Introduction: Peacock Cushions

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

In this tutorial I'm fixing up the seating for a very fancy mobility device: The Jazzy Peacock Scooter. The glamour photos of the finished scooter are almost ready- but in the meantime, here's a sneak peek at the peacock's head! (He's mounted on the scooter's back.)

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 velvet backing, in part 10 I finished the peacock fan and seat cushion and in part 11 I made lumbar supports. This is part 12. Welcome!

Here are the tools I used:

Size 14 universal sewing needles.

Black polyester thread

Millinery hand needles

Grey and navy pre-cut waxed thread (also called polymide thread)

A sewing machine (my trusty Bernina 1020)

Sharp scissors

Quilting pins (the long kind)

Thrift store stretch velour, left over from another mobility piece

The peacock seat feathers from part 10 and the cushions from part 11.

If you want to know why I'm re-upholstering a Jazzy Power Scooter, check out my mobility art at Dreams by Machine. The Jazzy Peacock will be part of a group exhibit I'm co-curating called Opulent Mobility. Check out the details in my e-newsletter and maybe even visit the Jazzy Peacock Scooter in person! The exhibit runs September 9-19th at California State University, Northridge's West Gallery and the artist reception is Saturday, September 12th from 4-8 PM.

Step 1: Cushion Melding

Here's the finished lumbar support and seat cushion from the last Instructable. I finished off all the edges of the lumbar support cushion, but left some seam allowance on one edge of the butt cushion. That's what I used to join the two together.

First off, I laid the lumbar cushion on top of the butt cushion and placed it so that little edge of finished green velour just covered the unfinished edge. Then I pinned it in place, took it to the sewing machine and stitched them together. I sewed just above the green velour's finished edge. This method is called "stitching in the ditch" and it's also great for finishing off collars, cuffs and welt pockets. Sewing right along the edge of a finished seam line makes the stitching almost invisible.

Once I stitched the cushions together, I turned them over to the green velour backed side and got ready to hand sew.

Step 2: Slip Stitching the Back

I rolled the unfinished edge of green velour from the butt cushion over and pinned it down to the backing on the lumbar support cushion. Then I threaded up a millinery needle with grey polymide thread, knotted it off and got to slip stitching.

Slip stitching is a classic hand sewing technique. It's great for sewing down trim, finishing off edges and putting in linings. The idea is to slip the needle in the folded edge of the seam allowance, then take a small "bite" out of the backing fabric, then repeat until you're done with the seam. If you take small stitches and don't pull the thread too tightly, the seam is almost invisible.

I wasn't quite that careful, because it wasn't so important to make the seam invisible. This is the back of the cushion, after all. It was more important that the seam was secure. So I did a sort of cross between a slip stitch and a whip stitch. Whip stitching means taking bigger "bites" of fabric out on both sides of each stitch. It makes the seam less pretty, but very secure. I split the difference, taking slightly bigger stitches on both sides.

After sewing for a couple of inches, I set the cushions up so the seam formed a ridge. This seam goes into the back edge of the mobility scooter's seat. It holds the pieces together but also acts like a hinge between the lumbar and seat cushion. If I sewed too tight, the cushions wouldn't bend nicely at the seam. So I put the cushions in a "hinged position", re-pinned in a few places and finished hand sewing.

Step 3: Cushion and Feather Melding

Once I finished sewing the lumber and butt cushions together it was time to add in the quilted feather part of the seat. I did another dry-fitting on the mobility scooter, laying the feathery portion down so the feather tips just brushed the tops of the front wheels. Then I laid the upper seat cushions into position. This took a little while, since I wanted the feathers to look like they were sprouting out of the bottom of the butt cushion. Then I pinned it down securely and took it to the sewing machine.

Sewing this part down took a couple of extra steps. I could sew the green velour rolled edges down the same way I did before, using a straight stitch. But the center part, around the dark blue velvet ovals, was finished off with a black zig-zag stitch. So I planned on straight stitching the green velour bits and zig-zagging the oval bits down. First, though, I had to figure out how to get the whole thing under the needle! Home sewing machines don't have a lot of space between the foot and the rest of the machine. And most of them seem to be designed for right-handed people. (Check out the picture.)

Luckily these cushions are reasonably flexible and I could fold them and bend them to make enough room for me to sew the seam without accidentally catching any of the feathery tips. But it took some prep time. I lifted the needle and machine foot up to their highest position, then wiggled the cushion under the needle until I got to the area I wanted to sew. I put the feathery ends to the right, because they rolled up easier than the cushions. Then I carefully started sewing one side of the finished green velour edges down. I used a straight stitch and went slowly, holding the rolled feathers out of the way of the needle, and back stitched at the beginning and end of the seam. I re-positioned everything when I got to the center, changed the machine to zig-zag and stitched that section down. Then I re-positioned everything again, changed the machine back to a straight stitch and sewed down the remaining section. I put the needle and foot back up, wiggled the whole mess out and trimmed off my threads.

It's amazing what you can shove under a sewing machine if you take a little time to prepare.

Step 4: Slip Stitching Feathers to Finish

Once I rescued my seat padding from the machine, I could get on to finishing off my seams.

I finished off the lumbar cushions completely because I knew part of the backing would be visible in my finished project. I did the same on the seat cushion just because that matched. But the feathery bit was backed in a pretty ordinary blue twill because that part wouldn't show. It was also longer than it needed to be. That wasn't a problem, since adding a little extra padding to the butt cushion would only make it more comfy. I still wanted the edges sewn down so they wouldn't flop around.

So I folded the unfinished edge of the twill down, pinned it into place and slip stitched it using navy blue polymide thread. By the way, pre-cut, pre-waxed thread is a serious time saver when you're doing a lot of hand sewing. It doesn't tangle up or knot while you're sewing! It's more expensive than standard sewing thread, but it saves me in time and keeps me from cursing my work and flouncing off in a huff.

Voila! Finished padded peacock seating! I did a final check on the mobility scooter. The cushions didn't cover the entire grey vinyl seat, but that didn't matter. I had plans to slipcover them in a lovely blue fleece- and I'll show you that part next time.