Remember when everyone carried fans in their pocketbooks? This summer's heat proved that that was certainly a cool idea. The beautiful shapes of fans were always turning up in Victorian crazy quilts. And here's a colorful, quick way to update that simple and effective idea.
Collect ribbons as your basic ingredient (it's hard to resist all those wonderful textures and patterns). Fan them out on a muslin backing, sew them in place with fancy stitches, and you have a design motif you can use to embellish anything from an elegant bedspread to a practical potholder.
Make a pattern by cutting out a large circle in paper. Fold it in quarters and cut out one quarter piece. This is your fan shape (measuring half the diameter of your first circle). You can fold this diagonally in half and half again like slices of pie to establish the radiating lines of the fan. Trace this quarter pattern on a fabric base of muslin and begin to arrange (and rearrange) your ribbons within the shape. Overlap them to radiate from the center point just like a fan until you get the effect you want. Experiment with mixing different types of ribbons -- embroidered ribbons with velvets, satins and grosgrains.
Don't try to fold under turnbacks at the top and bottom -- that would be too bulky. Let the ribbon ends lie flat and cover them with a narrow strip of bias fabric across the top of the fan and a small quarter circle of contrasting fabric at the base. The beauty of using ribbons in the first place is that they need not be turned back at any of the edges. To hold them in position you can use stitches from that group of broad banding which hold the ribbons decoratively and securely at the same time.
The most versatile of this group is the feather stitch, which is really an open chain in disguise. You can loop the thread always to one side, or you can alternate the stitches, first to the right then to the left, or work the groups of three to make a zigzag border overlapping the edges of your ribbon. Use shiny perle cotton or six-strand floss, making color contrasts or matching the shades of the ribbon exactly. You might even want to anchor a strip of tiny (2/3-inch wide) ribbon with feather or herringbone stitch in the middle of a wider one. Experiment with the different effects feather stitches can give you, combining them for variety with stitches such as buttonhole or french knots.
Of course, an entire quilt made of ribbon fan motifs would be spectacular, but if your enthusiasm doesn't quite match your energy, why not scatter a few at the bottom of an evening skirt or quilted jacket. Or use a single dazzling ribbon fan as a pocket, or make a series of brilliant pillows sculpted in the shape of fans to adorn your sofa. Summer or winter, you'll find it a bright and breezy way to liven your wardrobe or living room.
Q. My daughter did a crayon drawing of our family on beige paper. I have transferred the drawing to canvas and have worked the brightly colored family figures in needlepoint. My question concerns the sky. Should I try to duplicate her scribbled blue crayon marks for the sky and work the remaining background in beige or should the sky be in solid blue tent stitch or a random bargello? I wonder if trying to copy the crayon scribble marks would detract from the figures. What should I do?
A. Reproducing your children's art work is a marvelous way of preserving a little of their childhood to remember after they are long grown up. Most children's drawings are so colorful and so spontaneous that they make wonderful subjects for needlepoint and are a joy to work. A simple tracing will easily transfer most drawings to canvas or fabric and the artist's color choices should be followed for figures or objects. As for the sky, I think working the sky in scribble marks would make the picture too busy. You can get the effect of crayons with random textured stitches, such as bargello or gobelin (varying the size of the bands and still keep the feeling of the original without actually duplicating it. You must also try blocks of straight stitches worked vertically, horizontally and diagonally to give the effect of an uneven repeat pattern.