Tattoo-Style Swallow Quilt Holders




Introduction: Tattoo-Style Swallow Quilt Holders

These pretty birds are my creation out of necessity ~ my mother embroidered each and every butterfly on this quilt specifically for my daughter, and it's the most incredible quilt I've ever seen!

I'd be devastated if my 2-yr old daughter snagged a thread or spilled some juice on it, so I searched high and low for some product to display it, to no avail.

Unfortunately, the market for quilt holders is slim-to-none, and so I came up with the idea of these tattoo-style swallows holding the quilt up on the wall for all to see!

(FYI: This process will take approximately 5 days [including paint-drying time], and requires a band saw, acrylic paint, printer (color not necessary), dremel or hand-held drill, clothespins, eye hooks, framer's wire, and small screws. Pliers also help. Oh yes, and a nice quilt to hang is good, too!)

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Step 1: Find, Copy, and Cut Out a Swallow

First, choose a simple old school swallow/ sparrow image from Google Images and print it out on a regular sheet of paper. Trace or freehand it onto a piece of wood. You might even come across the designs I used here!

I used scrap pieces of wood, so I had to be sure to omit all the knots, but you can really buy or use any piece of wood, of any thickness.

Once the edges were cut with a band saw (thanks to my talented husband!), I gently sanded down the rough edges and then I went back over the pencil lines with a black pen [see picture].

Step 2: Prime the Wooden Swallow

Two layers of white primer diminish the black detail lines by sight, so I recommend keeping your print-out handy, or just paint one layer of primer [as shown here, with the right-facing bird].

(By the way, this may be an artistic faux pas, but I used two coats of white paint instead of actual primer.)

Step 3: Paint Swallows

If necessary, re-apply the black lines for definition.

Paint the bird with acrylic paints, being careful around the parts where two colors meet. Don't forget to continue shading onto the sides of the bird.

Then, you'll carefully trace over the black pen lines in black paint with a thin brush. I don't have advice should you encounter trouble here, so don't mess up!

Allow to dry for at least one day.

Step 4: Varnish Top and Sides of Bird(s)

Varnish all painted areas of the bird(s), including the sides and top.

The black lines will hide any small overlap issues, and I think it really defines the limited detail and gives it that old school tattoo effect.

Allow to dry for at least one day.

Step 5: Mark Wood to Drill Screw Holes for Eye Hook Screws/ Framer's Wire

At this point, you'll need to gauge where you can attach the ends of framer's wire, so that you can hang it without any wire showing above or around the bird itself.

(Framer's wire is ideal for this project, as it will allow you to adjust the angle at which the bird points when it is mounted on the wall. )

Keep in mind what angle the bird will sit at based upon the weight of its' extremities (wings/ tail/ head), as well as which direction the weight of the quilt may pull the bird.

Set your Dremel press to the exact depth which will allow for the eye hook to be screwed in. I set mine to just before the point on the eye hook screw.

Step 6: Drill Eye Hook Screw Holes

Mark your eye hook hole spots on the bottom part of the back of the bird, keeping them as level as possible with your weight estimates [see x marks] and carefully drill the holes.

Then, screw two eye hook screws into each of the two holes you just drilled out.

Step 7: Disassemble, Mark, and Drill Clothespins

Next, disassemble four (4) wooden clothespins. Be sure to leave the metal spring on one side of the clothespin.

Set your Dremel press to go all the way through the disconnected side WITHOUT the spring.

Mark the same general spot on each of the 4 disconnected pieces and carefully drill through your four (4) disconnected clothespin pieces.

(Careful not to go too far! Once you're through the clothespin piece, pull the Dremel back up!).

Step 8: Mark Drill Points to Attach Clothespins to Bird

Place the drilled clothespin onto the bird, between the two eye hooks and mark the bird directly through the clothespin holes two (2) parallel points.

This part can be tricky, but your best bet is to have the clothespins opening directly toward the bottom of the bird.

Since you're only attaching them to the bird in one spot, the angle at which they open will also be modestly adjustable.

Step 9: Set Dremel Press Depth to Drill Holes for Clothespin Screw

Set your Dremel press depth based upon the length of the screw you're using, as well as the depth of the wooden clothespin.

Again, here, I allowed to drill right up to just before the screw point.

Carefully drill your clothespin screw holes (somewhere above and between your eye hook screws).

Step 10: Reconnect Clothespins With Pliers

Re-connect your clothespins so that each one has a drilled hole on one side.

I used pliers to help life the clamping bar. Once you scoot the bar into the notch, you can really just push the wooden piece into place with your fingers quite easily.

Step 11: Disassemble Clothespins to Attach to Bird

Now disassemble the clothespins again, but this time with the drilled pieces attached to the metal springs.

Trust me, there is a madness to my methods

Step 12: Screw Clothespin Onto Bird and Reassemble the Clothespins

Now, align your drilled holes on the bird and clothespins and CAREFULLY screw the clothespin onto the bird.

I highly recommend a manual screwdriver ~ wooden clothespins are pretty easily cracked and/ or broken if pushed too hard! I also screwed the scew through the clothespin just enough to where the tip was peeking through the opposite end, then let it "find" the hole in the bird and continued to screw it in...gently!

Now reunite the clothespin halves the way nature intended and revel in the hope that you won't have to separate them again.

If you don't screw them in too tightly, you'll notice that you can actually sway the clothespins to redirect their openings. (This was a total bonus for me, but I can pretend I subconsciously had that in mind all along!)

Step 13: Finish by Attaching Framer's Wire to Eye Hooks

Finally, attach your framer's wire to the eye hooks, and you're done!

(Note how the mounted wire doesn't stray outside of the boundaries of behind the birds!)

Step 14: Hang Swallows and Enjoy!

Now hang these bad boys and stand in awe at their strength and in-flight simulation!

I love that my daughter's priceless heirloom quilt can now be displayed with the contemporary and colorful style by these two swallows.
They are truly unique and really complement the butterfly quilt!

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    8 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful project and outstanding painting. You've really made those flat pieces of wood look three dimensional.

    Now, for a small warning. You'll want to finish all the wood that might come in contact with a quilt. Wood has a tendency to stain fabric the longer it is in contact. Be sure to let the varnish, paint, clear coat, or polyacrylic dry completely before attaching it to the quilt, too.

    "As paper and wood age, they release fabric-destroying chemicals."
    "Polyacrylic is the best finish for preventing wood from staining cloth."


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I forgot to rate 5/5 for sure!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    The quilt is incredible, and your beautiful swallows really do it justice. I think that compliments are in order for both Mother and Daughter! Thank you for sharing this with us.