December 30, 2008

diy union jack pillow

I finished this pillow over the weekend and thought I'd share how to make it in case any of you are hankering after a Union Jack pillow (the Vivienne Westwood Rug Company version is divine but a bit pricey).

Now that mine is finished, it makes me insanely happy and I love the way the silver bugle beads catch the light in the evening. If you have a few hours on New Year's Day, starting this pretty pillow would make for a very meditative and satisfying task.

I didn't bother to make a pattern since a Union Jack is pretty straightforward. For all you non-British citizens, you can click here for a quick brush-up on dimensions, but personally I think the concept is fairly forgiving and doesn't have to be exact.

I wanted to recycle a couple of tee shirts for my Union Jack pillow, so I referred to my copy of Natalie Chanin's Alabama Stitch Book since she specializes in the embroidery and beading of tee shirts and reclaims them into all sorts of beautiful couture garments. Natalie's book is a great source for figuring out how to deconstruct a tee shirt, what sort of thread to use and which needles and beading techniques will work best for your design.

It took me two full days to bead the Union Jack using a parallel whipstitch, silver bugle beads and mother of pearl sequins, but you will probably have much faster results as this was my first attempt at hand work. I took lots of time to lay it out, pin it, and even improvised by tacking a piece of felt to the back of the thin tee shirt fabric to stabilize it. You don't have to go to such lengths, but I was worried I might mess up my limited quanity of shibori-dyed (a fancy form of tie-dye) fabric and was being extra careful.

Natalie, who I adore and have written about (here and here) talks about how she prides herself on her strong hand-stitched seams and often uses the stitching and knots as part of the actual design element in her work. It wasn't until I started making my own piece that I really started to understand what she was talking about. I followed her invaluable instructions every step of the way, starting with how to thread a needle by "loving your thread" which infuses your work with kind intentions but is also a very practical way to keep your thread from knotting.

I also took her advice and used tailor's chalk to mark my final stitching line after basting the back side on.

I cheated and used a sewing machine to attach the ultrasuede back for a smoother finish.

Voila! Getting ready to add stuffing from the local craft store.

You will need:

1. Fabric: at least two contrasting colors. I recommend using cotton jersey but you can use any fabric you like.

2. Thread: Buttonhole or carpet thread is perfect for this project and available at craft and fabric stores. If you can't find thread in your fabric's exact shade buy a shade darker.

3. A ruler to measure and draw your Union Jack.

4. Tailor chalk in a color that will show up on your fabric. It's available at any craft or fabric store.

5. Scissors to cut your fabric and a seam-ripper is handy in case you make mistakes.

6. A #9 sized needle if you are not embellishing with beads or a #10 Millinery needle if you are beading as it will also accomodate buttonhole thread.

7. Bugle beads and/or any other decorative beads are available in small and large quantities and all sorts of beautiful colors at most craft stores.

8. Depending on the size of your pillow you can buy a pre-made pillow form or stuffing or use both. These are available at any craft store.

When you finish your Union Jack pillow please don't be shy--email me a photo--I'd love to see your version and share it with Trust Your Style readers!


citysage said...

Too cool Mary Jo! I love the colors you chose, too---something fresh and unique, so soothing!

I LOVE the Vivienne Westwood one, but having seen it in person can say it's a bit itchy...not super comfy. Making your own is a great way to ensure that it's soft as well as chic!

Hope you've been having a wonderful holiday :)

Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Thanks Anne, that's good to know as part of me still pines for a Vivienne Westwood one for the livingroom. The tee shirt version is amazingly soft, even with the bugle beads, so I recommend it!

Rachel said...

Wow, that is FABULOUS! Fantastic job, I just love it! I'll be linking.

Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Thanks Rachel, I am so glad I found your blog--there's some very cool ideas there and I'll be checking back!

Mrs.French said...

hmm...pretty sure I could never pull this off...but would love one of yours...beautiful! xo t

Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

I hope I didn't make it sound harder than it is--it's actually pretty simple and just requires a bit of time to bead, but is a nice way to slow down and enjoy some down time.

Jennifer Ramos said...

You could make a good amount of $ selling those....they are GORGEOUS! Good job!

Jen Ramos
'Cards & Prints You'll Love...'

Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

Thanks Jennifer! I know you're a big union jack fan, so I am glad you like it!

GretyDoll said...

awsome !

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