Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting cozy with graphic T-shirt pillows

The clothes we choose to wear, our sense of style, lets us express who we are and what's important to us - they tell people a lot before we even open our mouths. In my opinion, few people have a style with T-shirts as my boyfriend. Over the years he's cultivated a wonderfully graphic T-shirt collection from DBH that's uniquely his. Neither of us wanted to part with his treasured T's, even though we agreed it was time to take them out of his wardrobe rotation.  Each T-shirt spoke to him when he bought them, and they still say something to (and about) him today. So I suggested we reuse the textile art and make them into pillows to express his personal sense of style at home.


Sewing T-shirts into pillow requires pretty basic sewing skills - it's mostly straight lines - and requires basic sewing supplies.

Shopping List

  • 14" pillow forms
  • Fusible iron-on interfacing (sheer weight)
  • 7-10" zippers
Each shirt had a small caption in the lower left back
We cut a 15" cardboard square to serve as a template (14" + 1" for a 1/2" seam allowance) and used that to select the best graphics for the shirt.

We really liked how each shirt has a title to the artwork - it's part of the character we wanted to preserve. Here, you can see I saved the label from the back of the shirts to include as the back of the pillow. 

Iron fusible interfacing bolsters wimpy T-shirt fabric
We then ironed on interfacing to the inside of both pieces of fabric. This gives the thin jersey knit of a T-shirt a bit more substance, and helps limit the stretching that we love about T-shirts as clothing - which makes sewing this fabric a lot easier. If you skip the interfacing step your pillow is likely to end up lumpy or misshapen and you'll need to use a knit stitch to allow for some stretching that will otherwise break straight basic seams.

Rotary cutters rock!
We found it necessary to trim again before sewing to get back to a 15" square, this time using the rotary cutter - one of my favorite sewing tools.

We place the two pieces of fabric (front & back) right-sides together. Then, drew a 14" square centered on the fabric to mark our sewing lines. We sewed the bottom first to accomodate the zipper, then sewed each side, followed by the top of the pillow. The order is important to accomodate for any stretch in the knit fabric that might distort your pillow shape.

We managed to whip up 3 this afternoon with great success! Now, if only finding new clothes was this easy...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasted birds make the best leftovers: Chicken Gumbo!

It's fall. It's the time of year when I like to fire up the oven and roast a chicken, filling the house with luscious warm smells that only make me more eager for the approaching Thanksgiving holiday! Roasting a bird is easy enough, but to truly be a kitchen master you need to make the rest of the bird work for you.

What do I mean? Leftovers. Not only do I like to toss the bones into a stock pot over night, but I pick the bird clean and stash any remaining bird meat for use in other dishes. Now, a pile of roasted turkey or chicken is fine when you want a sandwich but I've found few recipes make the better use of those little nibbly tiny bits of meat, even the dreaded dark meat, better than Chicken or Turkey Gumbo! I've crafted my own recipe for turkey gumbo inspired by recipes from TV Chefs Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse.

In case you haven't made gumbo before, it's not difficult and mine only requires 2 "specialty ingredients" and no okra:

  1. FilĂ© Powder - Ground sassafras leaves. It works as an authentic thickener. You can buy it online, but I get mine in bulk at Rainbow Grocery.
  2. Andouille Sausage - I like Aidell's, primarily because it's "less authentic" and real andouille sausage contains nasty bits. It's got a nice smokey taste & fills in where you might only have a little turkey or chicken to make a full meal. I keep it on hand for quick Jambalaya too.
Here are a few strategies I've employed when making gumbo:
  1. I always start by building your roux in the oven. (Thanks Alton!) It's really easy to go past dark & nutty smelling to burnt with oil & flour on the stove top. Using the oven you just start 2 hours before you want to be wrapping up cooking - the first 1.5 hours is nothing but a little whisking while you prep other ingredients.

  2. Use the cajun trinity. A combination of chopped green peppers, onions, and celery.
  3. Brown the veggies in your roux. The smell at this stage is heavenly.
  4. I store my stock in quart jars in the fridge (freezing glass like this is a bad idea) as long as I plan to use it quickly. I use about 1 quart in my gumbo recipe.

  5. I like to store my chicken bits in these nice paper containers, you can get them at Smart & Final. I use them to send leftovers home with guests, or freeze things for later - they're stackable, go from freezer to microwave, store nicely next to my pints of B&J's ice cream in similar containers. The paper lids (sold separately) are easy to write on. When I'm done, I can throw them in the municipal compost. I use glass when I can, but when I can't I prefer these to plastic containers.