How hard could it be? (a cactus pin cushion, with tutorial)
How did a novice like me end up sewing a cactus-shaped pin cushion?
Some people go running to help relieve stress and keep them sane in the face of, well, life. Some people self-medicate, clean the house from top to bottom, or take the dog for a long walk.
I make things.
My name is Dorothy and I am Melany's new part-time help at Project Anthologies. I've been knitting and crocheting for several years, and teaching knitting classes at Project Anthologies for a few months. I am also a mom, a part-time Spanish professor, a soap maker, and an organic gardener, who tries to find time regularly to play a little ukulele and bake a fairly mean loaf of bread. Recently I have started learning to use a sewing machine. I would say I'm a serial hobbyist, but all my hobbies seem to stay with me, like the Morning Glories you were confident wouldn't become weeds in your zone-5 garden because they'd get killed by frost in the fall, not realizing that they're prolific self-sowers. (Now we both know not to trust Morning Glories.)
Let's just say I have a lot of interests. I am, you could say, an interested person. I enjoy matching a suitable method to the desired end result. Don't even get me started on fiber choice for the perfect knitted garment. It's embarrassing. And tremendously satisfying. But I digress.
Given my tendencies to take on interesting but sometimes impractical challenges, it's perhaps not surprising that I have trouble setting realistic goals with new projects. And the more I started sewing, the more obvious it became that I needed a good pin cushion, since I now needed to use so many pins at once. So rather than making or (gasp!) buying a simple one, what did I decide to do? Why, make one that looks like a cactus, of course. Of my own design. Because it might be cute / funny / a learning experience. I'm sure you've heard yourself say this before: "How hard could it be?"
I present to you my cactus pin cushion, with tutorial below. I apologize for the photography. Be warned, though, that I made no attempt to create a facsimile of any particular extant cactus. I didn't even look at a single photo of a cactus.
I also didn't iron anything for this project, because I am really good at rationalizing my lazy choices. A good deal of my knitting is in the round, purportedly so that the finished piece has no bulky seams to irritate the wearer; but really, it's because I hate seaming knitted fabric. If I wanted to sew, I would be sewing. And ironing is to sewing as seaming is to knitting. Plus, it's meant to look like an organic living thing, which is bound to have irregularities, right????
I used cotton fabric left over from other projects, bought a 4" terra cotta pot so the whole thing wouldn't be top-heavy, and filled the cactus with sand to keep the pins sharp. (I found a 1-lb. bag of sand, which was more than enough, in the paint aisle at the hardware store.) You could also use poly fill, in which case you wouldn't have to worry about making stitches teeny enough to prevent spillage when you close up the cactus.
How it's made:
1. I cut three rectangles 4" x 8" and sewed a simple 1/4" seam at both skinny ends of each piece, facing the same side of the fabric. Or maybe it was 1/2". Doesn't matter, as long as they're fairly consistent. Stop measuring!
2. I folded each piece in half so the raw edges (wrong side) faced out and traced a 4" circle (in this case the lid of an extra-large peanut butter jar) against the folded edge.
3. Then I sewed a 1/4" seam allowance up the sides and inside that curve, and cut along the line to form the top curve of the cactus. You can obviously do this with 6 separate 4" x 4" pieces, but for some reason the folding method made sense to me at the time.
4. Then I turned the 3 pieces right side out, flattened them on top of each other in a stack, and pinned them together. (The tops do need to be lined up carefully, so that the sections all come to a point in the same spot.) I sewed a line right down the middle of the stack, going over it twice for strength.
5. Putting the assembly upside down in the 4" pot kept it from falling over while I filled it, and because I'm a klutz, I put that inside a larger bowl to catch stray sand. I filled each cell halfway, pushed it down into the "top" corners with the eraser end of a pencil, and filled it to 1/4" from the open edge before hand-stitching it together. Here's where I started to get lazy, because A) it's crazy tedious making stitches close enough to keep SAND from getting through, and B) this part ends up not very visible. So keep the stitches close if you're using sand, but don't worry about making it pretty.
6. Next you have to create a base on which the cactus will sit inside the pot. You'll notice I have no pictures of this phase. That is because at this point, I didn't care how the thing got finished as long as I didn't have to look at it anymore. So it's not exactly elegant-- because its job is to sit inside a pot, underneath what everyone will see. Basically you make some kind of round sand-colored beanbag (it doesn't have to exactly fit the inside shape of the pot, but it helps to make sure the top diameter will sit at the right level inside the pot), hand stitch the base of the cactus onto the beanbag before filling it (I filled mine with pebbles I had originally bought as houseplant mulch), close that up too, and stick the sucker in the pot.
7. If you like, you can trace and glue on a circle of felt to cover the bottom of the pot, so that it doesn't scratch your tabletop.
Now you can get on with other things. But this time, your pin cushion is decorative enough that you don't have to put it away out of sight. =)
Let me know what you think!