Do you stifle the urge to part with lovely leftover fabrics, but unsure of how to use them? Many of us save cut-offs and tid-bits, tossing them into containers to be consumed on a rainy day. Or, perhaps you clip leftover fabrics into strips that seldom see the light of day. Or maybe just collect beautiful textiles for a someday project. Get ready for fun—all those treasured scraps can now be put to use in quilted jewelry!
Creating quilted jewelry is tons of fun and a great way to use up small pieces of scrap fabric. Great to give as gifts or keep for yourself, quilted jewelry or “soft jewelry” is comfortable, washable, and inexpensive when compared to fine jewelry. Plus, it’s a fast and easy project to make!
These one-of-a-kind, personalized items can adorn the body as a wearable art form. The finished jewelry might be bright, bold, and colorful, or it might sport more subdued shades. Whether flashy or subtle, your creations will be a summation of your own personal color selections, pattern combinations, and stitching. The final products will be a unique reflection of your personal taste and style.
Beauty in Gemstones
Gemstones are the center-stage focal point and backbone of many jewelry items. Used alone as a single area of attention or combined with others, gemstones have long been used to highlight the human body. Who says gems need to be actual hard stones? How about using our “gem” fabrics as a substitute for precious stones? Simple yet interesting shapes can be created with colorful fabrics used in a jewelry setting.
“Soft” gemstones can be stitched as a single unit (or combined into multiple units) on straps forming bracelets. Or, perhaps you might decide on another option: utilizing quilted gemstones in necklaces as centers of attraction. Once the gemstone units have been created, spark up your imagination to determine where and how to use them. The opportunities are endless.
The beauty of using fabric for the gemstone is through careful selection of small pattern areas or stripes. You may find it fascinating how prints or parts of patterns change by utilizing only a small portion of the overall image. The scale of a pattern may appear to change by capturing a select area. This process of selection is sometimes referenced as fussy cutting. The gem’s texture springs to life by stitching through a top layer (the gem’s surface), a middle layer of batting, and a backing fabric layer. The edge of the quilted gem stone can be finished off with an overcast blanket stitch or a smooth turned edge.
Auditioning Quilt Fabric
One way to audition the fabric is viewing it through a confined space: a window. Limiting the area the eye can see may assist you in assessing how the final product will appear.
Begin by locating two pieces of plain (no printing) paper or cardboard. Select one piece and cut a square hole 2” x 2” (note: the finished size of the gemstone will be approximately 1½” x 1½”). The square shape will be used for viewing potential gemstones. Locate the second piece of paper or cardboard and cut a rectangular shape 1” wide by 7” long. The second piece will serve as an opening to view the strap for a bracelet. The fabrics you audition should be a least as large as the cut sizes. Figure 2” x 2” as the cutting size for each gemstone. Allow 2½” wide by 7½” long as the cut area for a bracelet strap.
Move the paper/cardboard over the fabric, looking through the cutout windows. Looking through the cutouts allows your eye to concentrate on the desired are of the gem stone or bracelet strap without the distraction of other images on the fabric. The scale of the print or stripe on full yardage may appear differently than when viewed through the windows. One method of saving your choice(s) is to trace around the inside window cutouts onto the fabric with a disappearing fabric marker or chalk. Recording your initial selections may assist you as a quick reference of where to begin snipping.
When auditioning fabrics, you may be surprised at the findings when viewed through the cutout windows. A portion of a pattern or repeating image may seem dramatically different simply by shifting the cutout window around on the fabrics. Sometimes patterns that “read” as a solid may work well as a bracelet band, but are uninteresting as a center of interest for the gem stone. Fantastic as full yardage due to the size of scale, some textiles may seem completely uninteresting when cut into very small pieces.
Try reviewing both the back and fashion side of each fabric. The fashion side is often darker and more saturated in color than the reverse surface. Batiks, a great option in jewelry making, may poise some difficulty in distinguishing the front from the back side. Some fabrics look wonderful viewing from both the top and backside.
Once you have made your fabric selections, get ready to create some gemstone jewelry in Part 2 of this project!
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