Just when you think you’ve thought of everything a design could do, you guys come along and take it in a wonderfully bonkers new direction. We mentioned when we released our Apothecary designs that you could remove the background fill to make them light stitching for pillows. What we never imagined is just what kind of pillows those would turn out to be!
This week’s featured project comes from Allegra, who took our designs and made them into these amazing giant bottle pillows! Neat, all your snake oil remedies now come in conveniently huggable form. Allegra tells us a little about what sparked this cool incarnation, and what went into making them…
This is such a cool incarnation of the designs! What brought you to this idea?
I not sure I could tell you where the idea came from! I have terrible problems getting to sleep, and quite frequently spend hours lying awake in the darkness. So I try and think of fun ideas to keep my brain occupied.
I’ve been really into steampunk for ages now, and one day just before Christmas I had been browsing your lovely steampunky, Victorian-y designs. I’d seen the apothecary labels and been really impressed with them, so when I was lying awake that night I started thinking about what I could stitch them onto. Somewhere in there, the idea of making cushions shaped like medicine bottles jumped out of the night and into my brain, and I decided it had to be done!
Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?
I decided to use the designs for Love Potion, Ether, Tonic, Miracle Cure, Elixir and Liniment because they were the ones that I thought looked most like actual bottle labels. I’m not sure how long they took all together.
With each of them I cut large, square pieces of fabric out of old bedsheets (it’s all about upcycling!) and backed them with lots and lots of stabiliser. Then I just let the machine do its thing! It took maybe an hour or two to stitch out each design. I didn’t want the embroidery to be too ‘heavy’, so I left out the background colours and just stitched the black parts.
After that was done, I’d move on to worrying about the shapes of the cushions themselves
Did you make up the pillow shapes on your own? How did those come together?
I started by looking at lots and lots of pictures of actual Victorian medicine bottles. I had already decided that I wanted to do six different designs, so I looked at pictures and doodled on the back of an envelope until I had six distinctive shapes.
I’m really not the kind of person that tries to make everything absolutely perfect, so when the designs were stitched out I just laid the fabric squares out on the floor and drew the bottle shapes around the embroideries with a pencil. Once I’d cut them out, I traced the shapes onto pattern-making card and used those as templates to cut out the back pieces (and to make more bottles!).
Then it was just a matter of sewing the back and front together around most of the way, stuffing them full of fluffy stuff and closing them up by hand.
Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?
The stuffing was probably the biggest problem. I knew I wanted to use recycled toy stuffing, and it took me a little while to find somewhere that I could get it.
And stuffing the cushions took -way- longer than I thought it would do—mainly because I’d chosen to leave the tops of the bottles open, and so all of the stuffing had to be pushed through the narrow ‘necks’ of the bottles. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was very useful in stopping me from going out of my mind while I was doing that!
Still, I think it was probably the best way to do it. If I’d left the bottoms open, I would have spent the rest of my life fighting with fluffy white stuffing to get them closed.
As for advice, I’d say just go for it.
Seriously, I just sort of learn on my feet by experimenting and making mistakes. Most of the time I only have a vague idea of where I’m going, and just wait to see how it turns out!
Have you shown anyone your beautiful pillows and all that embroidery? What are the reactions?
Everyone that’s seen them so far has been really nice about them—but then, most of the people I know are used to being presented with strange, Victorian embroideries and having me look at them with wide, expectant eyes.
I’m really fascinated by all things alchemy, and I wanted to get something of that fascination across in these strange bottle-cushions. That was the most important thing for me while I was working on them and photographing them. And, from the feedback I’ve had so far, I think I managed to get a little bit of the wonder of science-meeting-magic across, so I’m happy!
What are your plans for your beautiful apothecary pillows?
Well, these ones are currently for sale in my Etsy store, and I’ll be making more like them as and when I can find more white/cream colored fabric (old bedsheets from charity shops are the best!).
I also have some different colored sheets, and plans to make brown and green-coloured bottles. I just need to figure out how to make the designs really visible on darker-colored fabric. At the moment, I’m thinking that I’ll do it either by including the background colors in the designs, stitching the text in white or cream, or trying to improvise some kind of appliqué work-around.
What’s your next project going to be?
I’m not sure just yet! I do a lot of my own embroidery designs—many of which are based on early hot air balloons. I find them utterly beautiful. They really capture the spirit of wonder that was around at the beginning of the Romantic Age. And, because I’m really into steampunk, I’m always looking for ways to combine things like that with more modern and futuristic elements.
One of the ideas I’m knocking around at the moment is to upcycle duvet covers and pillow cases wholesale instead of just cutting them up. I’ve been looking at some of the photographs of nebulas taken by the Hubble telescope, and wondering if it’s possible to dye duvet covers in some of those shifting, wonderful colors. If it works, then I may stitch a simple, sketch-like hot air balloon or two onto it–drifting through the stars.
This may well end in a tangled knot of embroidery thread and purple and blue dye all over my kitchen floor, but you never know until you try, right?
Seriously, would these not be the very best things you could receive when you’re feeling under the weather? Just snuggle with some tonic and feel all better. Thanks Allegra for thinking up such an beautifully simple idea that none of the rest of us thought of, and for your awesomely moody photos. Can’t wait to see what your next brainwave will bring!
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