Introduction: Peacock Head and Neck

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

Check it out! We have glamour shots of the Jazzy Peacock! Thanks so much to Heidi Marie for her great work. (Yeah, I know I did the work on the scooter. But good pictures are CRUCIAL.)

Of course, after I got the pictures I decided to burnish the tires in gold. It's kind of like an actor changing his/her hairstyle right after getting new head shots. No worries. There will be pictures of it in action at the exhibit!

In this tutorial I'll show you how I made the stuffed peacock head and neck.

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 backed the fan with velvet, in part 10 I finished the peacock fan and seat cushion and in part 11 I made lumbar supports. Part 12 was all about combining the seating and part 13 I reinforced the fan, slipcovered the scooter and made a little change in direction. Welcome to part 14- the peacock!

Here are the tools I used:
Millinery hand needles

Curved upholstery needle

Heavy duty cream-colored thread

Black polyester thread

Navy pre-cut waxed thread (also called polymide thread)

Sharp scissors

Quilting pins (the long kind)

Leftover black felt (about 2/3 yards)

2 thrift store pillows worth of stuffing

Donated dark olive green textured velvet

4 black chenille pipe cleaners

2 pearl and filigree buttons

Fuzzy cream velcro (about 2 1/2")

A blue nubbly thrift store skirt left over from making peacock eyes

Leftover blue and green polyester organza from a TV day gig (1/4 yard each)

Donated blue silk velvet remnants (about 4 yards total)

And a slow couple of weeks on the day gig! Thanks for letting me decorate peacock topknots in our downtime, guys.

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. (There's full details on the site.) Come on out and 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: Peacock Base, Eyes and Face

Of course I got all excited and started making the peacock body base without taking pictures! Hopefully the ones I have will do. First I did some research to figure out the peacock shape and then I measured the back of my scooter seat to figure out how tall I wanted the bird to be. Once I had the shape mapped out I built a basic body, beak and head in black felt and stuffed it with 2 thrift pillows worth of batting.

PS: Thrift store pillows are great! Just wash them and dry them before using. Hanging them outside in full sun gets them dry pretty fast.

I covered the beak and face area with pieces of an old towel and whip stitched the edges down. Then I dug through my fabric stash to find peacock fabrics. I outlined the top of the head and shaped the eyes from a donated piece of dark green textured velvet. This looked a little like the bumpy area on top of a peacock's head. It wasn't peacock colored, but it was a nice contrast to the terry cloth face and would accent the blue fabrics I wanted to use for the rest of the body. I slip-stitched the velvet over the terrycloth face and whip stitched the edges under the beak, on top of the head and around the eyes. Those edges would get hidden under other fabrics. I went through my button box to find some lovely "pearl" and filigree buttons to use for eyes. Then I outlined the beak with a piece of yarn that matched the velvet pretty well. That part got whip stitched down, since the yarn was fuzzy enough to hide most of the stitches. After that, I pinned outlines for the peacock's nostrils.

It took a while to figure out what to use to outline the eyes, but I found black chenille pipe cleaners in my kit. Excellent! Pipe cleaners are easy to shape and made a crisp edge to the peacock's Egyptian looking eyes. I shaped the pipe cleaners around the dark green velvet eyes shapes and sewed both of them down with plain black thread. I used a whip stitch, which made little ridges in the chenille but was mostly concealed by the fuzzy texture.

Step 2: Peacock Beak and Nostrils

The next step was to make the nostrils and to sculpt the peacock's beak. I dug some cream colored Velcro out of my notions stash and used the fuzzy side to make the teardrop-shaped nostrils. Once I cut them out, I took out the pins I'd used to mark the nostril area and pinned the Velcro in their place. I threaded up my milliner's needle with heavy duty cream-colored thread and did a reasonably pretty whip stitch around the edges.

(There's no good way to fold under the edges of Velcro. A pretty whip stitch is about the best you can hope for.)

Once I stitched down one nostril, I squeezed the beak together and pushed my needle all the way through the beak to the other nostril. I sewed down a little bit of the nostril on the second side, then pushed my needle back through to the other nostril again. Check out photo #6 to see this clearly! I wanted to create the upper ridge of the beak, and the stitching did the trick. I sewed back and forth a couple of times and finished stitching around the second nostril, and then continued to sculpt the beak ridge by stitching back and forth through the terrycloth and the beak's stuffing. When I got to the tip of the beak, I stitched my way back up the beak and knotted off my thread by the nostrils, where it wouldn't be too visible.

Step 3: Upper Beak Shaping and Body Slipcovering

Now it was time to shape the beak's upper ridge. I used the same technique and hid my stitches at the edge of the dark green velvet. Now my peacock had some shape and character to his face, and looked a lot less like a dinosaur. Sure, birds are really closely related to dinosaurs. I still wanted the peacock to look like a peacock!

