Introduction: Peacock Seating

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 making a seat cushion and lumbar support for a mobility scooter. This project turned a Jazzy Power Scooter into a Jazzy Peacock Scooter. Yes, it got done in time! Really good photos of the finished project are coming soon.

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 and in part 10 I finished the peacock fan and seat cushion. This is part 11. Welcome! It's long but there's some juicy tips and tricks in it. I promise.

Here are the tools I used:

Size 14 universal sewing needles.

Black, turquoise blue and bright green polyester thread

A sewing machine

Sharp scissors

Quilting pins (the long kind)

Black cotton twill remnant fabric from a TV show gig

Remnant velvets and stretch velours from friendly donations and thrift store finds

Stuffing from a thrift store pillow

Salvaged golden trim and bits of a blue acrylic scarf (also used in making the peacock feathers)

And the peacock seat feathers from step 10.

If you want to know why I'm re-upholstering a Jazzy Power Scooter, check out my mobility art at Dreams by Machine. It's getting used in a group exhibit I'm co-curating called Opulent Mobility. Check out the details in my e-newsletter. You're welcome to come to the show, experience the art and inventions 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 Seat Planning

My first step was dry-fitting the seat cushion parts on the Jazzy Power scooter seat. Dry-fitting means putting the pieces in place without attaching them or cutting anything off.

(This technique is also used for plumbing pipes, fine carpentry, and mechanical works of all kinds. It's even used in editing. It's part of the "measure twice, cut once" philosophy. Testing out how and where pieces fit before chopping anything up saves a lot of time and frustration.)

I took out the feathers for the seat cushion I finished in part 10, steps 2-4, then laid it on the lower portion of the sitting area of the scooter. I smoothed out 2 pieces of black cotton twill (about 1/4 yard for each piece) over both the butt and lumbar support areas of the seat. Then I sketched out the basic shapes I wanted with white chalk on the black twill. This took a few tries and a lot of rubbing out, since I wanted to echo my peacock feathers without copying them.The seat needed padding for comfort, ridges to avoid sliding and covered a much larger surface area than any of the feathers. So some new shapes were in order. Picture 3 shows all the sketchy lines on the seat/butt part of the twill.

When I finally got the look I I wanted, I drew the shapes in again in blue chalk, took the twill off the seat, put it on my work table and drew them in a third time with white chalk. This cleaned up my lines and got me ready for the next step.

The last 2 photos show the lumbar support cushion. I did this cushion first and didn't take good photos of the process, but you can see the quilted lines in the velvet. If you look closely, you can also see where I outlined each indentation with golden trim and strands of blue scarf. It's even easier to see the sewing from the back, since I used a light blue bobbin thread to zig-zag the seams.

But have no fear! I took tons of photos of the full process of quilting the butt cushion. They're coming right up.

Step 2: Quilting the Outer Seat Ridges

I used a combination of donated and thrift store velvet and velour to make the butt and lumbar seat cushions. The idea was to echo the many colors found in peacock feathers without getting boring and too symmetrical.

I lined up one color of velvet on the left (turquoise blue velvet with a magenta undertone) and another one on the right (a deep blue crossed with navy) along the chalk lines one in from the outer edge. Then I stitched those sides down with a zig-zag stitch in black thread. I trimmed off the excess velvet just outside my seams, and then trimmed the outside edges of the velvet so they extended about a half inch past the edge of my twill fabric. That left me enough room to allow for padding.

I peeled back the velvet to expose the twill backing. Sounds like a TV dinner instruction, right? "Peel back foil to reveal tater tots." Then I tore off chunks of pillow stuffing to make the ridge nice and puffy. I pinned from the center of the ridge out towards the tips, adding more stuffing as I got closer to the points. Once the ridges were stuffed and pinned in place, I zig-zag stitched down the outer edges. The inside edges would get covered with the next set of ridges.

I switched the machine to a straight stitch and sewed a line down the middle of each padded ridge. I took this slowly and changed my machine needle to a fresh, sharp size 14 universal. Sewing through a lot of padding is tough on needles and sometimes my stitches skipped. Not a problem. When I got to the end of the line, I turned my piece back around and stitched again over the line to catch any skipped areas.

Step 3: Second Ridge, Second Color

For the next set of ridges I used deep grey stretch velour. This set of ridges needed a slightly different technique, since one side of each of the sewn edges would be visible. Velour and velvet fray a lot when they're left with raw cut edges, so I needed to add some seam allowance to fold under and sew down to create finished edges.

Seam allowance, by the way, is what you add to a piece of material to allow you to sew the seam. Sewing jargon only pretends to be tricky.

I cut the velour to the general shape of each curved ridge, plus about 1/2" on either side. I carefully pinned down one folded edge over the zig-zagging holding down the blue velvet. I switched the machine back to a narrow, tight zig-zag, and then slowly stitched down the folded edge. This finished off both the grey velour and the blue velvet at that seam. Then I stitched down the second side.

