A Slothful Rainbow Finish

The original sketch Slothy is based on.

April has been a strange month for me. It’s not been unproductive (in terms of crafts or work), but it feels like it was. Weird. However, I can share a finish that has taken me to some new places and that I am very proud of – the Rainbow Sloth is finished!

It took a degree of dithering over a few of the finishing details (how to do the face/eyes/claws, to embroider or not to embroider, hanging solutions, leaf arrangement and attachment), but finally it has all come together!

The face was trickier than I expected – mostly because I wanted to show the classic sloth face-markings but not end up with something that looked like a skull. To make it appear “fuzzier”, I ended up quilting the white areas quite heavily with a thread with a special property – Madeira’s “Halloween” glow-in-the-dark polyester thread, which quilts really nicely. I deliberately allowed the quilting to overlap the darker areas in places to help blend the transition better, and left the eye and nose markings unquilted so that they retained some dimension and definition.

I perhaps slightly lost the plot for some of the face quilting – in my defence, it’s quite a challenge to quilt with a colour that blends in perfectly with the fabric you’re quilting!

Sloth’s eyes and nose are scraps of a synthetic, slightly metallic, leather-look fabric that I have had for literally years – more than long enough for me to forget how annoying it is to sew with. It sticks to the machine’s foot, rucks up and generally refuses to stay put – and of course you can’t pin it where it’ll show because pins leave “scars”. I had to completely re-do both eyes after the first try ended up a total mess.

However, it was also a great choice for the claws, so when I came to do them I pinned a generously sized piece of tissue paper over the area I wanted to place the claws, drew claw shapes based on what I could see through the paper, then carefully slid a piece of the synth-leather underneath so that it was sandwiched between the quilt top and the tissue paper.

This made stitching it down along the lines an infinitely more pleasant and accurate experience – to complete the look, I only had to carefully trim the excess material away from my stitched lines et voilà! Claws!

As you can also see, I did decide to embroider a bit on the leaves – and I think I can say with confidence that I can totally do French knots now! The floss used for all the embroidery is DMC’s speciality glow-in-the-dark thread – because if you’re going to glow, GLOW! Right? Right! This is the same floss as I used to outline Slothy, and a bit is also couched into one of the vines on the branch.

Without rootling out and setting up a tripod, this was the steadiest photo I could manage of the piece after the lights went out, but it shows the general idea. I’m really pleased that the different patterns of French knots on the leaves can actually be distinguished, and the glowing stars on the background fabric can be made out, too.

Because I knew that I wanted at least some of the leaves (especially along the top) to overlap the edge of the quilt, I had to think carefully about the order of attaching the binding, hanging solution and leaves so that they didn’t interfere with each other. To begin with, I trialed different leaf positions until I had a look I liked, then attached them one by one. To keep the nice leafy look of them, the best way to attach them appeared to be to stitch along either side of the midvein of each leaf, far enough to to make sure the leaf was firmly attached and wouldn’t flop, but not so far that the stitching would obstruct other features or get in the way of the binding. This also means that the leaves can be pulled back to “peek” underneath.

If I hadn’t literally only just had this thought, it could have been super-cute to add some little “hidden” creatures underneath the leaves as a kind of quilty “Easter egg” – ah well, perhaps next time! 😉

Once the leaves on the branch were attached, I tackled the hanging solution:

After quite a lot of thought, I made a folded “sleeve” that matched the top edge of the circle, interfaced it for support, drew a couple of angled lines at either end and, with the aid of a lil more interfacing for reinforcement, inserted long buttonholes along each line, but only on one side of the sleeve. The idea is that a wooden dowel can be passed easily through the buttonholes and be held inside the sleeve, thereby supporting the quilt despite the slightly unconventional shape. The sleeve was initially attached to the back of the quilt with a line of stitching 1/8″ from the edge, then held down more firmly when the binding was attached. (Incidentally, this photo also shows a bit I’m really fond of, namely, the “ghost” sloth on his branch, created by the quilting on the back. I was very particular about matching the needle and bobbin threads so the shape is really easy to make out.)

The binding was next – I confess I “cheated” a bit here and used a nice navy-blue satin binding from my favourite haberdashery shop in Cardigan, folded around the edge of the quilt, clipped into place and then secured with this decorative leafy stitch. Part of me is still slightly wondering whether I should have used a green thread for this, but actually I like that it doesn’t shout for attention against the rest of the quilt, while keeping the “rainforest” theme.

