A Bevy of Easter Pressies

That was an extremely unusual Easter all around, I think. A time when many people, regardless of belief, like to get together with family but this year couldn’t. We’ve barely left the house since the lockdown started, with much of our shopping being done by my brother-in-law and a very kind neighbour who works in Morrisons. As such, there was not a vast quantity of chocolate eggs floating around the house this year, but since commercial Easter eggs are typically a lot of packaging and not all that much chocolate, in recent years I’ve tried to make something for my family in addition to or instead of chocolate. Here are some of this year’s creations!

I’ve made my mum quite a few cushions, but I realised that I hadn’t given my sister one. Last year I enjoyed a really fun weekend trip away to Oxfordshire with the Quilt Group ladies and we did some classes at Village Fabrics, one of which was folded patchwork. I took along some beautiful blue and white batiks that I’d had for a long time – I bought them on my first ever trip to the Festival of Quilts! They’re also colours I know my sister really likes as well. They worked really well for the folded pattern and I had great fun fussy-cutting the circle prints for the cornerstones. The block finished at 18 1/2″, perfect for a good-sized cushion. To add a bit of detail, I found my sashiko supplies and quickly discovered why sashiko on batik isn’t widely recommended! But I adored the look of the crisp white stitches against the blues and blacks, so I persevered.

For the quilting, I decided to do some very simple walking-foot quilting so as not to distract from the clean, elegant look of the piecing, in blue and white cottons. The back and binding of the cushion was some pretty bird fabric that mum found for me, which suited the style of the cushion.

For mum, I decided that a new table topper would be a nice thing to make; I made her a Christmas one when I first took up quilting, but it’s a bit season-specific. A Spring/Easter one was definitely due! For this, I used five different Moda Ombre Confetti prints from a half-yard bundle I had in my stash – one white/cream for the background, a gold, a purple, a pink and a green. As our kitchen table is round, I decided to make another hexagonal topper – plus I do love sewing equilateral triangles! I started cutting and piecing without being quite sure how it would all go together, ended up cutting some more strips to get a decent number of triangles, then splotted everything on my design wall and moved bits around until a pattern fell into place. It zipped together in an afternoon.

I decided to really go to town with the quilting on this piece, with an assortment of dense fillers and floral/leaf motifs. Although it’s not a big piece, it still took a good amount of time to get it quilted – it still takes me by surprise how mentally and physically intense this kind of quilting can be! And of course I had to try and do it as secretly as I could – not easy when you’re in lockdown with the person you want to gift something to! Still, I’m really pleased with how it all came out, especially the big flowers. And it looked great on out Easter Lunch table!

The last gift I actually have photos of is a bag that I made for my niece, Nia. She needs a bag to take swimming and she loves mermaids and seashells, so I used these motif to make her a cute little tote bag. The internet provided a nice scallop shell, but I couldn’t find a mermaid in the pose I pictured, so I had to draw my own – and humanoids are not my favourite things to draw! I am rather chuffed with how it all came together in the end – enough that I may have to play with the mermaid design a bit more!

I used a faux-punto effect under the shell to make it really puffy and dimensional, enhanced by fairly dense echoed paisley shapes quilted around it.

I am particularly proud of the magnetic tail fastening, the addition of some extra stabiliser really helps to keep the fin shape looking perky! Assembling all the disparate bits into a bag in the right order took a little bit of pondering and puzzling, but I picked my way carefully through it. To make it actually useful as a swim bag, it’s lined with some waterproof fabric left over from when I made a change mat for Nia before she was born! I am not sure when the local pools are likely to be open again, but I’m sure she’ll think of other things to carry in it until then.

I also made a quilted panel wall hanging for my little nephew Aled (who is too young for chocolate anyway, even without his dairy intolerance issues) and a cork fabric wash bag for my brother-in-law – and I failed to take photographs of either of them while they were still in my possession! I can certainly say that, for me, boredom over the last few weeks has NOT been an issue!

