How to make Gantt Explosion Pillows and Woven Fabric Pillows

For me throw pillows are the finish to the job.   They offer me an exceptional opportunity to put my creativity and imagination to work.  Throw pillows are a way for me to gather all the fabrics used in the room into one place.  They put the stamp on my work that says, This is a custom design."    <br>
About three years ago I was preparing a room set for my showwindow.  It included three colors of silk and a velvet.  I cast about in my mind for a way to bring all these things into an interesting pillow design.  On my short drive to the studio I thought about some sort of mitering, and it came to me.  I would do a pillow only mitered part way to the center, contrast line the triangles and pull them back.  Cover the center with another fabric put a big button in the center and smaller buttons to hold the flaps back.  When my Peacock colored pillow was done it reminded me somewhat of an explosion in the center, hence "explosion pillow."    <br>

I have done them for one client and a decorator showhouse bedroom pillow sham.  I was not totally satisfied with the look though.  After the name, I wanted it to look even more realistic.  With that in mind I worked waiting for an opportunity to take it to the next level.   <br>

As I am preparing to move into my new studio, new room sets need to be prepared.  Having selected an English Floral paper to go with with a light sofa, I first decided to work on another idea I had been tossing around in my head.  I wanted to cut fabric into strips and make a woven checkerboard pattern.  To soften the checker board I planned to overlay it with a soft curvy pattern.   <br>

Two silks and a velvet that represented the colors of the paper were selected.    <br>

 Three inch strips were cut in order to make 1" finished strips.<b>

To make it easier to get crisp accurate strips I cut a double thickness of file folder 1" wide and used it to hold the fabric while pressing in the edges.  <b>                                                                                                
End is pinned and edges pressed
over cardboard form. <b> 

I don't show it here , but cut a piece of fabric a few inches larger than you want the finished piece.  Pin it to the table first.  Then for a checkerboard pattern pin the ends of all of one color strips 1" in from the edge of the fabric.  Next pin the end of the contrasting color strip and weave it through the others.  Keep the weave tight.  Pin on the other end and start the next one. <br>

Fabric strip being bonded to hold
strips in ;place.
If you get annoyed by these how to blogs when it seems nothing ever goes wrong and when you try it everything goes wrong. <b> Well this was my first go around with this idea and I'll show you the things that went wrong and how I worked around them. <b>

For example when I started the weaving I thought about putting the fabric square under my work but didn't.  When it is all pinned to the table I didn't want to start over so I used bonding tape and bonded the outside edges to strips of fabric as shown here.  Trust me the next time I put down a fabric square first.<b>
Strips with fabric bonded on edges
Don't do it this way! Put a fabric square down
before you start.

It was my original intention to overlay my checkerboard with a rounded Baroque type of shape.  The two would play well off each other.  I worked on a pattern.  When I thought I had it, I cut it out and laid it on  top of the checkerboard fabric.<b>

     This is what I came up with.  Obviously I didn't have it.  Tired of                                                       working with this, I remembered I had been wanting to play some
       more with the explosion pillow concept.  Make it a little more
      realistic looking. <b>

     So having a better idea how this would turn out I started working         on another pattern.<b>

How to make a Gantt Explosion Pillow
Paper pattern for pillow

I cut a paper square about 2" larger than I wanted the finished pillow and folded it in half, folded that in half, and folded it in half again.  I knew that 8 triangle shapes would look much more like an explosion than the 4 I used on the first design.<b>
Pattern is cut from folded paper

Looking back, it would be a good idea to write a number on each triangle on the large pattern 1 through 8.  As each triangle is cut, number them .  Trust me this will prevent a lot of ripping apart and remaking of triangles.<b>

Use a straight edge and mark the
pattern on the fabric.

Since I was working with velvet I wanted to be careful to cut all pieces the same with the nap.  At the end I'm not sure I was totally successful doing that.  Had I marked the bottom of each triangle with a number 1 - 8, I would have easily known what was the bottom of the triangle and where it went.  Mark the bottom of each triangle you as you cut. <b<

Mark the bottom of each triangle by number as cut starting
with # 1

In order to save fabric I cut the triangles as shown.  I was making two pillows so I planned to use one nap direction for one and the next cut for the other pillow.  I marked them with a yellow headed pin and a red headed pin.  Mark the bottom of each triangle as you cut it with a number starting with #1.<b>

Measure 4" from the bottom on both sides of the triangle
mark and cut a 1/2" cut to mark.
Select a contrasting color of fabric to line the triangles.  I chose silk. The problem here was that both sides of the silk look the same.  I should also have marked the bottom of each triangle on its face with a number 1 through 8 as I cut it.<b>

