Cloth Napkins Featuring Watson the Cat
I was extremely lucky to make a trip to Japan’s Nippori Textile Town about a month before 2020 showed its true colors. The suitcase full of fabric that I brought home fueled months of dreams and adventures in my head, even as I was trapped in my sewing room. Of course, now I’ve barely made a dent in that stash of fabric, and I’m itching to return. What can I say, fabric shopping is the best part of sewing.
And only in Japan would I get so excited about fabric featuring cats.
I’m not a cat person, but I found this fabric and just loved it. The cat is giving the most cat-like, don’t-mess-with-me stare, and it’s fantastic. More than anything, this made me think of Watson, Hannah’s (okay, technically Hannah’s husband’s) black cat. He’s particular, as cats are, but more than anything he loves trying to escape to the outdoors as often as possible. So it seems incredibly likely that he’d end up under a tree, like this cat, staring back at the house like, “What.”
I don’t often sew for other people, I tend to be a selfish sewist (luckily I’m not alone, currently #selfishsewing has almost 95k posts). But when sewing for someone else means I can buy more Japanese fabric… well… I guess that persuades me to become more generous.
This fabric is a mid-weight cotton, thicker than quilting cotton, so it’s great for home dec. I decided it would make a perfect table runner + napkin set. Blue is a good match for Hannah and Adam’s Fiestaware dishes, and they always use placemats because they’re fancy like that. So I figured they’d get good use out of cloth napkins, or maybe they could even use these as placemats.
For the napkins, I used the Purl Soho mitered corner napkins tutorial. Highly recommend! They were simple to make and have such nice, clean edges. There was lots of ironing but that was the only tedious part. For the table runner, I used the remaining long strip of fabric and bound the edges with a coordinating blue bias tape. I’ve mentioned this before, but thanks to good luck at estate sales, I have a collection of bias tape that never fails. This blue was a perfect match and I also managed to use all but about 2 inches of it.
At the edge, I folded back the selvedge to keep it as part of the project. I love that it shows that it was made in Japan, plus it has another tiny little Watson cat. I love selvedge details like that. I added a little loop to the back for hanging, just in case, because it felt like a fun fancy touch.
Napkins are fun to make because they’re a great way to show off fun fabrics, and they’re also a nice palate cleanser in between more involved projects. I have a few more cute Japan fabrics that I bought with the intention of making napkins, and I think that would be a good upcoming project – I haven’t been motivated to sew much lately, and an instant gratification project like this always helps me get back into happy sewing mode.
This was also fun because I got to send Hannah surprise mail! And we all know that surprise mail mid-pandemic was about 1000x more exciting than normal surprise mail (and even normal surprise mail is pretty dang exciting).
Plant Fabric Canvas Wall Art
This is a project I made back at my old house but never got around to blogging. It was so fun for me to go back through these photos and see my old sewing room! Each of my sewing rooms and sewing spaces holds a special place in my heart, but the first sewing room in a house that was truly MINE was a real treasure.
A few years ago, my mom and I trekked up to Pittsburgh for the Salvation Army Fabric Fair. It’s an annual event, but so far we’ve only been twice. That’s probably for the best, stash-wise, but oh man is it a magical experience.
One of the best fabrics I’ve found there is this plant print. I’ve never seen a fabric like it and I love the large scale and the crisp, screenprinted details. I couldn’t imagine cutting it but I wanted to look at it every day… hence: wall art.
I found this Ikea canvas panel next to somebody’s trash. I don’t remember where, probably at my old apartment complex. “Next-to-the-dumpster” is a fantastic place to find furniture and other treasures and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
This was a large art print, coated canvas wrapped around a particle board frame. If you look at the photo above: I could have removed each staple individually, which is one of my least favorite activities. Instead, I cut along the edge of the canvas, then used the remaining strip of canvas underneath the staples to pull the staples out. It didn’t work for all of them, but even when the canvas tore before removing the staple, it left a gap for me to wedge one of my trusty staple removers in there.
My plant fabric is a normal lightweight cotton, and since I didn’t want to see the frame underneath, I covered the frame first with a layer of plain white cotton. Still lightweight but enough to make a barrier.
I centered my amazing plant fabric on top of the now-white canvas. The white window grid in the background of the design meant I had to work a little harder than usual to keep the fabric straight and even.
I didn’t want to cut the fabric, just in case I’d want to do something else with it later. So I simply turned the excess under and left it on the back. As you can see – the dumpster canvas was almost the perfect size!
I added a little metal loop (like these) to the back center of the frame to make it easy to hang.
I added a few staples along the edge of the excess fabric to keep it taut along the back of the frame. Whoever owned the fabric before me was even kind enough to hem two of the edges!
Here is the finished canvas hanging in that glorious, first-truly-mine sewing room. I already had two walls with windows, so I loved hanging it on this wall to give me a third “window” in that delightfully bright room.
And here it is in my current sewing room, fancy HDR style. I would LOVE for there to be a window in that spot – there’s a window in its place on the floor below. So once again, I’m treating my plant art as a pseudo-window. It makes me so happy. I love this room because it feels like a treehouse! It’s a perfect escape for me to sew new things, or paint by the window. Such a gift.
Sewing in Self-Isolation
Even before all this practice, I’ve always been fantastic at self-isolation. There are very few things I love more than hiding inside with a pile of projects and sewing away, with occasional breaks for yoga, walks, or snacks.
So it should come as no surprise that this is what my sewing room table looked like a mere 48 hours into enforced isolation. I cut out a quilt! I made cushions for my mid-century lounge chair! And I made a very happy new couch pillow.
The front is a fabric I snagged as soon as it was released, llamas as part of the Stencil collection by Ellen Baker for Kokka. I never buy fabric online, so this was a rare exception!
As usual, it was hard to cut into one of my favorite fabrics… but, as always, I’m so glad I did because now I get to look at the pillow every day, instead of the fabric sitting buried in a bin.
I made my own piping using store-bought bias tape and some tiny cording that’s meant for Roman shades. I feel like piping elevates a simple project like this pillow so much, and it’s really not that hard with the right tools. I finally caved and bought this set of piping feet… it makes all the difference in the world.
The back fabric is a remnant I brought back from Japan on my recent (pre-pandemic) trip. I’m really happy with the way the colors coordinate with the llamas without being overly matchy.
I can never hide a happy colored zipper, so I left this one exposed rather than using a lapped installation as a couch pillow “should”. No-rules sewing! I’m such a rebel.
Especially when I’m spending so much time at home, it’s fun to change things up. I’ve been wanting to make new couch pillows for ages, and this one adds such a nice dose of brightness to my white couch! Are there any overlooked home projects that you’re diving into with this extra at-home time?
I often sew in silence, but lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks from the library, or watching through classes from the Bluprint Creative Care Package. Bluprint is offering unlimited free classes through April 9 to help with social distancing. It’s free to sign up, you don’t even need to give a credit card! Jen Hewett has a new block printing course for Bluprint and even though I’ve taken her class in person, I’m planning to listen through it to soak up even more the second time around.
Full disclosure, I am a Bluprint affiliate, but I’m also taking advantage of this special they have right now and I’m excited for the opportunity to learn some new tricks.