Blast from the Past 5: Mother’s Day 2019

Buoyed by my success with quilted silk, I was keen to play more with the concept, and Mother’s Day was a perfect excuse to do so! Mum had been enviously eyeballing the cushion cover I made for my aunt’s mum, so I quietly arranged for a few more silk swatches from The Silk Route in pretty reds, oranges and golds, mixed them with the greens I had left over, then set to dreaming up what to do with them. For a change, I thought a rectangular cushion would be nice, so I cut a quantity of HSTs from my silk and arranged them accordingly, in a gradient from one corner to the other:

It reminds me of leaves turning colour! Barring a few shuffles, I stitched my HSTs together to make my cushion top.

Now, how to quilt it? Because of the leaf colours, I decided to roll with that as a concept, so I did some minimal dot-to-dot quilting across each pair of HSTs, leaving a space in the middle, then doodled free-hand leaves in each one. To make the leaf shapes really POP, I used some tight stippling immediately around each leaf, up to the edge of the dot-to-dot quilting.

Like real leaves, they’re all different shapes and sizes! XD I used wool wadding, which really makes the quilting stand out and enhances the shimmer of the silks, some of which were “shot”. As I progressed through the quilting, I tried to use threads that matched (within reason) the colours of the HSTs I was quilting, to enhance the colour changes across the top.

A couple of flaps for the back and some scrappy binding, and it was all finished! Mum was really pleased with it, she loves that it’s rectangular because it provides better back support.

Blast from the Past 4: Mini Graffiti Quilt

A smol Blast from the Past today! I was invited to a friends’ wedding back in August 2018, and although they didn’t particularly have a gift list I thought it would be nice to do something a little personal. Having seen graffiti-style quilts floating about, I thought it would be really fun to make a small wall hanging with their initials, surrounded by bright FMQ designs.

I found a fun (and chunky!) font that I liked, traced it onto freezer paper, and used it as a guide to block out areas of my quilt top for the quilting. The quilting went quite quickly, although I slightly wish I’d done more quilting in navy-blue thread around the coloured region. I’m still really pleased with how it came out, even the back looked pretty cool:

I love this effect and would definitely do something like this again in the future! FMQ doodling like this doesn’t come very easily to me, but I’ve always felt that the best way to improve at something is to keep doing it!

Blast from the Past 3: Emerald Facets

This is a rather bittersweet post because the lady I made this cushion for passed away recently. It was a 90th birthday present for my aunt’s mum, a very dear and talented woman who did a great deal for others both near and far.

From having made her a bed quilt, I knew that she particularly liked blues and greens, and I had been wanting a good reason to do some quilting with dupioni silk, so I armed myself with some packs of 10″ squares from The Silk Route, plus a couple of shot cottons for texture variety, and doodled a pretty straightforward design of squares and half-square triangles.

Having arrived at an arrangement I liked, I interfaced my silk (to reduce fraying) and cut my pieces, making sure to keep the “grain” of the fabrics running all in the same direction. Assembly went pretty well.

Those larger squares were destined for some embellishment, and I had just the thing lurking in my stash – Markal Paintstiks! I created a couple of stencils in Inkscape, printed them onto freezer paper and carefully cut them out with a craft knife, then ironed them in place and had huge fun colouring them in with my shiny metallic Paintstiks.

I was so pleased with how well this worked! The metallic paints looked really luxurious against the silks. After the required drying period and a jolly good press to set the paints, I layered up the quilt with some wool wadding and started quilting. To make the stencilled designs really POP, I used quite dense fillers around them. With the bouncy resilience of the wool, this looked really effective. On the HST blocks, I used a variety of “dot-to-dot” designs, inspired by Angela Walters.

I confess here and now that I am UTTERLY in love with how silk looks once quilted. The natural sheen and shimmer of the silk is really enhanced by the stitching, and the whole effect is just opulent.

