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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gift Sets Gone Wild! How to Make Floor Cushions from Recycled Gift Bags

Gift sets galore!

This weekend, families all over Korea are preparing for the upcoming Chuseok (추석) holiday, or Korean Thanksgiving Day. Chuseok is celebrated according to the lunar calendar, falling on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month and this year Chuseok will take place on September 30th. Families will travel to their hometowns to give thanks to their parents and the spirits of their ancestors and celebrate the fall harvest with a bounty of food and fun.

Gift-giving is a big part of the celebration, and so the popularity of gift sets rises at this time of year. Food sets, ranging from cooking oil to tinned goods such as Spam are popular since they remind the recipient to eat well during this holiday of plenty. Other practical gifts such as toothpaste or shampoo sets are also popular. Regardless of the contents, each gift set comes attractively packed in a cardboard box encased in a matching gift bag. If you're lucky enough to receive a gift set (or ten!) you may be wondering what to do with all of that extra packaging and where to seat the guests who've come to your home bearing these lovely gifts.

The answer to both of these dilemmas is simple: Seat your guests on their gifts. Or rather, re-purpose those awkwardly-shaped gift bags into floor mats for your guests to sit on while they enjoy their Chuseok meal. I will show you how to make something useful with just a few tools and less than ten minutes of your time. Get your gift bags, and get ready to have some fun!

How to Make Floor Cushions from Chuseok Gift Set Bags

- One gift set bag per cushion
- Scissors
- Stapler and staples, or needle and thread
- Plastic bags (not the crinkly kind) or some other kind of stuffing


- Pencil or marker

- Measuring tape or ruler
- Pin
- Paint and paintbrush
- The original gift set box (to make a pattern or to store your cushions)
- Soju and Korean drama of choice

Total Assembly Time

10 minutes per cushion (or 20 minutes if you're finicky)

Step 1
Gather your materials, including one gift set bag for every cushion you'd like to make. If you have spare gift bags, retain them as they can be shredded and used for cushion stuffing. 

You'll also need scissors, a stapler and staples (coloured staples optional) or a needle and thread, and some kind of stuffing. You can use plastic bags, fabric scraps made from old clothing, or spare gift bags for stuffing. I recommend plastic bags for ease of use and water-fastness, but try to avoid the crinkly ones as they will be too noisy when you sit down!

Pencil, ruler, painting supplies, and gift box optional and to be explained later. Soju and K-dramas administered as needed.

Step 2
Decide on the size of your cushion. If you're happy with a general square shape and just want to finish already, skip to Step 3. You'll be finished your cushion before you can say Chuseok chahl bo-nay-say-yo! This means "Happy Chuseok" (추석 보내세요) and if you follow my directions your cushion will take less than ten minutes to make.

If you have a specific size in mind, or would like to store your cushions inside of the original cardboard gift set box, you will need to do some measuring allowing an inch (2.5 cm) for seams. To do this, turn the bag inside out and mark your measurements on the wrong side of the fabric. Since these cushions are not designed to last a lifetime, I tend to skip this part. If you follow this path your cushion will take twenty minutes or more to complete.

Step 3
Next, locate the narrow side of the bag and cut straight down the middle, stopping at the bottom side. Repeat on the opposite side and lay the bag flat. You should have a single piece of fabric.

I cut the bag this way so that I only have to seal three seams to seal instead of four, but if you like uniformity or making extra work for yourself, go ahead and cut that bottom part too, and kick yourself later. Doing it this way, you'll have two pieces of fabric and you can skip the next step.

Step 4
Make two small diagonal cuts at the corners where the narrow and wide parts of the bag meet (where the face and side of the bag meet). These cuts allow the fabric to lay smoothly. Cut as little as possible to allow the fabric to lay flat. You should now see a V-shape at the corner.

Step 5
Turn the fabric inside out and align the seams. Lay your seam allowances flat (the small flaps left over from cutting or measuring). If you've made two pieces of fabric, be sure to match the pattern so that it is not upside-down on one side. 

Step 6
Use your stapler to seal the seams, stapling just inside the seam allowance in a straight line. I recommend stapling once at each end and in the middle to prevent the fabric from shifting. You could also pin it, and mark the seam line with a pencil if you want it to be perfect, but this takes too much time in my opinion. You could also use needle and thread in place of the stapler. This  will take slightly more time, but it will also produce more professional-looking results, not that we care about that  ;)

Seal both sides working from bottom to the open top. Those of you who cut two separate pieces of fabric and who are now struggling to seal three sides, administer soju. 

Step 7
Use your stapler to seal the top side, working from one side to the other and leaving a space large enough for both of your hands to comfortably fit inside the hole that is left. You will use this space to turn the bag right-side out and stuff the cushion. DO NOT seal all three sides! If you do this, you will have to remove your staples or stitches and administer more soju. If it's already too late, I tried to warn you, I did.

Step 8
Reach through the hole and pull the material outward, turning the bag right-side out again. Use your fingers or the flat end of the pencil to push the corners all the way out into the correct pointy shape. You should now have a flat square. Turn the square so that the hole at the corner is facing you. Admire your work - you're nearly done!

Step 9
Now you will stuff the cushion. I used plastic bags because it was quick and easy, and it's waterproof, which means you could also use the cushion for outdoor events such as concerts or for camping. In place of plastic bags, you could also take a moment to shred the remaining gift bags or some old clothes into fabric scraps to be used for stuffing. Put the stuffing into the square, taking care to evenly distribute the stuffing, and making sure not to neglect the corners. 

Step 10
Finally, you can finish the cushion. Gently fold the remaining seam allowance so that it is inside of the bag. Using your stapler or your needle and thread, close the hole. Make sure no stuffing or fabric escapes! If you used a stapler and don't like the look of the staples showing, you can opt for coloured staples, or you can paint the staples a matching colour in less than a minute. You could also paint designs on the fabric if you so desired. Sewers can match the thread colour to that of the fabric so that the seam is invisible. 

Congratulations! You're done! You've made yourself a nice new floor cushion that's both comfortable and clever. You'll be sure to dazzle future guests, provided you haven't consumed too much soju. Enjoy your new creation.

Happy Chuseok! 추석  보내세요! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial about floor cushions. This is the ever best tutorial in my life I come to see how to make a perfect floor cushions.