I thought for my upcoming sewing class at the local quilt shop it would be fun to do a pet bed. There were a few pet bed sewing patterns to choose from but I became fixated on the idea of a simple oversized floor cushion.
And since I love piecing (more so than quilting) the Fat Quarter Floor Tuffet by Kenzie Mac & Co looked promising. I love that it’s made with fat quarters, making it fun and easy to gather the fabrics needed for the project. There’s something about choosing fat quarter fabrics that’s like picking candy off the shelf — they’re all packaged and ready to go!
The pattern has two options for the button design: either a real button, sewn through the top and bottom to make a tufted cushion, or a mock button made from fabric and sewn to the top and bottom. I chose the mock button design since this is for pets. It’s easy for a real button to get caught in fur or chewed off, so this was a safer route for the little fur kids.
The cushion measures 26 inches wide x 5 inches high. My dog, Pipsqueak is pictured in the photo, and she’s a 10-pound Chihuahua mix. So I think it would be a good size for cats and dogs up to about 18 pounds or so.
Because of the interfacing used, this is a nice and substantial cushion, and very satisfying to sew. I used about 1 pound of fiberfil stuffing for my sample bed so that it allows some squishing down in the center and the edges to be a little taller. And since it’s stuffed with fiberfil, it’s lightweight and soft.
Awhile back I accidentally ripped the plastic slip cover for my serger in half, and have been meaning to sew a new one. I just took my sewing machine in the shop for a tune-up, leaving me pining away for its return. I filled the void by finally making my poor coverless serger a new outfit.
Since I love finding good uses for fabric scraps I went that route. I used the serger to piece and my old backup sewing machine for construction. It made me miss my Babylock even more!
Full immersion into sewing made me forget about knitting for a spell. And recently I was re-inspired to pick my needles up again, which is a good excuse for…a sewing project! Specifically, a zippered bag to hold my current knitting project, the Guernsey Wrap from Brooklyn Tweed.
15 in. nylon zipper
exterior: Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light; Country Classics quilting cotton in Teal Blue; Kona Cotton in Charcoal; heavy cotton denim
lining and strap: linen blend in natural; Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light
Pellon SF101 fusible woven interfacing on exterior pieces; sew-in fleece interfacing on lining pieces
light grey top stitching thread for top stitching the denim panel
75/11 sharp needle for piecing the exterior panels
100/16 jeans needle for the denim portions
90/14 sharp needle for construction and top stitching
For the exterior panels, I cut strips 15 in. wide, with pieced height totaling 13 in. I cut lining to 15 x 13 in., with some trimming to square it up after piecing.
It was really fun putting some nice fabric scraps to good use on this bag. I went with denim on the bottom section because it’s sturdy, and the lining is a light color so it’s easy to see what’s inside. I love the color combo, especially the way the natural linen coordinates with the blues.
The zipper tab isn’t awesome — it’s great on the top side, but on the bottom side the folded edges are poking out. It was a bear to get on straight, so I didn’t feel like ripping it out and trying again.
On the strap, the accent fabric with topstitching worked really well. But it would have been better to rotate the strap 180° so the edge with the folds was facing down and the clean edge was facing up. I was so focused on remembering to insert it in the right place that I forgot to check the orientation of it.
When drafting the size to make this bag, it seemed plenty large, and maybe even too large. But the final bag, at 13 1/2 in. wide x 9 1/2 in. tall x 4 in. deep, is definitely not too large. Stuffing it with yarn somehow shrank it! It remains to be seen whether the Guernsey Wrap will still fit as it grows.
If I were to do it over, I’d increase the height by a couple of inches and skip the fleece interfacing on the lining. But all in all I really like this bag, and it’s good to have a home for my knitting project.
I made two placemats following the regular instructions, and two with the Extra Credit piecing method.
Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Stone
Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Charcoal
Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Honey
Moda Weave in a light grey
Pellon Nature’s Touch Cotton Batting
Coats Machine Quilting & Crafts 30 Wt Mercerized ELS Cotton thread, color 155 Dogwood (for piecing and quilting)
Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 6210 (for binding)
Equipment and settings:
75/11 Quilting Needle for piecing, 3.5/2.0 stitch, using 1/4-inch guide foot for piecing striped version
90/14 Quilting Needle for quilting front to back, 3.0 stitch length, 4.25–4.75 needle tension
used Thread Heaven for hand sewing the binding to the backs
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed making these placemats. We’ve never been a placemat type of family, so I wasn’t sure I’d really connect with the project, but it was such a wonderful warm-up to the quilt project, and a cool way to try out different fabrics and piecing designs. I enjoyed the piecing in particular — it was relaxing and fun to see the sections grow strip by strip. Love my 1/4-inch piecing foot.
During my quilting experiment, I learned that a heavier thread is nice for quilting, so that’s what I used on this project. However, I wish that I had used a 50 wt thread for the piecing. The thick 30 wt thread was unnecessarily bulky on those pieced seams. The 30 wt was nice for quilting though.
The large 1200-yd spool of thread was too large for the thread area in my machine, and my spool pin doesn’t have a vertical orientation option. When it was lying horizontally in the primary spool location, the thread got caught between the spoon and the machine itself, causing tension problems. So it required using the secondary spool pin, which worked much better. But it still wasn’t as smooth as with the smaller spools, so in the future I’d avoid buying these large spools for the sewing machine.
When it was time to quilt, I kept forgetting to draw my design on before pin basting. I was able to get around the pins to do a simple diagonal line on the two solid placemats, but it would still be better to get the designs drawn before pinning as suggested in the book.
Most of my hand-sewn binding happened on a comfy lounge chair, but I did the last placemat at my work desk in my office chair. I was surprised to see that the stitching looked better (and was actually easier to do) when done at my desk. The Thread Heaven thread conditioner worked best when I ran the thread through once, then put it through the needle and knotted the ends, then ran the double-thickness through the conditioner again.
One of the biggest lessons I’m learning from this process is that it’s all about the prep. Planning, using the right supplies and equipment, and careful cutting make the process go much better — or at least make it more enjoyable.
When I finished the placemats I realized that our dining table is too narrow for them to be used like normal. It would be fun to make a set customized for our table size, perhaps with an improvisational approach. I was watching old episodes of It’s Sew Easy and was intrigued by a segment with Victoria Findlay Wolfe. She explained how she uses her 15 minutes of play method to create fabric from pieced-together scraps, then uses that fabric to make blocks. That sort of free-form play is basically the opposite of my structured approach to things, which is exactly why I think it would be awesome to try.