The Easy Friday List, June 8

This is my weekly list (posted every Friday) of items that have made my life easier in some measurable way these last seven days. Maybe they can make your life easier too.  I have a philosophical question today: Is a list of one a list?

This is an item that was extremely useful to me this week. Usually, I have more than one item, but I didn’t do much crafting this week. Mostly, I worked on my Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial and Spoonflower fabric designs. Other than that, nada.

I’m getting ready to do a lot of crafting, but I’m not there yet. Also, I’m cleaning the sewing room/craft room (which some people insist on calling the dining room – I have yet to discover why). Before one can create, one must first destroy, yes? This is to say that the room is a giant mess. It is now an even bigger mess than when I started cleaning it. Clearly, I’m using the word “cleaning” euphemistically here; no cleaning has yet to be accomplished… just a lot of destroying.

Anyway. It’s time for a brilliant segue. Hello Topic! Here is this week’s Easy Friday List Item.

Poker: I have the humor of a seven year old boy. I know this. (I also know how confusing this is to people online, for I also have the combined writing skills of a Victorian grandmother, a modern-day overly-verbose technical writer, and a redneck. I am also confused by it all; you are not alone.) But my odd humor isn’t the only reason why I love my poker (so named because it is a thin wood stick with one pointy end – you “poke” with it). It is extremely useful. I can easily turn really tight corners right side out when I’ve sewn something to be stuffed. I can stuff fiber fill into fabric and poke it into tight spots, sure. But I can also use it when I’m piecing a quilt top.

A lot of people like to use stilettos when they machine sew because you can hold fabric in place really close to the needle without endangering your fingers. Also, they can go where your fingers are too big to go… really close to that needle.  And they work fine… except when they don’t. I am prone to sticking the stiletto through the fabric. I’ve also scratched the bed of a machine with one. (%^&*$^%!!!!!)

I use my poker instead of a stiletto when I sew and need to hold the fabric in place close to the needle. It’s just pointy enough to get the job done, but it’s not terribly dangerous unless I aim for an eye or something. I wear glasses, so I have some protection from the poker there.

All in all, it’s terribly useful and cheap! I have several… they come in bags of Poly-fil. And after my marathons of pumpkin and bird stuffing last fall and winter, I have plenty. (Not that I know where all of them are.) Back to the cleaning!

LATER: I just looked in a new bag of Poly-fil. The poker actually has an official name. It’s a Poly-toolz Stuffing Stix. Oddly enough, Fairfield (the maker of Poly-fil) doesn’t even mention the pokers in the Poly-fil product description. They should; it’s a wonderful selling point.

I like the name “poker” better than stuffing stix.

The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial

Because what the world needs most is one more pin cushion tutorial.

Previously: I made a giant, enormous, humongous, monster pin cushion because the house elves like to steal my store-bought tiny-tomato-looking one. Also, I have a ton of scraps, a bunch of polyfil, and a need to store my glass-head silk pins in something other than a glass jar. Oh, glass jars are wonderful (I have previously confessed to having an abundance of them), but when I reach in a glass jar to get a pin, most often I get blood instead when I stick myself with a pin. Occasionally the blood is accompanied by a pin stuck in my finger (or more notably, under my fingernail).

Clearly, the amazing usefulness of a glass jar is limited.

So I made a honker of a pin cushion. I’m making another one for my mother because she was mightily jealous of the utter usefulness, the awesome size, and even the amazing aesthetics of my big ol’ pin cushion.

In short, she had a severe case of pin cushion envy.

What’s a good daughter to do? Make her mama a giant pin cushion! Here’s how I did it. If you do it, let me know. I’d love to hear from you and see pictures of your creation.

Before I tell you how to make it, I should tell you some other things about the pin cushion:

I created the pin cushion so that you can make the entire thing from a single fat quarter (assuming that the fat quarter was cut properly and is a true 18” x 21”).

Instead of using a single fat quarter, I used four different fabric swatches from my Painted Flowers collection: I used the Large Flowers on Blue and White for the top; the Large Flowers on Blue for the bottom; the Flowers on Blue and White  for two sides; and the Flowers on Blue for the other two sides.

This would be a good project to use up some jelly roll scraps. Three jelly roll scraps sewn together will give you a 6.5” wide top and bottom. And the sides are already 2.5”. So with a few leftovers, you’re set. You would need ten 6.5″ long strips to make the whole thing: three for the top, three for the bottom, and one for each side.

All seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

I like to press each seam with right sides together just after sewing because I think it produces a better seam once it’s turned and stuffed. (I’ve heard this called “setting the seam”.) But YMMV, so you don’t have to do this.

I didn’t prewash this fabric. For most sewing projects, I prewash fabric. I don’t prewash when I’m sewing something to be stuffed. Stuffing fabric stretches it slightly; when you prewash, it stretches it slightly more. Again, YMMV, so you can prewash if you want.

