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DIY Custom Shaped Dog Bed

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There’s this funny little space next to our bed in the aft cabin. I think it was originally designed to be an extension of the sleeping area since there’s one on both Port and Starboard sides. Our previous owners decided to remove whatever used to be there and they had a custom “real” mattress made.

With the mattress in place, it left a perfect Betsy-sized area. For the first two years we put a pillow there with a blanket on top to make a nice, cozy bed for Betsy. Gunner was too big so he always got to lay at the foot of our bed, but we wanted to utilize this cute little spot too. Even though we try telling her it’s her Princess Bed she still sneaks up onto the mattress in the middle of the night!

I couldn’t think of anything better to do with the space so I wanted to make something a bit more permanent and easier to clean. After completion of my Throw Pillow Project I had some leftover scraps of Sunbrella Canvas in Taupe and decided to make a custom dog bed. It was a dark color which would help to hide the dog hair and dirt Betsy leaves behind. It’s also a very durable material and cleans up easily.

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When designing this new dog bed, I used a basic box cushion design, just like I used for my salon cushions. I had already learned the technique from watching the incredibly helpful Sailrite videos. The edges finished nicely and I was pleased with the thickness. I had decided on 5″ thick boxing and for the stuffing I got a little creative…

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Instead of buying new foam and/or batting for this custom creation, I cleaned out a few cubbies on the boat to see what I could use for stuffing. I had an old worn-out pillow, a big cotton quilt with ugly colors on it, and an old sleeping bag! All of these items either needed to be thrown away, donated or repurposed, so I used them for my dog bed project :) The sleeping bag got cut into pieces which I layered up around the old pillow and put that inside the old quilt. Together, they formed the perfect thickness for stuffing into my new cover.

With some extra zipper supplies on hand, I measured the back end to form an extra long zipper plaque where I could easily take the new cover off to wash it.

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This whole thing had to be cut into a custom shape with each side being a different length. Although I can’t flip it over, it fits perfectly!

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Thanks to Sailrite and my awesome LSZ-1 sewing machine, I have another home-improvement project checked off the list :)

DIY Salon Cushions

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Have you been staring at the cushions in your home with a procrastinating desire to have them reupholstered? Well, I’m here to give you a little hope and a little inspiration to kickstart your very own DIY cushion sewing project!

You may remember the recent post I did about how to make easy and very cheap DIY throw pillows. It was my first real sewing project since 8th grade Home-Ec, believe it or not! I was more than intimidated but I overcame my fears quickly and I couldn’t be happier with the way they turned out.

That project was what I needed to start on redoing my salon cushions inside our tiny floating home.

Let me just say that this project only became a reality thanks to the free how-to videos that Sailrite has on their website. I sat down and watched several of the videos on cushions over and over again before I finally felt confident enough to know how to even begin. I really had no idea what I was doing but these videos walked me through each and every step of the way. I used my new Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine and it was very helpful to see them use this same machine in the videos. The machine works like a dream and can handle straight stich or zig-zag through many layers of Sunbrella or sail material. The primary purpose I chose that machine was to be able to do my own sail repairs, because they will no doubt need repairing eventually. The cool thing is that I can practice using the machine on projects like this which help give my home a makeover but also help me to be more proficient using the machine before my sails are damaged and I really need to know how to use it.

THE FABRIC:

The fabric I was replacing was regular upholstery fabric, a typical fabric used for cushions. It took us less than two years to destroy them, however, living in a marine environment with two large dogs. Gunner, the Weimaraner, loves to dig himself a perfect little place to lay down and we have caught him many times clawing at the fabric when we weren’t looking. It’s nothing new. He’s done it for all 14 years of his life and he’s real sneaky about it. Nonetheless, the old fabric was ruined. I wasn’t crazy about the pattern anyway and I had always intended on changing it out but it took me two long years to finally muster up the confidence to attempt a project like this.

I knew I wanted to use Sunbrella outdoor fabric. It’s extremely durable and will last much longer than regular indoor fabric. It’s more expensive but the trade off was worth it to me. I had first caught a glimpse of Sunbrella’s Dupione line of fabric on my friend and master seamstress, Linda’s, boat. I fell in love immediately and knew I had to have it too. At $24 a yard I had to really love it!!

Here’s the craziest part… I wanted the lightest color they made. Am I freaking crazy?! Maybe a little.

