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Wedding gift

In February, as soon as I received the “save-the-date” card for grandson Patrick’s wedding, I tried to come up with an idea for something I could make for him and Juliet. I even asked Patrick, an art photographer, to send me some of his photos, thinking one of them might inspire me.

But I was incapacitated. Daughter-in-law Carol and I were taking care of Geoff at home as he died of cancer, March 20th. For the past year, I have been paralyzed in this way–unable to stitch or to think about it, unable to practice the piano, often unable to read, and unable to write. However, I was still reading a few blogs of stitching friends.

On March 4th, Susan Elliott posted about a beaded velvet cushion cover she had been shown in an antique shop. Here’s one of the photos she posted.

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I saved it, thinking that if I couldn’t create an original design for the wedding gift, I might be able to do something with this image.

With Geoff gone, I wanted to be back East, where most of my family live. Specifically, I wanted to be back in Baltimore, near sons Michael and Pete. In July I moved back into Charlestown. (That’s a story for another post.)

The wedding date was October 12th. As time passed, I desperately wanted to be able to make a gift but I remained paralyzed. I had printed the cushion photo and tacked it to my design board. By July 24th, I had cut it up and gotten this far in thinking about how to use it.

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There it was and I was still unable to proceed. But I surprised myself one morning in early August by driving up to the quilt shop next door to The Stitching Post and buying fabric, including a dark brown print. Next I got out an assortment of white materials–fabrics, threads, and beads and began playing with what I had.

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The original velvet cushion cover was entirely beaded, except for the vines or branches. I had no idea how I was going to stitch this design, but it wasn’t going to be all beads. Now, putting white on dark brown so that it covers the background is a challenge.  I began by thinking about stitching over padding and about appliqué and began some trials.

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By the end of August, I had also traced a simplified version of the design, making notes on it about materials I was trying.

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There were many more trials, more than shown here. Lots of unstitching. Also, experiments with how to transfer the design to the dark fabric.

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Now it was September. Had to commit. Having figured out how to stitch the central motif, I used graphite transfer paper to get that much on to the fabric that would be the final product. I was afraid to transfer more of the design for fear of rubbing it off as I worked.

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This much and the upper left corner I stitched in a hoop, even though I knew the work would be better done on a wooden frame. Again, I was afraid of losing the white transfer design as I worked.

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But, after that, I put the rest of the corner motifs on the fabric, stretched it over a wooden frame, and, using a technique I learned in silk and metal thread embroidery, I covered the whole piece with a sheet of plastic, uncovering just the section I was working. It worked. The design remained.

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It was mid-September. I had not yet figured out how to make the small buds. After several false starts, what I did was to cut strips of thin white silk which I threaded through a large-eye needle. After using a tekobari to make holes through the fabric, I brought the white silk strip up and back down through the fabric. Grasping the ends of the strip underneath, I used the tekobari to adjust the silk into the shape of a bud or small blossom. Then I had to stitch each end to the backing fabric to hold the shape. Don’t ask how long it took to make each bud. Below you can see the threaded silk and the underneath view.

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It was September 27th. I hadn’t yet figured out how to put the names on the piece. Numerous trials, with different fonts, different alphabet designs, different threads, different ways of stitching.

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In the end, I used beads for the names and trailing stitch for the date.

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I wish I could get a good close-up so you could see the different stitches and the beads. Alas, either I don’t know how or my camera isn’t capable.

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I delivered it to the framer on October 8th, having consulted with her a week earlier, and I picked it up on October 10th, taking it with me to New Jersey the next day, where I presented it to Patrick and Juliet.

At the reception, they displayed it as the centerpiece of their “memory table”  with photographs and memorabilia of departed loved ones.

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At the reception–

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I’m working again. I have just written  a post for the first time in over a year.

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