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.