I know, I know… light fabric with dogs, or kids, is a bad idea. “It will never stay clean,” they all say. Way to rain on my parade! But I wanted the Sunbrella Dupione in Pearl, and that’s what I decided on. It was going to match my new color scheme perfectly! The texture is both soft and luxurious, yet extremely durable and water resistant. I’ll just wash the cushion covers when they need to be washed :) The best part is that Sunbrella fabric is amazing at repelling liquid and preventing stains. After time the water repellency will eventually be reduced but for now it’s hard to even get the fabric to absorb enough water to be washed at all.

Fast forward to project completion… Gunner has already puked on the new cushions and it came right off with just a few paper towels and baby wipes! For little stains, baby wipes work great to bring them right up. For big messes, I made sure to install zippers to easily remove them for washing. I don’t let the dogs lay on the cushions as much as I used to, but a vacuum or lint roller takes care of the dog hair easily.

I don’t regret my color choice for one second. You’ll see in the photos below how light and bright it makes the whole room and that was really important to me. I’ve seen so many dark boats. Dark interiors just make it feel so much like a boat, not cozy at all. I like to feel cozy. This is my home. I absolutely LOVE my home :)

PATTERNING:

I had done all the measurements awhile back and ordered enough fabric for the salon cushions and all of my new throw pillows. I used the super helpful Fabric Calculator from Sailrite’s website to estimate how much I would need and I ended up with plenty to spare. Making a pattern from the existing foam was a bit tricky to do inside my 42′ sailboat. I traced when I could, measured, marked with pencil, turned the fabric in different directions and carefully cut each piece to an exact fit.

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This is as much space as I had to work with while trying to get my exact measurements, tracing around the foam:

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I laid each fabric plate on top of the foam after I cut it to make sure it was close enough.

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Gunner and Betsy LOVE to lay close by when I am working on projects on the floor.

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ADDING PINS:

With such long zipper plaques, I found it helpful to pin the zipper plaque to the top plate starting in the center to make sure it was stretched evenly. Zippers always tend to pucker while being sewn so it’s important to pull it taught while working with it.

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ASSEMBLING AND SEWING:

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I did about two cushions per day, taking my time to make sure I didn’t screw up too bad. It’s important to note that I’m the only one that notices the mistakes I did make. Half way through I realized it’s not worth stressing over making it perfect and in the end they turned out far better than I could have ever hoped for.

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I used #5 coil, non-locking, white zippers. I only forgot to install the zipper pull before stitching the zipper plaque shut one time, but luckily I caught it right away and broke out the seam ripper to fix my mistake.

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In the absence of a hot knife, Peter helped me burn all the edges with a torch to prevent fraying.

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The first two cushions were the hardest, then I got into a groove. It got easier and easier as I kept going. A few days later, they were all done!!

The BEFORE pictures:

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And AFTER!

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I chose to pattern an exact fit for both the top and bottom plates, as well as the boxing. Some of the Sailrite videos recommend adding a seam allowance but I wanted a nice and tight fit. I’m SO glad I chose to use zero seam allowance. This is the effect it has:

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There is some unwanted puckering on the longest cushions but that’s because I was working with old foam that did not have a consistent thickness or width. It was worn unevenly in many places making it impossible to account for each dip and curve in the dimensions of my patterning. I was a little bummed at first, but now I hardly notice it anymore. Buying all new foam would have solved that but the added cost was way out of my budget.

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Every time I look at my finished work, I start smiling. I LOVE how it all turned out and I love my color choices. It brightens up the room so much. I am especially happy I chose the Dupione fabric. It feels absolutely divine to the touch. With each wash it gets softer and softer.

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Somebody couldn’t wait to test out the new cushions and pillows!

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Looking back, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to tackle this project. The Sailrite videos made it SO easy, even for someone like me with very little knowledge of or experience with sewing. My LSZ-1 machine made it really easy to sew through the thick corners with a durable V-92 UV rated thread. These cushions should last a very long time :)

As I stumbled my way through this project, I came up with a few Lessons Learned that I wish someone had told me about before I started:

1. Always round up when estimating fabric and zippers. Measure twice, cut once!

2. A seam ripper is a magic tool and only costs $2. Make sure you have one.

3. A hot knife will save you a LOT of time and butane.

4. Buy extra bobbins. You can never have too many. Threading them before you start sewing will save you a LOT of time.

5. Number your cushions in a sketch on paper when you start planning out your fabric. Write it down as you measure and be sure to stick to your notes.

