A sewer’s guide to being pragmatic (while still making beautiful seat cushions)

Pragmatism. noun 1 the art of dealing with things in a practical rather than theoretical way. 2 the art of embracing campervan cushions as a practical seating application even when the corners are theoretically lop-sided, sticky-out or have a tiny hole in the middle.

I started off with a rather romantic notion of making these cushions; being holed up at my sewing machine on a Sunday afternoon with a nice cup of tea, radio on and the heater warming my feet. When I realised I was actually quite good at sewing in a straight line, I was already converting my desk into a sewing table and planning all sorts of ambitious projects.

The vision was shattered as soon as I reached my first corner. The general idea with a box seat cushion is to have a top and bottom panel, a side strip that runs around three sides and a back panel with a zip. None of this sounds too complicated, but whichever method I try to sew the side strip around the corners, they look completely different.

I have dusted off my library card and tried four different patterns. Through the wonder of YouTube, I’ve had lessons from Darlene in Detroit and taken advice from Barry in Texas. I’ve tried the meticulous ‘pinning and pressing’ method and the more kamikaze ‘just snip and pivot’ method (that was Barry) and nothing seems to work consistently. Every time I think I’ve cracked it, no sooner have I made a celebratory brew than I line it up with the opposite corner and realise it’s two centimetres lower.

Hurrah!

Aaaaaaarghhh!

So after several frustrating weekends at the sewing machine growing increasingly despondent, I came to the conclusion that imperfect corners would just have to do. I would take a pragmatic approach and just get them finished. Shamelessly seeking reassurance that my corners were, in fact, brilliant and I was being way too hard on myself, I showed Paul a selection and asked for his honest opinion.

And in the next moment, in a brief memory lapse when all the rules that had been carefully instilled over the last 12 years were inexplicably discarded, there was a pause. A frown. A very close look at the seams. And then, ‘Hmmmm. Yes, I see what you mean.’

Followed by a look of complete surprise when a fine plume of smoke started escaping from my ears.

‘But, you said you wanted…’

‘I DIDN’T MEAN IT! I WANTED YOU TO SAY THESE ARE THE FINEST EXAMPLES OF CUSHION CORNERS YOU HAVE EVER SEEN AND WHY HAVE I NOT JOINED BARRY AND DARLENE ON YOUTUBE WITH MY OWN SERIES OF SEWING VIDEOS’.

‘Oh.’

So that’s that. It’s back to the drawing board. But, having relayed the whole sorry story in a long teleconference, Mum has come up with a new plan of attack, which requires sewing no corners whatsoever. Round cushions! Actually no, that will be a very last resort, but I will try the new method this afternoon and report back. Meanwhile, the heater’s on and the radio’s blaring, but I may add something a little stronger to my tea cup.

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Access to the campervan gas bottle

Is it me, or are these post titles getting increasingly less intriguing?

Anyway, it’s always a slightly hairy moment when you take a power tool to the van’s shell. Particularly when the size of hole you’re cutting could not be easily patched up with a bit of sticky-back plastic and passed off as a ‘vintage’ feature if anything went wrong. Thankfully, it didn’t! So we now have external access to the gas bottle.

The 2kg gas bottle sits in a metal box, which would provide some protection in the (hopefully unlikely) event of any gas leakage. The three-sided box sits underneath one of the seats and we’ve now fitted a vented door to the outside.

Paul made two cardboard templates to work out exactly where to cut the hole: one the size of the box and one the size of the door frame. He lined up the box template on the inside and drilled a hole through the centre. He then lined up the centre of the frame template on the outside of the van with the hole, and drew around the outline. He then cut the corners using a 50mm hole saw and cut between the holes with tin snips.


Paul sealed all the cut edges with rust primer, squeezed a layer of silicon around the door frame (to prevent water seeping through) and pushed the frame into place.

He then bolted the door frame to the van using nylon locking nuts (try saying that after a Sunday afternoon beverage – I am failing miserably), so they don’t vibrate loose once we’re on the road.

The next step is to connect up the gas and have it certified.

The cupboard doors arrived from Laminex this week and are trying desperately to blend into our carpet before being fitted. Here’s a sneaky peek: