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  1. Finished Patchwork Cushion

    Creating your Own Patchwork Cushion from small pieces of favourite fabrics in your stash is not rocket science.  All you need is some time and attention to detail.  Just follow this easy step-by-step pictorial guide.

    Making the Patchwork
    1.  First of all select the pieces you wish to use and arrange them in a pretty combination of colours and possibly textures.  Making a simple paper      template will ensure that the pieces are all the same size (eg. 4", 4 1/2" or 5" work well).

    Select Blue Patchwork Pieces

    2. Neaten the edges to prevent fraying, either with an overlocker or using an oversew stitch on your sewing machine.

    Neaten patchwork edges to prevent fraying

    3. Join pieces together in rows, pressing seams open as you go.

    Join patchwork pieces together and press

    4. Next join all the rows together, placing pins at right angles and matching seams accurately.  Sew all the rows together and press seams open.

    On the wrong side, press open all the seams of the patchwork piece

    5. Turn so right side is facing and press the whole piece again until you are satisfied with the finish.

    Turn to the right side and press the patchwork piece

    Making up the Cushion
    6.  Cut two pieces for the back to the same width as the patchwork cushion front panel, but to make an envelope opening you will need to work out the   length allowing at least a 3" overlap.  For example if your cushion size is 12", make one back panel so that the finished length will be 10" and the other so that the finished length will be 5" (or 5 1/2" for a 3 1/2" overlap).  You will also need to add on seam allowance and turnunder for the edge.  So for the top panel, add on another 2" turnunder and 5/8" seam allowance, and for the bottom section add 5/8" seam allowance and 5/8" for the turnunder.  (NB: The tape measure does not show exact measurement but is meant as a prompt to measure the extra amount for overlap.)

    Turnunder lower edge of top panel of cushion cover

    7. To make the envelope opening, first place the top panel onto the cushion front, then place the lower section on top checking the measurements from both the top edge and bottom edge to the opening edge at each side edge are the same, to ensure that the panels are sitting straight.  Pin carefully and stitch around the whole outside edge through all the layers in one go.

    Pin the cushion back panels in place

    Press seams open and turn to the right side.

    Turn cushion cover to the right side

    Your patchwork cushion with envelope back opening is finished!  Enjoy!

  2. Wool is one of the oldest textiles known.  Due to it's unique natural properties there are a number of reasons why it has stood the test of time.

    Hard Wearing
    The fibres are hard wearing and with the right care will look good indefinitely. The fibres are strong and do not break easily and resist piling and snagging, thus wool fabrics will typically outlast synthetic fabrics.  An investment in wool brings a good return as the furnishings, for example cushions covers,  throws or blankets,  curtains or upholstery will have a long natural life span.

    Static Resistant
    As a fabric, wool draws moisture from the air around it, reducing its potential to accumulate static electricity.  It also manages to absorb odours so it has an indirect way of enhancing the air of a room

    Water Repellent
    Even though it absorbs moisture, the scales on the outer layer of the fibre repel liquid.  These water repellent properties make wool perfect for upholstery. 

    Flame Retardant
    Wool is naturally flame retardant and will smoulder, but not burn.  This makes it ideal for curtains and other soft furnishings as it does not need to be chemically treated to comply with fire regulations.  Also because it does not melt like synthetics, it is less likely fire will spread across the room.

    Natural Insulator
    A fabulous natural insulator, curtains in wool are excellent for keeping the cold out.  The crimp in the wool fibres means that there are tiny gaps in between the fibres which are filled with air pockets which heat up as any moisture in the centre of the fibre heat up so the fabric will hold the warmth from the air. 

    It is soft and light and drapes brilliantly.   Finer fibres produce softer wools, such as merino or alpaca, meaning different weights of fabric lend themselves to different uses around the home.

    Chemical Free
    The fibres absorb dye easily, deeply and uniformly, without the use of chemicals, giving beautiful rich colours

    Keeps its shape
    Naturally elastic, wool fibres will stretch under pressure and then spring back into shape, meaning that garments of products make with wool will not sag or bag

    Dirt Resistant
    Wool is also dirt resistant.  The fibres have an outer layer of scales that reduce the ability of dirt and dust to penetrate the fibre.  Any stains tend to sit on top of the fibres, rather than being embedded within them, making wool much easier to clean than other fibres.  A light, gentle wash in warm soapy water, without rubbing to avoid damage, will remove any soiling.

    Acoustical Properties
    Carpet made from wool is also one of the most practical and cost effective products available for controlling noise level in the home environment.

