Introduction: Into the Fray(ed Edges)

About: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.

Hi! I'm A. Laura Brody . In this tutorial I'm finishing off the edges of my faux peacock feather fan, then re-backing and fraying the edges of a matching seat cushion.

This project will turn a Jazzy Power Scooter into a Jazzy Peacock Scooter.

If you want to follow the project from start to finish, check out my other instructables. Making the peacock feather "eye" was part 1. I formed the "spine" and "ribcage" of the feather in part 2, uncovered hidden golden trim in part 3, sewed down the velvet with gold in the 4th, brought in some blue in the 5th, fully fronded the feather in the 6th, quilted the eyes in part 7 and quilted the fronds in part 8. In part 9 I stabilized all that quilting and gave the fan a lovely velvet backing.This is part 10. Welcome!

The tools:

Size 14 universal sewing needles.

Black polyester thread

A sewing machine

Sharp scissors

Quilting pins (the long kind)

Tape lint roller

Remnant blue cotton twill fabric

Nubbly blue knit fabric from a thrift store skirt

Iron and ironing board

An awl

A piece of cardboard (I used an old notebook back)

And the peacock feather fan from steps 1-9.

If you want to know why I'm re-upholstering a Jazzy Power Scooter, check out my mobility art at Dreams by Machine. To submit YOUR mobility art and inventions to Opulent Mobility check out the call for submissions. The deadline is June 30th, 5 PM PST. There's still time to whip your work into shape...

I had best get cracking if I want to make my own deadline!

Step 1: Fuzzing the Fan Edges

In the last tutorial I straight stitched around the edges of the feather fan and trimmed the extra fabric away just outside of my stitching lines. Now it's time for finishing off the outside edges.

I thread the sewing machine in black and set it to a narrow, tight zig-zag stitch (a number 2 width and a number 1 length). I sew all the way around the fan edges just inside of my original straight stitched lines. This leaves about 1/8" of unfinished cut velvet on the outside of the fan.

The velvet frays really easily. All I have to do is rub against the edges with my fingernails and the tiny fluffs of velvet come right off, leaving me with a slightly fuzzy outside edge. I then clean off all the fuzzy bits with a combination of a tape lint roller and packing tape.

It'shard to see black stitching on dark fabric, but you can tell the final effect from the above pictures. The edge of the fan is finished but slightly fuzzy, which adds a final feathery touch to the outer edges.

This fan will go on the Jazzy Power Scooter's seat back. It will extend from about the middle of the seat (at about rib height) and splay out over the top of the headrest like a peacock's tail feathers.

Step 2: Prepping the Seat Backing

This peacock seat cushion was my first try at backing up quilted faux feathers. It turned out nicely on top, but the tee shirt jersey backing I used doesn't look so good. Now I want to re-cover it with a sturdy blue twill that will hold up over time. This piece is meant to be sat upon, so twill is a better choice than velvet.

One benefit of the tee shirt material is that it's pale, and I quilted with darker threads. This means it's easier to see the quilting than it was on the feather fan. I also made a smaller feathery area that wasn't wide enough to fully cover the scooter's seat. So I used a contrasting nubbly blue knit fabric from a thrift store skirt (left over from making the peacock feather "eyes") to create uneven quilted ridges on either side of the feathers. This filled in the missing areas and will make the seat much more comfortable.

To back this up, I lay out the blue twill fabric on my work table with the textured side down. I smooth it out, then lay the feathery seat on top with the fancy side up, making sure that the twill extends past the edges all the way around. I start pinning from the middle edges, getting the top and bottom smoothly into place, and work my way out to the sides.

This piece is already backed, so it's pretty secure and doesn't need much stabilizing. Pinning the outside edges is good enough to get started. I will pin more of the twill side down in the next step while I quilt everything together.

Step 3: Quilting and Trimming the Seat

I set my sewing machine to a medium length straight stitch (about 2.5) and adjust the needle position so the stitch can get as close as possible to the outside quilted edges of my seat. Working from the fancy feathered side, I sew the sides down first. Then I readjust the needle position to center, position the needle over the stitching line of the next quilted ridge and sew it down. I sew 2-3 ridges down on each side and turn the cushion over.

The outermost quilted ridges are pretty easy to sew. The feathered part of the seat is trickier and needs more stabilizing, so here's where I get pinning. I pin about 2 inches away from my previous stitch lines, smoothing out the twill as I go. I turn the seat to the front side and stitch the next couple of ridges down, cut my threads and then turn it over again so I can move my pins closer to the center of the seat.

When I finish quilting the ridges, I turn the seat to the twill side and move on to the feathery section. I run my fingers over the center of the seat to feel for the thicker padding on the feather spines. I pin the twill to the back of the spines, turn the seat back over, then stitch down the low areas of the feather fronds.

This area is more difficult to sew than the ridged part, so I take my time. I turn the seat over regularly to move the pins, since I can't see them while I'm quilting and I'd rather not catch the pin heads in my sewing machine. Of course I miss a few. But I only broke 2 needles this time.

Once everything is quilted down, I straight stitch around the feather tips. I keep it simple and sew a sort of onion dome shape around each feather's eye, keeping about a 1/2 inch outside of the feathery fronds. I carefully lift up the velvet and blue knit fabric from the twill backing and trim them very close to my seam line.

I re-set the sewing machine to a short, tight zig-zag and stitch down all the velvet and knit edges to secure them. I iron the seat from the twill side, turn the seat over to the fancy side and trim the twill backing about 1/2" to 3/4" inches away from the zig-zagged edges.

Now I'm ready to fray.

Step 4: Fraying the Twill

Fraying the outside edges of the twill backing will give my edges a nice feathery effect. It's a slow process, but twill frays pretty easily.

First I lay out cardboard on my work table. This will protect the surface from the awl point. I'm using the back cover of an old notebook, but any durable cardboard will work. I then choose an edge to fray and take out the awl (see the first picture). Awls are usually used to poke holes in things, but they're also great at separating individual fibers and mine has a comfortable rounded base that fits nicely in my palm.

If you don't have an awl, any pointy edged tool will work. I've used big crafting needles and metal skewers too.

I use the awl point to separate the twill threads from each other. On some of the tips the fibers come out completely, which is fine. There's plenty of other threads to make the edges feathery. In other areas, I need to cut little snips into the twill to make them fray more easily. As long as I'm not cutting into the zig-zagged edges of the velvet, it's not a problem. That zig-zagging keeps the twill from fraying any further. I keep snipping, poking and fraying may way around the seat cushion until the sides and top are all frayed. The base of the cushion gets left alone.

By the way: zig-zagging an edge and fraying outside that edge is a classic technique. It's used for scarf ends, table cloths, kilt hems and a whole host of other projects. It's a fun effect.

Excellent! Now the feather fan and the seat cushion are ready to go. Next time I'll show you the lumbar support and butt pad.

Since my deadline is coming up soon, I will need to take a little break from Instructables while I get the Jazzy Peacock ready for photos. But I promise to come back after June 30th to show you the completed project and all the steps!