I Give You…. Giant Pillow Thing

I have a confession to make.  I’m not proud of it, but here goes.  I have wanted, for several years, to be the owner of an adult sized bean bag and/or ridiculously huge pillow.  Yes, there it is, I have been salivating over the thought of owning what amounts to a sack of cloth filled with foam.  So what has stopped me all these years from making the leap?  Well, just check out the prices!  Ridiculous!  The poshest maker of “Sacs and Pillows” (they spell sack wrong because it’s cool?..), charges upwards of $400 USD.  And their competitors, while cheaper, significantly so in fact, are still a little to expensive in my mind for what amounts to a bag of foam, and most don’t give you a clue about what kind of foam they put in the bag.  Which was important to me..

So I decided it was silly that someone with a sewing machine,  a serger and a modicum of sewing skills would pay for someone else to make a bag of foam.  So I made my very own Giant Pillow.  It was a long and interesting journey.

Research:

I spent weeks pouring over the sites of main manufacturer.  Examining their marketing shots in detail and trying to determine what the heck they used to fill their Pillows.  Oh, and I eventually decided that a pillow would be easier, and nicer looking than a round sack.  Most high-end noveau chic bean bags, the really comfortable ones that you sigh over when you sink in, are not, I repeat not, filled with beans.  That is so 1985.  Now they are filled with foam, and none of the companies are very forthcoming about what kind of foam.  And, there are a lot of foam choices out there!  Really this is not a simple decision.

Figuring out what kind of foam to use was where I spent the majority of my research.  The most expensive manufacturer uses something called durafoam.  Their competitor uses some sort of self branded foam called “comfy foam” or they just don’t tell you what they use, but are quick to tell you they are the best.  Really? Your are the best  are you?  Then tell me what kind of freakin’ foam you use!

Luckily for me, durafoam is a brand name, and while that doesn’t help much, because no one seems to sell it to consumers, it does, with a little digging on the interwebs, reveal that this product is a foam rubber and that is the info I needed.  Because you see, there are only so many places a consumer can order bulk quantities of shredded foam, and even fewer places where you can order shredded rubber foam.  I didn’t want to go to all the trouble to make this thing, only to fill it with something that would degrade over time and lose it’s loft.  So I had my foam picked and now it was time to get to sewing.

Materials:

  • 4 yards of cheap, semi-tightly woven cotton for the liner, you want air to be able to pass through relatively easily, but you don’t want foam particles escaping.  I spent $12.50
  • 2 upholstery zippers, one at 45″ for the liner and one at 72″ for the cover.  Get upholstery zippers, not sleeping bag zippers or some other chunky zipper.  You don’t really want to feel it when you are lounging on the pillow. I spent $8.00
  • 4 yards of nicer decorator fabric for the cover.  I spent $36.00
  • between 40 and 50 lbs of your choice of foam – for me that was shredded natural laytex. I spent $160 with shipping.  I ordered from http://www.foamsource.com

So in total on materials I spent $216.00, that is about $200 less than the poshest manufacturer of giant pillows.

Construction:

I scored some epic liner fabric from Ikea (yes they sell fabric too!) for $3/yard.

Cheap and Funny

Instead of trying to make the pillow the size of all the other pillow shaped sacks on the market, I let the fabric be my guide.  This particular fabric was 55″ wide, so my liner ended up measuring 55″ x 75″.  Most of the commercial sacks measure 50″x”70″.  Why is it 5″ longer?  I don’t know.  Stop pestering me with silly questions.

The zipper was installed along the  58″ width and slightly off center.  I figured this would make for easier foam filling, and it kind of did because it created a bag of sorts.  I didn’t want the zipper on one of the side seams, which I thought might experience too much stress as the pillow is used.  Also, if you have never tried it, I would highly recommend installing a straight zipper on the flat.  I installed the zipper into the back two pieces of the liner and then sewed the whole thing together.  Marvelous!  I have only ever installed apparel zippers, hidden and lapped, and doing this on the liner was sooo easy.

Easiest Zipper Installation EVER!

