Sew an elegant peacock pincushion from Liberty fabric.
The peacock, with its iridescent blue feathers and flamboyant tail, is an iconic symbol of the Aesthetic Movement, which appears widely in paintings, jewellery and textile designs of the late nineteenth century. This quirky pincushion may lack the sinuous grace of his Victorian predecessors, but I’m sure that he will prove a useful sewing companion. The ‘eyes’ on his sequinned tail are cut from Liberty’s ‘Caesar’ Tana Lawn, the contemporary reworking of ‘Hera’, Arthur Silver’s 1887 peacock feather furnishing print.
Making pattern pieces
Trace and cut out paper templates for the body, ?base gusset, three feathers, three feather appliqué pieces, eye and inner eye. Transfer all the markings ?and letters.
from print for peacock’s body:
• Cut 2 rectangles, each 23 x 25cm
• Cut 1 base gusset
from heavy-weight feather fabric:
• Cut 7 large feathers
• Cut 6 medium-size feathers
• Cut 4 small feathers
from appliqué print:
When cutting appliqué pieces, centre the template shape on the large, medium-size or small feather motifs in the fabric print.
• Cut 7 large feather appliqué pieces
• Cut 6 medium-size appliqué feather pieces
• Cut 4 small feather appliqué pieces
from white felt:
• Cut 2 eyes
from turquoise felt:
• Cut 2 inner eyes
THE LIBERTY BOOK OF HOME SEWING by LIBERTY, published by Quadrille (£20, hardback). Photos ©KRISTIN PERERS; Text ©LUCINDA GANDERTON.
© 2023 Liberty of London / Quadrille · Reproduced with permission.
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You Will Need
Stitching and cutting out the body
Place the two pieces of body fabric together, with right sides together and edges aligned. Pin on the body pattern piece, making sure there is a 1cm margin between the pins and the edge of the template. Working a few reverse stitches at each end of the seam, machine stitch around the back, head and neck between points A and B, as close as possible to the paper. Cut the body out, leaving a 1.5cm seam allowance all around the edge of the paper. Cut tiny notches in the seam allowances in line with C and D on the body piece, then remove the pattern piece.
Adding the gusset
Pin one side of the base gusset to the body, with right sides together, matching up the tips of the gusset with points A and B, and matching up the C and D notches. Tack in place from A to C and B to D, leaving C to D open. (The opening between C and D will be used to stuff the body.) Machine stitch 1.5cm from the edge. Stitch the other side of the gusset in place, but pin, tack and stitch along the entire seam line, from A to B.
Trimming the seam allowance
Trim the seam allowance to 1cm. To give the curved seams a smooth finish, snip small triangles into the sharpest curves around the head, neck and chest and clip the surplus fabric from the beak and tail, but don’t cut any closer than 3mm or the seams may split. Remove the tacking. Press under the seam allowance along both sides of the opening, then turn the body right side out.
Stuffing the bird
Stuff the body firmly with polyester toy filling. Use just a little at a time, so that the bird doesn’t become lumpy and use the eraser end of a pencil to push the fibres right into the head, neck and tail. When the bird is nice and plump, tack the two edges of the opening together, slipstitch closed and remove the tacking.
Preparing the feathers
The seven large and six medium-size feathers are all reinforced with wire so that they will stand out proudly. For each one, cut a piece of florist’s wire roughly the same length as the feather appliqué shape. Twist the top into a small loop and stitch the wire to the feather, 2cm down from the top edge. Checking that the bottom of the wire doesn’t protrude, roughly tack the feather appliqué piece over the wire. Tack a feather appliqué piece to each of the four small feathers as well, omitting the wire.
Embroidering the feathers
You could simply stitch around the edge of the feather appliqué to secure it in place, but a little simple machine embroidery gives texture and an extra dimension to the tail. Using navy and then turquoise thread, stitch extra fronds either side of the feather spine and around the ‘eye’ (taking care to avoid the wire). If you prefer to embroider by hand, work random straight stitches in the same direction as the printed fronds.
Sewing on the tail
Sew the base of the first large feather ?to the body, 2cm down from the tip of the body. Then overlapping the feathers slightly, sew three more large feathers in place on each side, to create a fanned tail. Use long stab stitches and sew from front to back to make the tail really secure. Add the six medium-size feathers so that the ‘eyes’ lie between the large feathers, then add three small ones in between the medium-size feathers. The final small feather goes in the centre.
Adding the finishing touches
Sew one white felt eye to each side of the head with small hand stitches, then sew on the inner eyes. Insert a pearl-topped pin in each eye to represent the shiny pupils. Finish off by sewing a sprinkling of translucent sequins across the tail feathers and adding a crest of pearl-topped pins. Stick the rest of the pins into the peacock’s breast to complete his fine plumage.