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Making a fabric heart banner
by Barbara Strembicki, January 2010

I love fabric.  More years ago than I care to remember (ok, more than 30) I started my creative career making quilts.  Though I don't make quilts in the traditional sense any longer, I still love fabric and use it in small art quilties and other projects.  I particularly love the colors and prints in the Mill House Inn line designed by Joanna Figeuora for Moda fabrics.  Leading up to Valentine's Day 2010 I was searching for a project that incorporated a heart or hearts and that I could use some of the Mill House Inn fabrics on. 

I sat doodling some heart shapes and realized that I could cut and sew hearts from the fabric.  Then it dawned on me to stuff them like little heart pillows... and that morphed to stringing the fat little heart pillows into a banner.  And before I knew it there were fabric hearts all over my studio work table... plus beads, buttons, ribbon, cording, and a whole lot more.  When it comes to embellishments I subscribe to the "more is more" theory.  Less is more just doesn't work for me!

There are 6 hearts in my banner and they're simple to trace, stitch, sew, and stuff.  Which is good, because once you've done those things comes the really fun part which is embellishing the living heck out of them!  Here's how I made mine...

Place two pieces of fabric right sides together and trace the heart outline.  The traced line will be your sewing line so be sure to use a large enough piece of fabric to allow for a 1/4" seam allowance outside that sewing line.

Stitch around the heart, right on the line you drew, leaving an opening that's about an 1.5" to 2" along one of the straight sides.  You want to make it large enough so you can get the fiberfill inside, but not too long since you're going to sew it closed by hand once the heart is stuffed.  The shorter the length you need to close the better I say... and closing a straight line is much simpler than trying to do it on a curve.

Once it's sewn, cut out the heart about 1/4" away from your stitched line.  Clip all of the curves, plus down into the V at the top.  Nip off the point at the bottom, then turn it right-side out and stuff till your satisfied with the plumpness and the way the heart looks.  Sew the opening closed with your choice of hidden stitch - I used a ladder stitch which is a holdover from my doll making days.

I rarely do anything "small" and these hearts were no different... not content to make one or two... or even four.  I made a bunch!  I'm so enamored with these fabrics that I couldn't settle on one or two of them, I just had to use some of nearly the entire line.

Laying them out to see which work together the best and with what corde twist and Tussie Mussie coordinate with the fabric.  Let the fun begin!

Jess received a sewing machine for her 6th (I think it was) birthday.  She had been pestering me to sew and of course every time she wanted to sew was, you guessed it, when I was in the middle of using the machine.  So we bought her a very entry level Viking machine that she used... maybe two or three times.  I could never get her to sew on it and to this day she firmly believes that there are mean spirits that live in any and all machines.  So... I suggested that she pick a few of the group I made so she could make a banner too.  She got as far as these five, strung them together with some 7mm Thread Gatherer silk ribbon, and that was it.  Usually fearless unless faced with fabric, ribbon, fiberfill and the like, she bailed out of "her"
 banner.  I like what she started however and so will complete it.  More on that later...

Being unwilling to work with the hearts didn't stop her from taking photos while I was... here I'm attaching a sentiment that I wrote on some muslin with a Micron Pigma pen.  I'm trying for a soft, romantic look that's very informal and loose.

You can see the heart with the sentiment attached and a couple of Prima velvet leaves tucked behind it.  I tend to take out a bunch of stuff so I can test bits and pieces as I go along.  While it makes for a messy table, it feeds my creativity and is a good way for me to work.

I sewed the sentiment on by tacking it with #8 perle cotton and tying simple overhand knots.  I left the tails long in case I wanted to string a bead or two on them.  I liked the leaves and then wanted to add something more.  A mother of pearl button was auditioned first, but...

I've got a Czech glass button that I want to use instead.  Rather than try and sew it down, I decided to bend the shank over till it was flat against the back of the button and glue it down.  I'm using Gem Tac to adhere it to the surface of the heart.

Holding the button in place for a moment while the glue sets up...

Looking good so far!

I decided that some cheesecloth would provide that timeworn, vintage look, but quickly realized that the white color that is the cheesecloth as it comes out of the box was too stark.  No problem, I can fix that... making a quick wash of water and some paint.  I have about a half a cup of water in this container and thought I'd get the correct color using burnt umber light from the Golden Fluid Acrylic line, but quickly realized that was too brown...

So I added Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide for more of a golden color.  Mix with one finger...

Dunk the cheesecloth in, swish it around for a moment, then wring it out.

I dried it on by pressing with a hot iron and as you can see, the color difference is small.  You would need to add additional paint to strengthen the final color of the cheesecloth.  All I was trying to accomplish was to tone down the brightness of the white.

While I had the solution on the table I decided to give a piece of muslin a paint bath too...


Press it dry or let it air dry and voila, you've got some color to work with!

I took some of the freshly colored cheesecloth, hacked off a piece, and then scrunched it a bit before I tacked it to the heart.  Add some mother of pearl buttons, a leaf, and a tulip flower bead and it makes a nice little arrangement.  I tied the bead to the center of the large mother of pearl button with some perle cotton and left the ends dangling.  Once that section was complete I added size 8/0 and 11/0 seed beads to the open areas of the heart and it was finished.

Working on another heart now and I want to add some cheesecloth to this one too.  I cut a piece off of what I'd given a paint bath and loosely laid it on the heart.  Using some Nymo D, I tacked it down in a few spots which was enough to secure it.  I didn't want to flatten the cheesecloth, just hold it down enough to keep it from shifting.  Some of the edges lift and hang off the edge of the heart which is what I was trying to accomplish.

I've cut some short length of the various fibers from a Tussie Mussie, plus a piece of Corde Twist - both in the color Coral Reef.

Tie together in the middle, add a dollop of The Ultimate glue...

And press in place.  I stitched this down with the same Nymo D, just to make sure it didn't go anywhere.

Add one gorgeous Czech glass button on top of the fiber spray and a mother of pearl one in the midst of the cheesecloth...

Then attach a sentiment, a leaf, some perle cotton danglies and last, but never least, some Swarovski rhinestones.  I love rhinestones almost as much as I love fabric.  When you see the finished banner you may note that this heart isn't included.  I planned to use it and discovered that it coordinated better with the group Jess started so that's where it will eventually live.

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