After sculpting the beak, I pulled out my nubbly blue skirt pieces and pinned them around the peacock's body to cover up the black felt. I planned on covering most of the peacock with "feathers", but at this point I hadn't decided how I would make them. There was a good possibility that some of the peacock base would show under the feathers, no matter what method I used. The black felt was a great base but it just wasn't very, well, peacock-like. The nubbly blue stuff was a pretty good choice, and I'd already used it on some of my peacock feather "eyes".

I draped the blue over the peacock's body and created seams where I needed to to make the body covering fit nice and smoothly. At the seams, I trimmed off any excess fabric, turned the raw edges under and pinned them into place over the rest of the fabric.

In sewing terms, raw edges are the cut, unfinished edges of the fabric.

Once most of the body was shaped and pinned, I trimmed off the extra fabric around the top of the peacock's head, folded those raw edges down and pinned them right at the edge of the dark green velvet. Then I got out the milliner's needle and the navy blue polymide thread and sewed all the edges down and all the seams closed. I whip stitched these edges, since my stitching was almost entirely hidden by the texture of the blue fabric.

Step 4: Sparkly Peacock Topknots

I did some more research on peacock heads and necks before decorating my bird. The top of peacock heads and underneath their beaks are nubbly and bumpy looking. It's more scaly than feathery. The colors vary a lot too, depending on which angle you look at.

I dug around in my fabric stash and came up with some turquoise and royal blue sparkly polyester organza. It's also called sparkle sheer and normally I HATE working with it. It frays almost instantly when you cut it and the cut edges are unpleasantly prickly. Layering the blue over the turquoise made the perfect peacock color, though, and the shimmery sheer quality was exactly what I was looking for.

I used a technique that's also used to make fabric "rosebuds" or flowers. Once I laid the blue over the turquoise, I threaded up a milliner's needle in navy blue polymide and sewed small circles at one corner of the fabric through both layers, using big stitches. This is called a basting or gathering stitch. After sewing I pulled the thread tight and voila! I got little peacock top knots! I made a few more, then pinned the top knot edges to the top of the peacock head. Then I used the rest of my thread to sew the top knots down. I took little bites of the fabric and hid the stitches in between the knots. This sewing method held the knots in place while maintaining their puffy texture.

I continued making knots and sewing each one down around both sides of the head, then worked my way across the top of the head. For the middle portions I switched to a curved needle, which made it easier for me to sew in between each knot and catch them securely to the top of the head. I worked in rows, varying the side of my basted circles so the knots wouldn't get too even. About mid-way through making knots, I trimmed off a big section of the fabric off the back because I wanted to use the rest of the sparkle sheer underneath the beak. I also took another look at my peacock research and decided that the pearl button eyes were too light, so I colored the buttons in with a black Sharpie. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

Step 5: Sparkly Peacock Jowls

Now it was time to decorate the peacock's neck. I laid out my sparkle sheer again, with the blue on top of the turquoise, and made a long row of knots. Then I pinned them under the beak and around the sides to meet up with the finished area on top of the head. I sewed those knots into position, using the curved needle.

Curved needles aren't as easy to control as straight ones, but they're perfect for digging into odd curved areas. Plus the curve of the needle made it very simple to make my basted circles!

I took a moment to check out the bird head against my feather fan. The colors looked great together, and they were just different enough to make it interesting. All that fabric hanging from under the beak made my bird look like it had long jowls, or maybe a very fancy bib. There was also a lot of extra fabric and I wasn't sure if the knotting technique would work to get rid of it all! One of the nice things about working on a 3-D shape, though, is that the shape helps define what steps to take. I figured I'd find new ways to gather up the fabric as I sewed.

I did a few rows of knotting, working from side to side and finishing off the edges as I got to the end of each side. As I knotted, more and more fabric collected under the chin. in some areas I just bunched areas of the fabric up and stitched it to the peacock's neck instead of sewing circular knots. In other places I used the top knot technique. Blending these methods made a really nice, irregular and natural looking texture.

I kept going until I ran out of those pieces of fabric. The neck area wasn't even, but nature isn't even either. Plus I had other plans for the rest of the peacock's head. Time to get out the velvet!

Step 6: Velvety Peacock Topknots

I used one of the darker pieces of silk velvet to decorate the next part of the head and down the back of the neck. Silk velvet is a lot heavier and thicker than sparkle sheer, and it bunches up beautifully. I made one row of velvet top knots and sewed them right at the edge of the sparkle sheer. Then I was able to pin the velvet into folds and bunches without having to make any gathering stitches.

I used the curved needle again to sew down the knot edges, in between the knots and at all the pinned points. The knot technique worked best along the sides and edges of the head. Bunching and pinning worked best when covering smaller areas like the very top of the head. I alternated methods as I worked my way down the back of the head and the area to cover got wider.

I used a couple of different techniques to finish off the bottom edge of the velvet. I wanted these edges to start to look more feathery instead of bumpy or scaly. In some places, I made a larger basted circle, tightened the thread and pinned down the center "bubble" of each knot to the peacock's neck. In other areas the velvet wasn't long enough to sew in larger circles. In those places, I folded under the raw edge of the fabric and pinned it to the neck in little gathers. Then I sewed them down with a slip stitch. For this part, I went back to the milliner's needle so I would have more control over my stitching.

