Sunday, January 11, 2015

Curtains for Days

I had a second sewing project for the bus before we left on our great road trip.  We needed curtains for the bus to provide some light insulation and to act as a security measure for when we left the bus in metropolitan areas.  Now, the curtains were very much a priority for me but not so much for the guys (with good reason). So, while the guys did an amazing marathon of improvements to the bus, my mom and I set out to solve the curtain dilemma.  

We had a number of constraints to consider.  We needed to keep the costs low while still obtaining around 20 yards of fabric. The fabric needed to be thick enough to be non-transparent and light enough to be hung on the inside of the bus with earth magnets.  It also had to be visually appealing. That's a tough order at any time of the year, but it felt especially challenging at Christmas when traditional fabrics weren't on sale and inventory was low.  

Ultimately my mom and I had a great time trying to accomplish this challenge.  We ended up choosing a flocked chevron felt from Jo-Ann Fabric's.  We originally wanted only aqua but we quickly realized there actually wasn't enough fabric available in Georgia to achieve that goal.  Shipping the fabric from Jo-Ann's website would have been a disaster because it was so close to the holidays.  We ultimately decided to do half aqua and half gray and only had to visit two locations.  We decided to alternate the colors every two windows to cohesively use the two fabrics.  I did some quick envelope math to decide how much fabric we needed and we walked away with around 12 yards of each color.  I spent right around $150 including tax for 24+ yards of fabric.  

When we got home I cut the felt to size so that each panel covered two windows on the bus. The felt was a great choice of fabric because I didn't have to sew single hem!  I sewed a small 1 inch patch over an earth magnet in the corner of each panel of fabric and the task was quickly done. At the end of the project, it became clear that my math was way off and I ended up with several yards of each color leftover.  I used some of the leftovers to cover an AV cabinet on the bus and the rest of the fabric now lives under a couch on the bus.  

The installed curtains were exactly what we were looking for! They were easily removed and replaced as needed by passengers.  As an added bonus, the felt really repels dirt! 

In Utah the bus blew a high pressured fuel line.  It was around midnight and snow was falling.  The engine trouble resulted in a lot of noxious fumes coming out of the engine (located inside the bus). We had to drop the windows so we could breathe and that's when the curtains really came in handy! The felt kept a lot of the snow out of the bus and still let us get fresh air.  The curtains were very helpful for the entire trip but this one application was worth all the effort!
Inside view during the first breakdown of the trip. 
Curtains are riding low for maximum views.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sewing in 3D.

We own a school bus. A full length beast of a school bus. The bus lived in Georgia until we decided we were ready to bring it to California over the holidays.  We went home to Georgia on December 20th and left on December 26th for a cross-country road trip with 10 of our best friends.  Before we left on the trip we had some serious improvements to do. Quentin, his brother, and our best buds painted the exterior, did some rewiring, and engine work in the days before we left.  I packed my sewing machine in a carry-on and made a new seat cover for the bus seat while I was in Georgia. 

The original bus seat had a brown textured vinyl seat that was cracked and tired.  The vinyl was attached with staples to a very simple frame and the pieces were easily removed. I took the vinyl apart and used the pieces as a pattern for the new cover.  The seat itself is a molded foam that we did not replace.  This was my first attempt at sewing something 3D and the result was great!  The bottom piece is very tight fitting. I was able to wrap the seatback with some batting before putting the fabric sleeve on.  The most difficult part of this process was using the staple gun to secure the fabric again.  My mom helped me but we were very unskilled in the hand tool department.  I shot a lot of staples at my feet during the process. 

I considered using elastic so the fabric could be removable but we were on a serious time crunch and I didn't have time to get anything wrong. I also wanted a very snug fit for comfort.  I retained the pattern pieces so I can remake another seat cover down the road if this one fails or gets stained. I think the seat has a lot of character now!