    Natural Insulator
    Insulation for walls and lofts is becoming more readily available as an alternative to other materials derived from the petro chemical industry

    All round, wool is a fantastic fibre that looks good and feels good for longer,  It is not only environmentally friendly and biodegradable,  it is also a renewable resource with the added benefit that no harm is done to the animals which are shorn every year in the summer months for their own comfort and good health.  Enjoy wool!

  3. Door Draught Excluder
    Door Draught Excluder

    Now that winter is here and those nights are chillier and the wind is often gusty, how about checking some of those draughts and saving on the heating bills by making your own door draught excluder?  It's easier than you think.  You don't have to have a single large piece of fabric, any scraps will do.  You can mix and match a range of colours and textures to create a lovely bright feature for your hallway.  Here's how .......


    Door Draught Excluder Fabrics

    Select some fabrics.  These can be in a similar tonal range, but in different textures.  Here we have used some heavy weight upholstery fabric with an almost North African flair which was left over from making a chair seat cushion for a client, teamed with some pieces of velvet from a book of samples of discontinued fabric.  You could use a variety of different colours with a similar texture, or colours and textures which contrast.  Or why not use florals and stripes, or checks?  You may even find some interesting fabrics in charity shops - a perfect bit of "upcycling" (see our Blog on www.888lorna.wordpress,.com)

    Step one

    Fabric pieces for door draught excluder
    Layout pieces in possible combinations

    Play with different combinations of colour and texture until you find a combination that you like.  You can create all sorts of 'looks' - rustic, shabby chic, modern bold stripes of colour, anything that matches your own style of decor and colour scheme.


    Step 2

    Sew fabric pieces for draught excluder together
    Sew pieces together in chosen order

    Sew all the pieces together allowing at least 1/2" (or 1.5 cm) for seams.  If the fabric looks likely to fray it may be better to overlock the edges if  you can, but as the seams will be inside the draught excluder this is not usually necessary.


    Step 3

    Make up the pieces for the draught excluder to the required length
    Make up to the required length

    Continue to join fabric pieces together until long enough to fit the door, plus seam allowances at each end.  We made ours 34" (cut 35" with seams) long which is fairly standard for a front door, and 7" wide as the door has a stormboard outside and we wanted to be sure to cover the gaps to each side.   Repeat the process to make a second strip of fabric.  Press all seams open.

    Step 4

    Place both fabric pieces together, right sides facing and stitch around the edges, leaving a 6" gap to turn right sides out and to add the filling.  You don't have to buy special wadding.  We used scraps of fabric cut into strips.  You could also use an old towel,  old pullovers or T-shirts, or old socks.  As long as they are clean!  You could even use shredded newspaper, or if you have some old cushions that have become matted you could use the fillling.  There are all sorts of eco-friendly materials you could use.  Once you have enough filling in place, fold the edges in, press and pin in place.  Close the seam either using handstitching or machine very close to the edge.  Your door draught excluder is ready to go.

    The draught excluder in place
    The finished draught excluder in place

    Got some ideas you want to share?

  4. Vintage Furniture Revival - same old chair, brand new look!

    Same vintage chair, brand new look
    Same vintage chair, brand new look

    Take one vintage chair, a lot of time and enthusiasm, and a small budget.  As I do not know how long I shall be living in my present rented home,  I wanted to create a look that works without spending a lot and I am also an avid fan of recycling,  Being tied to a green carpet is very restricting,  even though the walls are magnolia and the doors are a neutral putty colour.  The cottage needs some more vibrant colours to give it a warmer feel and also to personalise it and make it feel more like home for the time I shall be here.

    Vintage Chair before

    It took a while to work out which colours would be right.  All my pinks from my last wood and white scheme just did not work, no matter what time of day and regardless of whether it is sunny or overcast.  I trawled through a lot of fabric sample books and ordered some samples to be able to see what they would look like in the lighting of the room itself.  I pinned different samples to the back of the chair in all sorts of weathers to get a feel for them.  It took a while, but in the end I opted for a fabric with magenta velvet flowers on a natural background so that the colour would not overpower in a small space but be bold enough to add a splash of va-va-vroum, whilst tempered with the subtle background.  The fabric is from the Villa Nova 'Tiku' Collection, in colours Flax and Grape.