Once those edges were finished, I stuffed each ridge, pinned them down carefully and zig-zagged down the interior edges. I sewed a straight stitch down the center of one of the grey ridges, but got really annoyed at how my stitching turned out. The velour was stretching out of shape as I sewed, and I had to stop, take out my stitches and re-sew the lines a couple of times. So I trimmed off my excess fabric on the inside of the one ridge and decided to take a different approach on the other side. First, though, I padded and pinned the second grey ridge.

Step 4: Quilting Tips From a Tailor

Pinning a lot and stitching slowly is one way to keep stretch fabric from stretching out of shape as you sew, but it doesn't work all of the time. After getting frustrated with my stitching, I tried a technique I learned from a fabulous tailor. Thank you, Swantje!

I zig-zag stitched down the pinned velour edge. Then I set the machine back to a straight stitch and started to sew down the center of the padded ridge. This time, though, I put an index card under one side of my machine foot, just outside of where the needle would hit the fabric. I let the machine foot glide along the index card instead of dragging my fabric out of shape. I needed to move the card around a lot and it was slow going, but I was much happier with the finished results! It worked so well that I went back and sewed a second line onto my grey ridge, then added a couple more to the blue velvet ridges for good measure.

This technique is simple and works really well for a lot of things. I've used postcards, business cards, manila tags and junk mail instead of an index card too. (Glossy, heavy card stock works best and lasts the longest.) This technique helps when I'm sewing spandex or t-shirt material, because it keeps the fabric from stretching out and bubbling as I sew. It stops the machine foot from sticking to vinyl or leather and is a great guide for a really crisp and even topstitching lines on coat fronts, suit pocket edges or whatever else you want to topstitch.

Once I finished giddily stitching ridges, I trimmed off my excess grey fabric and some excess blue velvet on the outside edges. Then I zig-zagged the blue velvet edge down and was ready for the third set of ridges.

Step 5: Another Color, Another Angle

For the next set of ridges I chose 2 more pieces from my velvet stash. These pieces are shot silk velvet, meaning that the backings are woven with 2 different colors and tufted with a third color to make the fuzzy finish. This gives the fabric a different color from different angles. In the first picture you can see the magenta undertones shimmering in the blue. It's gorgeous stuff. Shot fabrics add depth, dimension and a touch of richness that I love.

The process for this third set of ridges is the same as the second set: fold under one edge of the velvet and pin it over the seam allowance of the last ridge, zig-zag the fold down, stuff each ridge, pin the velvet in place over the stuffing, zig-zag down the inside edges, trim off the excess velvet and finally sew in the decorative quilting lines with a straight stitch. Repeat the process for the 4th ridges in brand new velvet colors!

I had a little help with photography for this round- thanks, Dave! Sometimes it's tricky to take pictures while I'm prepping. Even though it's a repeat of step 2, hopefully this angle makes the process a little bit clearer.

Step 6: Pinning Tips for Quilting Ridges

For most of this project I worked on fabric covered surfaces, using an ironing board and a padded work table. That was easier on my elbows than a hard table. Unfortunately, this also meant that I ran the risk of pinning my project into my table and ironing board.

After accidentally pinning through to the ironing board a couple of times I took the precaution of putting a wide clear plastic ruler under my work. The second picture shows the pins going through to the black twill backing.This is a great trick for protecting your work surface. I've also used cardboard boxes, notebook backs and magazines before, but the ruler was handy. It got a little scratched up but was otherwise unharmed.

This step also shows how I used the chalk lines to guide the padded ridges. I followed along each line with the velvet on one side, peeled up the velvet, added padding to line up with the next chalk line and then pulled the velvet back over to pin it into place. Once I trimmed off the extra velvet on the inside edges, I had a new line to follow with the next piece of velvet. Since my stitching covered the chalk, I couldn't be exact, but I was mostly able to follow the drawn curves.

Step 7: Echoing the Eye

The interior ridges were a little more complicated than the outer ones. I wanted to echo the base of a peacock eye, but the ones I made for the individual feathers were small and didn't need much detail. The seat needed a different approach and a whole lot more detail to keep it interesting.

The double scoop at the top of the seat is almost but not quite shaped like the base of the peacock eye. I used green velvet for this section: the same dark green I used for my smaller peacock eyes and chartreuse velour that was similar to the thread color on some of my peacock fronds. The process was the same as the outer padded ridges: pin and stitch folded velvet down, add padding, pin the opposite side down, stitch the edges and quilt all the way through each ridge. The main difference was shaping each ridge to follow the oval curves up top. When I got to the center ridge, I folded over both sides of the dark green velvet to finish off all the vertical edges. The top curved edges would wait until later.