Once the zipper was installed it was time to add the foam.  I thought ahead on this one and dragged the liner and the 50lbs of foam, (which came in two 25lbs bags) up stairs to the room where it was destined to finally reside. You see, I had envisioned trying to wrestle 50lbs of foam up my stairs in a large and unwieldy sack, and while I’m sure comedy would have ensued, I’m also sure anger, rage and marks on the wall would have followed.

This is how the foam comes to you. It isn’t compressed in case you are wondering.

So, up to the loft and in with the foam!  The first bag I just dumped in, easy as pie.  The second bag I ladled in with a 3 gallon plastic bin.  I wasn’t sure, initially if I wanted to put all 50lbs in, though I eventually did.

Liner in the loft. See zipper slightly off center.
Half the foam in.
All full of foam. The window ledge is at about 40″ if that gives you an idea of scale.

For the cover, I chose a brown microsuede I found on the clearance rack at Joann Fabrics.  I was given strict instruction by the DH that the liner be soft, so microsuede fit the bill and it breaths slightly as well for easier fluffing of the pillow.   I made the cover smaller than the liner by 5″ on both length and width.  I installed a 72″ zipper lengthwise and trimmed it down to 65″ so the zipper didn’t run into the end seams on either end.  The cover threw me for a loop for a while as I pondered how to install the zipper lengthwise, have it run down the back center of the pillow, and do all this without having to cut two pieces for the back of the cover like I did for the liner.  I really don’t like cutting fabric more than I have too and I didn’t want to throw the sizing off on the back if I botched the zipper seam allowances.  Why the center back zipper?   Well, imagine trying to shove a 50lb sack into a another sack…  much better to lay it open down the center, put the liner on top and than tuck in around the perimeter.

What I ended up doing was sewing the long seams and installing the zipper on one said long seam.  Than I shifted the the whole thing over a quarter roll, matching up the long side seams so they met in the center of the front and back of the pillow.  I sewed up the shorter side seams and, Voila!  Center back zipper created without the need to cut more fabric.  What!  I cut on my dining room table, it’s not that big!

Since I new the cover, being smaller than the liner, would have more stress on the seams, all the seams were sewn twice and I kept the stitch length relatively small.  I serged all edges.  I probably didn’t have to, but what the heck, I have serger, so why not.

The ultimate reading and napping pillow.

It is freaky comfortable, and the laytex foam doesn’t get hot, which  I was initially concerned about.  It also doesn’t smell unpleasant, (another thing I was concerned about) but there is a scent, kind of like sugar cookies, but with a slight rubber tinge to it.  Since there is 50lbs of foam in it, it is kind of a pain to move, but it isn’t going very far, so this isn’t a big deal.  All in all, it was a great project and now we have something to fight over when we want to go read a book.

The Owlwedge Quilt

So… After it took me somewhere around 3 years to complete my first quilt, because I just had to make a queen size one and then hand quilt each little piece.  I figured I probably wouldn’t make another one.  Well, never say never.  I present to you the Owlwedge quilt.

IMG_0002

I did a few things differently this time around.  The first thing I did, was actually have an idea of what the finished product was going to look like.  I saw this pattern on Fon’s & Porter’s Love of Quilting, which is this cute little public television quilting show that is actually quite enjoyable to watch.  I was hankering to do another quilt, one that was more useable than the first one.   (Side Note: The first one, what with it’s years of work and hand quilting, is relegated to the reading/guest room (put away when guests arrive) and pretty much pampered, because I’m not sure how to wash it and the backing fabric is white.  Eek!)

So for my second quilt I wanted a work horse.  I wanted a top I could quickly piece.  I wanted to use batiks.  I wanted a set of darker fabrics.  I wanted the back to be a darker fabric as well.  And there was no way on this green earth I was hand quilting it, so I knew it was destined for the longarm.  And voila!

Batik fabrics.. so variable. This also shows the quilting pattern, which plays off the motifs of the backing fabric.
Batik fabrics.. so variable. This also shows the quilting pattern, which plays off the motifs of the backing fabric.

 

Things I learned with this quilt.