    The arms were covered in neutral Italian linen
    The arms were covered in neutral Italian linen

    I already had a piece of linen to hand which made a good match, so to keep costs down I used the linen for the arms and back of the chair, with the floral cut velvet on the inside of the back and on the top of the seat cushion for dramatic effect.  I also piped the edges of the arms, the cushion pad and the top of the back in Tiku for contrast.  The legs were painted in Dusted Moss, Satinwood, from the Dulux colour mix range (left over from the previous project, the shabby chic sideboard  ), and adds a complementary touch.

    Strengthening the back with an extra layer of hessian
    Strengthening the back with an extra layer of hessian

    Whilst recovering the chair I tightened the springs, improved the padding where necessary and strengthened the inside back with another layer of hessian as it had stretched with use.

    The recovered chair

    The end result is quite 'bijou' if I may say so myself.   Being petite, the chair is a perfect fit and I am hoping that even when I find my more permanent nesting place, it will be sufficiently versatile with the neutral background to fit in anywhere.  If not, maybe a throw?  Or a large cushion?

    What projects have you got to share?  We'd love to hear about them
  5. Moving Home comes with a great opportunity to let go of a lot of clutter and take stock of what is of real value.  Leaving behind a three bed semi with a very large garden for a small 1 bedroom cottage is the perfect platform for a spot of recycling.  Enter Necessary Furniture, a local company who for the cost of a phone call will come and take away unwanted items of furniture to a warehouse where things are stored until someone else decides to give them a new home, in return for a very modest fee!  Other small items of furniture found shelter among family and friends.  Some slightly more weary pieces found their way into the Council wood recyling facility.

    Those bits that made it on to the van and off the other end got a shock.......  Where are the white walls and stripped wooden floors we went so well with?  A green carpet?  Suddenly all the stripped furniture looks totally out of synch and dated, even scruffy.  Being in rented accommodation and for an indefinite time means having to live with it for now. And there's still plenty of life left in this solid vintage furniture.   As the days go by,  with smaller windows letting in lower levels of light,  a flash of inspiration pierces the gloom and "Eureka - I reach for the paintbrush!"    Shabby Chic saves the day!  It started with the chest of drawers in the bedroom, and spread to the desk and then to the sideboard in the living room, and on to the shelf in the hall.  Where will it all end?  Where else can you get so much fun from £14.99?  And the pot's not empty yet !  It took a bit of hunting to get the right shade of grey, but there was a soft light shade in the Dulux mix-your-own range.  Not so stark as white, but still light enough to merge with the green carpet and go with the magnolia walls!  I'm sure I'll find other things to shabby chic to the end of the pot.

    Sideboard in Dusted Moss

    Not sure what to do about the curtains yet, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.......

    While on the subject of recycling, a fab site called Tactile Interiors has lots of wonderful things made from ethical, sustainable and recyled materials.  Check out the lovely lampshade and table lamp made from re-cycled plastic bottles at
  6. Upcycling,  to quote the wikipedia definition, is the "process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of  better quality or a higher environmental value".  Or in the words of William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of 'Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things", it is the 'practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value.

    So, you may be wondering, how is this any different from recycling?

    Well, recycling tends to involve converting or extracting useful materials from a products, often  breaking down or destroying the product to produce another item or material in its place, for example an aluminium can is melted down to make other cans.  With upcycling on the other hand more value is placed on the old product, with something new being made out of it and ideally with little or no energy being used to create another item.  An example of this would be making a table out of an old piano, which my father did after the Second World War I found out recently!  Or using an old shirt or pullover to make a child's skirt, or a rag rug or patchwork throw, or a pair of old jeans to make a bag.  In both these instances the amount of energy used is minimal and mainly of human form, with a few tools to help along the way.

    Bag made from a pair of old jeans

    Reusing materials already available can help to keep energy usage lower, as it reduces the consumption of new raw materials when creating new products,  although there may actually be cases where there is less benefit to the environment in upcycling if energy used to upcycle is more than recycling back to the same product, for example glass bottles which are crushed and refashioned into kitchen work tops.

    I cut up old T-shirts to make cleaning cloths and for polishing shoes, save old grubby towels to use as ground sheets when painting and decorating, and I just love making and repairing things.  What do you do with your old bits and bobs?

  7. Have you ever had a favourite outfit that you loved so much you wore it to death and you have never been able to replace it?   Whatever happened to timeless elegance in the rush to conform to the High Street command of "get the latest look"?  How much money would we have left over for that holiday we have all been dreaming of if our clothes lasted more than one season?

    Organic Hemp is now available in a range of beautiful colours

    Well, hemp fabric could be the answer.

