Monday, August 22, 2016

Make The Thing


Kind of a weird thing.


I think.

See, last week, I picked up this book:

I bought it because I really wanted the squirrel pattern you can see in the top left corner of the cover, designed by Jennifer Dick, one of my favorite pattern designers. I already have a pretty comprehensive book on appliqué, and I've done just about every method there is, with varying degrees of success.  I have always preferred hand appliqué, whether needle-turn or edges turned over a template. I liked the way, with thin thread and tiny stitches, you can make the shapes and designs almost invisibly attached to the fabric. Fusible appliqué always felt like cheating, yet I would occasionally see pieces that use it to pretty great effect. Then I'd try it again, and I'd hate it.

But for some reason, the projects in this book that used fusible just...spoke to me. In particular, Casey York has a broderie perse quilt with a wreath of flowers that is pretty stunning. (Broderie perse is a form of appliqué where you cut out the printed motifs from a piece of fabric and then stitch them to another piece. If there is enough background fabric around the motif, you can cut a seam allowace around it and then turn the edges under and hand sew. Or, you can cut right along the edge of the motif and use fusible.) There was also a spotlight on Bari J. Ackerman, and it showed a gorgeous broderie perse pillow she made, where the motifs were all layered on top of one another like a collage, with free motion quilting highlighting the shapes. I don't know why, but something went off in my head when I saw these. (SOMETHING'S BEEN OFF IN YOUR HEAD A LONG TIME, HONEY) I had an idea, and more than enough fabric to try it, and I also had drugs.

Pretty much the same day I got the book, I threw my back out. As far as I know, the two events were not related, but who can say? So my doc loaded me up on painkillers and muscle relaxers for a few days, and I really had nothing to do and yet a bizarre ability to focus on something exacting. That part may have been from the steroid. In any case, despite the fact that I once ruminated (HA) on the proliferation of deer fabrics in Quiltland, one particular deer fabric was special to me and I happened to have a LOT of it:

In all three colorways, natch.

So, I had a vision of these deer heads, but I didn't realize until I started cutting just how complex their design is. So, I simplified it and removed the parts that were simply too small to cut:

Once I had several of these, I started arranging them in a circle. It took a lot of trial and error to find the right number and size.

Then I wanted to see if I could add more. I chose the red/pink colorway and added those. Then there was the fun process of transferring what I had done by pinning on foamcore board to fabric, but with drawign lots of lines and guides with a handy blue pen, I got it perfect and ironed it all down.:

(And I'm going to pause here and say that Pelon 805/Wonder Under is the shit. It's really nice and flexible and easy to use.)

Once I had it on the background fabric, I had to quilt it. I pretty much punted on the background and just did a small stipple. I was afraid with my back and shoulder problems, I wouldn't be able to do even that, but it turns out I can handle small pieces fine, just not full quilts. Then I went over each dear head with free motion as well, but just along the edges to keep everything secure and to give the heads a little pop:

The binding is another Tula print from the same collection, though it may just look black here.

It was so incredibly satisfying to work on this, to see what was in my head coming into being. It's far from perfect of course, and definitely strange. But it's mine and I love it.

I think.

Now I have a whole bolt of Wonder Under and a pair of easy-on-the-hands spring-loaded scissors, and I'm ready to try more things. Sometimes, when you get a thing in your head, you just have to make the thing. Even if you're not quite sure of the thing when you're done. But if you have a thought, and you have the tools, the answer is always: Make The Thing. It may not be a masterpiece, but it just may be the first step towards one.

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