Once the quilting was complete, I used a blue Essex linen from Robert Kaufman to make up the cushion back and binding; it was a pleasing contrast to the glossy silk and, I feel, a rather luxurious fabric in its own right as well. To really bling up the back (and make use of some of the small left-over silk scraps), I created a pieced edge on the outer flap of the cushion, and worked out a way to add concealed buttons for the closure:

I was really happy with how this cushion turned out and was proud to be able to send it to such a wonderful person who spent so much time crafting for others. <3

A Little Faith, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pfaff Sensormatic Foot

I love to make Christmas presents if I can. For last Christmas, our Quilt Club decided to try a Secret Santa with a maximum budget of £10. We all pulled a name out of a hat and had to get a gift for that one person. When I read the name I’d pulled, I was really pleased – I’d got Stef, our Fearless Leader and friendly local Rough Collie enthusiast. She has five Rough Collies of various generations, which she shows and breeds and does very well with. I decided the thing to do would be to creep on her FB page for doggy pics, find a nice one and then interpret it in fabric and thread. Result? One unique gift with minimal financial outlay – I just needed to buy a bit more bondaweb!

After looking at several doggy pics, I picked out a photo of Faith (centre, top) as my cover girl – she’s a pretty tri-coloured girl, and the colours and shapes in the photo looked like they’d be reasonably straightforward for a novice threadpainter to interpret.

Figuring out how to get from a photo on my laptop to an image in fabric required some thought and experimentation. I knew I wanted to lay down “blocks” of colour and then add details with thread painting, but how? I explored various different routes, but finally printed a simplified black-and-white copy of the image onto freezer paper, drew around the different tonal areas, then carefully cut out each bit with a craft knife and fused it onto fabric that I’d already ironed bondaweb to. Yes, it was a fiddle! Luckily, my fabric and thread stash already contained all the materials I needed to recreate Faith, all I had to do was audition assorted fabric scraps and FQs until I got a reasonable match to the colour version. As each piece was cut out, I fused it onto a background of lilac batik – it was the dog I was recreating, not what was behind her!

I did make one rather obvious boob, however. I didn’t cross-reference between the B&W and colour images enough, so when I stepped back and looked at my complete fused image, I discovered that I’d inadvertently used a swathe of grey where I needed tan. Ooooops! What to do….?

Markal Paintstiks to the rescue! I managed to mix up a pretty convincing tan shade and applied it over the (thankfully pale!) grey – sorted! Once that was reasonably dry and fixed in place, I cracked on with the quilting, and here’s where the sensormatic foot comes in.

That lil plastic almost-nothing right there? That thing caused me serious conniptions when I first started using my Pfaff QE 4.2 for quilting. I tried a couple of other FMQ feet and finally settled on a hopping foot as my weapon of choice. But I couldn’t find it! I was stuck, needing to get this project finished and I couldn’t find my fave FMQ foot! ARRRRRGH!

In fairness, as I’ve become more adept at FMQ with the Pfaff, I had been considering getting the sensormatic foot out and trying it again; I don’t like to be beaten by a piece of plastic the size of my fingertip! But I’m not sure whether I would have tried it again so soon without circumstances forcing me. In the event, I saddled it up and gave it a whirl on a test piece and…… IT WORKED. It was FINE! It needs a bit of judicious fiddling with the foot height and tension, but it behaved well enough that I felt comfortable unleashing it on my actual piece.

Although threadpainting is very often done with a free-motion zig-zag stitch, I tried this and my machine just didn’t seem comfortable with the notion, maybe because I couldn’t set the stitch length to zero? In the event, it was quicker to use a free-motion straight stitch and do my own zig-zags, and in fact this worked out better because I could “draw” in the longer hairs of Faith’s coat.

I used a wide variety of black, grey, white, tan, and brown threads in metallic, rayon, polyester and cotton to create the texture and colours of Faith’s coat, layering and blending where necessary. To support the piece, I used two layers of Stitch’n’Tear, which I have now decided is brilliant stuff! Even so, the density of the stitching made the piece very rippled and uneven, so I blocked it by giving it a good soaking and then mercilessly nailing it into shape with T-pins on my design wall – hooray for polystyrene sheets!

By pulling very firmly and using copious pins around the edges of the stitched area, I managed to get everything pretty well flattened out and behaving itself, and it thankfully stayed that way once it was dry and unpinned!

To finish everything off, I layered it with two layers of wadding and a backing of more purple batik (Stef’s favourite colour is purple!), then quilted around the stitched area with a sort of cloudy, flowery filler so that the main design really popped out against the background.

