammer practice for a hammer novice.

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With the loom assembled, I moved to materials.

SUPPLIES

Stripping

The rug was built with 1.5″ loops for the warp (base strips) of my rug, and 1.75″ strips woven through.

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I used a large straight rotary blade and a metal ruler to cut three navy shirts into the 1.5″ loops, then cut the rest of the shirts into 1.75″ strips. (This is a very forgiving fabric, so estimation is ok!)

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I hooked the navy warp pieces on each side of the loom using the natural loop and stretch of the t-shirt.

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I prepared to weave by attaching the first strip to the first warp loop. I cut a slit in one end of the strip, fed the other end around the first warp piece and back through the slit. Then I pulled it tightly and began to weave.

Not a normal knot.

I connected a lot of strips to finish this rug using the method shown below. It’s quick and tidy, and ensured you don’t have a lot of extra bulk at your connection points.

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  1. Cut a small slit in the ends of each strip.
  2. Feed the new strip into the hole at the end of the other.
  3. Take the other end of the new strip and feed it through the slit on the same strip.
  4. Pull on the new end to tighten the knot. Smooth or trim extra material if needed.

(The video below shows how I knotted at the end of a strip.)

 

Now Weave!

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Starting at that first warp piece, I wove in and out of each loop to the end of the loom. At the end I wrapped either over or under the last piece to start back down the loom. The second strand went over the strands that the first went under, and vice versa.

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From there it was basically rinse and repeat. I wove back and forth, connecting strips and changing colors.

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When possible I fed the strip through the warp flat, then pulled it down with my fingers to bunch it up.

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The pattern and color combination were very important to me, and I got more and more excited as I worked on it. When I put the final strip in, I tied it off using a normal knot on the last piece of navy.

Finishing it off

Here’s where I admit this rug is really just a gigantic pot holder, and I finished it off the same way. I pulled the first warp loop free and fed the second through it, then fed the third through that one, and so on down the line. (Video Below)

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Once I was down to the last two loops, I changed tactics. I cut the loop of the last piece, fed one strip through the second to last loop and tied it off.

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I did the same thing on the other end and suddenly had a rug in front of me.

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After basking in the last moments of sunshine, I rolled up the rug and brought it inside.

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Where it was immediately claimed by another friend…

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Cooper.

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Looks like I’ll have to weave another rug for myself.

Next Time

  • The next rug will be bigger. Once I took this one off the loom it shrunk down a bit, and I love it too much for it to be small.
  • I won’t pull the woven strands as tightly, which will hopefully help with the shrinking.
  • Maybe I’ll try non-stretch cotton scraps?
  • I will plan to move the loom frame around a lot, and possibly rig up some way of leaning it upright while I’m weaving. Working flat gave me a back-ache.
  • I will take it in little batches, weaving in front of the tv or in public. If I weave in public I will look very serious about turning scraps into a comfy rug.

A sign of a successful project is the ability to look forward to the next one.

UPDATE: I enjoyed this project so much that I decided to remake this rug- BIGGER! I built a much larger loom using scrap wood and screws, then followed the same process to build this monstrosity. It sits cozily by my work table now, warms my feet, and makes me happy.

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DIY: Number Etched Drinking Jars

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I used to have a set of numbered glasses that I loved. Each was marked (1-6) with a decal. When people would visit, I would give each their own number, so they wouldn’t mix up glasses. It was lovely.

Unfortunately it’s a partial set now, because they were delicate, and I am clumsy.

It’s been my goal to replace them for some time. So that was my first project when I got the Dremel etching underway.

Supplies Needed

Dremel Micro rotary tool, or similar.
• A Dremel Diamond Wheel Point Bit.
** UPDATED 12/14 – I’ve since started using two different diamond bits with more success. 7105 Diamond Ball Point and 7103 5/64-Inch Diamond Wheel Point
• Printed Number Templates (described below)
• Scissors
• Tape
• Unlabeled Glass Jars – mason or other. I have used salsa jars for my glasses.
• Optional – Sharpie to trace template onto glass.

Safety First

Refer to your tool manual. I have listed my safety gear below, but it might not be adequate for your setup. Take all the precautions you can, and be ready to pay attention to what you’re doing.
• A respirator or dust mask.
• Safety goggles or Safety Glasses.

Tool Tips

• Practice a little bit with the tool to get an understanding of how it works on glass.
• Higher speeds seem to work best on glass.
• Build a jig to hold your glass in place while you work on it. I used a piece of plywood with scrap “rails” attached to it. My jig is painted black so I can easily see my project.
• Rubberized gloves may make it easier for you to hold onto your jar.
• Remember not to etch too deeply into the glass. Don’t hold the bit in one place for too long. Your goal is to make a pattern that is just barely felt when you run your finger across it.

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Measure your glass and decide how large you would like your number to be. (I decided that a 2.5 inch number would be perfect. That’s roughly 180 pt.) Choose your size, and type numbers in your favorite font. Make sure to leave some extra space to cut the templates apart.

Cut the numbers into strips that will fit easily within your glass. You want the paper to be pressed as closely to the glass as possible.

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Use a little tape to hold the paper template in place.

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Now it’s time to etch! First take a good look at your number and make sure it’s straight and located where you want. You will notice that the thickness of the glass will affect the way you see your template from different angles, and it may be difficult to trace the number perfectly. If you like, you can trace the number on the glass with a Sharpie to make sure you have the shape just right. (The Sharpie mark will come off easily after you are done etching.)

Your first etching step (shown above) is to make a light outline of your number, using the pointed end of the bit and a very soft touch.  Try to keep as straight-on to your template as possible– and cut yourself some slack. These are going to be awesome even if you have a stray line or two.

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Once you have outlined the whole number lightly, remove the template and retrace the number to thicken up your outline. Hold the bit close to parallel with the surface of the glass to get a thicker, more consistent, line.

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If you are happy with the shape of your outline, move on to outline the other numbers you would like to do in the same way.

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Voila! You have numbered glasses! But don’t stop there…

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Using the pointed end of the bit, add small designs and lines to the inside of your number. These little additions will look fun, camouflage any mistakes you made with the outline, and make the numbers pop-out on the glass. (This was my favorite part of the whole project. Any opportunity to doodle.)

IMG_2986I’m excited to show off my new glasses, and love that I turned something that should have been recycled into something I can use for years.

Other symbols to try

• Initial Letters for the people who visit often, or to give as gifts.
• Card Suits for game night (Which drink is trump?)
• Astrological Symbols
• Different Speech Bubbles
• Animal Silhouettes
• Punctuation marks (which I love)

What would you make?