6. You can save fabric by cutting all the boxing last, if you take good enough notes of what pieces go together. Mark your fabric so you don’t get confused later.

7. Make sure to have lots of extra thread on hand. It’s amazing how much gets wasted every time you pull the fabric away from the machine.

8. Understand what seam allowances will do for each material you are working with. I am glad I chose to use zero seam allowance for this project.

9. Use pins or basting tape to make sure everything lines up as you sew, otherwise you could end up with really ugly corners!

10. Get a good pair of scissors. If they have never been used on paper, they will be sharp enough for fabric. Keep them separate from your every day scissors.

11. Zipper plaques will shrink up as you sew, so be sure to stretch your edges and check your length often as you feed it through the machine.

12. Get a good marking pencil. I used a regular pencil but a special fabric pencil would have been nice.

13. Use a soft measuring tape when measuring fabric.

14. If you don’t have a straight edge to cut your fabric, get creative! I used chart books to make a straight line while patterning. Later, I just traced the pieces but sometimes you do need a long straight edge.

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So, just in case you were procrastinating to start your own sewing projects, check out Sailrite and let them help you as much as they have helped me! They are a one-stop-shop with just about anything you need for the sewing project of your dreams. Their customer service is unparalleled and their product quality is outstanding. Because of those two things, I prefer to support their business even if I can find the same items cheaper somewhere else.  This project is proof that if I can do it, so can you! :)

 

DIY Throw Pillows

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It took me two years to muster up the courage to actually start all the sewing projects I’ve been dreaming about since before Peter and I bought our boat. I mean, for a girl who hadn’t used a sewing machine since 8th grade Home-Ec, redoing my salon cushions on a 42′ sailboat was just a teensy bit intimidating!!

One thing was for sure. I needed a Sailrite sewing machine. If I was going to get serious about this, I wasn’t going to just make salon cushions. I wanted to make all new throw pillows, jerry can covers, hatch covers, winch covers, gps cover, fender covers, crate covers, more sun shades, mast boots, lazy jacks, sail bag repairs, isinglass repairs, and most importantly I wanted to be able to repair our own sails on the fly. I’d skimmed over many-a-conversation on Women Who Sail and Sewing On Boats facebook groups and it was very clear that I could get by with a household machine but it was almost unanimously advised that a Sailrite makes all the difference.

I found a strong enough wifi signal back in St. Thomas and began watching as many Sailrite how-to videos as I possibly could. It seemed easy enough… those videos are so thorough and they practically hold your hand as they teach you how to make pretty much anything you want. There are dozens of free videos on their website that can make you feel invincible!

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though…

I most definitely planned to do my salon cushions as soon as I got my Sailrite machine, but I wanted to start with something a little easier to essentially learn how to use the machine. After watching about four videos about making box cushions and two videos on throw pillows, I carefully took some measurements and excitedly plugged them into the handy-dandy Sailrite Fabric Calculator on their website. I had spent weeks before deciding on what kind of fabric I wanted to use, and what my color palette would be so all I had to do was place the order.

I ordered enough fabric for my salon cushions and a ‘boat-load’ of new throw pillows. The sewing machine and all my fabric arrived at the post office in St. Thomas and we lugged it all back home in our little rental car. (For those of you that know boats, you know why I had to get rid of all the packaging first!) Peter helped me disassemble the gigantic shipping box in the grocery store parking lot and carefully assemble the base of the sewing machine so we could put the carrying case on and bring it all home safely.

Our good friend Eben on Necesse happens to be a Sailrite expert, as he’s been sewing almost all his life and has owned a Sailrite for many years. While anchored next to us in Christmas Cove, he was so excited to see a bright and shiny new Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine (which is exactly what he has, but with a few more bells and whistles on the newer ones) that he so graciously taught me how the machine works, how to thread it, and how to oil it. He answered all my beginner questions and sent me on my way feeling totally ready to start sewing! The booklet that comes with the machine tells you everything you need to know in a very clear way, but I learn much faster when someone shows me in person ;)

My very first project was repairing our BBQ cover. That was a piece of cake. I decided the throw pillows would come next.

How do you make your own throw pillows??

Let me show you the inexpensive idea I came up with to make all the throw pillows you want!

