Tuesday, December 10, 2013
One thing I have learned as a DIYer, is that having the right tools can make all the difference! I don't think my husband will ever forget the day that I asked for a staple-gun for Christmas. Not perfume, or clothes, or a luxurious bath set - a staple gun, and I was so thrilled to get it! As a DIYer, owning a few of the right tools can greatly enhance your ability to take on and complete a broader range of projects and make your life a lot easier while you're doing it. For a DIYer, getting great tools for Christmas can make you feel like a little kid again! Here's a list of my favourite and most essential tools, starting with the basics:
1) SEWING MACHINE:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Owning a sewing machine and knowing how to sew will increase your ability to do amazing things in your home by about 100%. Knowing how to sew lifts the restriction of being able to decorate only with what you can find in a store. It allows you to tailor and customize the interior of your spaces without paying top price to have someone else do it - and that will make a huge difference to the look of your home! (Learn how to sew with this tutorial: Sewing 101)
When it comes to an appropriate sewing machine for the average DIYer I use the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Stupid). A basic, entry-level machine is sufficient. No need to impress with a super expensive, super complicated device. Unless your DIYer is an expert at sewing, a fancy-schmancy machine will probably just complicate things for them and make things more frustrating rather than easier.
I've owned a few basic sewing machines over the years, and have learned that not all sewing machines are created equally. Cheap machines can lead to very frustrating experiences. My favourite machine has been a simple, entry-level Janome. It cost a little more than other brands of entry-level machines, but has been worth every penny in my opinion. I would recommend Janome to anyone!
2) BASIC CONSTRUCTION TOOLS:
You are going to need some of these guys if you hope to be able to do almost anything yourself. These are the essentials:
- Measuring tape
My Dad is very picky about his hammers and has a whole list of qualifiers as to what makes a "good" hammer. I'm not quite as picky, but have learned that you don't want to cheap out. A good hammer is a lifetime tool.
B) Measuring tape:
A DIYer's constant companion. You will use this in almost everything you do. I find the longer the better.
C) Level & Square:
These are tools I avoided obtaining for awhile, but soon learned are essential for accuracy and precision. I have also learned that the more accurate and precise you are - the easier your life will be, the less frustration you will encounter. Don't skip these guys!
D) Electric Drill & Screw-Driver:
Again, these are basic, but indispensable tools to have. I use them on almost every single job I do.
Originally I bought cordless, battery operated tools and was happy with their "go anywhere" capabilities, but frustrated when projects had to be halted because of dead batteries that needed hours to recharge. I have since learned that the "plug in" variety has it's place.
Don't forget the bits!
3) ELECTRIC SANDER:
When it comes to electric sanders there is a whole pile of them (rotary/belt/clamp/detail/etc) and they're all useful, but I find a simple palm sander to be the most versatile and useful. I like the ones with a pointed tip, and recently a good friend of mine bought one like this with a ton of attachments to help reach tricky places which made me a little envious. I would also recommend getting this tool in the "plug-in" variety as opposed to cordless, as it has been my experience that palm sanders can burn through battery power like crazy.
4) STAPLE GUN:
Here it is, one of my favourite Christmas gifts! I consider my staple gun to be a cross-over tool that connects the sewing world to the construction world. If you want to do anything with upholstery or even a lot of window treatments and decorating, a staple gun is a must have. In most cases I find a light-duty staple gun is adequate for most projects, but have recently added a more heavy-duty stapler to my arsenal of tools as well for jobs where the light-duty just doesn't quite do it.
BEYOND THE BASICS:
These are the tools that are the next step up which will really increase your abilities in the world of DIY!
1) MITRE SAW:
I love this tool. I love this tool. This was my first power-saw and using it made me a little nervous at first, but now I don't know how I ever lived without it! If you want to do anything with construction, flooring, finishing work - a standard chop-saw is a must have. Like the sewing machine, you don't have to go too big and fancy - for most jobs a mid-range brand and abilities are adequate, but I have learned that it is useful to buy a saw that can cut compound angles (for crown moulding and such). The only downfall with this guy is that you need a place to set it up (not something that is easily stored away in a cupboard). If you're ready for this it's time to set up a shop of sorts!
2) SKILL SAW:
I don't use this nearly as much as my mitre saw, but every once in awhile it becomes necessary for wider/longer cuts that my mitre saw just can't do. It's kind of a free-hand tool which admittedly freaks me out a little bit every time I use it. Buying one that comes with a good quality, metal guide is a good idea. The next step up from this would be a table-saw, a place I haven't gone just quite yet.
This is a tool that is kind of useless on it's own, but you need it in order to operate numerous other very useful tools. Don't go too small with this guy. Generally the bigger the better (the higher capacity the more tools you will be able to run with it), but again, you don't have to go crazy with it. A mid-range product is adequate for most things.
4) PNEUMATIC (AIR) TOOLS:
These are fun, and make life sooooo much easier!
A) Nail Gun:
This is another tool that I don`t know how I did without before! I use mine mostly for finishing work (trim and such), and have found that a light duty gun with very small gauge nails is best. It just makes things so fast and easy! If you`re doing more construction type work, a more heavy-duty gun with larger/longer nails is good. I'm increasingly finding that it's good to have both!
B) Paint Gun:
This has been one of my favourite new toys! If you're looking to paint a lot of furniture, cabinets, or highly textured items this is such a great thing to have! It can be used with any kind of paint, makes painting fast and easy, and gives you a really smooth, professional, high quality finish. It takes a little bit of practice to master how to use it, but once you get the hang of it, it's hard to go back to painting items any other way. The main down-fall to this guy is that it also makes a heck of a mess so you'll want to use it in very well masked-off areas, or an area like a well ventilated garage or outside (best really). Generally there are 2 different types: syphon feed or gravity feed. I find the syphon feed a little easier to hold and work with.
