Category Archives: DIY Projects with Sewing

DIY Indigo Pillow with Dye Kit & Moroccan Stencil

In the last post, I shared a DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit. The kit gives you everything you need to dye fabrics with an indigo blue color:

DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit

See the previous post for more information about this indigo dye kit and where to get it. Today I will show you what I made with the kit.

DIY Indigo Pillow

I went on a few creative detours while making this indigo pillow. Long story short, I’m used to paint, which I can control better. The dye did what it wanted to do. It wasn’t in my control. Maybe that’s because I’m new with dye, and I didn’t know how to manipulate it to get the look I wanted. Sometimes with creative materials, you need to give in and let the process unfold into something you didn’t expect. But in the end, I couldn’t give up the control! I learned, I have control issues! I ultimately painted over the dye to make the clean pattern I wanted.

So here’s what I did. The DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit comes with a large 27″ x 27″ piece of cotton fabric. It’s white, and I wanted a beige background. So I dipped the fabric in water colored with a neutral Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. This colored the cotton fabric, from white to beige:

Dye White Fabric Beige

I let the fabric air dry and ironed it.

I wanted to make a Moroccan stencil pattern with the indigo dye, using the Mamounia Moroccan Trellis Furniture Stencil from Royal Design Studio. My first idea was to create a resist, where the fabric would resist the blue dye, leaving the original beige fabric color. To do this, fabric I “painted” the fabric with Clear Soft Wax from Annie Sloan. I used a large brush and brushed the soft wax onto the fabric through the stencil, just like stenciling with paint:

Stencil and Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax

Stenciling with Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax

Oh my goodness — it’s winter, I live in cold weather near Chicago, thus very dry hands!!

Next I mixed indigo dye with water, almost like a watercolor.

Watered Down Indigo Dye

I brushed the watered-down blue dye over the fabric. See here how the pattern emerged around the wax resist as I painted:

Painting with Indigo Dye

Lots of dye went through the fabric onto the foam core board behind. Here’s the foam core board!

Foam Core Board Mess

TIP: Protect your surface!

If you do this, protect your surface! I placed white foam core board under the fabric. Lots of dye went through the fabric and soaked into the foam core board. So definitely don’t play with this dye without protecting your surface first.

Unexpected, Uncontrollable Things

Something unexpected happened. The watered-down blue dye ran underneath the fabric. It dyed the fabric blue from underneath the wax. This made a dark blue/light blue pattern, which was different than the blue/beige I originally wanted. I liked the deep blue pattern you see in the video and the picture above with the paint brush.

But as the dye dried, the fabric changed. It got really blurry, fuzzy and messy looking, and in some areas it was really hard to see the stencil pattern. It’s like the pattern was disappearing before my eyes! I was not happy. I rinsed the fabric before the dye dried, in the stainless steel kitchen sink, washing much of the dye out. This made the pattern show again, but overall it looked messy to me.

Indigo Dye Pillow Fabric

I had a picture in my head of the end result I wanted to make, and the dye wasn’t doing it. This is where I could have given up control and let the dye do its natural thing. But I just couldn’t give up the original idea!

I let the fabric dry, ironed it to set the dye, and let the fabric sit for awhile as I decided the next step.

PaintING Expectations

I decided to lay the stencil over the fabric again, and paint with neutral color fabric paints. I knew this would make the indigo blue/neutral pattern contrast that I originally wanted.

I found some light and dark beige fabric paints in the craft store in our basement. That is not a joke. There’s so many DIY supplies down there, I do have a craft store in my house! As I painted, I blended colors through the stencil for a mottled effect.

Stencil Over Indigo Dye

Fabric Paints

Stenciling Fabric Paint Over Indigo Dye

Finally, happy!

Indigo Dye and Fabric Paints

This is the look I was trying to get! This is an example of “don’t give up.” Don’t wad up the fabric and throw it in the trash. (I did think about that.) If something isn’t working, set it aside for awhile. The answer will come to you.

I had a pillow form from Crate & Barrel, also in the craft store in our basement. I cut the indigo Moroccan fabric to fit the pillow form. I found a blue herringbone fabric in my fabric stash for the back side of the pillow. I liked the contrast of the two fabrics — one bohemian and patterned, one conservative and all lined up perfectly. I had two navy tassels bought in the souks of the Marrakech medina. I sewed these all together into a pillow.

Indigo Dyed and Painted Fabric

Moroccan and Herringbone

Marrakech Tassels

Here it is, a boho blue indigo pillow, on my mom and dad’s family room couch:

Indigo Pillow

I gifted the indigo pillow to my mom for Christmas. I knew it would look great with her blue and neutral decor, and it would add Moroccan pattern to her other pillows.