Ghost sloth is made of stars and rainbows!

Finally, with the binding safely on, I could attach the last three leaves at the bottom (the stitching holding them in place overlaps the binding) and call the piece finished. 🙂 It has certainly been an interesting journey and the destination, I hope, will not disappoint the recipient! Slothy is on his way to his new home in Canada right now, hopefully he’ll have a swift(!) and comfortable journey. He also allows me to tick off a scrappy milestone myself, given that he is almost entirely made with materials I already had in my stash – the only things I bought specially were the two glow-in-the-dark threads and the binding – and creating that ticker-tape effect sure had me burrowing through the scrap baskets!

Will be linking up with Needle’n’Thread Thursday, Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop and TGIFF – all links in the sidebar.  🙂

Feeling Slothful?

I’ve been a bit distracted by my most recent Craftster craft swap – this time for a mini “art” quilt, however you define that! Having looked back over previous art quilt swaps, it seems pretty open to interpretation. Luckily, my partner provided a number of different “themes” and colour schemes that she likes – some of which are unfamiliar to me, others I can get right behind. “Bright rainbow colours” and “sloths” jumped off the screen at me (and indeed, she has a lot of sloth pictures pinned!), so… Rainbow Sloth it is!

The ticker-tape technique has intrigued me since I saw these two stunning examples by Craftster member sheepBlue, but I hadn’t had a suitable project that was crying out for the ticker-tape treatment until now. To check the validity of the idea, I looked at a huge number of sloth photos on Google, then did a rough sketch of a pose I liked and filled it in with a “ticker tape” effect in coloured pencil. Warning, very sketchy sketch ahead!

Yes, this could work! Although not with a white background, obvs. My partner also mentioned that she’d be interested in a “non-standard” quilt shape, so I decided to try a circle.

After cleaning up and re-scaling my rough doodle in Inkscape, I printed out templates for the circle and the sloth and got cutting. The background fabric was not my first choice, but actually I really like it – the stars glow in the dark! I may throw some other glow-in-the-dark features at the quilt before I’m done, too. Essentially, some part of me still has all the taste and discernment of the child of the ’80s I once was..! The star fabric also got a decent application of starch on the back because it seemed quite flimsy and I didn’t want it stretching or wrinkling as I added things to it. I hoped to applique the sloth by using a freezer-paper template method, but it turned out that my freezer paper is broken, so bondaweb had to come to my rescue instead. Slothy hasn’t been ironed in place yet because I wanted to do his branch first and also because I got terribly distracted by leaves.

Apparently one side is meant to be shiny? My roll did not get that memo!

I have never tried reverse applique before, but this looked like a good moment! After drawing a selection of leaf shapes in different sizes on card and cutting them out, I used these templates to cut out a bright “markings” shape the same size as the template and a green “leaf” shape to which I added a seam allowance of ~1/4″. I then drew a mid-vein and some organic curvy markings on the back of the pink/purple fabric:

Once these markings had been over-sewn with green thread and straight stitch, I carefully clipped away the green fabric to expose the bright-coloured markings on the right side of the leaf, then used my couching foot to couch dark green rayon along the mid-vein and around each leaf marking, to make them really pop:

For good measure, I threw some faux-punto into the mix as well!

Instead of wadding, I used a couple of layers of thick-ish sew-in interfacing that I seem to have masses of, and added it before I couched on the rayon embroidery thread, then carefully clipped away the excess away from the mid-vein and markings:

To give the leaves a finished look, I backed them with a different green fabric, then turned them through, gave them a quick press and topstitched all the way around to close the turn-through gap:

Finally, to make the “faux-punto” really stand out, I set up my FMQ foot and doodled free-motion “veins” between the leaf markings to hold the front and back layers together and enhance the leaf appearance:

Even without the FMQ, the leaves still had a really pleasing feel and dimension to them, with a nicely convincing leaf-like curl. I am really proud of how these came out (although I could have done without my thread breaking umpty times during the free-motion sewing!), and I think they’ll look good on the quilt, too:

(That may not be a final placement!)

As you can see, I’ve already filled in the branch with ticker-tape bits, the next job is to quilt those down (there’s already faux-punto wadding underneath) and figure out how to add texture to the tree bark. Slothy will get some faux-punto too, when I get to fixing him in place – which can’t happen until I decide whether any of the leaves are going to go behind him or not. Lotta new things and experiments in this, so huge amounts of fun for me! 😀

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks.