  1. Having a pattern is a good thing, it lets you order the write amount of fabric and stuff.
  2. I ordered all my fabric online from fabric.com.  Ordering batiks over the internet is, well,.. you might be surprised by what you get.  I was pretty sure I didn’t order any browns.  I tried to stick with blues, purples and greens.  To be fair, a good portion of the brown you see in the pic above was bluish green.
  3. Wedge and other angled pieces do need to be offset just slightly when piecing so that they aren’t all caddywampus.  It didn’t matter much for this quilt but it will matter for my next project.
  4. Having the quilt quilted by a longarm quilter is awesome.  Having same said quilter prepare and attached the binding to the front of the quilt is even awesomer!  <— that is totally a word.  The quilt was quilted by Sally Howard of the Quilting Cottage.
  5. I really need to make my stitches bigger when I secure the binding to the backside of the quilt.  For some reason my default is about an eighth of an inch.  So not only did it take forever, I think I pulled a hand muscle!  Who does that?  I do apparently.
  6. Hilarious backing fabric, even if it doesn’t totally match the colors on the front of the quilt, is worth it if it makes you smile.
The binding that broke me.

 

Hilarious backing fabric. How can you not giggle at an owl in a hat?

And finally, what quilt would be complete without an arty picture of it.

IMG_0010

I never thought I would be a quilter.  Turns out I was wrong.  Next project is a Carpenter’s Star, don’t expect it anytime soon.

The Emergency Survival Ottoman

About a year and a half ago, a work buddy of mine and I decided to put together our FEMA recommended 72-hour emergency kits for our families.  This wasn’t just a trip to the Red Cross website, oh no, we put together our own First Aid kits, bought our tarps, our rope, our water, our food, our gloves, whistles, dust masks, rain gear, flashlights, etc.  And then I had to find something to put it all in, because apparently it didn’t provided an added decorative element to living room…

So whilst browsing at home depot, (what? you don’t do that?) I came across this container on wheels and thought, yes, this will do just fine.

And no, I really can’t be bothered to remove the stickers, and yes, naturally we began using it as a coffee table, because we really can’t be bothered to actually buy one of those.  So here is the dilemma.  I really like having the emergency kit in the house and within easy reach so I can rotate out the food and expiring first aid supplies, but let’s be honest, it’s ugly as sin.  And then I had an epiphany.  I like putting my feet up, the emergency kit likes having my feet on it, but it is a little hard and a little low to make that really comfortable.   If only I could make it into an ottoman.  ….But wait, I can…

So off I went, to the recesses of my brain, to plot and devise a crafty solution and here is what I did.

Supplies:

  • 1/4″ plywood big enough to match the widest and longest measurements of the case. (don’t get the best stuff you are going to cover it)
  • A 3 foot length of 1″x3″
  • 2 1/2 yds of home decor fabric (buy enough for your needs, this is what I calculated I would need.  Don’t forget to include a 1/2″ seam allowance on your measurements)
  • 3″ thick foam padding (this stuff is expensive!)
  • Upholstery Adhesive (to glue the foam to the wood)
  • Wood cutting tools
  • A nail gun (or a hammer)

Process:

  • Pre-wash your fabric.  Before doing this you may want to sew/serge the raw cut edges of the fabric so it doesn’t shed a lot of thread in your washer.
  • Measure your case and determine how big you want the top of your ottoman to be.  In my example, since my case is so big I wanted the top to be big enough to cover any protruding parts (there are tie down hooks at each end) so that I would bang up my legs on a pointy bit if I ran into it.
  • Transfer those measurements to your plywood and cut it out. I then tested the fit below by flipping the case over onto the board. You can really see those hooks I referred to earlier.

  • At this point you have a decision to make.  What to do with the corners.  I didn’t want to cover the pointy bits on the case only to have pointy corners on the ottoman, so I opted to round off the corners.  I tried to draw the corners while the case was on top of the board, but I’m not that skilled so the kitchen provided me with an alternate solution.

  • With the top cut to size it is time to make the cleats to hold it in place on top of the ottoman.  My case has a two level top (see first picture), so I cut my cleats at a 20 degree angle to kind of match the angle of the rise and glued and nailed them into place with a brad nailer. In hindsight, there probably are other solutions to keeping the wood in one place, like that rubber stuff you put in kitchen drawers or under rugs.  But I knew that I would be accessing the case fairly frequently so I didn’t want the hassle of repositioning something like that every time.

