The Peacock Bench: Because I Can

Honestly…I have no place in my home for a 55″ wide bench.  And my cats are murder on vinyl or leather.  I have no business making something like this…but it is in my head, I have the skills to do it, therefore I make. (Shrug). I literally have no plan for this beyond the fun of making it.  I will admit is was more fun when I started it and it was nice and cool outside.  Final photography was a dripping sweaty July hot mess!

I will be including the bench in my private exhibitions at Quilt Odyssey this month and at AQS Lancaster, 2019..but after that, I plan to sell it.  So…if your foyer needs a BFT (Big Fancy Thing)…get in touch with me.

This all started with a antique headboard that had the sexiest curves.  It lived in my attic for maybe a whole 10 years waiting for inspiration to intersect with action. My first problem to solve was the height.  It became obvious that if I just made the headboard into a bench as is, it would be 9″ off the ground.  BEST DOG BED EVER.  Alas, Im not into the doggos.  So, issue #1 was raise it.  I bought 6 turned wood chair legs and made a basic frame to mount my legs onto the existing structure of the bench, cutting off the original short legs.

This immediately revealed issue #2.  Walnut headboards are HEAVY.  I needed to problem solve a counterweight on the front end of the frame so it didn’t immediately toss it’s human straight into a concussion ward.  I added two additional layers of framing, and curved the 3/4″ plywood bench seat to swing away from the rectangular frame.  Like a lot of things, this is a happy accident…as it gave me lots more space to play on and created gracious curves.  I managed a nice even 55″ curve by bending a piece of scrap trim wood around some nails and tracing it. (Monkey tool user!  I rediscovered fulcrums!). Anyway…a few hours with a circular saw and a jig saw later and I was in business.

The back of the headboard had 3 beautiful recessed areas.  The side panels were damaged, so I decided to cover them with the vinyl upholstery.  The back panel screamed for “A Cool Thing”.  Enter a clever DIY paint stain called Unicorn SPiT.  I have no idea what marketing genius comes up with these things.  But this stuff basically can go over anything and seems chalky, until you polyurethane over it.  Or, if you are like me, do all the hard things, and go ahead and do bar top epoxy, even though you have zero experience using it, and it would completely ruin the project if you failed.  This tie dye look was made with arches of SPiT and literally finger-painting my entire hand in a fan shape.  (Incredible art requires Incredible mess.) You can see in the final pictures, I also added orange butterflies in the epoxy too, which balance the orange pop of color in the right side panel.

The yarn couching part is straight up fun.  I cannot recommend it enough to everyone.  Most domestic machines and longarm brands offer free motion yarn couching feet these days.  Once my bench was constructed, and I had the foam bench part settled, I wrapped everything in tracing paper and free drew my peacock design.  I chose a warm pearl upholstery vinyl for my project.  I pinned the tracing pattern on it, loaded my longarm with muslin backing, high loft poly batting, and quilted straight though the pattern to basically transfer my design while simultaneously basing.  I was sure to outline well inside where I thought the actual feathers would go…just making a bare essential feather of spine and lollipop head really.  Next came all the background quilting.  I LOVE this part.  I used my signature fill, “Nemeshing” near the peacock itself…really paying attention to accenting the flow of the tail feathers.  I then used several other designs from my Quilted Texture from A to Zen book, as well as a new combo or two.  All the background quilting is with 40 weight Glide in a light golden orange color. The vinyl quilts like buttah as they say.  No issues whatsoever.  Great tension, great loft…I highly recommend it to the purse makers out there.

Use the coupon code Peacock10 to get 10% off either of these two books for the rest of July!

I have talked about the process of yarn couching before, and don’t want to go over it over and over.  Each feather had a darker and lighter side, which each used a hand dye sport weight yarn, one by Madeline Tosh and the other by Malbrigo.  The spine and lime green halo required switching my couching foot to the smallest diameter, it was a fingering weight by an Etsy artist called Witch Candy Yarn.  Then, switch back the feet and do the eye…in orange silk, turquoise single ply hand dye, and then a craft store Lion brand yarn.  Always, you start furthest “under” and “back”.  This tail required a lot of “art thinking”. For example, as the tail gets closer to the body, it is overlapped heavily.  You wouldn’t see the ground through it.  But, if I just used my feather colors…it would just be a mess.  So, actually I backfilled with black and very dark green any “open areas”, so the nice bright feather colors would float on the dark ground.  Anyway, layer, layer, layer.

Here is a youtube video of one feather quilting.  I highly suggest you mute it…I didn’t add any fun music and the motor sound is obnoxious.  The first two colors are regular speed and the rest is sped up double.  An actual feather takes about 15 full minutes.  I am not in love with the youtube quality of this one..but you get the idea.

Once the entire peacock and all the extra panels were done, It was time for another trip to the garage and to break out the staple gun.  I admit…I had to change plans here.  Originally I had planned to staple all the panels into their various spots and cover all the edges with the nail head trim.  Unfortunately the nails in said trim will actually go right through the thin panels of the headboard.  I also rejected using short staples at the last minute out of fear.  I had this VISION of the force of a staple, behind the epoxy, suddenly spiderweb cracking the whole thing.  And there I would be, thunk, thunk, thunk..feeling all pleased with myself…then realize I had trashed the whole deal. So, I shifted gears and glued all the headboard panels with E6000.  Basically I think you could glue anything to anything with it.  And, it doesn’t smell too bad.  I finished the raw edges with a braided upholstery trim, glued on.  And for a final touch, glued in several handfuls of glass crystals in mallard green, purple, and royal blue for a smidge of twinkle!

And here is a walk around:

It has been a terrific distraction, but I need to get back to business.  My new DVD/on line class is in the final edit stage, and it needs a companion book written.  I also have two class handouts to prep, as I am doing two summer conventions (Quilt Odyssey and AQS Grand Rapids).  Im not sure why I agreed to them, as they are causing family chaos…but these things always seem smarter from the distance of 9 months than they do when they are right around the corner!  Many thanks to all my cheerleaders…you know who you are.

Happy Quilting,



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