Friday, May 13, 2011

Sewing Project: Girl Detective Decor Set

I’ve been working on this group of projects for awhile. 

The Girl Detective as a codified concept is one very close to my heart and I love sharing it with Abby. I’ve studied the Girl Detective pretty closely as an adult, trying to figure out why she appeals to me so much, though it is pretty easy to see her value as a role model for young girls.

The Girl Detective heroine, (evolving over 70 years from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars), is typically self-reliant, independent and unafraid. She chafes under the restrictions placed upon her by a sexist society. She is practical and tough, yet not without femininity or heart. There is a dash of frontier fierceness in her (with saloon girl names like Trixie, Ruby, Cherry, Lulu, Kit and Scout), but she is almost always kind. In fact, Girl Detective typically starts her sleuthing in a bid to help someone else. Being popular is low on her list of priorities. She oversteps often, people underestimate her to their own detriment, and she is always on top of it. Books are her friends, information her currency, truth her goal. She questions and questions authority. Social status and class have limited merit in Girl Detective’s world. Most of all, she has things to do, people. Painting her nails is not one of them. Solving a mystery requires diligence, research and organization. Girl Detective isn’t glamorous; Girl Detective is one smart cookie.

I made this set for my daughter, though I might make more or other variations for my Etsy shop. I’ve got some Boy Explorer stuff in there already that I did for Henry.

There are two pillows. The first pink one was pretty simple to make. I traced the outline of the words onto the fabric (a super soft pink denim) using a light box and a pencil. I used the same font from the word cloud piece (below) so that they would match.

My much abused lightbox. 
My only complaint is that sometimes it is so bright I can't tell if I've actually traced over something or not!

I used a simple backstitch to do the embroidery. Tracing the words first made it so they were very straight across the bottom (see my Peace Pillow for a looksie at what happens when you use your own handwriting). I really debated on what color thread to use, but the gray on pink I like a lot. I think black on red would look great too maybe with a little small print red and white argyle.  Then it would be a little less “girly”, but Abby is four and her room right now pink and red with dashes of blue. I sewed it with an envelope closure so I could take it off and wash it and also so my daughter could stash her flashlight in there for reading in bed. I had to do a bunch of math to get the dimensions right. Tip for beginners:  do the math before you do the embroidery.  This could have been a embroidery disaster of epic proportions.  Another tip:  Striped fabric is both a blessing and a curse.  It's easy to see where your stitches aren't straight, but it also easy to line up and keep straight when sewing. 

I still use a wooden hoop. 
I know, Old Skool, but it seems wrong to be doing such a traditional art with a plastic hoop.
The second pillow is a work in progress... i.e., I haven't finished it.  I still have to do all the streets and the arrows.  That embroidery so far was no joke.  It is a “Girl Detective Mystery Map”, a small town sleuths’ guide to investigation hot spots including the Library, the Sheriff’s Dept, Old Man Given’s creepy estate, the Abandon Goldmine, the Museum, The Hall of Records, etc. I used four different hand stitches, trying to give it some dimension and depth that is always a little hard to see in a photo.

Crucial to the project will be adding the words to the pictures, see the original sketch below. I haven’t come to a conclusion on how to do that yet. It will need to look neat and still be readable. Fabric transfer paper? Something done with my Cricut? Markers are out- they bleed on that white cotton fabric and I want it to be washable. Suggestions??? Maybe something with a real typewriter?  Perhaps clear vinyl pockets for slips of paper?  Maybe I could put clues on the back. Or names of possible mysteries? I sketched out the map and then transferred it to the fabric, just like with the pink pillow. I had to keep in mind that the images need to be simple and bold enough to be outlined with thread. This would have been much easier if I could draw. Feel free to try it yourself! If you do, I want to see. Not as easy as it looks.

Pretty sure there's a reason I have a degree in Art History and not Art.

This is the symbol for the Lemontree Cafe: good for gossip and pie! 
When Girl Detective gets older she can work there after school.

The Tully Mansion:  There's something suspicious about those Tullys. 
How'd they get all that money anyway?

Miss Katie's Farm:  borders the river across from creepy Old Man Givens
and is close to the abandon gold mine.  Somebody keeps killing her rose garden, but who and why?

The small piece of embroidery below was made to fit in a standard 4” X 6” frame, to sit on a desk or a nightstand. Abby keeps moving it around and it is currently in her play kitchen sink. I don’t take it personally.  I kept with the same color scheme so they'd work together when finished.

These photos make me want to iron everything.

See?  Matchy-matchy!

Below is a no-sew companion piece I made months ago to go with Henry’s Boy Explorer word cloud of fun.  It's printed on vellum and layered over cardstock so the words appear to float at different depths. In person.  Not so much on film.  They were both based on an even earlier project from last summer where I wrote up job listings (I work in HR so it was fun for me, shut up!) for both Girl Detective and Boy Explorer. They were really wordy (but cute!) so this was my compromise, pulling out some of the phrases and highlighting them.  It is 8"X10" for a standard frame.

Cost:  I had everything on hand from earlier projects, but if I'd had to buy everything... I don't know $20?  In time and love this was priceless.  Particularly in time...

Verdict:  I wish could draw better.  I'll revisit this again, I'm sure.  Maybe with the help of someone who doesn't suck.  I'll post the map pillow when I get it totally complete.


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