Archive for July, 2011

I got a new couch a while back, and it’s a long story, but I ended up with two sets of cushions with it. The fabric from the extra set has long since been used, but what about the extra foam pieces themselves? They had been hanging around for way too long, getting passed around among various family members, each thinking they might have a use for them. Well, they recently rotated back to me (they were mine originally anyway), and a good idea finally came to me for what to do with them. I ended up refashioning them into a tri-folding futon mattress that folds up into a chair. While the mattress is a little on the narrow side, it works well enough for a guest to crash on for a night. Family often come to stay with us, which means we really can’t have too many places for people to sleep. We already have a queen-size futon in one room, the couch I got was a sofa sleeper, but when people come to visit, we often still end up with someone begrudgingly having to set up camp on the hardwood floor. That can’t be comfy.

So I sat down and came up with a design for remaking my old couch cushions into a tri-fold futon.

Here’s what I came up with.

Homemade futon chair

And here it is folded out into a bed.

The tricky part was in figuring out that it mattered whether the folding joints were at the top of the cushion or the bottom. One joint has to be at the top and one needs to be at the bottom for it to fold properly. Also, other chairs I’ve seen like this didn’t have all 3 cushions the same size, which makes it easier for it to fold up into a chair. I had to leave a gap about the size of the height of the cushion to accommodate the back folding vertically and resting against the other two cushions.

I didn’t really think ahead about offering a tutorial, I was just in the zone and powering through without stopping to take pictures (I always DO that, sorry!), but I’ll do my best to describe what I did.

There are 3 cushions: the foot, the middle, and the head.

For the foot, I cut two rectangle pieces that fit the sides of the cushion (don’t forget to allow for seams!), and one long one cut the width of the cushion that started at the top and wrapped all the way around the cushion to meet itself again at the top corner. I sewed the small rectangles to the large piece, leaving the last short side open so I could get the cushion in. It should look like this but with the edge left open, so you can turn the edges inside. Note that the un-sewn part is at the top. This is important.

Turn the raw edges in but don’t sew it shut just yet

Now, onto the middle cushion. Cut two more rectangle pieces to fit the sides of the cushion, and two pieces for the middle. Each piece should cover the length and fold over to cover the height too.

Sew the pieces to the sides, making sure to leave the “tabs” on the outside. There should be one set of raw edges on the floor side, and one set of raw edges on the upper side. I hand basted them closed with the raw edges on the outside like this so they were easier to work with later.

One side should look like this

And the other end should look like this

And for the head, also cut one more set of rectangles to fit the sides, and a long piece that wraps all the way around the cushion, like the foot cushion, but with about 18” inches extra in length. You’ll need it to look like this when it’s done.

That extra length should measure to be the height of the cushion, plus seam allowance

And now for the hand sewing part: the assembly.

The middle cushion has two sets of raw edges on the outside, one at the top, and one along the floor. Tuck that raw edge on the top side (not the floor side) of the seam into the slot on the foot cushion (where you tucked the edges in earlier) and sew it together. Your finished joint should look like this.

Middle to foot joint, lying flat

And here’s what it looks like as it folds

Then, turn the raw edges in on the head cushion, tuck the other raw edge from the middle cushion into the open slot from the head cushion, and sew that one as well.

Here’s what it should look like.

Middle to head joint

That gap is important because it allows you to fold the back up vertically, but if you don’t care if it folds up to be a chair, you don’t need that space.

And finally, you might want to add some Velcro tabs to hold the back up in a sitting position and some Velcro between the head and middle cushion to keep them from migrating apart when someone’s sleeping on it. Or you could be lazy like me and just push it up against the wall and hope the fitted sheet keeps the mattress from migrating apart where the gap is. That works too.


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When I chose the name “Path to Green,” I was thinking in terms of environmentalism, in terms of being greener for our planet, reducing our reliance on commercially-produced products that leave a long trail of waste in their wake, and reducing exposure to scary chemicals in commercial products. And I’ve told the story already of why I got started with this in the first place, no need for repeating. I was also thinking in terms of helping out others, compiling recipes and advice in one place, helping make it seem “do-able” to make lots of small changes that eventually accumulate into big change, and adding my voice out there to say that we can do this together.

But what I didn’t realize was the bigger picture in my life. When I chose the name Path to Green, I wasn’t thinking about “greener pastures” in the larger sense of my life. I was thinking specifically about being green in the environmental sense.

But it ended up being a piece of the puzzle. See, I started this whole writing “thing” in the midst of some big life changes. I had just left my teaching career behind and was adrift looking for something new. And I started simplifying. First with the basic recipes I’ve been posting, and then it expanded from there. This simplification has opened up a space in my life that wasn’t there before. I connect more with the people around me. I make and maintain stronger relationships. New ideas and relationships flourish where mental clutter and stress used to be. I’ve become more in touch with my own self.  I have a stronger voice. I feel more relaxed and settled in a job I probably never would have considered before, but it’s a good fit for me. I have ended up somewhere I never thought I’d be. And it’s a much better place.

This experience has truly taught me a lot about letting go, about knowing when to quit, about how to listen. Listen to my body, my inner voice, my inner artist, my hopes, to others, to our planet.

And yes, this “path to green” has led me on a path to freedom, and into a path of artistic expression. Maybe I’m not an “artist” in the traditional sense, but I definitely hear the voice of my creative force that inspires me, I feel the pull to create, and I artistically express myself without reserve. I draw, paint, quilt, write, dance, sing, play piano (again!), and sew. And I wouldn’t have any of these wonderful things in my life if I hadn’t embarked on this journey. If I hadn’t opened up the space for it.

It all starts with awareness. My career change helped me to be genuinely aware of myself and helped me to sort out what’s truly important from what I had attributed false importance to. Even something as simple as cutting back on commercial products and making my own opened up space for awareness.

It’s also about listening. There’s a little voice in each of us that is like a compass: it will point us in the right direction (where we need to be) if we’re still for a moment to listen. I still feel unsure, but I know I’m on the right track. And I also know that voice will always be there when I need help.

And it’s about faith. At times it’s been hard to trust that little voice and to know that it’s never wrong. Mine pushed me somewhere scary: out of the only career I had known and into somewhere completely new. But I’m in a better place, and I’m learning something new. And it’s certainly better for my well-being than my stress-filled teaching job was.

It’s not just about the environmental path. This experience has taught me a lot about all kinds of paths. And it all starts with the first step.

How do you make space in your life?

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