Learning to Sew

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I grew up watching my mom and my aunts sew clothing, pillows, and curtains for their homes.  There were no blogs to showcase their work, just their fellow community where they shared their tips and advice.  It was the late seventies, times were tough, money was tight, and the economy was in the you know what.  Ladies all across the nation were trading patterns and ideas, and sewing up a frenzy of home decor on a budget.  Sounds kinda familiar doesn’t it?

The very best way to soften a space, to add texture, pattern and personality, is with the use of great fabrics, so I believe one of the best tools for an avid DIYer is a basic sewing machine. You’ll find plenty of tutorials online for ‘no sew’ decor, and they are fantastic, in fact I’ve done several myself.  There are lots of times when fusible web, fabric glue, or safety pins have come to my rescue with a simple hem or a window treatment.  Yay for those solutions!  Yet one thing I’ve learned is that having the ability to work a sewing machine opens up an entirely new world.

Do you ever see a swatch of fabric, be it in the form of a dress, an apron, a napkin, a silk scarf, and you think to yourself, "This would make a great pillow!" or you find a great fabric and think "I want to make curtains out of this."  It happens to me all the time!  You can design an entire space around a single swatch of fabric that inspires, be it a damask, geometric, Ikat or simple stripe pattern, whatever speaks to you.  I am constantly inspired by patterns I find beyond the racks in fabric stores, and I’m a big believer in reinventing them into new things.

For example, take these inexpensive napkins I found in a local kitchen store.  Beautiful robins egg blue background with an apple green botanical pattern.  Love!  In fact, I loved them so much, I turned them into a pillow!


napkin turned pillow  

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Artist Canvas turned Inspiration Board

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Memo boards are just one of life’s necessities, at least for me.  I have a giant custom memo board that I built earlier this year for the mud room, that one is for all the *stuff* I need to remind myself when I take the kids off to school or head out the door.  Mail, Netflix movies, birthday party invitations, coupons, etc.

In my office, I needed something different, something just for me!  A spot to post calendars, mementos, postcards, kid art, fabric swatches, photographs, all my little treasures.  A place for those nostalgic keepsakes that I want to keep on display, not just to remind me of moments and memories, but also to inspire.

cg inspiration board


I’ve wanted a gigantic board for awhile now, and preferred the look of fabric over a cork board.  I considered building another one with plywood, but didn’t like the idea of how heavy it would be, and I’d have to drive big ol’ nails into my grasscloth wallpaper, no no no thank you!  Then I spied a giant 48" x 48" artist canvas for half price at Michaels and decided to use that instead ~ it was lightweight and the perfect size.  Unfortunately, an artist canvas doesn’t hold thumbtacks very well on its own, so I decided to reinforce it with some cork roll along the back.

It’s kinda like wallpapering . . .  you apply plenty of glue then smooth out the cork roll along the back of the canvas.

cork roll back of canvas


Work in sections, moving from top to bottom.  To hold the cork down on your glue, grab a bunch of cans of paint and let them sit for about 30 minutes per section.


paint cans on glue


When your glue is dry, wrap your canvas in your fabric of choice.  I like linen, so I went with that, plus in was on the summer sale rack.  I also glued on a ribbon border for a little extra detail.  As a final step, I hot glued the cork to the wood around the perimeter to secure it to the edges.


cg kates board


Over time, I’ll be adding all sorts of favorite things, both new and old.  For now, I’m loving the size and potential.  Call it organized chaos, or contained clutter, but personally, I see it as a place to keep everything that’s special to me.


canvas collage 

Have you ever made a memo or inspiration board for yourself?  Where do you keep all your little reminders of favorite things in life?