  • Now that the wood work was done I decided to use the top as the template for cutting out the top piece of fabric for the ottoman.  Remember, if you remember nothing else, to add an inch for seam allowances.  I also used the same bowl that I used for the wood, to curve the corners of the fabric.

  • Now it is time to glue the foam onto the board.  I would recommend doing this outside on a calm day, the spray glue has the potential to get everywhere.  Once the glue was basically set I then used a bread knife to trim down the foam.  While the end result does not appeal to my obsessive need for clean lines… it was going to be covered so I made my piece with it.  :)

And then I stopped taking pictures because I was having fun sewing.  My Bad!  Basically I cut out a top (pictured above), a border that was about the width of the foam core, some piping of the same fabric for just below that and then the skirt.  Below is the finished product.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 10

10 days.  We’ve been riding everyday for 10 days and we are kind of done.  The great thing about Astoria is that it is:

  • a cool town
  • has stuff to do and a Brewery
  • and is close enough to home to make an earlyish end to the trip viable.

So that is what we decided.  Let’s go home, get some stuff done around the house and relax a little.  But first, we wanted to check out the Oregon Film museum, which is purported to have a Goonies exhibit.  And who doesn’t like the Goonies!   So off we went to find the museum.  Hot travel tip!  Just skip this if you are in Astoria, what a giant waste of money and time.  It cost $4 a person to get into what amounts to a 30×30 room (The museum is housed in what used to be an old jail).  The Goonies exhibit consisted of a lot of cardboard standing cut outs and a few real and recreated props from the movie.  And part of the actual movie set where one scene was filmed.  The rest of the place was being reconstructed to create movie sets where people can apparently come in and shoot scenes from movies and then edit them, etc.  It was a serious disappointment.  Oregon is the backdrop for a lot a movies, but actual interpretive information was a bit scarce and the place was seriously cramped.  So we spent a total of about 10 minutes and then hit road.

Really! FTLOG!

Just over the bridge into Washington we ran across this little vista point.  How could we not stop?!

And then the long ride home.  We pulled into our driveway just in time for dinner.  So good to be home!

Our trusty steeds, back in the stable.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 9

In hindsight, Matt and I should have expected that the ride up 101 on a Sunday would be something of slog.  It is the Oregon Coast and it was the end of the weekend, so RV dodging was the theme of the ride between Coos Bay and Astoria.  The Oregon Coast continues to be a beautiful thing and I never really tire of seeing it.  Since we were riding quite a few miles Matt and I made a promise to take a break at least each hour.

We stopped in Lincoln City for lunch at this cute little open air cafe/gift shop, where I picked up a tiger cowry shell.

Since it was father’s day we took the opportunity to call our Dads.  And then back on the road, to catch up with and pass once more all the RV’s we passed to get there.  Sigh.  And then Matt had a fabulous idea…  The Tillamook Creamery. (cue angels singing) Hey, we need to keep our strength up for all this riding!

The rest of the trip to Astoria was fairly uneventful.  We did get a nice upgrade on our room at the Best Western.  The desk clerk took pity on our bedraggled state and gave us a jacuzzi suite!  Woot Woot!  By far the nicest room we stayed in on the trip.

We dropped our things and struck out on a 1.7 mile walk to Fort George Brewery for dinner.  Not the best food or service in the world, but the beer was top notch.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 8 (resumption of the iron butt)

After 8 days of riding we are heading back towards home to the north.  I do love the coastline between Crescent City and Port Orford.  Today’s ride from Arcata to Coos Bay, Oregon was pretty darn long and we really weren’t taking the breaks we should have.  As evidenced by the increasing attractive red mark on my forehead from what is turning out to be an ill-fitting helmet.  But it is good to be back in Oregon again.  Or at least it was until she started smacking us around with the wind, pissing rain on us and throwing some coastal fog in our path.  Thanks a lot Oregon!  On the plus side, the bikes are cleaner!  But we were colder and wetter.  We pulled into the hotel, checked-in, and hopped into the hot tub in 6.5 seconds.  Never has a hot tub been more welcome!  We also found a great Italian restaurant in Coos Bay of all places.  We are going to head to Astoria tomorrow, another long ride, but from there we can either continue up the Washington Coast, or head for home

