Jade Tree Pillow

Lynn Schoeffler © 2006

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Far East Art gets a California Twist in Lynn’s Jade Tree Pillow

During my first visit to San Francisco's Chinatown many years ago, I fell in love with the little jeweled trees popular in the Asian gift shops. I've always regretted that I didn't purchase one, so it seemed like a great idea to create my own version of one of these little gems in a crazy quilt.

Photo One shows the pieced block. Although I've lately been experimenting with other piecing methods (see “I Shall Wear Purple by Dean Deerfield, January 2006 issue), for this pillow I chose the basic “sew & flip” method. The wedge shaped pieces framed the tree motif (pattern below) very well, and made it easier to use the heavy upholstery fabrics that give the piece texture and depth. 


I always make a cardboard template frame for small pieces of work; it helps to visualize placement of the design. In this instance, I moved the template down and to the left, causing the tree to be slightly off center, which I liked better than having the tree in the center of the block. Moving the template also showed me that the lower left gold patch was too big, so I tilted the template to the right, choosing to show more dark blue fabric rather than add another patch over the gold fabric. This balanced the dark blue fabrics more evenly, and added slightly more space to the striped patch at upper left. I usually leave very wide fabric margins for this reason—many times after “framing up” I will change the orientation of the piece. You will also need at least two inches margin on the design square for placement on the pillow top.

For the nine-inch embellished square, I sized the tree pattern to about five inches tall. Cut the tree (pattern below) from a piece of paper, and use it as a template to outline the pattern onto the tree fabric. My choice of fabric for the tree was a medium weight textured polyester. The tree is applied by needle-turned appliqué, so I used a lightweight woven stabilizer on the back of the polyester, as I do when I appliqué silk. This turned out to be a mistake because the stabilizer came loose as I turned the narrow ends of the branches. Fortunately, the polyester wasn't raveling badly, so I was able to cut away the loose pieces of stabilizer and finish the appliqué.

The large green Czech-glass beads used for the tree leaves also became a challenge. Although the size and shape of the leaves seemed perfect for the abstract look I wanted, the original trial showed that the beads overwhelmed the tree. My solution was to remove about a third of the leaf beads; then I added the size 6 round beads to the tree trunk making a better transition in scale and adding further interest to the trunk of the tree. The tree trunk is further highlighted and defined with rows of metallic green Kreinik #8 fine braid, couched along the texture lines of the fabric.  



Other design details: The “cloisonné” pot for the tree is a computer printed photo transfer onto silk of a large Chinese plate. (Photo 3) Back the print with a woven iron-on stabilizer, then simply turn the top part down, and appliqué it onto the piece in the shape of a large pot. The other silk print at the top left is a computer printed copy of a Chinese money envelope purchased online from “Spring's Greeting Cards”. Always try to add your silk prints as late as possible in the embellishing process because they will begin to show crease marks from handling or hoops. 
Many other Asian motifs can be found in Dover's Oriental Designs book. The dragon at the lower left does double duty as a motif and seam embellishment. Again, he's couched in Kreinik metallic #8 fine braid. The golden highlights are stem stitched in metallic gold thread; small gaps were left in the gold stitching for a more fluid, less bulky look. 


The Japanese-style fan is appliquéd, then cherry branches and blossoms are added with Edmar Boucle’ thread and silk ribbon French knots. 

The remainder of the embroidery work is done in Edmar Lola weight rayon thread. The seam treatments are kept very simple to emphasize the tree motif. 


To finish the pillow: Frame the design (mine was 9” square) in four strips of fabric placed in a crosshatched design. For a finished square of 16”, I used strips 4” wide by 17 ” long. Turn fabric under l/2” on one length-wise edge on each piece and press with an iron. Place strips around the crazy quilted center square, with the folded (ironed) edge at the edge of the crazy quilted center square. Lay the right end of the first strip on top of the left end of the next strip, making the cross hatched square around the center design. At this point you may pin in place and top stitch.


If you prefer, you can draw or thread baste a guideline around the center design. Open one folded (ironed) strip, and place the fold along the basted guideline. Pin in place and stitch along the fold only to the first corner. Fold the remainder of the strip back, and place the next strip along the next guideline. Again, sew only to the next corner. Going back to the first strip, place the un-sewn end on top of the second strip and stitch to the end of fabric strip. Do this four times around the center square, creating the crosshatch. I added four different frog closures at each seam corner. This really isn't as complicated as it sounds. When you have the strips arranged around the center, you just place them ‘over and under’ at the corners—the same way your Mom taught you to close a cardboard box when you didn't have any tape!

Cut a 17-inch square of fabric for the back of the pillow. Place right sides of fabric (front and back pieces) together and pin all around the square, making sure design is centered evenly. Starting at the center of your stitch line (not the corner), sew l/2 inch from edge of fabric on all four sides, leaving a four to five inch opening. Trim corners. Turn pillow inside out and press. Stuff pillow as desired, then turn the raw edges of the opening under and close with a slip stitch. 


Tree Pattern

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