Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Couch

When we got here, we had to furnish our apartment.  Japanese furniture is typically a bit smaller and in some cases plainer than what we're used to.  We had trouble searching for desk chairs and desks, because the typical Japanese styles just weren't to our liking.  Few of the desk chairs were tall enough, and few had adjustable anything, so the lumbar support was more like upper hip support, and it just wasn't what Lee, who would be the main user of the desk chair, was interested in.  The desks are also a lot simpler than typical American desks, and it seems as though most Japanese either use laptops or just don't have desktops.  Few offered keyboard trays, there were almost no built-in monitor stands, and no desks in the local stores had designated areas for your tower or holes for cables.  We finally found a western style desk on and chose a chair from the local home furnishings store.

Our couch, however, was even more difficult.  We went to all of the local stores that might sell couches.  Most of them were too low to the ground and had very low backs.  The ones that were taller typically also reclined, and so had much larger price tags than we wanted, especially if it's only going to be used for under five years.  We also went to the secondhand stores, and finally decided on a couch that was fairly comfortable and sized better for us, but in a color that Lee did not like  It's more yellow than the picture shows, more of a lemon sorbet than a butter color.  We found that the Japanese do not understand the concept of a couch cover as we understand it and will put a sheet over their couch if they want it covered.  This did not cover it quite the way we wanted it to.  I said I'd make a couch cover if he wanted, so we'd end up with a nice, comfortable, customized couch for under $500, plus some work on my part.

Lee and I purchased quite a few meters of fabric for this.  Since I was making a custom slipcover, we may as well have it be truly custom and give it some personality.  We chose mostly brown fabric, since everything in that area was already brown (and about 7 different shades already), and got an interesting rabbit print on a lighter brown fabric as an accent.  To make the couch look even more professional (and to hide uneven seams) I bought cording to go around all of the major edges.  Now that all the supplies were together, I was ready to start.

This couch cover and I, we had quite the relationship.  First off,
the couch is, of course, not a simple shape.  The cushions are not detachable and most of the edges are curved.  I brought a sewing machine to Japan, a Mighty Mender that I hadn't used too much in the past.  I soon found that it was not up to the task.  The tension for some reason never stayed where it was set.  It would loosen or tighten itself while you were using it, and it had one exact sweet spot, an area of about 5 degrees along the dial, that it would sew evenly in.  This spot changed due to the vibrations of using the machine, so I'd have to spend more time finding the right tension than sewing a single seam.  It was worse than the servo motors in the robotics class at RIT.

So, I got a new one!  A lovely Jaguar
X300, on sale at, and it came with a sewing kit of many different colors of thread, bobbins, pins, scissors, measuring tape, and a hard case that is quite useful.  This machine is a Japanese machine, but quite intuitive with many pictures in the manual.  It did not come with a foot pedal, and I was thrown at first.  It is automatic - it tensions itself automatically, runs when you push the start button and stops when you push it again, has quite a few different stitches for pretty much anything you'd want to do with controls for stitch width and length, and is just generally a good value.  With this machine, I crafted the slipcover.  Well, all but the last ten inches when the new machine had some mechanical problems.

After months of working on the slipcover, some mistakes requiring a seam ripper and patience, and many, many, many measurements, I finally finished the slipcover.  In the image to the left, I accidentally made two left halves for the couch.  Riiiiiiiiiiip!  For the most part, I am happy with it, especially since it's my first major sewing project and there were no patterns for it.  I followed some tutorials and have an excellent guide, the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing from the '70s, but due to the shape of the couch, they really weren't much more than starting points.  Well, starting points and in the case of the book, an excellent resource for many of the techniques I used.  I'm not 100% pleased with the sewing job; there are a couple of multi-seam joins in crevices that might not quite join correctly, there is extra stress on some of the corners due to the way the cushions move when we're both sitting on it that might tear the seam out, and it wrinkles easier than I'd like, but all in all, I'm happy with it.  It covers the yellow that wasn't too appealing and is some pretty darn good amateur work if I do say so myself.

1 comment:

  1. Great job! I coped out at our old place and bought slipcovers - wish I'd just taken the time to make them myself like you did. Thankfully, we've now got a new couch that's a great color vs the "old lady print" our old one had. Haha.


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