Seeing Stars

big dipper pillow

During my textiles seminar this past semester, I decided to practice reverse-appliqué by continuing the pillow theme of the class. I had tried reverse-appliqué twice before, when I made my sister a periodic table pillow for her birthday and when I made a radiation trefoil pillow for Cruftmas, but I found the technique pretty tricky. So it was high time for some practice.

Once I found mottled blue fabric in the class fabric bin, it took me all of ten seconds to decide to make a constellation pillow. The Big Dipper was an easy choice because it’s quite simple and extremely recognizable — enough so that it shows up on everything from state flags to publishing house logos.

I laid out the design on a 16″ square of paper, cut and transferred the design onto fabric, and sewed the top panel of the appliqué in about half of one class session…and then proceeded to debate what color the stars should be for the entire next class session. (I even tried color-coding the stars on the pillow to match the colors of the actual stars. Unfortunately, most of the stars in the Big Dipper are blue-white and it looked pretty silly.)

big dipper pillow

After much debate, I ended up settling on a mottled orange fabric with a small dot design, which coordinated perfectly with the dot pattern on the background fabric. I love how it turned out, especially with the high contrast between the teal-blue of the background and the red-orange stars.

I was very happy to have the colors settled and the reverse-appliqué done, so I sewed up the whole thing, stuffed it, and finished the edges. I then promptly decided the design was missing something…so I completely took it apart and added embroidered lines between the stars, using a thick six-strand stem-stitch like the one I used on the hydrogen spectrum pillow. After that, I was finally happy with the overall design, so I sewed it up again, re-stuffed it, and finished the whole thing off with a knife-edge border to make it look more polished.

I’m debating making another pillow or two following this theme — right now, my summer apartment has only two pillows in it, and it is genuinely weird to not have a half-dozen pillows of varying geometries at hand. Orion and Casseiopeia are my current top choices to round out the set, though it’s surprisingly hard to find asterisms that are as recognizable as the Big Dipper without being ludicrously simple. (The Winter Hexagon probably won’t make the cut.)


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