When the lining is cut and marked on the bottom with a number as cut, match the bottom numbers and attach the two face to face.  Measure 4 " from the bottom, mark and cut a 1/2" cut.  Starting 4" from the bottom attach the lining to the face fabric with a 1/2" seam.<b>

In order to make my "explosion" stay in place and be a little more realistic, I found a wire intended for stems on artificial flowers that was very bendable.<b>

The wire was bent and stitched with a zipper foot into the seam of each triangle.<b>

With the wires sewn into the salvage it is now time to "turn" the pieces so the salvage is inside.<b>
The pictures on the right show how that is done.  Gather the fabric on the wire and push tight from both sides to the center.  Pushing the center in gradually pull the fabric down the wire with the fabric turned salvage inside.<b>

Now it is time to attach all the pieces.   If you lay them out on the original paper pattern in the numbered order they should look like the picture on the left.<b>

First turn the face fabric over the
upper part of the triangle.  Attach the two from each side first.  Pin the lining face to face and sew up to where the fabric is turned.
After the pairs that make up the 4 sides are attached use the same process to attach the linings of the four side pieces.<b>

Repeat the process with the face pieces.<b>

The picture on the right shows how it will look before you stitch the last linings and face pieces together.<b>

Now position this part into a flat square over the center fabric, in this case the checkerboard piece with both face up.  Sew together.  Turn these two pieces face down on top of the fabric cut for the pillow back sew together and turn.  Spot tack the triangles to the checkerboard fabric about 2" to the middle from where the wiring begins.<b>
Shape the wired pieces to look explosive!  <b>

On the right is a photo of another fabric weave I did. Notice this time I modified the strip widths and worked with more than two fabrics.  Like everything you are only limited by your patience and creativity.<b>


I hope you enjoyed this process.  Check out my other blogs and please let me know what you think.

Bill Gantt

Decorating a client' s Billiard Room

When I was called into the job my clients had a huge basement space with gold carpet from the previous owners, a fancy oak built in bar, a massive dark (almost black) brown leather sectional and large wall mounted TV.  They had just painted the walls a color close to the carpet color.  The bar featured three pendant lights with orange glass shades.   I was told they wanted the room to look more pulled together and better accommodate large informal get togethers.  I was also told that there were plans to add a pool table.   We talked for at least two hours on the first visit about how the room would be used and possible ways to make the space look and feel more inviting.  I suggested that the room didn't seem to have a real visual focus or theme.  I suggested that since the wall color and carpet were to stay the same the best way to improve the room was with fabric.  Since there was also no need for window treatments, and the large pieces of furniture were already purchased; I had to come up with some creative ways to use fabric to create focus and theme.  Another issue was that they wanted to bring aqua into the color pallet.

Unable to find the theme fabric in the needed colors in my fabric samples I went on line.  After many hours of looking online and printing off pictures of fabrics and ordering memo samples I located two fabrics that we all agreed would do the job.  One was a paisley, but the most important one was the stripe, because it incorporated the colors we wanted but also had the colors we needed.  The stripe had adequate amounts of the carpet and wall gold.  To make this  recreation room tough for hard wear two 100,000 double rub velvets were included.  A more contemporary large 'DOT' pattern added an unexpected kink to the design.


With the biggest hurdle behind us, we could focus on using the materials to achieve the results we wanted.  When the location of the pool table was decided I suggested an idea I had come up with several years earlier in a much smaller pool room.

In that room space was at a premium and seating was needed.  There was absolutely no space for conventional seating.  I solved the problem by using an ottoman/bench for seating and making a hanging pad much like a wrestling mat hung on the wall above the ottoman to provide a soft place to lean back and also to protect the wall.

For practical purposes the hard wearing velvet
was used for the top of the bench with the stripe that brought in the gold color we needed, used for the sides.  My clients wanted something more substantial looking than a hanging mat arrangement.

We decided to make the back for the bench seat a much bigger element in the room.  By doing this we also gave the room more color focus and began to develop a theme.

The huge soft throw pillows which are miniatures of  the wall hanging were included at my insistence.
They take our theme to the huge dark brown sectional.

A large fringed throw was made for the sectional as well.
My client has done well finding accessories that feature the color they want to play up.
Is it a perfect job?  No  Is it a big improvement?  Yes.  Is everyone happy with it? Yes!

When I deliver the last element of this room to my clients I will have one more suggestion.  When it is time to repaint the room, considering what we have added, let me help pick a new wall color that will help blend everything more.
To me this is what interior decorating in the real world is all about.  Assessing need, use, suggesting options and compromise.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please let me know your thoughts.

Bill Gantt