When I finished quilting everything but the upper oval shapes, I pulled out my peacock feather frond materials. I laid out some of the golden trim strands and the blue scarf strands along my quilting lines to see how they looked. I wanted to add some, but not too many yet. I zig-zagged down a few strands of the blue scarf and then got ready to do a second dry-fitting on the seat.

Step 8: Dry Fitting and Decoration

When I'm working on individual segments of a piece, sometimes I forget how they're supposed to work as a whole. So I regularly take a break to see how everything fits together. Dry fitting the pieces together and stepping back to look at them gives me a broader perspective and forces me look at the artwork more objectively.

I laid the seat peacock feathers, my new seat cushion and the lumbar support cushion out on a chair. I liked the way the seat was heading but it was clear I needed a lot more outlining and decoration. The base of the seat's "eye" was coming in direct contact with the very detailed peacock feathers, so the seat seemed a little plain in comparison. Time for more zig-zagging and golden trim!

I changed the machine to a bright green and blue thread and double threaded the needle (check out Zig Zagging Feathery Fronds for details) and zig-zagged golden trim strands into several of the quilted lines. I alternated with blue scarf strands on some quilted lines, then made my zig-zag stitch a little tighter and sewed the rest of the quilting lines in just plain thread. The finished ridges looked a lot more like the peacock feathers! Then I was ready to cover the poor bare ovals left on the seat.

Step 9: Padding the Eyes

All of those unfinished edges and trim ends were ready to get covered. It took me a little while to pick a color to use, though. I went back and forth with the seat, the peacock feather cushion and my velvet scraps and tested out about 10 choices before I decided on the deep blue. It worked the best with the black velvet background of the feather cushion.

This is a fussy detail, but I have found that picking a material that works is kind of important. Pick something that doesn't work and it's instantly noticeable. Pick a good one and no one notices but you. It's just one of those things.

I pre-cut 2 pieces of velvet with curves to follow the bottom edges of the bare twill ovals. I folded the cut ends of the velvet under to make a finished, smooth curve and pinned them down carefully so they covered all the cut edges and trim bits of the lower ridges. Then I tore off some chunks of stuffing, stuffed each oval a bit, loosely pinned down the top edges of the velvet and zig-zag stitched the lower curves with my blue and green threads. Once those were stitched down, I removed the upper pins and checked out my ovals. I added more stuffing and trimmed off some of the extra velvet on top. Finally I zig-zagged stitched up the center line of the bottom ridges all the way up through the center of my padded ovals. This kept the padding in place and made the 2 oval shapes really stand out.

Step 10: Quilting Eyes

It was almost time to quilt the eyes! I turned the seat bottom over to pin the last bits of velvet on top. Since I used a contrasting colored bobbin thread, it's really easy to see how I stitched down all those trim bits. After pinning the velvet down I zig-zag stitched down the top edges, trimmed off the excess seam allowance and turned the seat bottom over to the front.

I changed the machine back to black thread on top and used a straight stitch to sew in quilting lines around each oval, about 1/4" apart.The last picture shows the back side of the seat with the quilted ovals. All that quilting made my many ridges about the same height.

One of the problems people have with the seats on most mobility scooters is that they're smooth vinyl. Sure, vinyl is pretty cheap and it's easy to clean. It is also slippery, sweaty and sticky. My version of the seat is super fancy (my pieces are called opulent for a reason) but quilted, ridged velvet is breathable, padded, pretty comfortable and a lot less likely to slide around or stick to anyone's butt.

These cushions took a while to make. I was so ready for the next step!

Step 11: Backing Up the Seat

I backed both the lumbar support cushion and the seat bottom in crushed olive green stretch velour. This fabric was left over from making seat tentacles for The Rocking Duck Boat. My mobility artworks all have fabrics in common, partially because I hate wasting good fabric and also because it's funny. At least it's funny to me. Shared fabrics means that all the artworks are related!

I laid out the velour, flat side up, underneath the seat cushion and cut the velour out with about a 1" seam allowance. I pinned the backing down carefully and straight stitched all of my quilting lines again in black. Of course it would be a little faster if I did this at the same time as I was quilting all the velvet on top. Unfortunately that usually means that the backing will shift around while I'm fussing with the top and make a mess. It's simpler and easier to back it later on, even if it means stitching every line multiple times. It also makes the piece super strong.

Once I finished backing both cushions up, I folded over the edges of velour on top so they made a nice, thin rolled edge to finish off the outer edges. Then I pinned the rolled edges down and sewed them cleanly to the front. Some edges took easily to being zig-zagged down, but in other places the velour moved around too much to make it possible. Those pieces I sewed down by hand. In a couple of places the velour moved around while I quilted the backing and there just wasn't enough left over to fold over. Those edges I trimmed down to match the velvet and zig-zagged tightly with the black thread.

Voila! FINALLY I finished the support cushions. Next time I'll show you how I put all the seat pieces together. Thanks for hanging in for a very long instructable!