    Here are 10 reasons why we should all get excited about hemp

    • Hemp is stronger than cotton.  It is the most durable natural fibre with the highest abrasion resistance and tensile strength amongst all of the natural fibres, providing maximum wear and use
    • It becomes softer with use.  The inherent lustre and light reflecting qualitites of hemp are enhanced by washing
    • The fabric breathes as well as linen and better than cotton, and is as effective an insulator as wool.  It feels cooler in summer and during cool weather it retains body heat
    • Hemp resists staining by releasing a microscopic layer of cells with each laundering, exposing a fresh surface.  In effect, this means that hemp retains its sleek sheen every time it is washed, that it never dulls and that it releases stains more easily than other fabrics.  It becomes finer and more luxurious with use.
    • It will not stretch out of shape, so it will always look good
    • The fabric is very porous, making it highly absorbent and quick drying.   Hemp absorbs more moisture than cotton and much more than synthetic fibres, and faster.
    • It is naturally resistant to mould, mildew and bacteria, and naturally mothproof, and has natural antimicrobial properties, so it does not need to be treated with chemicals and is therefore better for you and your family's health and well-being
    • Hemp blocks UV rays more effectively than any other fabrics with less fibre degradation from UV exposure than any other natural fibre, making it especially good for window coverings and a wide range of eco soft-furnishings
    • With a longer lifespan than other natural fabrics, it can render a lifetime of service,  is biodegradable and easily recyclable and even more than any other eco fabrics lends itself to re-fashioning and upcyclling.

    Wow!  And if  you thought that hemp fabric and eco textiles means a return to the dark ages and the days of sackcloth, look again.  With ever better production methods, fibres can be polished and finished to much higher standards than ever before, meaning that it is possible to be indulgent and kind to the environment at the same time.  Read more on our Natural Organic Fabric Page.

    Anything we've missed here?  We'd love to hear from you.......

  8. The fact that we are all now striving to reduce our heating costs by increasing our levels of insulation, installing double glazing to make our houses airtight, and that we barely open a window in the winter months means that we are suffocating in a toxic brew that is almost certainly endangering our health.  Each individual regulation on its own may well be under the limit when tested, but when you add the cocktail together the results are staggering!  And it's not just sensitive adults, what about children and young babies?
    It is quite usual that in the excitement of welcoming a new baby into the world we often choose to decorate the room in preparation for the new arrival.  This may just be the worst thing we could do.  Offgasing from chemicals in new furnishings can be a source of respiratory irritants and more.  On top of carpets, sofas and upholstered chairs being treated with flame retardant chemicals, and curtains often being treated with formaldehyde to make them crease resistant or containing residues of heavy metals (read more in our post of 6.12.2009 ), bedlinen and clothing are often impregnated to make them 'easy care'.  Are these combined levels of airborne pollutants really safe?   I recently came across  an article about the potential harmful effect of chemicals on children's hormones through plastics and skincare products Just what are we exposing our children to?  We'd love to hear your comments or your experiences.
    Organic fabrics offer a healthy alternative.  In partnership with OEcotextiles we can supply a range of organic fabrics for all your soft furnishing needs.  Find ways to create a healthy home with Designer Cushions and Throws
  9. Ever wondered why you get a headache or become mysteriously 'off colour' when you go on holiday?  Not so long ago I treated myself to a short break with a swimming pool, sauna, gym and yoga classes and was so looking forward to relaxing and regenerating my batteries.  I had hardly been in the hotel room more than an hour or two when I developed a headache and felt really 'off' and 'liverish'.  I put it down to a reaction to having been stressed and tense for so long previous to that.  Now I'm not so sure.

    Ever since making some curtains for a hotel and a nursing home I have known that fire safety regulations dictate that fabrics used for making curtains and the covering of furniture such a sofas and chairs be coated with flame retardant chemicals to reduce the risk of fire.  I imagine it's the same for carpets.  Now I have experienced first hand just what this means in terms of human health and well-being.

    I shall give where I next go on holiday some very careful consideration.  Camping anyone?

    For more information about eco textiles and eco soft-furnishings visit our natural organic fabric page.

  10. Eco at Home


    Our home is an extension of our body, an outer shell.  How we furnish our home environment is as important as the quality of food that we eat and the quality of the air that we breathe.

