The Outdoor Project and Sewing Lessons Learned

Dear readers, thank you for visiting.  This post is about a humbling episode in my sewing life, and an educational one. It’s a lesson in picking your sewing battles.

A cover for a set of patio chairs in the backyard has been on my sewing list for a while. The original cover was very cheap vinyl and pretty much disintegrated with weather vagaries, which it was supposed to withstand. I really liked the shape, though, and decided to copy it in good (read expensive) weather resistant fabric, giving it my own design spin and making it – er – couture. Pretty, huh?

Patio cover top close up Patio set cover

The design is, as you can see, is eight-sided (octagon) for four chairs and four empty spaces (between the chairs). The original crappy cover was octagonal but was all one piece; I created wedge shapes which, when sewn together created the octagon shape. So far so good.  My creative streak still in overdrive, I decided that the wedges as well as the drop down sides, would be a mix of prints, and all seams would be bound on the outside in a third print. That would give certain definition to the design. All seams bound; that is where I should have drawn the line. Light-bulb moments do have limits when it comes to actual execution.

So, let’s get to the lessons learned while working on this project:

  1. Forget about the old sewing/carpentry rule of “measure twice, cut once”. Measure multiple times.  After measuring only twice I  ended up with a wedge bigger than the top of each chair back (which it was supposed to cover). Well, at least too big is better than too small.
  2. Test your fabric. I tested by sprinkling water on a scrap and leaving it for the entire day. The water did not seep through to the other side. That is a good thing because I tested after purchasing the fabric. Obviously I trust the manufacturer. We’ll see what happens in a real downpour. I have faith.
  3. Outdoor fabric ravels. One would think that it is tightly woven and thus not ravelly at all. But it is. Still, its not difficult to sew. It is synthetic and on the slippery side because of the weather resistant finish on the fibers, I presume.
  4. Do not let your fabric hang off the cutting or sewing surface. Large home dec projects like this need another surface next to the sewing machine to hold all the fabric and the long seams you’re sewing. Such as an extra table, chair, or even the ironing board. This sucker is huge…
  5. Pick your sewing battles. Mine was the decision to bind and seam together all pieces on the outside in one pass of the machine. Hey, I had a bias binder attachment and I was going to give it a workout.  Exciting. Halfway through this process, I was on the losing end of this battle.  This happened:
Oops. missed the binder
Oops. missed the binder
Binding fray
Binding fray
Binding ends
Binding join, not
slipped seam
Oops again. Slipped out of binder

The binder attachment bravely did its job but I asked too much, and set up some parameters that were not quite correct. A post about working successfully with a bias binder attachment will be forthcoming. Stay tuned. Before starting the project the thought did occur to me that I should sew and serge all pieces the normal way, right sides together, and call it a day.  But no. I had to follow through with the original, ill fated light-bulb moment.

In the end, the patio cover looks decent if you are not close to it. And – do you think I’ll let the binding mishaps go? Heck, no. I have an idea which will redeem this project. My pride knows no bounds.  I can hear a collective groan……..

What are your thoughts about this project? Did you have humble pie sewing moments? Can we hear about them?

As always, I’m delighted that you are reading this! Thank you.


20 thoughts on “The Outdoor Project and Sewing Lessons Learned

  1. Your cover looks great Samina – bright, cheerful and definitely a testimony to patience!!

    I like the contrasting binding but I would never have used the bias binder attachment on this large project – you are certainly braver than I am! I like the contrast of the binding though so I think I would have made the binding (cut and folded it in half, then sandwiched it between the pie shapes, all raw edges together and right sides of each pie shape facing each other. after seaming the three pieces, I would open it up, press the binding piece to one side and topstitch it down – it would be more stitching involved than using the binder attachment, but I think you’d have more control – the other way would be to make the binding narrower and then it would come out like a flat piping (in which case you wouldn’t topstitch it down, it would just be a 1/2″ or so piping). After all the pie pieces are sewn and the binding segments topstitched (or not) then topstitch the center circle over the pie pieces.

    If you put the contrasting binding on the outer edge, you’d have to cut that on the bias to help it fit the outer curve but that would be terribly expensive so I think a simple serged hem in the contrasting color would be sufficient – main reason would be I would be extremely tired at that point and would want to wrap it up quickly!! Circular tablecloths for inside use are much easier because you can just topstitch a decorative fringe around the outer hem.


  2. As always, your posts are so much fun to read. Your project is much bigger than I would tackle. The end result looks professional and very high end. Be proud of your work!


    1. Working on it :). Thanks for your comment. My binder attachment is a Bernina and was bought ages ago, but only now I keep bringing it out.


      1. It was bought so many years ago, probably in the 90s, that I don’t remember the exact price. I do remember that it was quite expensive. Not in the $300 USD range, but a lot. After all this time I’m trying to get my money’s worth :D, it seems.


      2. I think we bought that binding attachment together! Probably after a demo during a sewing guild meeting at the Katy Bernina store….I’ll bet we only paid about $60 for it though and thought it to be quite expensive then – no way would I pay $300 for it today!


  3. I really like your patio furniture cover! Does your binder attachment work better than just a regular foot? I use bias binding almost always to finish my inside seams and right now just use a regular foot and adjust the needle position. But, it’s not always idea, esp. with thin bias and fabric that frays a lot.


    1. I think that the binder attachment, like all attachments, make it quicker to finish the job. However, there is nothing it can do that your regular foot cannot. And attachments have their limits too — as I learned in this outdoor project.


  4. Hmm, challenging project. Yes I have “humble pie” sewing projects and share them too! 🙂 Looking forward to your future post on the binding attachment. I don’t have one… yet.


    1. Yup, challenging in that I made the wrong choices about the bound seams. The other challenge was the expanse of fabric. Other than that it was quite straightforward.
      I just checked out your blog, and adore the houndstooth post! The Renfrew is my current pattern BFF.


    1. Absolutely right. Mine was purchased many years ago. I wonder if the design has changed. Once I post the related do’s and don’ts, you’ll see a picture.


  5. Totally get it. I once decided I would re-hem a large outdoor umbrella, shoving miles of it through my machine. Bad idea. I had dragged a few years worth of grime through my machine. Had to get it completely cleaned! Yours turned out great! Binding does tend to slip….


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