 

This Is My Proud Face

…and also my Tragedy face and my Comedy face:

Here’s the original design for comparison:

So, that worked then!

Well. Crap.

I’m not going to claim there were no hiccups along the way, the seam ripper saw action more than once, but on the whole I was pleased by how well this design went together.  It was probably rather overkill, but it was also massively educational and will give me loads more confidence to tackle the creation of the other foundation-pieced designs I have in mind to do.  It’s now all basted up and ready for me to start quilting on once I’ve shovelled a bit of work out of the way first.  Yay!

Craftster Mini Quilt Swap

Work is trying to bury me under the Christmas backlog, it’s tax return month and I just lost a favourite pet, so of course it must also be time for me to do a craft swap.  In fairness though, I signed up for this one before life went a bit nuts.  Just one of those things you can’t predict.  To add to the fun, I have elected to do a massively complicated self-designed quilt layout – again, a decision I made before things went a bit sideways in my non-quilty life.  However, it’s been a good distraction and I adore a challenge, so for the past couple of weeks I have been chasing polygons around in ever-decreasing circles.  Also, diamonds?  They are SO not a girl’s best friend!

My partner in the swap specified red, black, white, grey and silver as favourite colours, and the theatre and travel as interests.  I’ve always quite liked the duality of the tragedy and comedy masks, so I did a Google image search and looked at loads of images to get some inspiration.

Comedy and Tragedy by Martha Bennett

This one in particular, which featured diamond patterns in red and black on the masks, really caught my eye and set my mind whirling.  I didn’t want to copy the image exactly, but I liked the notion of diamonds and red/black and fragmentation so much that I decided to play with it more, and came up (after a few variations) with the image below.

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Did I mention recently that I love Inkscape?  I really love Inkscape!  Hooray for open-source vector jiggery-pokery!

Drawing the basic image, however, proved to be the easy bit.  The swap organiser has firmly stated Views on the subject of applique, so this is going to have to be foundation pieced, and I’m aiming for it to finish at about 16-1/2″ square.  It will be by far the most complicated foundation piecing I have yet done, and orders of magnitude more complicated in design than my Origami Cranes.  Even with my slowly improving skill at getting Inky’s snapping features to do my bidding, it took me quite a lot of fiddling, experimentation and pondering to sort out a workable-looking “map” of component parts for the comedy side, and yet more time to do the same for the tragedy side because of the very awkward blend of mirror and rotational symmetry, except not quite.  The diamonds proved to be really quite awkward to piece around in a reasonably non-destructive way, but I’m pretty much there now and part of my shopping trip last Saturday was to Calico Kate in Lampeter so that I could pick up some nice fabric for the quilt – because of the fiddly nature of the pieces, I wanted to make sure I had fabrics that would “read” clearly (and enough of them!).

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The red, the black and the silver/grey dotty ripples are new, the other bits are scraps of RK’s Shimmer 2, Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost and a speckly white/silver/light grey effort that I can’t recall the name or make of, which I had kicking around in my newly sorted scrap bins and wanted to also include in the background.  This is a pretty good representation of the actual colours, unlike subsequent pics, which were taken under the rather yellow lights in my craft room!  As a useful exercise, I wrote out comprehensive piecing instructions and diagrams to help with assembly.

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Tentatively, I started assembling the first section, and was gratified to find it behaving itself.

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I’m loving this squiggly red print!  Really striking against the shimmering background.

Right from the get-go, I decided to trim all seams within each section to 1/8″, rather than the more usual 1/4″, which has helped a lot to manage seam bulk already.  Given this is an art/mini/wall quilt, and I’ll be quilting it fairly well, I decided I could get away with a smaller seam allowance here.  Completed sections are joined with a 1/4″ seam pressed open:

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Another thing that has proved extremely useful for joining completed areas is mini binding clips.  I bought some recently because they looked so jolly handy for all sorts of things (and they were on offer on Craftsy!), and decided to use them here instead of pins to avoid rippling up these fairly small and heavily pieced bits.  It works a lot better!