I don’t clip corners when I stuff something unless I’m stuffing something really, really small with an acute, tight corner. Stuffing fabric stretches it; when you clip corners you can pop through the seams when you’re in a corner if you’ve clipped them too close to the seam.

I fray checked the edges. I like to do that when I’m making something that could get a lot of wear and/or is going to be stuffed tight. Relax; that smell will go away in a week or so.

Finally, here’s how you make it.

Needed:

A fat quarter of fabric
A bunch of polyfil
Thread
Button thread
Two enormous buttons (mine are 1 3/8” (34mm))
A tag (optional)

Instructions:

1. Cut out your fabric:
6.5” x 6.5” for the top
6.5” x 6.5” for the bottom
Four 6.5” x 2.5” for the sides

Step 1: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

I love the fabric I used for this.

2. Right sides together, sew one side to the top without sewing the beginning and end 1/4” of the side strip. I marked the top and bottom corners 1/4 inch away from the edges, but you can eyeball it if you’re good and/or daring.

Step 2: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

I marked the corners with a permanent pen, a Sakura Pigma Micron 05 brown (0.45mm).

Step 2: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

One side is sewn to the top.

3. Repeat step 2 for the remaining three sides. For these last three sides, you have to bend back the previous sewn side so that you don’t sew over it again. In the pic below, you can see how I bent back the adjacent two sides so that I could sew the last side to the top. The fray check actually helps with this because it makes the edges a little stiff and able to hold a bend.

Step 3: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

The four sides are sewn to the top, but the sides are not sewn together.

Side Note: If I were reading these instructions, it’s at about this time that I would wonder why the instructions didn’t have me connect the four sides to each other and then connect them in a loop to the top. You might have wondered the same. So I’ll tell you.

The big red monster pin cushion at the top is my second attempt to make a giant pin cushion. In the first attempt, I attached the sides (in one long strip) to the top and bottom. After stuffing the cushion, I didn’t have a block with rectangles for sides; I had a block with parallelograms for sides. I don’t know what happened. I suspect that I didn’t sew the bottom fabric in the same place I sewed the top fabric. So I ended up with the top and bottom planes parallel without matching the corners. Also, I suspect house elf sabotage. I have no other excuses.

Anyway. On my second attempt, using the method I’m describing here, I got it right.

4. Right sides together, sew the bottom and one side together. (Don’t sew the sides together!)

Step 4: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

The top is sewn to four sides and the bottom is sewn to one side.

5. Repeat step 4 for the other 3 sides. (Still haven’t connected the sides to each other…)

Step 5: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

It's inside-out at this point and the tag is beside it. The sides have been sewn to the top and bottom, but no side has been sewn to another side.

6. If you’re adding a tag, now’s the time to insert it on one of the open sides. (If not, skip this step.) Make sure it’s inside the whole fabric bundle where the right sides are all together. I glued mine in place on the edge.

7. Now sew three of the sides together, making sure that one of the sides you’re sewing has a tag if you’re using one. Sew from and to the ends of the seams you sewed when you attached the sides to the top and bottom. You should have an inside-out block with one side open, one tag on the inside, and three sides sewn.

8. Turn it so the right sides are outside and stuff it tightly. Make sure that you turn the corners tightly so you can get a nice square block. Also, it helps to have a poker to poke the stuffing in the corners. My poker came with a bag of polyfil; it’s just a long wood rod with one pointy end.

Step 8: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

I've partially stuffed the pin cushion. The poker is sticking out of the polyfil. Also, hydration is very important when sewing as shown by the red adult-sized sippy cup in the picture.

Step 8: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

I've stuffed the pin cushion very tightly. You can see the poker on the right side. I love that thing, and not just because of what I call it. (Poker... hee. Because you poke with it... no?)

9. Close the opening by hand. I used a hidden stitch. Here’s a good tutorial for it at Taffy Talk called an invisible closing seam.

10. With a big honkin’ needle and button thread, attach the buttons to the center of the top and bottom. You want to go through the entire pin cushion with the thread so that the two buttons are connected

Step 10: The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

The button thread should be very tight. This is the hardest part for me because pulling the thread and pushing the needle through kills my fingers.

Pull the thread tightly to make the pin cushion appear tufted. Hide the knot under a button and hide the tail of the thread inside the cushion as explained in the invisible closing seam tutorial I linked to above.

11. Embellish if desired. I’m considering embroidering a fly stitch along the top seams. If I do, I’ll post update pics later on. I don’t know; I love it as is.

The Monster Pin Cushion Tutorial at fig+fence

The beauty shot on nice furniture...

Finished measurements: 6” x 6” x 2”.

I hope you like the tutorial and I hope you use it. Really, it’ll take you longer to read this monster tutorial than it will to make the monster pin cushion.