Sunday, January 10, 2016

Finished objects: Living room pillow covers

I made some covers for the throw pillows on our living room sofa.

You can see that the need for new covers was acute. The pillows were hand-me-downs from a friend. (Yay for free decor.) They came with some simple ivory velveteen covers that served us well for a while. But one had gotten quite dingy and one had suffered an even worse fate -- a fatal run-in with a glass of red wine. Oops.

I finished these some weeks ago (there was a sneak peek in my post on Christmas decor) but I'm just getting around to throwing them up on the blog now.

Actually I debated whether they were really "blog-worthy" at all. I mean, I am not exactly breaking new sewing (or decorating) ground with a pair of envelope-back pillow covers. They are nothing more than a bit of arithmetic (I first wrote "algebra" but even that is overstating the case!) and a few straight seams.

On the other hand, I really love them! I love the combination of fabrics -- the backs are a black linen-cotton blend by Robert Kaufman with a wonderful texture, and the fronts are a home-dec-weight fabric with a print of peacocks that I thrifted a while back. The print reminds me a bit of Liberty of London (it's not, as far as I know, just has that look) and feels a bit sophisticated and grown-up.

Also, they took me a whole afternoon to make, so I guess I feel compelled to record the output of my efforts. I am not a very fast seamstress, perhaps because I am not that experienced and don't get to my machine as often as I would like. And when I do sew I like to be very careful and thorough about it. So maybe with more practice I would get faster at banging things out, but I think I'm going to stop worrying about my inability to actually make a "1-hour X" in a mere hour.

All in all, it's good to remember that even simple, commonplace projects can be non-trivial, both in the time and effort required to make them and in their eventual impact.

I did make one mistake in the sewing: I meant to construct both pillow backs so that the outside flap would be on top facing down, as I thought this would keep the pillows looking neater. But I sewed the second one -- of course, it was the very last thing I did, and I was hurrying by that point -- backwards, so that the outside flap is facing up. Oh well, I figured, nobody would really see it and it would be an opportunity to test my hypothesis about which construction technique wears best. (Spoiler alert: I was right, outer flap facing down is best.)

After I finished the pillow covers, I did something very unusual (at least, for me). I put the remaining peacock fabric in my Goodwill bag rather than back on my shelf. I thought: this fabric has served its purpose in my creative life, I'm going to pass the rest of it on (or something along those lines; I swear it sounded less pretentious in my head). And you know what? I don't regret it.

PS: Since we're on the subject, did I ever go through the Christmas stuff to determine what sparks joy in my Grinchy little heart? Reader, I did. And in the end I didn't manage to let go of all that much. I asked my daughter which things were precious to her, and she selected a lot of items that I would have been ready to pass on. So into the Rubbermaid bins and back up to the attic it all went. And I don't regret that either, because after all, it's not just about what sparks joy for me now, is it?


  1. I love that fabric on your pillows, and I think they are totally blog-worthy. Because I've made such covers, and like you, they take me a whole afternoon. I guess what I mean is, I'm glad you wrote about them because it affirmed that my huge sense of accomplishment at completing such a not-groundbreaking task is something others experience too. Which makes me feel good.

    I just have one question, about the whole up/down thing: Why can't you just flip the other pillow over? Won't that make it outer flap facing down? Or is this another example of a joke I didn't get because I am so literal? Oh never mind: Just scrolled back and realized that would make all the birds upside down. :-) Whew--glad to know it wasn't a joke I wasn't getting.

    Look at that, made me feel good twice with one post!

    1. Ha, yes, it's a directional print, so the birds would be upside down. No joke involved, just discombobulated birds!

      Thanks, as always, for "getting it," Rita. There's a lot of satisfaction in the not-groundbreaking, well done. (Good to remember, since a lot of the work of running a home and a life is not exactly groundbreaking, eh?)

  2. The new pillow covers are beautiful, Sarah :) . We seem to have similar taste in florals --- I always seem to gravitate towards patterns which have interconnecting vines running throughout. Did you also make the patchwork quilt? It's very lovely, and everything ties in together so nicely :) .

    With regards to the Christmas stuff, I think it's great that you asked your daughter for her input, especially if they're things that have been handed down to you. I suspect that the whole "sparking joy method" of de-cluttering really works best in a closed system (ie. by people living alone), and that it probably can result in a fair amount of discord when it's done when there are competing interests (one's joy not necessarily being another's, just as you said).

    1. Thanks, Marian! My mother-in-law made the patchwork quilt. It's seen better days, but I got it out specifically because it coordinates with the pillow covers...and does a tidier job than the afghan I was using previously of covering up the cat damage to the couch's upholstery. :-S

      I agree re: the "closed system" aspect of Kondo's method. I think there are legions of people salivating with anticipated schadenfreude at the news that Kondo is pregnant with her first child. "Oh-ho! Now she'll see how ridiculous her suggestions are!" we are thinking. Actually, I suspect having a kid won't change her system much at all, because she is really an outlier when it comes to organizing. But, that tangent aside, yes, my rule for keeping things has been "it has to spark joy for ONE person in the household." Actually in many cases I've been going through things, putting away what I want to keep, and then asking other members of the family to evaluate what remains. I think that lessens the burden on them a bit. And I do find that once I know an item sparks joy for another member of the family, I have much warmer feelings toward it myself. So I'm glad I involved my daughter in the Christmas stuff. (The funny thing was, my husband was out of the house that afternoon and before he left he explicitly said: I don't really care about any of it. Which was a little odd since a lot of the stuff comes from his family! But it did lessen the feelings of guilt a bit.)