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 6 and 7

What to say about day 6.  Well for one, there are no pictures.  There could have been pictures, but our quest to find Lassen was sort of a failure.  We were looking for the visitors center, which is supposed to be off Rte 36.  Find it we did not, and by the time we realized that we would need to turn around, well… I hate backtracking.  Really, I can’t stand it.  So we decided to soldier on to Redding and return to Lassen when we were less annoyed with Garmin.  Speaking of Garmin, I mean really this GPS is on drugs or something.  It likes to route us onto some country lanes, which can and have been super fun to ride.  But the first turn off today, was clearly on a private ranch road which was well gated, so we skipped it.  The second turn off however was a winding and bumpy country lane, which actually turned out to be hysterical to ride.  Here is what I have learned on this trip about the type of rider I am.  You can keep your twisty, narrow mountain roads with no guardrails.  I like my roads wide and winding, with plenty of shoulder and some freaking guard rails next to the high bits.  So anyhoo, we rode straight into Redding, Matt took his call, and we rode straight to Chipotle.  Now I’m not saying that we went to Redding for the Chipotle, but I’m not saying we didn’t either.

Day 7 had us riding to Arcata via route 299 on a recommendation from a bicyclist we met in Susanville.  I was well pleased with the 299, wide and winding and perfect for the day.  The heat of the I5 corridor followed us most of the way on 299, so we made some more frequent rest stops.  My scooter continues to be an object of interest.  This time posing for pictures.

When the heat finally broke, we had about 30 miles to ride into Arcata and once we got there we were confronted with one of the nicest hotel rooms we have had on the trip complete with jacuzzi tub and a fresh remote.  Seriously, what are people doing with the remotes in this place, that make a fresh remote an amenity?  Creepy.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 5

Who new the Best Western in Lakeview would have memory foam mattresses!  I might have to rethink my opinion of them as basically creepy.  So the ride to Susanville started out on roads we have traveled before.  Still beautiful, as only southern Oregon and Northern California can be, but we have been down this road so we decided to take a different route and were the better for it.  395 is home to many a suicidal gopher.  I don’t get what they are thinking in their little gopher heads, but there is a 50% chance that a gopher will run out in front of you or run back to the side of the road.  Crazy little critters!  Our alternate route took us higher in the hills and pine stands of Modoc National Forest.  The road wasn’t in pristine condition, but the warm pine-scented air more than made up for having to dodge the rough patches and tar snakes.

Matt and I stopped on the side of the road about 30 miles outside Susanville to devour some apples we bought in Oregon and take some pictures of the range land.

Susanville was HOT!  But Matt and decided to walk into town anyway and see what was to be seen.  Well, the Best Western map was, shall we say, NOT to scale.  We walked at least 2 miles into the historic down town, which I think is historic because their used to be something open there.  On a wing and prayer we followed signs to the historic train depot museum, hoping that would be open, and bless them they were.  The curator took pity on us and gave us both some water and left us alone to explore the interpretive displays.  Refreshed we left there, walked to our dinner restaurant and back to the hotel.  Not having had enough physical activity for one day, and hoping that air conditioning did exist in this town, we ran across the street for some bowling and called it quits after two games on mostly malfunctioning lanes with no A/C.

Tomorrow we will look into the Lassen National Monument.  A check with the locals confirmed that the roads are still closed at the higher elevations, but we should be able to get to the visitors center and the sulphur works provided we can find them. We’ve learned that the NPS doesn’t necessarily believe in signage of a readable size.  Matt has a work thing at 1pm so we will need cell reception by then.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Days 3 and 4

So yesterday we decided to stop at Crystal Cranes Hots Springs about 24 miles outside of Burns, OR.  The ride down was supposed to be short, but Matt and I have discovered that the Garmin GPS can’t be trusted.  We have it set to avoid expressways and unpaved roads.  So it routed us onto a forest service road that it said was paved.  Matt and were both a little dubious at the existence of a paved forest service road, but we figured we decide when we came to it.  It wasn’t paved.  But I, being the dutiful wife decide, because it was well graded gravel, to give it a go anyway.  That and Matt does this puppy thing with his eyes.  So off we go.

