Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hooked Rug Pillow Finishing - Just One Way

I have recently embarked on making pillow patterns and pillows for our Etsy shop.  I was intimidated by the finishing process because I am not the most skilled person at hand sewing, but I have found it to be much easier than I expected.  I took some photos of my most recent pillow project just to document how I personally am finishing pillows these days.  I know there are many other ways, but I find this to be really simple and my customers seem to like the results.  Here is my latest finished pillow:

And here is the hooked piece - 15" x 15" - from which it was made:

The first thing I did was press back the edges so that they would lie flat against the back of the piece, with the aid of a damp washcloth, just as you would when you are steaming your finished mats:

Once pressed, I put the hooked part on to the backing I want to use.  For some pillows I use quilting cotton for the backs.  For this piece, my customer wanted hounds tooth check wool.  I place the hooked piece over the backing and then cut the backing maybe an inch or two larger than the hooked part:

You will want to have the right side of the backing positioned so that it's on the "outside" - just as the pillow will be when finished.  I then pin it in to place.  With the hounds tooth check it was very easy to keep everything nice and square, because when I started stitching I just picked a stripe and followed it.  My previous project had a paisley back, which is more forgiving in terms of angle of application to the back.

Now comes the part where you really have to decide what's most comfortable for you.  I turn the pillow "case" face up and stitch from the top side, folding the back fabric in and using the same stitch I would use if putting on a corded wool or cotton tape binding.  I also start somewhere pretty far down on a side, go up over the top, and then back down to the bottom, which, of course, I leave open to stuff.  Important:  I do not stitch the back exactly the same size as the front - in other words, I leave a little "give" by stitching closer to the edge of the back which effectively makes the back a little bigger than - in this case - 15" x 15" - to leave extra expansion for stuffing.  I miter the corners as needed as I go around.  You will find that your stitches are invisible, or very nearly so, using this method:

Once you get to the bottom, you may fill the pillow with whatever you'd like for stuffing.  I have been using pre-made pillow forms.  In this particular case I used a 16" x 16" pillow form in my 15" x 15" case - it made for a nice fluffy pillow.  When you have your stuffing positioned the way you want it inside the pillow, you are now ready to just stitch the bottom shut.  This can be challenging if your pillow is really full, but yes, you'll get through it!

Here is a blue version with paisley I finished about a week or so ago:

I hope this helps for those of you new to pillows - like I am! - to see how easy this can be.  I will eventually try cording and other methods, but for now, I really like this because it makes the entire front of the pillow hooked, and actually involves less hand sewing than you would do on a typical mat binding.

Happy hooking and please share your ideas and photos with us!      ~ Beth

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remembering Who We Are Through Crafting & Art

My mother passed away almost two years ago.  I inherited some of her things, and I was going through a few of them yesterday when I came across the silver thimble on the right in the photo above.  It was very tarnished, but I thought I could make out "E.B. Huddell" inscribed around it.  I carefully polished the silver and knew almost right away that I was correct - this was my great grandmother's thimble.  I sent a photo of it off to Jen, who has a benign mania for genealogy, for which I am eternally grateful.   She was able to determine that my great grandmother, Elizabeth B. Huddell, was born around 1877.  That was a date that was not known to me.  I know from her wedding ring, which I also have, that she was married to Joseph Cochran Barnard in 1901, and of course took his name.  So...this thimble dates from the last quarter of the 19th century.  It fits me perfectly, and I intend to sew with it, extremely carefully and not too much, because it's silver and silver is soft.  So there will be rugs bound and pillows finished with Elizabeth's thimble.  My mother was named for her, and I was named for my mother...and so there is a continuity that means much to me.

The thimble on the left I've had in my possession since 1986.  It belonged to my brother, Albert V. Colangelo, Jr.  As near as I can tell, this thimble is stainless steel, or some other alloy, because it does not tarnish.  So many tears have fallen on that thimble that if it were going to tarnish, it would have by now.  My brother was a master tailor and leather worker.  He was so many other things, but these are the roles that explain why he had a thimble, and why it was in the pocket of his leather jacket as I held it close to me - just to get his scent or try to feel him near - the day after he was killed in an airplane accident.  Albert's thimble is too big for me - I can't really sew with it - but it's been worn around my neck when I've run road races, kept settled in a pocket when I've felt I needed added strength, and is always - always - with my hooking and sewing notions so that I see it every day, and remember how much this extraordinarily loving man contributed to who I am. 

There is something about objects that we work closely with, creatively with, lovingly with, that gives them a life of their own.  But even more than that, if they are handed down they connect us with our past, and the people who either loved us or never knew us but have loved us in the abstract as "our future generations."  Elizabeth Huddell had no way of knowing that over 100 years after she received it, her great granddaughter - also Elizabeth - would be sewing with her thimble.  In fact, Elizabeth Huddell didn't even get a chance to know my mother, her granddaughter, Elizabeth - she died before my mother was born.  My brother had no way to know that the thimble he used in his every day work would someday be an irreplaceable talisman of strength for his little sister, just trying to make her way in a world that suddenly seemed so much colder without him.  

As crafters, artists, and artisans, there is so much life and emotion in what we do, and often our tools are symbols of something bigger than anything we produce, bigger than we are.  That "bigger thing" is what inspires us, connects us, and helps us to remember who we are.  Most of us have these heirlooms.  We'd enjoy hearing the stories you might want to share about yours.

A very joyous Valentine's Day to you, filled with love, memories, and the making of beautiful things that future generations will ponder over in their hearts.      ~ Beth