Yes, I missed posting last week’s Makeover Monday, but in a good cause: I was in Seattle, visiting my mom/making over the pillows for her new couch.
Why change the pillows? Well, that’s what I asked Mom: what was the actual issue with the existing pillows? Wrong colors, sizes, shapes? For her, it was a combination of wrong colors and too much of them, i.e. solid-color pillows creating large blocks of colors, as in this “before” picture:
In addition to the pillows for the couch, Mom was hoping I’d have time to make a new cover for this seat cushion:
Here are the issues that I saw, along with possible strategies for fixing them:
1. That’s a lot of pattern on the rug, not to mention a huge number of contrasting colors, but only two colors (red and green) on the couch. Incorporate a few more accent colors?
2. Next to this rug, the solid color of the couch looks uncomfortably flat; so far, only the patterned pillow seems to integrate the two at all. Perhaps more patterns on the pillows?
3. Taking the bright, saturated colors of the rug and the warm gold of the walls into consideration, the colors on the couch also look dark, almost muddy by comparison. Brighten up the color palette?
4. There’s something about the size of these pillows (18″ square) that, to my eye, looks just a bit out of proportion with the size of the couch, but we didn’t want to start completely over with new pillows. Add one more pillow in a smaller size?
I only had 2 days in Seattle for this makeover, and after getting a few more details from Mom about what she did (and didn’t) want, we had a preliminary plan, so we headed out to look for fabrics. We went to Pacific Fabrics, near downtown; I remember being there several years ago, but neither of us had been there recently, so it was a gamble. From the outside, it doesn’t look very promising:
Inside, it’s a bit warehouse-y, but I found it very well-organized, and I also have to say I was deeply impressed with their well-thought-out merchandise mix. For example, since I use invisible zippers a lot in garments, I’ve gotten used to the limited selection of both colors and sizes in typical fabric stores. But when I went to find all the invisible zippers I’d need for the new pillow covers, I was blown away by the color and size range being offered. (Wish I’d thought to get a picture of them!) Also, their decorator fabrics were grouped according to color families, making it easier to coordinate:
We decided on a different striped fabric, a heavy cotton with a similar stripe, but with a jacquard weave (creating a tone-on-tone background pattern) and a brighter gold. And we also found a lovely wine-colored embroidered silk, which I thought would add a new textural dimension to the pillow grouping. Here’s a look at a small part of the decorator fabrics section, with some of our choices on the table in the foreground:
In addition to all the invisible zippers, some thread, and a 12″ x 16″ rectangular pillow form, we also picked out a beautiful pleated trim, destined for the striped pillow cover. Here’s a detail of this trim, and the invisible zipper, on the finished cover:
Tip: Mom and I discussed 2 options for the pillow and cushion covers. Option 1: Leave an opening in the cover, then stitch this opening shut after putting the cover on the form, making the cover non-removable. Option 2: Make the covers removable by inserting zippers. For me, putting in the zippers (about $2.00 each), especially invisible ones, is just as easy as hand-stitching the openings, so why not make the covers as versatile as possible? (It’s fun to change the covers around now and then, during the holidays, for example.) So we decided to go that route.
Here are each of the pillows I made:
Tip: With both the striped pillow and the silk one, I was lucky that I had enough fabric to center the stripes, as well as to match the stripes at the seams. To be honest, I didn’t think about this at all when purchasing the fabric— and I should have. Depending on the size of your pillows, you may need to purchase more fabric than you think in order to plan the placement of stripes; this is one of those details that makes your projects look more professional.
Now, along with the original floral pillow, here’s what Mom’s couch looks like:
At this point, since I had to be conservative with my time, the priority was to make the seat-cushion cover. This, I may say, was far and away the highlight of this whole project, for me and my mom— this fabric, especially when we saw it in the context of the living room, just plain made us happy!
Tip: I chose a 9″-long zipper for the cushion cover because that was the length of the straight section on the back edge of the cushion; what I didn’t think about was how I would actually be able to insert the cushion itself into such a small opening! Fortunately, I was able to roll the cushion up tightly enough that I eventually worked it inside the cover, but if I was doing it again, I’d use a 14″-long zipper if possible. Moral: Choose your zipper length to accommodate the pillow form.
After the delirious success of the seat cushion cover, I thought I’d have enough time to make one more pillow, using the 12″ x 16″ pillow form we’d picked up at the fabric store. Initially, I was planning to just cover it with the aqua cotton fabric, but I noticed that, after cutting the seat cushion cover out of the wavy fabric, I had a piece left over that was just a little bigger than I’d need for the top of the rectangular pillow. So I made a reversible cover, with the wavy fabric on top, and the aqua fabric on the back:
Tip: See the trim around the wavy pillow? Since we decided on the fly to make this pillow, we hadn’t bought anything to trim it with. Considering all the pattern in the fabric, it wasn’t really necessary, but I had the idea to cut some strips from the striped pillow leftovers, piece them together to make one long strip, then fold it so that the thin red stripe was on the folded edge. I sewed this folded strip into the pillow as if it was piping. You can see details of my improvised trim here:
Ready to see the before and after shots of the whole couch? (I know I am!)
Here’s another angle, so you can see how the couch fits in with the rest of the seating area:
And finally, since the only thing that really matters is that my mom is happy with the results, here she is, enjoying her new pillows:
Tip: I do realize that this has been all about pillows, not clothes, but the same principles apply to your wardrobe: if you want to perk things up, start with accessories. Like the changes in Mom’s pillows, try adding a little more pattern, in a floral-print shoe, houndstooth cap, or candy-striped scarf. If you’re happier with solid colors, try some hues that are new to you; how about a little Radiant Orchid to brighten up all those dark winter outfits?
Ultimately, I think we accomplished all my original goals: the color palette is brighter, there are more patterns and textures, we added aqua as an accent color, and managed to sneak in a different pillow size and shape! Between Mom’s adventurous fabric choices and my fast sewing, we made a great team, wouldn’t you agree?
Makeover Monday posts happen (well, normally) on the second Monday of the month. And lots of good stuff happens in between, so visit often!