Stopping and wondering what Matt is doing. Ohh a picture, k, I’ll keep moving.
And I’m moving. See, the road is nicely graded…

And then Garmin wants us to turn.  The road becomes a little sketchier, the ruts deeper, puddles start to appear, and still I soldier on, until this happens about 2 miles in.

End of the road.

That yellow sign is a no trespassing sign.  I tend to take the traditional interpretation of that whole ‘no trespassing’ as meaning, thou shalt not pass.  Matt was a little more optimistic, but I had to pull rank, I mean really, my scooter is many things, but a 50cc dirt bike it is not.  I had visions of yet another tragic Fox 12 news bulletin about another couple lost in the wilderness of Oregon.  Would they find us in before our food ran out!  Would we, with no rational explanation, leave our bikes to forage for food and become even more lost, eventually building our own cabin out in the wilderness and regressing to a pioneer lifestyle?  Or, more likely, would my irritation at having to drag my scooter out of  mud puddles 15 to 20 times overwhelm my sanity, causing me to climb a tree and regress to ape like behavior, never to be seen again…  No thank you, I had Hot Springs to get to.  So we back tracked and headed towards Burns and Crystal Cranes Hot Springs.

I can’t recommend this place strongly enough, it is a truly well run establishment.  The springs are privately owned, the facilities can accommodate several types of travelers, for RVers they have full hookups and level pads, for people who want a bed for the night they have rustic cabins and common bath facilites, they also have sites for tent campers and they have three teepees.  The bathroom facilities were scrupulously clean.  The hot springs itself is a large pond and they have 5 private soaking tubs.  It was such a relief to be in a nice place after staying in that crap hole in John Day, OR.

Outside our Cabin
The cabins aren’t big, double bed only, but they are very clean and homey.
The hot spring fed pond for swimming.
Matt and I in the pond. I’m on the right.

While relaxing in the Hot Springs, Matt and I decided we would skip going all the way down to Yosemite when a fellow traveler told us that the passes might still be closed.  We were starting to consider skipping it anyway, so that just made the decision for us.  Instead we are going to focus on Lassen National Volcanic Monument.  With that in mind we decided to head to Lakeview, OR, a town we had ridden through on a previous trip and thought was cute.  When we awoke on Tuesday morning, all comfortable and rested from the Hot Springs I found this little guy outside the cabin.

Wook at the wittle bunny a shoo shoo shoo!

One of the highlights of the ride to Lakeview was emerging into the Lake Abert valley.  You come around a curve and you are confronted with a valley that seems to be filled with iridescent light.  I haven’t actually looked up the details, but it must be a relatively shallow lake.  It was gorgeous and pictures don’t quite do it justice.

Since the Lassen National Volcanic Monument is on our agenda, we are heading for Susanville, CA on Wednesday the 15th.

Angie and Matt’s Big Adventure – Day 2 (continutation of the Iron Butt)

Morning dawned in Yakima and we promptly left.  I’m sure it’s a great town, but we have places to be, like John Day, OR.  So off on the road we went.  So far the scooter has performed swimmingly, and it gets a lot of attention, which is always funny.  One down side is the gas tank is only about 3.2 gallons, so we stop to fuel up about every three hours or so.

I also learned today that my scooter is part mountain goat.  During one of our many confusing moments ala Garmin, Matt decided to turn, more confusingly, in a no turning zone.  So I followed, but realized a little to late I had taken the turn a little to wide and there was 4 inch curb about to meet my front wheels.  Well my scoot ate that curb for breakfast.  One of the wheels jumped it and to my horror I road half on the road half on the rocky median for a few feet before I finally got things back under control.  I’m sure I was a picture of riding grace.  Matt was impressed I didn’t dump the bike.  We stopped for lunch soon after and learned we needed to make alternate arrangements for lodging in John Day, since the Best Western and every other hotel of good repute was booked.  We were a little dubious about the quality of America’s Best Value Inn.  And rightfully so.  See Matt’s sad face below.

This hotel is so creepy it comes with its own Alfred Hitchcock silhouette.

IMG_0010I briefly consider burning the place down, but Matt convinces me to conserve the fuel for the road.  Kidding!

Well after two days of iron butt riding I am rebelling.  I have demanded that we stay at a hot springs that’s about 80 miles away.  So that is where we are off to tomorrow.