Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tutorial: Flowers in Winter

I have always been prone to the after-Christmas blahs. This year, they seem to be setting in earlier than usual. I know it's not even New Year's Eve yet, but I'm already a little bummed about our schedule returning to the hectic pace of school, activities, and work in a few days. Plus, it's cold. Really cold. Have I mentioned how cold it is? The cold weather really affects my mood, I think. Not the dark, which I kind of like, but the cold. Brrrr!

I need something to remind me of being warm, to get me excited about the prospect of spring (which arrives here pretty quickly - March, at the latest). What says SPRING more than FLOWERS? And what says COZY more than PILLOWS? So I combined the best of both worlds (you go, Hannah Montana!), the lingering winter when I need to be cozy and the upcoming spring when I'm looking forward to seeing flowers, and made something to tide me over.

I was inspired by these kinds of pillows:

The last two photos above are from Pier 1, where I haven't been in years (four little hands + lots of fragile stuff = NO!) but where we were the other day to look at their Christmas ornaments. These can easily be made from almost any fabric, including upcycled goodness or stuff in your stash. My white rose, on the left in my picture, is made from fleece that came from a giant thrifted bag of fabric we scored last spring (bonus: fabric stores are running sales on fleece lately, practically giving it away, so you'll be able to find some on the cheap). The carnation, on the right, is made from more thrifted fabric from that bag - I'm pretty sure it's the sheer fabric that filmy curtains are made of (you know - the kind of curtains that people without small kids and hyperactive dogs have, the kind of curtains that puddle gently on the floor and let soft light filter into the room, the kind of curtains that people probably have time to wash regularly. But I digress). I bet you could even use regular old cotton, or jersey, or even a t-shirt of two - whatever you have, use it!

Materials Needed:

  • fabric of your choice (see above)
  • 2 12"-round circles for the pillow base and backing (again, another perfect use for upcycled fabric). I used cotton curtains. You could even use the same material you're using to make your petals, which would result in an even cleaner finish, so if you have enough of it to make 2 12" circles, go for it!
  • pillow stuffing (I was so eager to finish the project that I ALMOST took apart one of our gently-used bed pillows to finish stuffing the carnation when I ran out of new Poly Fil last night, but I held back and made myself wait until I could get to the fabric store to get some more pillow stuffing. My husband would thank me, if he knew)
  • coordinating thread
  • sewing machine and serger (the serger is not absolutely necessary, but I love the way it finishes the edges on the carnation)
Time required: 1-2 hours

The tutorial is written for the carnation pillow on the right, and the pictures are from that process; however, after each step, I've indicated how you would alter the instructions if you've chosen to make a fleece rose (which I hope you will...why not make an entire pillow bouquet?)

What to do:

Step 1:

Cut your fabric into 3"-wide strips. Depending on the width of your fabric, you'll have to cut several to total about 72" when all is said and done. You'll be piecing them together to make one long, continuous strip, so sew the short ends together on your machine or serger . I cut 3 strips of sheer fabric to make a strip totaling 72" when I was done sewing them together.

For the fleece rose: same as above, but you only have to make your strips 2" wide. Fleece won't fray, so there's no need to serge it or to leave fabric for that purpose.

Step 2:

Serge all four edges of your long strip. I usually keep four neutral-light colors on my serger because I hate re-threading it, but whatever colors you have in your serger at the time are fine. In fact, I think brighter, contrasting colors would look awesome on the edges and would add dimension to your flower.

When you're done, you'll have one long serged strip and pile of serged remnants (which you don't need at all, but which I love - just seeing it makes me feel productive).

For the fleece rose: no serging necessary. Carry on and be happy that you get to skip a step!

Step 3:
Fold your whole strip in half lengthwise, and iron it. If your fabric is sheer, like mine was, use a low setting your iron so you don't melt the fabric and/or ruin your iron.

Don't forget, your strip is pretty long, so it might take a while. But it's worth it!

For the fleece rose: no ironing necessary. Are you happy again that you chose the rose instead of the carnation?

Step 4:
My favorite part: ruffle! Open up your ironed strip. On your sewing machine, set your stitch length to the longest setting and your tension to the highest setting, and sew a line right down the center crease of your strip. If your fabric is sheer, watch it ruffle up quickly! When you're done, your fabric strip will be significantly smaller than it was - it will probably decrease in length by 1/2 to 2/3.

For the fleece rose: You also get to ruffle! Follow the same directions, but sew your stitch close to one edge, not down the middle. You won't see a lot of ruffling because the fleece is so thick, but it will be just enough to give your pillows some dimension.

Step 5:

Cut two 11" circles out of your fabric. I used dinner plates (yep, they're Mary Engelbreit, and I love them). One circle will be the base onto which you sew your ruffles, and one will be the back of your pillow.

For the fleece rose: Also cut two 11" circles.

Step 6:
Pin your ruffles in a concentric circle on your fabric, following that stitching line right down the middle pf the ruffle. Whether you start in the middle and work out or start on the outside and work in is up to you. Just be sure that each layer overlaps enough that you don't see the fabric circle underneath. Also, make sure your strip doesn't twist. All of the pinning will be worth it!

For the fleece rose: The same. But you'll pin close to the edge of your strip, right where you sewed your ruffling stitches, not in the middle of your strip.

Step 7:

Sew down your ruffles! This was, by far, the most time-consuming step, because there are SO many ruffles it's easy to lose your place, or have something twist, or have ruffles get jammed under your presser foot. If it's easier to NOT pin down all of your ruffles at once, it might be better to pin several inches at a time, sew, pin again, and sew. Regardless of how you do it, just take your time. I started on the outside and worked my way in. Just make sure you're not sewing down the frilly ruffles on your previous layer. Try not to sew your finger and get blood all over your sister's belated Christmas gift, either, and if you do bleed on it, make sure the ruffles cover up the blood spots. That's just sound sewing advice.

For the fleece rose: The same. Sew in a line over your ruffling stitches, so your "petal" edges are free to stand up.

Step 8:

Put your finished ruffle piece on your other 11" circle, right sides together. Sew around the edges, close to the last row of ruffles but not sewing down any of the ruffles into your seam. Leave a 2" opening, and turn it right side out. Stuff it, and sew the opening closed with a hand needle.

For the fleece rose: The same.

That's all! Now snuggle up with your new creations and dream of spring. It's almost here.


Sarah said...

So. So. Pretty. Thanks for the winter blahs pick-me-up!

jeanne.egler said...

I saw these on Wardrobe refashion. These are so nice! Thanks for the tutorial. Spring is just around the corner. : )

Anonymous said...

The pillows are absolutely gorgeous. Can't wait to try it.

Rebekah said...

I have been looking at these pillows and wanting to tackle them- thanks!