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The top section was joined using pins, the bottom section was joined (mainly) using the binding clips – there’s a definite difference in accuracy!  I’m thrilled that this looks to be working so well, and I hope to crack on and do the rest in fairly short order so that I can get to the quilting.  🙂

Meet My New Addiction

It’s official, I really like EPP!  Well, the initial “cover shapes in fabric” part, anyway – I haven’t quite got to the “join shapes together” part yet, but I can’t see why I won’t enjoy that bit too.  🙂

I’ve discovered how fun EPP is thanks to the craft swap I mentioned recently.  Having decided to sign up, I also decided that I would try and sew up as many hexagons as I could for my partners (with the exception of the one person who only wanted squares)… mission accomplished!  I took my little IKEA bags full of templates and fabric squares away with me while I dog-sat for my cousin, and managed to churn pleasingly briskly through all of them while I was away.

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Here they are all ready to sew!

And here they are all sewn up and ready to be put in the post:

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This person requested squares only, so I sent hers out before I went away.  Unfortunately, Royal Fail in their infinite wisdom decided to put her parcel through the office woodchipper and delivered a mangled, empty envelope, so I had to re-do hers when I got home (the picture above is of the replacements).

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Much annoy.  Very sulk.  😐  “Sincere apologies” my bum.  To make up for it, I did extra squares for her and while I was at it, I did extras for everyone else, too – after all, I already had the rotary cutter out and the scrap bin upended all over the floor!

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At 2″ on a side, these were the largest hexies requested (all the others are 1″ a side, and I requested 3/4″ ones).  This partner asked for a wide variety of fabrics to build up her collection.  This was by far the most fabric-consuming parcel, so in this case I decided to just add in the snippet of VW camper fabric – it’s cute and I think she might like it.

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Some people asked for multiples of 2 or more – this person wanted a good variety of prints as well.  I really hope she enjoys the red/gold square print, it’s one of my favourites!

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Guess what this person’s favourite colour is!  😀  I think she and I might be colour-twins, I love blue too and it was hard to pick out just a few blues for her!

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Yellows, purples, reds and aquas, as requested.  🙂

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Another person who requested a mixture of prints (her only criteria was “no pink!”) – there’s a few duplicates there but not many.

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Lastly, this person requested greys, aqua, cute critters and mushrooms – I thought I was going to fail on the last two but then I discovered I had that purple unicorn print, which featured both – yay!  The paper cranes were a great find while I was away and I think they count for both grey *and* cute critters.

Being new to EPP, it took me a little while to settle into a method I found most comfortable, effective and quick.  Because I cut my templates from card, I didn’t fancy trying to pin or stitch through that, so I opted for using paper clips to hold the fabric around the shape as I sewed:

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As I stitched each side, I moved the paperclips round the shape – this probably wasn’t strictly necessary except on the fussy-cut prints, but it did stop me losing paperclips down the side of the sofa!  I also learned that the ends of paperclips are quite sharp and will catch very easily in fabric and thread, so I couldn’t push them all the way onto the hexagon – this meant that they had a vexing habit of pinging off without warning unless I was fairly careful, but I still preferred this method overall.  It’s been great practice and I’ve really enjoyed learning how to do it, I’ll be trying some more challenging shapes soon too.

I’m still receiving hexagons from the other swap partners (three parcels have arrived so far), when I have them all then I’ll show them off in their own dedicated post and explain what I want to do with them all.  🙂

Craft Swaps

I’m a member of crafting forum Craftster and have settled into the quilting community there.  It’s a cosy group with some really lovely, informed and helpful people!  Of course, it’s a general crafts forum so all kinds of people do all kinds of crafts, and craft swaps (both private and public) are very popular.  It’s a great way to exchange like-for-like or trade your skill in your craft for someone else’s skill in theirs – with the upside that you both get something beautiful and personal to enjoy.  🙂  I haven’t joined many craft swaps so far (I’m acutely conscious  of my time management and only want to commit to deadlines I’m sure I can manage without too much stress), but the ones I have joined have been great fun and have really enriched my crafting.

The Quilt Block Swap

The first quilt-related swap I joined was a Quilt Block Swap – swapping blocks with four other people, although the more ambitious quilters could choose to join several groups if they wished!  I only joined one group to start with, which meant making three blocks per partner for a total of 12 blocks made and sent out.  It’s a great way to “access” other peoples’ stashes and accrue a number of blocks that might be tedious to make en masse, but are quite bearable if everyone is only making three.  The swap has guidelines about block size so that the exchange is reasonably fair, although some flexibility is cheerfully accepted if all the swappers are on board with the concept, as I’ll show!

