Four years ago, about this time of year, I decided I wanted to recover a favorite old chair. I was planning to do a fabric collage-type cover attached to the original upholstery. Fabric collage can be as simple or complex as the designer wants to make it.
Making a sample before I tackled the chair seemed like a good idea. Under my big worktable is a huge basket filled with fabric scraps of all description. Digging through the accumulation, I fondly remembered the garments I had made from each fabric. I selected half a dozen large scraps of printed blouse-weight cotton in blues, purples, and turquoise, a piece with leaves, and another with bubble-blowing fish.
Several days later at a back-yard sale, I purchased a beat up 18”x28” picture frame for a dollar. I measured out a piece of muslin that exact size and arranged the scraps on the muslin.
I created an imaginary coral reef with a vibrant sea plant and fanciful fish darting in and out of the coral. I pinned all the scraps in place and machine stitched them just enough to keep them from shifting about.
I had a book about fabric collage where the author used a free-form, or embroidery, sewing technique for all her projects. I ordered the attachment I needed for my sewing machine. When it arrived, I practiced doing the stitching on a small piece of cloth. The sewing is supposed to follow the edges of the collage pieces. I discovered this is not as easy as it looks. I cannot keep up with the machine. My sewing strays off the edges quite often.
My mother-in-law, Grace, used to do this all the time with beautiful results, but I didn’t have the patience to learn and develop these skills. Instead, I used zigzag stitches, which my sewing machine makes easily. I sewed with a stitch length of about twenty per inch around all the edges of the different fabrics.
After all the pieces were sewn to the backing, I stitched navy blue blanket edging around the sides, carefully measured to fit over the frame. I was pleased to see that it fitted perfectly. The highly colorful leaves in the center of the picture got a bit of silver acrylic paint to make some of them stand out from the background.
I added pieces of dried grapevine, a crab claw, and a shell with hand stitching. Rough edges and threads left dangling looked good on the underwater scene, but I didn’t want to use that technique on the chair.
The lesson here is that before starting a big project with a new technique, it’s good to make a sample.