Those are my must-haves and personal favourites! What are yours? Merry Christmas and Happy DIYing!!!
Monday, November 18, 2013
I have always found sewing anything round kind of tricky - but I've finally found a formula for sewing bolster cushion covers that works really well!
TOOLS & MATERIALS:
- 1 Meter of fabric
- 1 Meter of piping material (I prefer to use the non-plastic type)
- 1 bolster pillow form
- 1 zipper (just slightly longer than the length of your pillow form)
- Sewing machine
- Straight pins
- Seam ripper
- Carpenter's Square (optional)
STEP 1: Measure your pillow form
Using a soft measuring tape, measure the length of your pillow form from seam to seam and add 1" onto your measurement to determine the length of the body of your pillow cover. (In my case, my bolster pillow was 14" long, so with the added 1" my working measurement for the length of my pillow cover was 15")
Now measure the diameter (length across the middle) of the end of the pillow form (again from seam to seam) and add 1" onto that measurement as well. (In my case the diameter of the end of my pillow form was 6", so with the added 1" my working measurement was 7").
To find the appropriate width for the body of your cushion cover, take the diameter of the end of the pillow form + 1" (in my case 7" total) and multiply it by 3.14 (otherwise known as Pi - who knew math had a practical application?). In my case this turned out to be 19.84".
STEP 2: Cut your fabric
a) Cut the body of your pillow cover according to your measurements (for me: 15" x 19.84")
|*Tip* I have found that using a carpenter's square to help me measure and mark my fabric has provided me with greater accuracy in cutting, which helps to avoid problems later on.|
b) Cut 2, 2" strips from your fabric for the piping just slightly longer than the width of your pillow body (in my case I cut them about 21" long), and 2 pieces of piping material the same length as the width of your pillow body (19.84" in my case).
c) Cut 2 circular end pieces with a diameter in accordance to the measurement of the diameter of your pillow form + 1" (in my case 7").
|*Tip* Use a compass or perfectly round object of some kind that you can trace the circle onto your fabric and then cut it out. In my case I rummaged through my kitchen until I found a pot that I had with a 7" diameter.|
This is what your pieces should look like:
STEP 3: Install zipper
a) Take the body of your pillow cover and fold it in half right-side to ride side along the length (15" side in my case).
Pin along the edge and sew a basting stitch across the length with a 1/2" seam.
|*Tip* A basting stitch is just a temporary stitch used to hold things in place for the time being. Use the longest stitch length you have on your machine (in my case 4) and do not secure the beginning or end.|
b) Open the right-sides of the seam, and iron flat.
c) Place the zipper face down across the length of the pillow cover body with the teeth of the zipper right against the edge of the basting-stitch seam.
|*Tip* Leave the zipper head hanging off the edge of your fabric so it doesn't get in your way.|
Pin the bottom edge of the zipper to the bottom edge of the seam (make sure you don't go all the way through to the body - just get the seam) and sew in place.
d) Zig-zag the edges of the zipper to the edges of the fabric for extra strength.
e) Push the zipper-head down so that it sits about 1" away from the edge of the fabric. Secure the end of the zipper about 1/2" away from the edge of the fabric by going back & forth over it with your sewing machine a couple of times.
|You may need to rip a couple of the basting stitches in order to push the zipper-head down.|
|Secure the end of the zipper by going back & forth over it with your sewing machine a couple of times.|
Secure the end of the zipper in the same way.
e) Trim off the zipper excess and turn the pillow cover body right-side out.
Use a seam-ripper to cut the basting stitches and open the zipper. Pull out the basting stitches.
STEP 4: Sew the piping
a) Fold one end of the piping strip over about 1/2" and iron flat.
Fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise (right-side out) and iron flat.
Open the fabric, and place the piping material inside, against the fold, starting just before the folded over edge.
Fold the fabric over the piping and pin in place as snug as possible.
Sew along the length of the piping using a zipper-foot on your machine, getting the seam as close to the piping as possible.
b) Trim off the raw edge of the piping, so that you have about 1/2" of fabric next to the piping.
Snip the 1/2" edge of fabric (being careful not to get too close to the piping) at 1cm intervals along the length of the piping.
STEP 5: Sew the piping onto the end pieces
a) Mark a starting point on the edge of your circular end pieces (right-side up). Starting with the folded end of the piping, pin the piping around the outside edge of the end piece, placing the end of the piping material at the starting point marked on the end piece (the empty, folded over edge should extend past the starting point).
|Starting point is placed at the first snip.|
b) Trim the raw end of the piping so that it matches up to the starting point.
Tuck the raw end of the piping into the folded end of the piping and pin in place.
Sew the piping in place using a zipper-foot on your machine (try to get the seam as close to the piping as possible - this can be a little tricky).
Repeat for the other end piece.
STEP 6: Attach the end pieces to the body.
a) Place the zipper half-way down the length of the body and turn the body inside-out.
Pin the outside edge of the body to the outside edge of the end piece all along the circumference of the end piece. It should match up precisely (this is why I find using the carpenter's square to measure and mark my fabric before I cut important).
Repeat on the other end.
Sew the ends to the body using a zipper-foot on your machine, getting the seam as tight to the piping as you possibly can.
c) Turn the pillow cover right-side out and check your seams along the piping.
If it's not tight enough, turn it inside out again and give it another go (this can be tricky to get right tight on the first go).
When you are satisfied, zig-zag the edges for added strength.
STEP 7: Stuff the pillow
Turn the pillow cover right-side out and hold your breath while you insert the pillow form. It should be snug, but you shouldn't have to struggle to do up the zipper. Fluff and smooth the pillow form inside the cover until you are satisfied with the shape and enjoy your new bolster pillow!