I was extremely pleased with how it came out, and I particularly love that the character of some of the fabrics still peeks through the threadpainting. More importantly, Stef loved it too! <3

….oh, and I did find my other FMQ foot eventually – apparently I’d hidden it from myself in a box of Clover Wonderclips. As you do…!

Surprise Success! Shibori Hanabi

My Shibori Hanabi wall hanging was born of a desire to try my hand at shibori with different colours. I started it about 18 months ago, stitching out the design, then “pulling up” each section, dyeing the piece, pulling up the next section, dyeing again… and so on, until the whole design was completely dyed, about 5-6 dyeing stages iirc!

I subsequently got a couple of books on shibori and discovered a lot of things I’d had to teach myself through trial and error!  I had no idea what, if anything, would remain of my original stitched design when I unpicked the shibori stitches, but in the event I was really pleased with how the different shapes came out, and the different colours were apparent, too.

For the backing, I used a “chunk” (technical term!) of cotton fabric that came from mum’s stash, mostly white but with flowers printed on it. It went through all the same dyeing phases as the shibori piece did, so that the front and back would tie together well.

I made a start on the quilting, using Glide thread, and was finding it an interesting but concentration-intensive process to define the shapes and textures left by the stitching and dyeing. Then other, more pressing projects popped up and I set it aside for some time while I focussed on other things. I did briefly toy with trying to finish it for the FoQ, but it was not big enough for the standard categories and I didn’t want to start adding borders where not needed, so I shelved that idea.

A couple of months ago, however, someone posted on the UKQU facebook group about the Scottish Quilting Show having extended the entry deadline and out of curiosity I checked the website to see what the categories and rules were. The lower size limit for “standard” quilts was smaller and I realised my shibori piece would be suitable – if I cracked on with quilting it! One entry form later and I had a month to finish the quilting and get it to the organisers by the Feb 25th deadline. I was also looking after my post-operative brother-in-law while mum helped my sister with her two small children; it became quite a challenge to sneak in quilting when I could! Somehow, though, I managed to get it finished and decided to face it instead of using a binding, a technique I’d never tried before! I love how it looks, though.

Proudly, I bundled it up and posted it off, and was relieved to get the confirmation of receipt email. I didn’t hear anything subsequently and family commitments made it impossible to get up to Glasgow to attend the show, so it wasn’t until someone very kindly posted some photos from the show on FB that I learned that it had been placed 2nd in the Contemporary category! I’m thrilled and I’m really looking forward to getting the judges’ comments back along with my quilt.

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.

 

Tragedy and Comedy Finished

…and here it is all quilted and bound:

Tragedy and Comedy

I could maybe have been a lil more creative with the quilting, but in the end I kept things fairly simple, with sharp stippling in red and back on the masks and smooth stippling on all the background areas.  The eyes and mouth were left largely unquilted because I liked the way that looked.

Quilted texture

The back shows the quilted design really clearly as well:

Because this is intended as a wall hanging, I added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and did reasonably successful machine binding for the first time ever thanks to the application of loads of Clover wonder clips:

Corner pockets

All the quilting was done by using the 6D spring foot with Guettermann Sulky rayon thread, a 80/12 embroidery needle, a tension of 4.0 and a pivot height of -1.

I didn’t have any skipped stitches (that I noticed) and very few thread breakages.  This was a HUGE improvement over the last time I tried quilting with rayon!  This time, the thread behaved really well, even allowing me to thread-paint over some warbly spots where I’d wobbled off the line thanks to my not-amazing FMQ skills.  Woo!

It’s in the post to its new home now and I will be in a mild state of anxiety until I know that it’s arrived safely and that its new owner likes it – most Craftster swaps are done with a reasonable degree of secrecy so unless she’s checked out this blog, the recipient should have no idea what I’ve sent her.  *bites nails nervously*

A Birthday Bunch of Flowers

And here it is!  The official First Project of 2017!  I made this for mum’s birthday at the beginning of January – a shot of spring in the middle of winter.

We already have a lot of cushions, so I decided to make a wall hanging this time, with a flower motif and a blue background.  After rootling through my scrap bin and pulling colours I liked, I decided to do tulips and daffodils.