1.   I waited until the local K-Mart was having a sale on regular sized bed pillows. 5-bucks each!! I also bought some king size pillows and euro size pillows that were all on sale too.

2.   I took my fabric scissors and cut the pillows down to size. The king pillows were long enough to cut in half and still end up with two squares. The $5 regular bed pillows were measured and marked with pencil where I wanted to cut, making a new square pillow and a smaller rectangle sized pillow.

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3.   I removed the batting and foam support from the pillow form covers and laid them flat.

4.   With a predetermined size in mind, I measured, marked and cut the pillow form fabric down to a square.

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5.   With two open edges, I turned them inside out and sewed one side closed, leaving one end open to put the batting back in.

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6.   Once all my pillow forms were cut down and sewn to the size I wanted, I unraveled the batting for each one, removing the excess batting since the pillow form covers are now much smaller than what they were before, then I sewed them all shut.

7.   With all the left over batting, I had enough to make several new pillows. I used old pillow cases cut down to size to make pillow form covers for the extra batting (see step 4).

If this sounds like more work than you’re interested in doing, you could always buy cheap throw pillows from the store and just recover them. On the other hand, Sailrite has all the materials you need to make pillow forms from scratch if you don’t want to cut up bed pillows like I did. Just watch the ‘pillow form’ video for details.

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Now for the fun part! I had chosen Mill Creek Nabil in Poppy, an outdoor fabric with a simple print for my accent pillows. I’m not really into the ‘marine’ prints, busy looking prints, or the foofy floral patterns. I like simple and this fabric kind of reminded me of waves without actually being a picture of waves. I wanted a warm color scheme but didn’t want a red, orange, yellow or pink. Instead, I found a coral color that isn’t any of those, but rather a mix of all of them together and doesn’t clash at all with the Forest Green that envelops the cockpit and exterior area of the boat. With all the white areas inside my boat paired with the honey-teak stain on all the wood, I definitely wanted a warm color instead of cool blues and greens. To me, warm colors bring a cozy feeling where cool colors feel relaxing but not welcoming.

8.   I wanted to make envelope-style covers for the throw pillows and the Sailrite videos were easy to follow. I marked my measurements on the underside of the fabric and cut the first pattern out to try on for size.

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9.   Pleased with the way it fit, I measured and cut the other three pieces, giving me a total of four pillow covers in this color.

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10.   I followed the video and sewed them up!

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11.   The next color I chose was Sunbrella Canvas Taupe. I had previously ordered fabric samples and it was the best dark/neutral accent for my color scheme. Unfortunately the roll of fabric was not cut straight, so I had to find a way to make the edge straight before cutting my patterns. When you don’t have yard stick, you have to get creative! I used the edges of several chart books to extend across the 54″ wide fabric and traced a straight line. Sewing up the rest of the new throw pillow covers was much easier than the first batch.

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Notice the old cushions in the photo above.

The next photos actually give you a sneak peek at my new salon cushions (which were made after the throw pillows). I had decided on Sunbrella Dupione in Pearl for the salon cushions after being introduced to the Dupione fabric in person by my friend Linda on Troubadour. She is another Sailrite Expert Seamstress and has made some pretty incredible things with her LSZ-1.

Even thought most people think I am crazy for choosing a light colored fabric with two dogs on board, I really wanted to keep it light and bright inside my home. The Dupione fabric is extra durable and easy to clean. I even chose Sunbrella Canvas White for my third color choice on the throw pillows because I loved how they all complimented each other so well.

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12.   After finishing all the inside pillows, I finished up the big ones for the cockpit. Again with the desire to have a really cozy space, I wanted big oversized Euro pillows up in the cockpit. I decided to use the Dupione Pearl and the Canvas Taupe that I had used downstairs, tying both spaces together.

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13.   One thing I did differently than what the Sailrite videos said to do was the seam on the envelope edges. The first pillows I did have an unfinished edge with only one fold at the envelope opening. All the rest were folded twice before stitching the hem (see below) and turned out much nicer. There are a few little things like this that only I would notice but all-in-all my first major sewing project was a total success!

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The Dupione fabric turned out simply divine! The texture is both soft and luxurious, yet extremely durable and water resistant.

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I saved hundreds of dollars making these DIY covers with the help of Sailrite and couldn’t’ be happier. What do you think?!

Up next: DIY Salon Cushions