Friday, January 8, 2010

Project of the Year

When I look back at 2009 and all the fun service I was a part of, Megan and Carolyn's dream stands out. We were designing a humanitarian service day for the women of our church, and Carolyn had seen an idea to make wall hangings for orphanages. As the planning ensued, Megan meekly confessed that this project spoke to her soul. We all knew she had been a star soccer player in college, and she was know devoting herself to starting and raising a family as well as managing apartments; we had no concept of her enthusiasm and drive to share her artistic talents. The finished product here looks harmless enough, but Megan, her husband John, and maybe even her little boy Andrew can all vouch for the fact that this endeavor became a part of the family landscape for at least half of 2009.

Megan's plan was to draw designs on muslin, quilt and border them, then at Carolyn's suggestion, send them to our church's humanitarian relief headquarters for distribution overseas. Somehow we thought that with 120 women, fifteen wall hangings was manageable. As these heartfelt projects sometimes go, the intentions were there at the one-day event, but the group leader gets stuck with all the loose ends. With beautiful drawings to be fabric-painted, and cut-outs to be appliqued, Megan took the fourteen-of-fifteen wall hangings home where they adorned her small kitchen. We recruited ladies to stop by on occasion, and also enlisted the Palo Alto High School YCS/Interact community service club for a one-day painting marathon session. Still, with my work schedule all I could do was to cheer Megan on.

Thankfully, the project has now been delivered and we can share this good works experience with others. Wall hangings are wonderful decorations for shelters in the States and for orphanages overseas. They can be completed by families, teens, and adults; just be careful to keep it simple (ex: one finished wall hanging is easier to deal with than a dozen partially finished--whew!) Here is a reflection from the artist and mother of two.

Megan & Carolyn's Dream

To be honest this project proved to be a bit more time consuming than I had originally anticipated, but it was a very worthwhile experience. The finished products were better than I could have imagined, the skills I developed will serve me in the future, and I was able to serve along side some wonderful women, who are now dear friends. The project was also a lot of fun! It was fun to draw, paint, quilt and sew. I had actually never sewed anything prior to this experience and since the wall hanging project I have even completed a few blankets, which is something I don't think I would have attempted without the sewing experience I gained from the wall hangings. I have also loved to doodle and draw and the project allowed me put some of my little doodles into an art piece.
I think the best thing I gained from this experience was the love I felt for the children that would benefit from these art pieces. I've never met any of them, nor do I ever think I will meet them, but I think these wall hangings will bring a smile to their faces and a bit of cheer to their surroundings. And that makes me happy.

Instructions on how to make a wall hanging:

Materials needed include: white cloth (treated with gesso), quilt batting, fabric to serve as backing and binding, fabric paint, pencil, sewing machine and thread, embroidery floss & needles, scissors, a quilting frame if your project is large and creativity.

You can make your wall hanging to whatever size suits your purposes. Just remember, the larger the wall hanging the more time and materials you'll need.

1) Prepare the canvas: cut white cloth to desired sized and treat with gesso (this can be found at art supply stores or craft stores like Michael's). Typically the gesso needs to dry for 24 hours so be sure to consider that in your project time line. Once the canvas is dry sketch the design you wish to paint.
2) Paint the canvas: Using fabric paint, paint the canvas according to your design. (Tip: Fabric paint can be expensive, you can use acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium to create color fast fabric paint. You typically need to heat set the paint with an iron once it is dry. The textile medium can also be found at craft stores or fabric stores.)
3) Finish the canvas: Once the canvas is painted and dried you sandwich the quilt batting between the canvas and the fabric backing. Bind the three pieces together with a temporary binding stitch or with large safety pins. Be sure to cut the backing fabric a few inches longer than the canvas on all sides to allow enough fabric to do a fold over binding. Quilt around the shapes of your design using the embroidery floss. This keeps the batting from shifting. Finish the edges of the wall hanging by folding the backing over the top of the canvas and sew in place. You can also make loops from any extra backing fabric and attach to the top of the wall hanging.

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