Did all of this take a long time? Of course. But it was relaxing and almost Zen-like. Each knot and bunch led to the next one, and the process was more like sculpting than sewing. Plus the velvet was so soft and cushy!

Step 7: Peacock Pleating

I loved the top knots on the head and neck, but wanted a different technique to decorate the rest of the body. Peacock body feathers are more streamlined and smooth than the nubbly bumps on the head and neck. I thought up some other ways to make individual feathers. Gathering little fans or cutting the edges of feather shapes with pinking shears and overlapping them would work, but the samples I tried just didn't look right Then I thought of draping the body with velvet pleats. Perfect! I had a lot of different blue velvet pieces and I could make a flowing pattern over the body.

I cut some of my velvet pieces into triangles and bias draped them over the body into tiny pleats, pinning each ridge to keep them separate. Bias draping means draping along the diagonal instead of up and down or straight across the fabric. Bias draped pleats stretch a little and sculpt themselves beautifully over curves. Think of bias draped dresses from the 1930's in all their body-hugging glory!

I started draping at the front neck with my first piece of deep blue velvet and pinned pleats until I ran out of fabric. Then I cut off another chunk of velvet, this time a turquoise blue with magenta undertones. I folded one raw edge over the cut edge of the darker blue, pinned it into place and kept on pleating. I repeated the process with different bits of velvet, sometimes pleating in opposite directions. If I changed directions with my pleats, I left a little room and some extra velvet before starting the next section of pleating. That way, when I got to stitching the pleats down I could sew one edge down, pin the extra velvet over the sewn section and then sew the new part into place (See picture #4).

For the chest and belly area I used a larger piece of dark blue velvet and tried a slightly different method, pinning the pleats upwards in the center and radiating out and down to the sides and bottom. It made an interesting upside-down "v" shape that broke up the bigger area nicely.

Then it was ready to sew the pleats in place. I took out my needles and navy polymide and got to stitching.

Step 8: Sewing Peacock Pleats

There were some edges of velvet on the bird's tummy that weren't covered with velvet yet. I whip stitched those parts down first. I used a milliner's needle and a double thread, because the area was reasonably flat and easy to sew. I knew these edges would get covered with velvet eventually, so I didn't worry about making neat stitches. It was more important to make them secure.

Sewing the pinned pleats was a different story. I switched to the curved needle and a single thread, knotting my ends off in between 2 overlapping pieces of velvet. I aimed the needle so the point would come up in between each pleat, right around the pin. Then I made a small back stitch, which means I made my stitch a little bit in back of where the needle came out. Then I repeated the process over and over and over again. There are a lot of pleats on this bird! This method was secure and strong, and since the stitching was hidden in the folds of the pleats it was practically invisible.

When I came to the areas where one piece of velvet was folded over another, I did a gentle running back stitch to hold the fold in place and keep the raw edges from coming out. That means taking slightly larger stitches underneath the fold, back stitching a very little bit on top of the fold and pulling the thread very gently so the fold doesn't ripple or get smashed down. It's sometimes also called a prick stitch. It's not very durable but it is extra pretty.

When most of the bird was sewn, I took the leftover bit of belly velvet and pulled it over the peacock's tummy.

Step 9: Final Peacock Pleating

The final bit of pleating over the peacocks tummy was just like the rest of the pleating, except that I got better pictures of each step!

First I pulled the velvet on the bias and pinned in my pleats, one by one. When I got to the end of a section, I trimmed off the excess bits of velvet, folded under the raw edges and pinned each end down. When I finished the pleats, I trimmed off the final bit of velvet, folded my raw edges over and pinned each side of the fold down tightly. Then I stitched everything down. I used the curved needle to secure the pleat folds and the milliner's needle to sew the folded edges. These ends got whip stitched down, because they were underneath the belly and wouldn't be really visible.

The last 3 pictures show the finished, stitched pleating on the belly, the back of the neck and at the base of the bird. I left the very bottom unfinished because the bird would be sewn to the back of the scooter and none of those ends would show. Woo hoo! It was time to take a final look at my peacock and check for finishing touches.

Step 10: Velvety Peacock Finishing

After checking the peacock over, I found a few spots that needed extra stitching to cover up the raw velvet edges. I slip stitched those down and took another look at the bird.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the throat area. The sparkle sheer knots looked great with the draped velvet pleating, but it ended with a strange inverted v-shape. I had some extra pieces of the shot turquoise and magenta velvet, so I started making velvet knots and filling in the v-shape.

It looked great and I still had fabric left, so I kept on going. I made more knots, using the gathered circle technique, and sewed them down to the peacock’s throat. The plan was to extend the knotted area so it created a low, scooped neckline. When I reached the end of the velvet, I made a row of larger gathered circles that finished off all the raw velvet edges. Then I tacked down the centers of each circle so they created a more feathery edge, just like the ones I made at the back neck.

Voila! The peacock was almost ready to attach to the scooter. All it needed was a fine crest of top feathers.