Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Saga of the Last Green Bean: An English Paper Piecing Tale

At some point last week I decided I was done with my English paper piecing project. It had morphed from my original plan, and once I reached a certain point I really had no idea where to take it (especially since I was just feeling done with it mentally). I didn't feel like doing more stitching, and I was wary of making this into a quilt as I'm always unsure of the sturdiness of my hand stitches (the worry was for naught as the stitching held up beautifully through all of the following--so I guess that's something).

My original plan involved making this a wall hanging of some sort, with the orange as the center 'hub' and the pink flowers circling around it. I was thinking of framing it but convinced myself it wasn't really frame worthy. So my mother and I concocted a scheme of covering a canvas in fabric and mounting this on it. Problem one: a canvas does not exist in the size I was looking for. So we had another brilliant idea of enlarging the canvas with some folded posterboard pieces and some fiberfill to give it some sturdiness. So far so good. Honestly. It was up to size and didn't look bad and felt sturdy enough.

Then we very tightly pulled some pretty green fabric around the canvas and tacked it in place. We're still OK at this point. I had originally pulled all of my hexie papers out of their fabric shapes. When we laid the piece on the green fabric you could see all the seams and the green showing through. So we both sat there cramming all these little bits of paper back in. We were getting a bit testy at this point, but kept at it. After a convincing press everything really did look hunky dory.

And then....ugh. I had decided that Mod Podge was the way to go with this. We had everything carefully centered and all that jazz, and then we proceeded to slather Mod Podge on everything to stiffen it and tack it down. I now have a question for you. Do you know what happens to paper when it gets wet? It curls. And not attractively. The edges didn't want to lay flat, no matter what we did. And because the papers were essentially loose in there (as I had ripped them out of their glued snugness) that fabric was not laying nicely either. At this precise moment I said to my mumsy "You know what I should have done? Stitched this to the green fabric and some quilt batting and then stretched that around the canvas." She gave me one of those looks like I imagine people give right before they beat the $*&# out of someone. 

Since things look better in the morning, we left it. And in the was not better. It was a wrinkly crinkled mess. I'm not sure what numbered brilliant idea we're up to here, but I think it's maybe the fifth? We very carefully peeled the whole thing off and removed the papers. And because Mod Podge washes so easily out of brushes with soap and water it would surely wash out of the fabric, right? Yeah, no. After googling, and then trying various things that I was hoping would work as a solvent (Goo Off, WD40, nail polish remover, and rubbing alcohol) I was no further. You know how MP looks before it dries? Kind of white? That's how this looked now. I rinsed it really well and laid it flat to dry, and wondered just what I would do. My temper was flaring and I was going to throw it out, but my mother convinced me not to.

Here's something you shouldn't do: iron something when all of the aforementioned has happened to it, but most importantly when there's Mod Podge on it. No, I didn't wreck the iron but it certainly did not make things flat and pretty again. This was one wrinkly mess. I couldn't even summon a specific emotion at this time. I know this is a lot of wordage and no pictures, but I just couldn't bear photographic evidence of this misadventure.

Since Goonies never say die, I headed out to see what I could come up with (again). And while I am not as in love as I was before I near destroyed this thing, I love it enough that it's hanging in the bedroom (can you tell I'm single? What guy would allow this over his bed, hahaha?).

So here's what I eventually did. I bought one of those big tri-fold foam boards (as it was the only one large enough) and cut it to my size (which was a 26 inch square), taping the fold so the board would be nice and stiff (and it was). I used spray adhesive to fuse some Kona white to some cotton quilt batting, and then very carefully wrapped it around the foam board, using Aleene's permanent fabric tape (I'd never heard of it before but it worked great for this!) to hold it all in place on the back.

Clearly my camera wanted to focus on the bow and not the fold but you get the idea. The folds are actually quite neat looking and not too bulky. I then forced a grommet into place at the top center so I could use that pretty pink ribbon from my stash to use as a hanger--you can just see the silver here under the knot:

I then used the same fabric tape (because pins were not working out, though my white headed pins did look cute) to hold the hexies piece to the board. I worked from opposing ends and pulled as tight as I could to try and smooth out some of the wicked wrinkling that had occurred. If you're wondering why I didn't sew the hexies to the white and wrap that around it's because the fabric was still covered in Mod Podge, and I had no idea if that would gunk anything up in my machine.

You can truly only see the wrinkling if your face is practically touching this, or when the bedside lamp is on and reflecting up (and even then it's only on the yellow fabric, which gave me trouble when gluing it to the paper pieces to begin with, so now I'm wondering if there's something funky to the fabric as everything else did end up nice and smooth). When I woke up this morning it looked like a happy piece of sunshine was hanging over my bed. And I'm very OK with that.

And now, the title of this post? That's my mother's favorite guilt trip. It doesn't matter if it's green beans, snow peas, carrots, or whatever. If there's one of something left in the bowl "someone has to eat it or else it will think it's not wanted." Two is OK, one is not allowed. When I said "I'm just going to throw it away or put it in a drawer" she reminded me of the stitching hours, and then said "How would you feel if no one wanted you because you weren't perfect?" And when I reminded her that it was me who did this, she responded with "All the more reason to keep it." This guilt trip works ridiculously well on me, for some reason, as I am well aware that green beans and other vegetables do not have emotions (that's a sentence I never thought I'd find myself writing). 

I guess it's a thing you have to come to terms with as a creator of anything, that the imperfections must be embraced and loved, just like people. We are not gods/goddesses here on earth, sitting in smug towers of perfection. We are human, and something I love in other handmade items is the evidence of a human hand being involved. I don't know why I eschew such things in my own work, but sometimes you need to be humbled in your work (and still come out liking it) to remember that sometimes it's the process and the learning therein more than the actual result. It's a difficult lesson, but as I am wont to say to others in situations that would rather not be endured, "Hey, at least you got a story out of it."


  1. I really like this. I know it's hard to like what you would term a "crafty fail", but it's very pretty and bright. I'm glad my Mom wasn't into the guilt trip thing, I'm bad enough all by my lonesome. I love the colors, and now you know what NOT to do, you can do up two more, because everything looks better in 3's and 5's, and I wouldn't make you do 5. It looks pretty lonely up there, all by itself. LOL, truly like it though. cdahlgren at live dot com

  2. I know how you felt about tossing it out or stuffing it in a drawer! I've felt the same way about some projects before... they can be rather annoying at times. Especially when glue is involved... ick. It turned out really cute though! I really love the different textures within the blocks when they are fussy cut like this.

  3. I feel your pain, but it looks great in the end! I always feel sorry for single things that are left and I'm not convinced that vegetables or other foodstuff don't feel lonely and unloved...

  4. Looking at your lovely wall hanging, one never would have guessed all of the potential hair pulling that went along with it. It did turn out quite lovely!



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