Sunday, January 1, 2012

FABRIC COLLAGING: Well, kind of...

So this year I decided to (yet again) attempt to make all of the Christmas gifts for the kiddies in the family.  In my vow to spend less money, I end up tipping the work load scale to the deep end of no return.  Why do I do this to myself?  Because I think this will be fun, and easy, and... better than trying to go shopping in the madness of consumerism?  

So for a while now, I've been working with collage.  We all know about the very elusive and secretive encaustic project I've been working on (and vow to be complete with in the next week!  I promise!).  And a few years ago, I made those photoshopped "fabric" collages for my nieces and nephew on my husband's side for Christmas. This year, I've been planning on continuing my vintage collage theme by creating fabric collaged pillows!  So, I had a plan for these pillows to look very similar to my previous styles.  However, as many of us know, art is (in my world) incredibly organic and always flexible to change.  
My Goddaughter (and niece), Reese, snuggling with
her pillow after receiving it this Christmas.

I began my niece's (and goddaughter) pillow by spending some quality time at JoAnn Fabrics.  Again... not a place you might want to hang out in during the holidays.  I didn't even purchase any holiday items, but I came home covered in glitter and smelling of pine.  Regardless, the cashiers at JoAnn's that I go to (on Logan and Elston) has the purchasing down to a fine science.  Everytime I go in there, there is a significantly long line to the back of the store.  BUT!  You can make in through to the front of the store within 10-15 minutes! It's crazy.  

A fantastic find!
The beginning process.
In the past when I have been looking for fabric swatches, I noticed they had packs of quilting squares.  This time, I was even more thrilled by my husband's eagle eyes as he pointed out that all of the quilting bolts come with quilting squares below!  THIS WAS MY HEAVEN!!!  Then I could choose as many of the different fabrics as I wanted based on my own color scheme or theme.  I also found a plastic bin that had spools of thread in exactly the colors I needed.  Now, I'm sure that some of you out there (Katie Drop) might be reading this (Pamela Taylor) who are masters of the fabric (Margaret Wenk) and long time stitchers (Bobbi Meier) and quilters, so these little finds may be of no surprise to you at all!  But for the experimenting rookie, I was thrilled!  One thing that did overwhelm me, however, was the variety of stuffing available!  I had no idea what I was choosing- I just went around and squeezed all of the bags and checked the prices.

A long term investment?
As I was going through the checkout, I turned to Brian and said, "Well, I know we wanted to save money by making these gifts, but... "   Just like any artwork, I hear the registers sing, "CA-CHING!  CA-CHING!"  And, like usual, I justify this larger purchase by saying to myself that I might be only using about $20 dollars worth of materials for this one project, but I know that I will have a ton of leftovers (on purpose) to make more in the future!  In this, I remind myself that I am saving money later on as well as time and effort on one (or more) less trip to JoAnn's.  

The pillow in process with a second
pillow in the back (in the making).
Now what?

I begin my project with a little sketch of what I think this will look like.  Based on that, I just start picking out different fabrics I want to use within the piece based on colors and patterns.  I have also been very interested in making the pillow as tactile as possible (but also as durable as possible!).  I wanted to include "loose" things, puffy things, various textures, etc.  This is because it's for my niece who is 14 months old.  

I started with the background, the tree, and the letters (and balloon).  From there, I called my mother.  "So, isn't there something that you can iron on the back of the fabric so that it doesn't fray?  Or so that you can have fabric on both sides?"  Indeed, there are TWO products.  Mom to the rescue- she headed down to visit and brought with her some Stitch Witch and a large piece of iron on something-or-another.  I ended up using the Stitch Witch to sandwich fabrics in order to create the little "loose" leaves on the tree!  Thanks again to mom, Betta Duffy, for bringing her pinking shears with her- what a great idea for those fall leaves!!  

Oh, you may also be wondering... 

The sewn pillow "case" with the back fabric.
Yes, almost the entire pillow is hand stitched together.  When I was almost entirely finished with the front of the pillow, I pulled out my sewing machine.  Me, having a sewing machine, might be shocking to some of those who know me.  When I was a child, my mom showed me how to hand stitch.  I sat in my basement for hours coming up with templates for my Barbie's next clothing line.  (Ahem, you might also notice that I never did become a fashion designer... )  I would use any scraps I could get my hands on and stitch up shirts and skirts and dresses galore.  One day, I asked my mom to show me how to use a sewing machine.  She told me that she would, but that she was very nervous so that I would not "stitch" my fingers together!!!  Well, that is a pretty traumatizing image to a 12 year old.  And that was that.  No sewing machine for Janet!  It was not until I was in college that I learned how to use a sewing machine, and it wasn't until my days working as a scenic artist in New York City that I really learned how to use a sewing machine and a serger (to make bags for our extra drapery).  While living in Brooklyn, I bought my first sewing machine and made drapes for my apartment.  I was even so daring as to make shears for the apartment windows (which proved to be far more difficult that first anticipated).  

Filling and the finishing touches.
Reenforcing the tree-to-pillow stitching.
Adding the nested button eyes.

Once the front and back were stitched together (leaving about and inch and a half of the seam unstitched), I flipped the pillow case right side out and began stuffing the pillow.  This is where I stopped.  I took a good look at the front and decided that there were a few more additions needed, and a bit more reenforcing to certain parts of my stitching (like the puffy tree!!).  After all, a one-year-old was receiving this present!

Stuffing the pillow
I added stitching to the tree and I added more leaves to the bottom and to the top left corner, (with some more hand stitched branches).  I also stitched in Reese's birthday in the center, and nested buttons for the eye of the bird.  

Lastly, I stuffed the pillow, and stitched up the side!  
I added a diagonal yellow tag stitched from the bottom to the side that says, "Made with love:  Aunt Janet.  Christmas 2011"

Keep an eye out for more... I'm in the process!

The finished product!

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