These are the blocks I made and sent out to my four partners, according to their specifications:

From top to bottom, we have Scrappy Trip Around the World and/or Ohio Star, Bright Hope blocks with a central feature fabric plus coordinates, Wonky Houses, and Words.  Yes, I totally made a swear word; the recipient made it clear that any and all words, including swears, were acceptable!  😉  The Words blocks were a bit unusual, but everyone really loved the idea so there were no issues with the person choosing them – in fact I think she almost had to beat us all off with a stick!  All the blocks were fun to make, although interestingly the Wonky Houses gave me the most pause – possibly due to some kind of “blank canvas” effect.  Once I got going with them though, I think they came out well – and are really going to make an amazing quilt when put with the rest of the “village”!  I also can’t wait to see the Words quilt come to life – the crafter making it is a complete dynamo when it comes to crafting, so I’m sure it won’t be too long.

In return, I asked for versions of my Origami Crane block:

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I specified that the background should be cream or off-white and the cranes themselves were “quilter’s choice” with oriental/asian-themed fabric if available, but no problem if not.  I have to say that my fellow crafters did not disappoint!  I love all the Cranes I received and how diverse they all are!  All of them are beautiful and well made, and I’m so looking forward to turning them all into a quilt (possibly with four more cranes made by Yours Truly).  In the photo above, you can already see my plan, which is to intersperse Flying Geese blocks between the Cranes to mix things up a bit – and having two birds on one quilt is a notion that rather tickles me!  😉  I need to re-do that example block though – sadly the fabric is a bit cheap and that solid pink has already faded unevenly.  🙁

The Hexie Swap

So how ’bout that EPP, eh?  It feels like it’s going through a bit of a revival recently, what with the apparent popularity of EPP patterns such as the Passacaglia (I adore that pattern, not sure I’m yet brave enough to try it myself!).  EPP is something I’ve so far watched curiously from the sidelines, thinking it might be fun to try but lacking a suitable impetus to give it a go.  When someone on Craftster mentioned the idea of swapping fabric squares or finished hexies, I decided it was high time to jump on the EPP bandwagon!  After all, what’s more appealing than the thought of chilling in the summer afternoon sunshine whipping up some traditional patchwork, favourite drink at elbow?  Of course, living in Britain means the sunshine ain’t all that reliable, but it’s still a nice idea!  Also, I have some vague plans for quilt designs that would revolve around EPP and this seemed like a good taster session to find out whether it really is something I would enjoy doing a lot of before I commit lots of resources and supplies to a larger, more complex project.

Because it ended up being quite a small group (eight of us in total), we decided to do a mass swap together, meaning that I have seven people to send squares or hexagons too.  Of course, it also means that I will receive squares or hexagons from seven people – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me!  😀  For the sake of my sanity, I ended up creating a spreadsheet to keep track of each crafter and what they had requested, and I already have all the squares and templates cut:

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There we are, all ready to go!  In fact, one package is already in the post.  🙂

Having never really tried EPP previously, I thought I ought to have a bit of a practice to make sure I’d be ok with making them for other people, so I whipped up a quick half-dozen hexies in my chosen size (3/4″ sides) to put on a personal project:

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Yay!  These were fussy-cut from an Eclectic Elements model aeroplane blueprints print that I love so much I went back for more!  The project they’re on is one that I would like to try and work into a magazine pattern submission, now that I’ve made a prototype and identified the areas that need smoothing out a bit, so I’ll be keeping the rest of it under wraps for now.  😉  I will, however, post my progress with the swap hexies so I can show off all the fabrics I picked out.  🙂

Craft Swap!

A friend from an online game and I decided to do a craft swap before Christmas.  She’s a very clever beader and made me three truly fabulous bracelets.

In return, I am making her a wall hanging using my Paper Crane pattern.  I hope she likes it!

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I re-sized the pattern from the original 12″ finished block down to 8″ finished, which was more manageable (and meant I could fit more of the pieces onto one page of printer paper).  Then I picked out my fabrics and set to!  After some humming and hawing, I ended up with four pairs of fabrics I liked, and decided to make four cranes.  The set-in triangles are fabric I originally bought to make box bags with, but the slightly oriental feel and the colours went so well that I couldn’t resist using it for this project!

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Then a house move/Christmas/New Year/work happened and I didn’t manage to make much more progress until the last couple of weeks, when this project has leapt forward again.

Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else...
Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else…

I’m now busy quilting it and hope to be able to send it off to its new home in Kentucky very soon!  🙂

Linking up with Monday Making!