Sunday, September 3, 2023

The art quilt headboard.


Lynne Cantwell 2023
I did promise you a post about the creation of my new headboard. (I didn't start weaving the ruana this week, but I did get this project done last weekend.)

This is not going to be a detailed how-to. For one thing, there were about a million steps, and if I went into detail about all of them, we'd be here all week. For another, while I have a fair amount of sewing experience under my belt, I am not an expert quilter. So what I'm going to do is outline the major steps. I will also tell you a few things I should have done instead of the boneheaded things I did.

For starters, let's talk about the backing board. The vast majority of the DIY headboards I've seen online start with some version of, "get a piece of plywood and a circular saw". I mean, if power tools are your jam and you have the space to set up sawhorses and stuff, go for it. But you don't need to. You can use foam insulation board instead. It's readily available at your local hardware store, and you can cut it with a kitchen knife.

This is the second headboard I've made. For the first one, which was a different shape, I cut up a sheet of 2" thick pink foam insulation and affixed a shorter piece atop a longer piece with bamboo skewers. Voila, an instantly recognizable Southwestern design, which I covered with fake suede upholstery fabric and stuck to the wall with heavy-duty velcro.

This time, because I was going for a sort of Art Deco vibe -- and because I couldn't find that pink insulation for some reason -- I went with 24"-by-24"-by-1"-thick project boards. They're about seven bucks apiece. I bought four, and a 1/8"-diameter dowel rod. I cut the dowel into 2" pieces, give or take, and stuck them into the edges of the foam board pieces, then cobbled the foam together into a 60" wide rectangle. (If your bed is bigger than full size, your dimensions will have to be bigger. Just keep in mind that if you do an actual semicircle, the height of your headboard will be half its width. In other words, the headboard for a king-size bed would be pretty tall.) 

This leads to my first boneheaded thing: When you make your cuts, make sure the cut edges of your foam pieces are flat. I scored my foam board with a utility knife, front and back, then snapped them apart -- which seemed like a brilliant idea until I tried to glue the uneven surfaces together. I ended up using duct tape to stabilize the joins.

Next, I got some string and a Sharpie, pinned the string to the middle of the long side of the foam board, tied the Sharpie 30" from the pin, and drew a semicircle on my board. I scored the line with a utility knife, and then, having learned my lesson, I used a kitchen knife to cut through the board. I did have the presence of mind to put a cutting mat under the board so that I didn't wreck my carpet. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
Now that the backing board was done, I moved on to the quilting. Quilting cottons are typically between 36" and 45" wide, so I knew I was going to have to piece something. I toyed with the idea of making a pie-slice-shaped pattern, but decided to go with simplicity instead: I took my 2-yard length of fabric, cut it into two 1-yard pieces, and stitched them together along one selvedge edge. Then I took my makeshift protractor and marked the fabric, adding several extra inches on all sides, so that I had enough to wrap it around the backing board (or so I thought). 
Lynne Cantwell 2023
The fabric, by the way, is a 100% cotton by Kaufman Fabrics. The design is based on the work of artist Gustave Klimt. The spirals are a shiny gold -- very Art Deco. There are several prints in this series; this one, with the shiny gold spirals, comes in several background colors. I picked the cream. I thought about using the gold, but decided that would be over the top. (As if this whole project wasn't over the top.)

My second boneheaded thing: I should have cut the backing board first, then used that as a template for cutting the fabric. Instead, I marked and cut them independently. A makeshift protractor is not at all exact, and I ended up cutting the fabric a titch too small for the backing board. Luckily I had enough fabric left over to cut strips for a facing -- if you've sewed a garment, you'll know what that means -- but using the backing board as the pattern would have eliminated that complication.

A quilt is basically three layers: the pretty top, the batting, and a (usually) plain layer on the bottom. I had envisioned just topstitching the quilt into pie-shaped wedges. But while I was at the fabric store looking for batting, I got inspired by another Kaufman Fabrics design in a shiny orange, along with some orange-gold topstitching thread, and decided to put a sunrise on my headboard. I cut a smaller, orange semicircle for the sun and some strips of orange fabric for the rays. The rays give the headboard that slices-of-pie appearance I was originally looking for.

Lynne Cantwell 2023
That ruler thing is amazing, by the way. I bought it years ago. It's called an O'Lipfa, and it basically acts like a T-square: You line up the edge of your cutting mat with the edge of your table, line up your fabric along a line of the cutting mat, put the lip of the ruler over the end of the cutting board, and your fabric strips come out even. It's a miracle, I tell you. If they don't make this brand anymore, I hope somebody is making something similar.

The next step was to position the sun and the rays on the shiny cream fabric and machine baste them down. My third boneheaded thing: I spent 12 bucks on a fabric marking pen with disappearing ink at the quilt store. It turned out to be useless -- it didn't show up on the right side of the fabric, and as my marks were all going to be on the back of the headboard anyway, I ended up using a regular fabric marker that I already had. The fourth boneheaded thing I did: I sewed down the raw edges of the sun and rays instead of turning the edges under and pressing them. I wasted time not only stitching the edges down, but pulling out those stitches before machine basting the pieces in place.

At last it was time to lay out the quilt! I was smart enough to use the backing board as a pattern for the batting, and this is the step when I found out that I was going to have to make the quilt top bigger. The white stuff showing around the edge of the quilt top is the properly-sized batting; I sewed the facings on after this.

Lynne Cantwell 2023
I also realized, when I took this photo, that I should have repositioned the rays on the left to be more of a mirror image to the ones on the right. That's when I decided it was an art quilt, heh. I also reasoned that it wouldn't matter that much in the end because the lowest rays would end up behind the bed pillows anyway (and I was right!).

Finally, I pinned everything together and sewed through all the layers with a zigzag stitch. I also zigzagged some rings into the sun and ran two rows of machine basting around the semicircular edge. And I poked a couple of holes in the backing board, ran some picture hanging wire through the holes, twisted the ends together in the back, and duct taped that sucker in place. 

Then I glued the quilt to the backing board, pulled up the machine basting to fit, wrapped the fabric around the back of the backing board, and glued all the edges down. If you ever need to glue fabric to foam, what you want to use is 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. You can find it at hardware stores and some craft stores; I bought it at an art supply store here in town. Adhesives like super glue will melt the foam board; this stuff doesn't. I was a little worried about using it because it's permanent, but it turns out you've got about 15 minutes before it goes from "sticky" to "stuck fast" -- in other words, you have time to reposition your work. The hardest part about this step was keeping Tigs off the porch while I sprayed the fabric so he didn't end up with glue in his fur.

Finally, I put a couple of picture hangers in the wall and hung my finished headboard. Total cost: $150, not counting that fabric marking pen.


Now to get busy on the ruana...


These moments of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

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