09 December 2015

Making Throw Pillows For Our Boat & Cute Cat Models

You know how they always get pretty girls in short skirts or bikinis to stand next to the cars at auto shows? These girls can make even the most boring soccer mom minivan look sexy and glamorous. Of course, let's be honest, no one is really looking at the cars when there are scantily clad chickadees nearby.

We seem to have a shortage of hot girls on our boat (and trust me, this middle aged lady isn't getting into a short skirt or bikini anytime soon), so I decided to go with something even better - cute cat models! 

See that cat in the picture up there? That's Evy. She belongs to some friends of ours and came by for a visit the other day. Isn't she adorable? Evy is like the feline equivalent of a hot car model - she's so cute that you don't even realize that there are pillows next to her. If you closed your eyes now, I bet you could remember that Evy is gray. But, would you remember the color and the pattern of the fabric covering the pillows?

Some of you might recall that I made Spartan green slipcovers for the settees in our saloon a while back on our Sailrite sewing machine. I wanted to recover the throw pillows that the previous owners had left behind so that they would coordinate with the slipcovers. So, when I wasn't busy trying to solve the Case of the Slowly Sinking Ship last month, I was busy recovering these throw pillows, along with making some for our cockpit. 

Originally, I was thinking of using this fabric for the saloon pillows. Yes, it's pretty kitschy, but I figured it would detract from the slipcovers. 

Here's a top tip - never, ever show your husband fabric and ask him what he thinks of it. I sent Scott a picture of this fabric and asked him what he thought. His response, "Hmm...that's interesting." This is code for, "Are you nuts? What are you thinking? You're not seriously going to make throw cushions out of this, are you?"

I'm thinking of making a skirt out of this fabric now. Or maybe Scott would like a Hawaiian shirt?

It's important to learn from your mistakes. Next, I bought this fabric. This time, I didn't show it to Scott before I turned it into covers for our throw pillows.

It's kind of weird too. It reminds me of psychedelic kiwi fruit slices. I don't really care for kiwi fruit. If you serve it to me at brunch, I'll eat it. It's not like beetroot, kumara or avocado, which I'll stealthily put in my napkin or feed to the cat when you aren't looking. Kiwi fruit isn't the worst thing in the world, but I'm not a big fan. 

So, why did I get this fabric considering my feelings about kiwi fruit? That's a great question. 

After looking at a gazillion fabric choices online and not being able to make up my mind, this one whispered to me in a hypnotic voice, "Go on, order me. You know you want to. I'll make you happy. Plus, I'm on sale. You know you love a good sale. Don't listen to what those other fabrics are saying. Sure, they look cute, but that's Satan talking through them. You don't want to buy fabric from the devil and put your soul in immortal danger, do you?"

And that's how I ended up with two yards of psychedelic kiwi fruit inspired indoor/outdoor fabric. Here's what it looks like next to the old throw pillows. Nothing wrong with the shell fabric, but it just wasn't my thing. Psychedelic kiwi fruit, on the other hand, is totally my thing. Especially when the voices in my head tell me it is. 

Pillow covers are a pretty simple and straightforward sewing project. I had made some years ago, so I just refreshed myself with a home sewing book on the technique and seam allowances required.

One of the tricks to making pillow covers fit well is to round the corners of fabric. You fold your fabric into quarters, make a mark half way down between the corner and fold on each side and then another mark 1/2" from each edge. Then it's a simple matter of tapering the fabric from each point.

Instead of making knife-edge pillows where the front and the back are the same size and are sewn up with a single seam around the edge, I decided to go with a lapped closure so that I could easily remove the pillow covers as needed for cleaning. We spill things often. Plus, there seems to be an awful lot of cat hair on everything these days. So, being able to quickly clean the pillow covers is a real bonus.

To do this, the back of each pillow consisted of two pieces with hemmed edges which overlap each other. I made each piece long enough so there was enough of an overlap for the back to stay closed without the need for velcro, snaps or buttons.

