Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to build a banjo...and a hound dog!

It is MUCH easier to build a banjo from fabric than from wood! With the help of my trusty freezer paper, Elmer's glue stick and little bottle of Roxanne's glue baste, I started building the body of the instrument first.  (I can see I will have a little trimming to do on the back after hand stitching as I can see too much dark shadow showing through the banjo's "face" - from the darker arcs of fabric that surround the large, neutral circle.)

This will be another block for the "Baltimore Rhapsody" project.

Once most of the rings of the body are glue-basted, it is on to the neck of the instrument.  Pattern weights make accuracy easier to achieve with my fumbly, clumsy fingers.  With part of the motif anchored by a pattern weight or two, I can easily pry up the edge I want to work on without scooting the piece off the pattern drawing.  

(When remembering "dot-dot-not-a-lot" with the glue baste, there is no danger of gluing my motif to the pattern paper...teenie-tiny dots of glue baste go a long way if you give them a couple of minutes to dry, mostly...I just plop a pattern weight on and go on to something else while adhesion is allowed to work.)

I really want the instruments to look life-like, which means paying attention to spacial dimension, perspective and shading as I draw them.  Designing in only two dimensions reduces the full beauty of the instrument design and makes them look too cartoon-ish for this "Baltimore Rhapsody" project.  

I really love this method of applique prep for doing these little you SEE the freezer paper... you DON'T!  No raw edges, and all ready to hand stitch to the background!

My poor hound dog looks a little freaky in pieces!  I have found a way of reverse appliqueing the eyes to make them easier and more life-like.  When I turned the outer edges of the head under and secured them to the wrong side with glue stick, I also turned under the edges of the eye sockets.  Then I "built" the eye, and made it so that it peeks out through the hole.  It is much easier than dealing with the really tiny pieces on top of the head.  

I will do a more detailed tutorial on how I did this next post because I think people are a little mystified by reverse applique.  I find that using the technique gets me out of some sticky, difficult applique situations.  

I usually leave the freezer paper adhered to the pieces until after I glue baste the unit together, working over the pattern.  That way I can be lazy and not get my light box out, but this time I removed the paper first (I already had it out, working on something else...).

I used different golden tan fabrics for the dog's body pieces so that I could avoid some outline embroidery later, but I am not sure there is enough difference in value and scale...I will probably still add some embroidery details later.

Now I add the antique milk can that the banjo is leaning against...

The banjo will get strings and lots of detail with the embroidery floss after it is stitched to the background and soaked to removed the glues.  

I have already hand appliqued these pieces together...I do this so I can trim the background away, if I choose to, later, in preparation for detailed hand quilting. I also find it easier to stitch motifs together in units before glue basting to backgrounds...I don't like handling the bulk of the big background any more than I have to!  

(And the units are very portable in a baggie as I taxi my daughter around to different things.)

Little skinny things, like those shadowing slivers on the banjo neck, I DON'T hand applique before putting on the backgrounds...stuff like that is too fiddly, could unravel, and is better stitched directly to the background. 

Now I need to work on prepping the vine and flower pieces so I can glue baste the whole block together.  Cheer up puppy dog...your banjo will be finished soon!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. Oh my are a technician and magician!!

  2. You are a fantastic artist. I really admire your work and techniques.

  3. that is so cool watching your progress.


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