DIY Indigo Pillow



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DIY Saree Curtains and the Brightest Light Bulb in the World

Nothing like trying to sleep with a bright light bulb shining in your face. Imagine the bright bulb is not in your room, but it is in the NEIGHBOR’S house! And it’s shining into your bedroom through open windows. That’s what happened to us in India this summer.

If you’ve ever been to India, you know that flavors are stronger, sounds are louder, the heat is hotter, colors are brighter and … well, actually, light bulbs do not shine brighter in my experience. Except for that one light bulb the neighbors have shining 24/7, right outside our bedroom window. Of all places, why there?!?

This single light bulb had the power to render eyelids useless. And there are privacy issues of course. It’s hard to drift off to happy dreamland when you worry about someone peeping in the window only three feet away.

Light Bulb

The window was naked because curtain rods were not installed yet. So we draped a saree over an open ladder. Classy times. That blocked 60% of the window. It was enough for the weary to get rest.

The next day, a few guys hung curtain rods on all of our windows, and I turned that saree into actual curtains.

Sew a Saree Curtain

I know there are many readers here from India who wear sarees, and please forgive me. I do worry that what I’m about to suggest is like suggesting we turn my clothing into curtains. But it’s so tempting. Sarees can have 18 and more feet of fabric, about 3 feet wide. And many are so beautiful. I know people will drape them over four-poster beds, people will drape them down walls, so why not drape them over windows.

Here’s the saree I turned into curtains for the India pied-à-terre master bedroom:

Saree for Curtains

It’s a simple beige silk, with white, gray and gold block printing and copper metallic thread accents. I bought it at a Craftmark silk show in Chennai many years ago.

Silk Saree

First, I sewed white cotton into lining, We found the plain white cotton at Nalli saree store in Panagal Park, Chennai. Let me tell you, it is not easy to find plain unadorned non-textured white fabric in India. It’s quite the hunt. And you get interesting looks when you describe what you’re looking for. Like, why?!? Given the millions of colorful, patterned, textured choices in India … indeed, why, except curtain linings should be as plain as possible.

Sewing the lining is simple. You sew down the sides, sew the top, sew the bottom. I sewed on a vintage Singer machine stand we found in India (tailors have them on roadsides everywhere) and I brought my machine from the U.S. in a suitcase! We had to get an electrical transformer that weighs about as much as a rickshaw, to allow me to use the machine in India.

Sewing in India

The biggest problem is wrestling with such large lengths of fabric, and keeping lines straight over the long haul. Be vigilant to ensure straight lines don’t creep into becoming crooked lines. Measure with a ruler and pin all seams. Your eyes can fool you into thinking you’re folding straight lines over many yards of fabric. A ruler will keep you honest.

And also, boredom. This was about as much fun as sewing hospital bed sheets.

Pinning and Sewing

Thrilled to move on from this boring task, I didn’t want to spend any more time with it to iron it. So the lining is wrinkled, but they face the outside so this isn’t noticeable.

Curtain Lining

For the saree, sewing was simpler because the selvedges made the right and left sides. Seams were needed only at the top and bottom hem. The hardest part here was ensuring both pieces of fabric wound up the exact same length. Measure. Then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.

You will probably have to measure yet again. This will happen when the first panel is sewn and the two panels are no longer the same length. They were before. But they’re not now. You may want to punch something. Don’t. Measure instead. Make it zen. Turn on 80s dance music. Whatever you gotta do to deal with it. Remove pins from the second panel, measure, pin again, then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.

Measuring took more time than sewing!

This is what I did for a whole day of my vacation in India. Pinning, measuring, sewing. Great times.

But the final result was … no more brightest-lightbulb-in-the-world shining through our naked window, and fears of waking up at 3 a.m. to see a face peering in. One day of work, many nights of peaceful sleep. It’s a fair trade.

Saree Curtains

So to address the obvious issue here …

Saree Curtain

Leaving part of the pallu design on one side was necessary to get the right length. (The pallu is the part of the saree that hangs straight down when draped over a shoulder.) I thought it would be like an irreverent cast-all-rules-out-the-window kind of look. It says I’m willing to break the curtain molds that bind us. But it is bothering me now. I might replace the bottom of the left side with the blouse fabric. It won’t be the same design as the right side, but it will be a contrasting border, and it might help this situation feel more balanced.