Here's Min modeling the crazy kiwi cushions. She's gorgeous, isn't she? She spent the day with me while her humans were showing their boat to prospective buyers. She's a Canadian cat and bi-lingual. She ignores commands from humans in both English and French. I'm definitely getting a Crazy Cat Lady reputation at the marina. Tickety Boo is turning into the local kitty-cat day care center. It works out well - I get my cat fix without the long-term hassles of litter box cleaning.

For our cockpit throw pillows, I had to start from scratch when it came to pillow inserts. Sure, I could have bought some pre-made inserts, but that would have been a little pricey. Instead, I decided to use Jody's brilliant trick of cutting up bed pillows and making your own pillow inserts. So much cheaper and really simple! Check out her post here on Where the Coconuts Grow to get the scoop. I love the fabric she used too.

I picked up some inexpensive pillows at Walmart, cut them apart at one end, pulled the stuffing out, resized them, put the stuffing back in and sewed up the seams. I turned one king size pillow into two rectangular throw pillows and two standard size pillows into square pillows.

The stuffing looks weird when it comes out of the pillow. Sometimes, it's best not to think too much about what they put in these things. 

For the cockpit cushions, I decided to go with a fish pattern in an outdoor fabric. I used the same technique as I did for the saloon cushions.

Do you notice the seamstick in the picture below? I love this stuff. Seamstick is magic when it comes to seams. I don't have an iron, so I can't press seams. Instead, I just put on some of this double sided tape, fold the seam over, press down with my fingers and Bob's your uncle. You can sew right through the stuff. 

And here's how they turned out with Georgie the Sailing Cat modeling them. Cat models can be kind of difficult to work with at times. They're always demanding belly rubs and treats.


Overall, it cost $62.72 to make six saloon cushions and four cockpit cushions. To keep costs down, I waited until fabric went on sale and I made my own pillow inserts for the cockpit which saved heaps of money. For example, if I had bought a pre-made 20 x 20" pillow insert it would have cost around $17. Making one from a bed pillow only cost me $2.74. The hassle of making my own was well worth the savings.

Here's how the cost breaks down and details of what fabrics and notions I used.

FABRIC | Total Cost = $46.44

Saloon Cushions - I used 2 yards of Solarium Beringer Spring which I bought online at Joann Fabrics. This is an indoor/outdoor polyester fabric which is 54" wide. It normally goes for $21.99 / yard, but I waited for it to go on sale and got it half off for $10.99 / yard.

Cockpit Cushions - I used 2 1/2 yards of P Kaufmann Indoor/Outdoor Fish Tale Navy Blue. This is an outdoor polyester fabric which is 54" wide. I had originally bought 1 yard on sale for $7.99 / yard at Fabric Depot in Portland, Oregon when I was visiting my family. It was originally going for $21.99 / yard, so this was a great sale. I should have bought more. I liked the fabric so much that I decided to order some more when I saw it was on sale at Fabric.com for $10.98. It now looks like this may be a discontinued fabric, so if you like it too, you can probably pick it up cheap now.

PILLOW INSERTS | Total Cost = $11.48

Saloon Cushions - I used the six original 18 x 18" cushions that the previous owner had left on the boat so the cost was free.

Cockpit Cushions - I made pillow inserts from microfiber bed pillows I got at Walmart. One queen size pillow on sale for $6 and two standard size pillows on sale for $2.74 each. I made two 20 x 15" pillow inserts from the queen size pillow and one 20 x 20" pillow insert from each of the standard size pillows.

NOTIONS | Total Cost = $4.80

I used a #16 needle on my Sailrite sewing machine, which I already had and which I'll reuse for other projects. I used one spool of white upholstery thread ($4.60) and about 20 cents worth of seamstick 1/4" basting tape ($4.95 for 50 yards at Sailrite).

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  1. I love the colors. They pop. Sometimes boats can look rather bland looking and adding this kind of color really helps in making the boat homier.

    Love all the cat models. They do require some attention, but they are so worth the effort.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. Thanks Sandee - the pillows do brighten the place up considering how much wood we have down below.

  2. You don't eat avocados???? this is a travesty!

    1. I know - everyone is surprised I don't like them. I've tried them again to make sure, but it's still a no go for me.

  3. Pillow covers look great - I have seen them in previous posts and thought they looked like kiwifruit as well!

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