Saturday, December 15, 2018

How to Stitch a Cute Quilted Cactus

How's your holiday gift production? Here's a fun last-minute idea: Stuffed, maybe quilted cactii. I first made a couple out them of printed quilting fabric, like this Manhattan cactus (no watering required, just occasional dusting), in its own (fabric) custom pot. It's about 4" high.
Then I made one from a plaid scraps, with embroidery thread flowers. It's about 5" high 
I switched over to denim - specifically, worn and washed jeans. Here's a friendly flat cactus, about 5" high. 
Cross stitches serve as quilting, too. In the base, there are dimples, quilted in by machine. It doubles as a pincushion/temper tantrum doll: 
Below, the same idea, but twice as tall (about 10"). Again, cross stitches provide dimples. I accidentally poked a hole in the denim, so I sewed on a patch.  

Here he is sitting in a custom container: 
My method of making those cactii is obvious - cut two layers, wrong sides together. If you want to keep the raw edges showing, sew all the way around with a 1/2" seam allowance leaving only the bottom open.  Use pinking shears to trim seam allowance back to 1/4". Stuff it and go.  

But if you want raw seams turned to the inside (like in the Manhattan and plaid cactus), cut the two layers with right sides together, sew with a 1/4" seam, and clip all the convex curves. Turn right side out through the open bottom. 

Tip for both methods: Invest $4 or so in a curved hemostat. This tool is not a scissors - it's a small clamp that makes stuffing and turning narrow spaces much, much, MUCH easier! I couldn't have done any of these projects without it. 
The next cactus is plumper and more dimensional, with four sides instead of two: 

 Here you can see two of the four sides - one light, and one dark:
 Start off by folding a piece of paper and drawing a half-cactus. 
 Fold and cut out.
Pin it to the fabric. If you're using old jeans, like I did, save time by pinning it to a pants leg, so you can cut two layers at once.
 Cut out the fabric.
Cut two more. Alternating shades make it more interesting. You can use the backs when you need a lighter shade. You'll need four in all.
At the sewing machine, separate the panels into two pairs. Within each pair, place the pieces wrong sides together, Mark at dot at the top center of each, about 1/2" down from the fabric tip. Stitch from that central point down the right side, to the bottom edge, maintaining the 1/2" seam allowance.
Pin if you like before you sew.

Do it again. Now you have two pairs that look something like this.
Flip one pair on top of the other, wrong sides together, and pin as shown, and match the center-top dots.
 Again, start at the top dot, and sew down the sides to the bottom.

When you've sewn all four seams, it will look like this from the top (but less fuzzy, sorry about the photo).

If you stand it up, it might look like this: 
 Trim back the seam allowance using a pinking shears.

Stuff lightly, pushing the stuffing against each seam. You'll do more stuffing later - just do a little now. 
Load up a long sharp needle with strong embroidery thread, craft thread, or perle cotton. 
Starting at the top, stitch from one side all the way through to its opposite side, pulling the thread tight with each stitch.
Work your way down. You might use a backstitch, or just a forward running stitch. You'll have to keep flipping it to visually check that when you plant the needle in the correct place on one side, to make sure it emerges at the correct place on its opposite panel.
 Sew down.
 Stop a couple of inches from the bottom. Next, stitch the two remaining sides. You can either work from the bottom (where you left off), sewing your way up to the tip; or knot and bury the knot at the bottom of your first line, and start again at the top, moving downward.
When you're done, tie a knot in the thread, bury it below the surface, pull up and out, and trim back the thread, massaging the end into the body of the cactus. Use your hemostat and/or a chopstick to add more stuffing into the four compartments you've created. Stuff the base firmly too.

Time to close the base. Set the cactus on a square of denim. Cut it to a square about 1" all the way around.
Tuck it up against the inside of the opening, and stitch the bottom to the bottom of each of the  4 cactus pieces, all the way around.
 Trim back using pinking shears, being careful not to cut stitches.
I played around with a lot of different embellishment ideas for this cactus. These loops were cool, but not sustainable. 

I liked a running with white perle cotton....
A pieced denim planter on bottom looked good! In the next shot, I dressed up the cactus with a flower/brooch (wearable by the giftee)...

And a denim jeans basket on bottom....
I hot glued a jeans seam to the rim, and added belt loops, adorned with belt loops, through which I threaded this lovely embroidered ribbon - and I added snaps to make it changeable. 
 Cute, no?
Have fun making your own cactii! (And custom pots!)


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