Saree Curtain and Vintage Singer Sewing



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DIY Boho Chic Patchwork Lumbar Pillow

When I made DIY “Fortuny” fabric pillows a few months ago, I made many test samples. It was a CRAZY fun stenciling spree! I painted different color paints on different color fabrics to see what paint+fabric combo I liked best. All this testing resulted in faux Fortuny pillows that I LOVE. And I loved the crazy mix of all the test patterns! They all coordinate together:

Stenciling Spree Samples

They reminded me of Turkish overdyed patchwork rugs, like this one for sale at SukhiRugs Etsy store:

Turkish Overdyed Patchwork Rug from SukhiRugs Etsy Store

So, I sewed all the sample pieces together to make a long slim bolster pillow:

Patchwork Bolster Pillow

The pillow now lives in India! It’s surrounded by other patterns, like a beige and white silk saree that I sewed into bedroom curtains, and a Moroccan star stencil pattern that will be on the wall as a “headboard:”

India pied-a-terre Master Bedroom Patterns

So here’s how to make a pillow like this …

First, wait for a silly cat high on catnip to clear out of the staging and sewing area:

Catnip Hangover

Lay out your fabrics. You can use printed fabric, like quilting fabrics. Or you can paint your own patterns on fabric, with stencils. All of the designs on my fabrics are stencils from Royal Design Studio, and all paint colors are their Stencil Creme paints.

Cut fabric into rectangles. Mine were about 4″ by 8″. Lay them out in the order you want them:

 

Layout 2

You might want to pick the the most prominent visual piece of fabric as a “focal point.” In my layout, the darkest piece of fabric with the four-petal flower shape draws the eye and that’s my focal point. Put the focal point a little off-center or toward the edge, not smack in the middle.

Next, sew the pieces together along the horizontal seams like the stitching diagram shows here:

Horizontal Stitching Lines

Sew with a 3/8″ seam.

Now, you don’t want a final piece with jagged, uneven edges like this. So, cut off the pieces that are sticking out and sew them on so you get an even rectangular block of patchwork:

Rectangular Patchwork Layout

After you sew, press the seams open. I know it can be a pain to iron! But ironing flattens the seams and makes the final result look professional. There’s a saying that when you sew, you might spend more time with the iron than the sewing machine. This is sometimes true. It’s worth it. Don’t skip this step!

Ironing Seams Flat

After you press seams, sew the strips together vertically, as shown in the stitching lines below. Sew with 3/8″ seams. After you’re done sewing, iron the seams open.

Vertical Stitching Lines

Next is an optional step. It’s a small touch that adds visual interest. Because the Turkish patchwork rugs have visible decorative stitching, I sewed over the top of the seams with a decorative stitch. You can use a contrasting color thread if you want this stitching to show up even more.

Decorative Stitching

Next, sew up the sides and install either a zipper or a flap opening on the back. I installed a zipper.

Rectangular Bolster Pillow

Zipper

I wish I had a darker zipper, but I couldn’t find any that were long enough in stores, You can order zippers online in any length you want. But I didn’t have time. This pillow is for our apartment in India and we were leaving in a few days. The light zipper is really obvious but you won’t see the bottom of the pillow much. I can get OCD about things like this, and it bugs me so I might swap it some day! :)

After installing a zipper in the bottom of the pillow, I stitched up the sides and top, and added two long tassels found in the souks of Marrakech:

Finished Patchwork Pillow

It’s truly a global, nomadic decorating pillow:

  • Painted with patterns from around the world
  • Sewn in the style of a Turkish patchwork rug
  • Decorated with Moroccan tassels
  • Now lives in India with saree curtains and Chinese chest nightstands

Patchwork Pillow and Chinese Cabinet

Here it is in our apartment in India, a place which is still obviously a work in progress! I know this photo is underwhelming, to say the least, after all the build-up over the years on this blog about this apartment, But there’s water damage on the wall behind the bed now. There’s a rooftop on the other side of the wall, and during big monsoons, that area floods and soaks the wall. So that must be fixed before stenciling on the wall. But you get the idea of how it will some day look:

Patchwork Pillow

Finally, you know how there may be no more truly unique ideas in this world? You could get an idea you’ve never seen anywhere before, and at the same exact moment, someone else on the other side of the planet is doing the same thing. The day I intended to sew this pillow together, I opened email and found the latest products from CRAFT by World Market. And THERE was a patchwork long slim bolster pillow!

CRAFT by World Market Patchwork Pillow

So if you don’t want to sew this, see if you can buy it from global decor stores like World Market! This also shows a good fabric idea — you can use saree fabric remnants to sew a patchwork pillow.

 



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