    You may be surprised to know that in our 'modern'world it has become usual to preserve home furnishings in the same way as foods, as a means to improving wear or maintenance, texture or appearance.  Additives such as formaldehyde are used to make fabrics 'crease resistant' or 'easy-care' and remnants of chemicals used in the dying process such as dioxins and even heavy metals are often present.  Even many so-called natural fabrics have been treated with potentially harmful chemicals, either during the growing cycle, to improve crop resistance and increase harvest, or as applied finishes.  These chemicals can pose a threat to human health and well-being.

    Non-synthetic fibres such as cotton, linen, wool, jute, sisal, coir, hemp, bamboo can be processed in ways that demand less treating although cotton is a very thirsty plant and does need large amounts of water to grow successfully.  These fabrics can also be coloured with natural dyes which have far less impact on the environment.  They are also biodegradable and can be recycled.  Hemp, for example, has a very long life, being very hard wearing, and it's texture actually tends to improve with age.

    For some examples of how to become more green and take the first steps towards using eco fabrics in the home, see our collection of cushions in organic hemp from the Emily Todhunter collection at OEcotextiles


    As our Blog page has been subject to persistent robot spamming in the past, comments can now only be made if you join our members page.  We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.  You may also follow us on   and leave your comments there.   Or visit our 'Eco at Home' Facebook Page for tips and interesting snippets about eco textiles and products.

  11. One of our foibles is vintage chairs.  They are full of character and charm, not to mention a dash of mystery.  Who has sat on this chair and what was their life like?  We love to rescue tired pieces and give them a clean up and recover them in modern jazzy chic fabrics, giving them a new look and personality.

    The vintage chair above right is an unusual piece, which recently found a new home when it was on display at one of our shows in Orford Town Hall, Orford, Suffolk.  The top quality fabric is called 'Casca' from the Cantello collection by ROMO - a strikingly bold pink velvet geometric pattern on a dark brown canvas background.  The fabric was chosen because it mirrored the pattern in the cane worked back, and it looked stunning.  A young couple saw it and fell in love with its quirky style.  It's great to know it will be given pride of place in their bedroom as a feature. 

    Why buy vintage chairs?

    • They are well made of solid wood
    • Not only do they look great, they'll last a lifetime 
    • They can easily be repaired, refreshed and updated over and over again, unlike their modern counterparts
    • Old wooden chairs don't give off harmful gasses into your living environment
    • Restoring old chairs is often less costly than buying new
    We recently gave a new lease of life to a set of chairs for a client.  They were made sometime in the 1950's and had been recovered some time later in wrap around foam and then tomato red plastic to give them a more modern look in keeping with the times.  We stripped the wood and refinished the chairs in French polish.  The drop in seat panels were recovered in a claret red velvet which matched the client's dining room curtains.  They were delighted with the result as the house is Victorian and new chairs would not have looked right.  To read more go to the vintage chairs page. 
  12. Creating an environment that supports your unique taste and individual lifestyle with luxury, top quality soft furnishings, cushions, throws and home accessories in designer fabrics.

    We have always passionately believed in making the very best of what is already to hand, ever more relevant in the present economic climate.  For so long we have all been subversively encouraged to buy into the philosophy of "more" and "cheap".  Both come at a hidden price, both to us and to the planet.  "More" often does not satisfy us for long and can leave us with a sense of emptiness.  "Cheap" often doesn't last more than a season, leaving us to scramble around the shops once again looking for yet another replacement.  Whatever happened to "the best"?  Quality in the home environment has a direct effect on how rich we feel at heart.  A few cherished items made with loving care in the very best materials such as designer fabrics work wonders on the soul of our home.

    It is in our nature to want to develop and improve, possibly even an evolutionary trait.  Our homes live and breathe with us, and as we and our families grow and change we naturally look to make adjustments to our living space.  What better way to express who we are than with fabric?  It is a creative medium which allows us to design something unique to us.  No two people are alike, and by the same token no two homes.  Surely that's the beauty of it?  Individuality, not High Street-ality.  Fashioning a home in a style that reflects our personality and our needs strengthens us inwardly and rebuilds our energy ready to take on the next day afresh and with inspired enthusiasm.

    Cushions and throws are a fabulous and instantly effortless way of rejuvenating our surroundings or bringing a tired decor up to date.  A cushion can bring a chair alive, and enliven a corner with a splash of colour.  A throw can bring a scheme together enhancing colours already in a room.  If you're looking for something specific online browsing offers a great opportunity to find that special something from the comfort of our home and have it delivered to our door, leaving us free to spend the day at the beach, and working wonders for family harmony.

Copyright © Lorna Harvey-Frank, Calne, Wiltshire