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To make the background and the appliqued flower petals, I randomly pieced fabric together.  The blue background was trimmed to 15″ square and I cut petal shapes from the red and yellow scrap fabrics.

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I used my couching foot, matching thread and a specialty embroidery floss (metallic red or yellow rayon) to attach the petals to the blue background, which I had already sandwiched with wadding and a pretty butterfly print as the backing:

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The stems were also machine-couched, using a pretty variegated green thread and some left-over yarn from my crochet scarf – the colour variation is subtle but pretty.  🙂  The quilt was partially quilted when I appliqued the petals and stems, but after some pondering I decided that it needed more!  Using the same green thread that I’d used to couch the stems, I used FMQ to doodle leafy planty shapes along the bottom of the quilt, kind of like thready zen doodles:

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I’m not very good at feather shapes!  But otherwise, these turned out nicely and emboldened me for quilting the “sky”, which I did with light-blue variegated thread and loose swirls and echos around the flowers.  I decided not to worry about quilting over the stems and it’s not very obvious where I did.

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As is often the case, the quilting is much more obvious from the back:

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I’m glad I did it, it makes the piece look much more finished and I like the movement of the sky quilting.  Before I attached any embellishments, I trimmed the quilt, added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and bound the quilt with a nice dark red print.

Obviously, by now you can see that something is missing – my flowers don’t have enough petals yet!  Here’s where my secret weapon comes in – soluble stabiliser, aka Solvy.  It’s something I have been fascinated by for a long time and I happened to buy a 10m roll of it a few months ago so that I could play with it.  This seemed like a good time to try it out and make my flowers a bit more 3D.

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I took scraps and snippets of specialty embroidery floss and little bits of ribbon and sandwiched them between two sheets of Solvy in an old plastic embroidery hoop (luckily, it just fitted under the Pfaff’s foot if I raised it to max height).

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Then I used FMQ to “draw” my petals and fill them in with stitching so that they would hold together and form useful structures.

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Initially I did little overlapping circles on the daffodil petals and trumpets, but when I got to the tulip petals I’d gained more confidence in my technique so I tried a more needle-painted look to resemble the markings on real tulip petals – I’m quite pleased with the effect!

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It is still possible to see the shimmer of the metallic or rayon threads in the petals after they have been cut out and soaked to dissolve the Solvy.  One problem I found was that this method is not a very efficient use of the Solvy – the size of the hoop put limits on how large I could make the petals without the sides of the hoop interfering with the mechanism of the sewing machine, so I used a different technique subsequently.

The final embellishment to make, following the theme of the backing fabric, was a butterfly.  This time, I used a scrap of blue-green organza as the bottom layer of my Solvy sarnie and filled it with snips of blue, green and silver metallic embroidery floss.  Then I stitched over the whole area of the embroidery hoop with overlapped circles and doodles with iridescent white metallic thread in the needle and variegated gold metallic thread in the bobbin (I kept the bobbin thread the same for all of the butterfly stitching – like many real butterflies, mine has a comparatively plain outer wing).  This was a much more efficient use of the Solvy – once the hoop was filled, I removed it from my sandwich and used a butterfly outline I found online to mark out the shape of two fore wings and two hind wings, all of which fitted nicely on my sewn area.  Using variegated dark blue quilting thread, I couched metallic blue embroidery floss around my wing shapes to give them a clean edge and also used the same thread and FMQ to stitch veins across the wings.

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Finally I added sequins and beads to amp the glam level up to 11, fashioned a little body from two glass beads and a silver headpin, and attached everything to the quilt by hand.  The daffodil trumpets were by far the most annoying part to attach – thank goodness I only needed to do four of them!

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It was a few days’ effort, and I am so pleased with how it came out given how experimental some of it was.  Importantly, mum seems to like it too.  The other reason that I am proud of it is that, other than one new embroidery floss skein (the yellow rayon), all the materials in this quilt came from my stash or my scraps bin.  2017 – the year of the scrap quilt?  Bring it!  ;D

Linking up with Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday, Free Motion Mavericks and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