Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Needlepoint Pillow

A few weeks ago I found a needlepoint pillow in a bag at the top of a closet. This was made by my grandmother and given to my daughter for her graduation...I can't remember if it was from high school or college, but either way, many years have passed since then.

While the pillow is as cute as can be, it is NOT my daughter's style. She is not the ruffle type. I am not sure DD even remembers this pillow. I decided it was silly to leave it there, in the closet, unused and unseen. I would remake it as a mixed-media piece, to become something DD would use, and give it to her for her birthday.

This is sideways...Blogger loves to rotate pictures for me, without giving me the tools to undo what it has done.

But anyway... this is the 'before'. As I said, it's cute but not her style.

I ripped the pillow apart, pulling out the stuffing, then removing the ruffle and the matching moire taffeta backing. As you can see, the corners of the canvas were cut off when this was initially made into a pillow, so I'd have to work with those.

Using 3 strands of embroidery floss, I worked a grid of X's in the darker field area. This alone gave it a more contemporary look!
I cut some triangles of my dark fabric and sewed them onto the knocked off corners, giving me a base that was square.

I placed the needlepoint on some batting which had been placed on a piece of chintz. Then I began adding fabric strips, log cabin-style, around the needlepoint. I varied the width of the strips so the needlepoint would NOT end up in the center.

Several of the fabrics used in this piece were also used on a quilt I made Aidan (my grandson, DD's son) in 2007. The already-pieced strip was a remnant from the sketchbook cover I made Andrew for Christmas. I liked the tie-ins...Kelly has told me repeatedly since Christmas that it is HER TURN to get something handmade from me. Recognizing the fabrics in this piece will remind her of the projects given to the other members of her family!

Once I got the top all put together, I was NOT thrilled with the way the piece felt. I could feel (and see) a 'ridge' created by the thick canvas under the first strip. Note to self: next time, use decorator fabrics, which are heavier, instead of quilting cottons!

Here you can see the ridge a little better...I was NOT happy!
So I decided to slash into the backing and try to reposition the batting, so it would be ABOVE the canvas edges and perhaps soften the transition.

Using my duckbilled scissors, I carefully slashed and cut the backing behind the first strips, being careful not to cross any stitching lines. The fact that the canvas corners were cut diagonally was a help in this case!

I pulled the canvas out the slashes, sort of tucking the batting and backing under the canvas edges.
But I didn't want to leave it this way. Stuffing the pillow could dislodge these edges, or they might shift during use later.

So I decide to add more batting!
I cut out the area behind the needlepoint, so it had less batting than the quilted areas, hoping to better 'level' the overall front.
I also tucked the edges of this layer of batting under the canvas edges, again, to soften the transition and eliminate that ridge.

To keep this extra batting in place, I added a layer of septic paper. This is like a non-woven interfacing, only a bit slicker. I basted this around the edges, knowing future stitching would hold it in place.

With the ridge eliminated, I could now do the decorative stitching on the front of the pillow, using both free-motion and the pre-programmed stitches on my machine.

To flatten the needlepoint area and give it some character, I stippled in the light background area around the bird and branch. This created the look of trapunto without the added stuffing!

I had planned to do a chainstitch around the circle where the dark and light blues meet, but for some (dumb) reason, I didn't do it before, when I did the grid of X's. Well, now it is much harder to get a needle through all those layers! and trying to pierce only the needlepoint, without including the batting/backing, was not fun! I also tried to smooth out the lopsided circle. Not perfect, but then, nothing I do ever is! Charm...I say.

With the front completed, I started on the back. I decided to make it 'special', too, in case DD doesn't love the front...she can flip it over! Plus, if she ever really wants to use this pillow, I wanted it to be face friendly. So I cut strips and did a stitch-n-flip application, followed by decorative stitching along the seams, using the pre-programsed stitches on my machine.

Then I trimmed the back to match the front and sewed them together around the edges, leaving an opening on the bottom edge.

I trimmed the corners and turned this right sides out, giving a good press to flatten the outside edges.

Then I stitched in the ditch around the pillow to create a flange.

Again, I stopped the stitching at the opening at the bottom.

Then I stuffed the pillow through the opening. (I probably overstuffed it...I KNOW I did!...but I am not ripping it out to redo!) Then, I pushed the stuffing away from the open edge and pinned the front to the back well inside the area to be closed. This way, I could use the sewing machine to complet the row of stitching that creates the flange...the inside row. I did have to really flatten the pillow with my hand to allow it to pass under the machine.

Yep, that's my blood you see on the flange...these pins are sharp! A little hydrogen peroxide took that right out.

Now the pillow is stuffed and enclosed, but there is still an opening in the edge of the flange.

I used needle and thead to handsew the opening closed.

The back, finished.

The front, finished.
As I said, I overstuff this...but already it has flattened some, and it will flatten more over time.
My family loves this shape of pillow...rectangles with a flange...they call these 'gripping pillows' because they are good to hug!
Ok, we're weird.
But wonderful.

Happy Birthday, Kelly!


Pamela Erny said...

How lovely!

Pam ~Off The Cuff~

Marilyn said...

The pillow is lovely. I'd like to see it "in person" sometime. The visual aids are awe inspiring, too.
You are such a detail oriented sewer and your work really shows it. You make coloring INSIDE the lines sound like fun!

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