October 4, 2006
I'm part of an online challenge quilt group -- this month's piece was "fall colors" -- which for me means Halloween -- I started with a photo I'd taken of my daughter's horse JT and decided to see if I could approximate him, in pumpkin, candy corn, and abstract fabrics. It was an excellent adventure; I did a number of things I'd never done before:
1. I enlarged and photocopied the photo and used a technique I learned (and haven't used since) in 1969, where you pin successive layers of fabric wrong side up to the photocopy, stitch around the distinct sections, and trim off the excess fabric. Ordinarily you zigzag around it, but I just did a straight stitch.
2. I chose the photo because I wanted to work with something that had a VERY clear foreground and background.
3. I chose to limit myself to fabrics already in my stash. I don't have any solids, and I don't have any browns (the color of the actual horse), and I didn't have enough Halloween print variations to do the shading I wanted to. Also, a couple of the shapes got out of whack when I machine stitched them on, because I need (big news here) better lighting.
4. In two places, I put the fabric on wrong side up (meaning right side up), which added an extra element of "ack" to the whole project.
5. Since I couldn't get the shading I wanted from the fabrics, I decided to use embroidery floss and hand-stitching on JT. This is also my 3-D element. The only place it REALLY shows up on the piece is the highlight over his eye. Oh,yeah, and last night I had a purple fabric paint pen in my hand and so daubed a bit on his shouler and chest where shadows show in the photo...
6. There's tulle over everything but the sky and the horse, because the background colors (two grasses and the orange forest) seemed too bright; I wanted more contrast with the foreground horse.
7. I decided when I added the inner white border to do what I've heard mentioned numerous times: to measure when I finished the first side to see if I was actually sewing a 1/4 inch seam. Nope. It was a wavery line, from 1/4 through 1/2 to 5/8. So then I did that trick where you measure 1/4 inch from the needle (imagine that), and then put a pad of sticky notes to help keep sewing in a straight line. My variations still existed but were less extreme. I improved with the bats (second) border and then improved even more with the binding. I actually was able to see, for the first time, just how much a pin distorts the fabric.
8. I chose the borders and binding by trial and error. I love this part, because it's always satisfying to see which fabric deadens the piece, which does nothing for it, and which contributes to the whole. The white inner border made a critical difference in lightening up the whole picture, and in bringing out the shimmer in the tulle. And the bats border was to show that the choice of Halloween fabrics for JT was intentional.
9. I knew after I attached JT's nose that this was not going to turn out the way I'd intended, but I decided to keep going anyhow... the "make it work" principle from Project Runway" -- or, if not "make it work," then "follow it through to its conclusion." I found great freedom in continuing to work on a piece that was never going to please me... I wouldn't have tried the tulle or the fabric marker if it had been working out well.
10. The quilting is by hand. There's very little of it, because I don't like the look of quilting stitches. (!)
11. I finished it -- all the way down to attaching those little triangles of fabric at two corners on the back so it can be hung.
12. I like this piece less well than other pieces I've done, but I learned ever so much from the things that didn't work quite right.