January 1960: Leaf cushion

leafcushion_issuefotoMy second project from January 1960 was a sewn and embroidered cushion featuring “black and white leaves on bright red fabric”. One is encouraged to “keep to the black and white embroidery but choose background linen to match your room” and I chose a medium green. (The fact that it matches the houndstooth jumper is just a happy coincidence.)

Finding appropriate fabric was not easy, as I’m not experienced with embroidery or needlepoint and can’t always “translate” the brands and fabric types called for into something I can buy now.  This pattern, like many in Stitchcraft, calls for “Glenshee Embroidery Fabric 212” which does not seem to exist (anymore?) as a specific brand, but this very useful website told me that “Glenshee” is a general name for a certain kind of evenweave linen available in “various counts”. That description matches my fabric pretty well, which is an evenly woven linen-viscose mix that seems to have a similar texture to the fabric shown in the picture.

The biggest challenge, of course, was getting the design onto the fabric. At the time, one ordered a transfer from Stitchcraft for a small sum, which was then sent by post. Sometimes an issue contained a free transfer, and these days, vintage Stitchcraft transfers are sometimes available on Ebay, but good luck finding one for a specific project at the time you want to make it! There are surely computer programs for embroidery transfer design these days, but I did it the old-fashioned way:

First I made a paper pattern by taping pieces of ordinary white paper together to the correct size, then marked both a photocopy of the booklet pattern and my paper pattern with a grid to get the correct placement of the leaves:



I made a little leaf stencil out of cardboard, measured the proper placements for the leaves and pencilled around the stencil to get the shapes, then traced them in thick black marker:



I used the paper pattern to cut out the green fabric and the inner cushion fabric (plain white cotton-polyester decorating material), then taped the paper pattern to a window, taped the green fabric over it, and traced the leaves with dressmaker’s chalk — luckily, it was a sunny day, as the green fabric is not naturally very transparent. Then I added the inner details freehand:



And it worked! A washable marker would have been better, but I didn’t have one.

The embroidery itself is stem-stitch with a couple of loop-stitch and satin-stitch details, which was within my limited ability. Still, it was difficult to get the stitches even and the shapes symmetrical. Here are two photos from the work-in-progress — the leaves in the bottom row are quite wobbly, and the double leaves are very uneven, but I am happy with the spotted leaf in the next row up from that.


After the embroidery was finished, it was time to make the piping! Stitchcraft didn’t give specific instructions how to do that, just to “make up piping using extra fabric.” Luckily, I have this wonderful book that I borrowed from a friend, which not only helped me with the embroidery, but has a page on making up piping. You have to make a long bias strip and sew it around the cord… not as complicated as I thought.


And that was it! I made a simple cushion of cheap cotton/polyester fabric stuffed with fluffy stuff and made up the cover with the piping and a zipper.

Seeing that this was my first time really embroidering, first time making piping, and even the first time making a cushion, I am very happy with the results.