Well, the 12″ by 12″ mini-quilt for September has been a long time in the making, but it is finally finished (well in time for next September)!
For September I wanted a harvest theme: it is a month when the fields are turning golden as everything ripens in the last of the warm weather. I also wanted to work a crow somewhere into my quilt-year, as I see a lot of them cycling through the countryside to and from my work. In the autumn they place acorns on the cycle paths so that passing cyclists crack them open as they cycle along. You see the crow dart in immediately afterwards and make off with their booty. So I was delighted when I saw a Pearl P. Pereira pattern for sale in the ‘Selling off the Spares’ section of the Honeybee Fabrics website. Honeybee does a lot of BOMs and every now and then a month or two of a BOM is left over when the BOM is finished: then the pattern layout and the fabric pieces for the month are sold loose on the website. You don’t get any instructions, so you have to know how to quilt/appliqué/piece or whatever, but it is a good way of getting a compact project for a cushion, table-topper or mini quilt.
The block that caught my eye was this one:
So I sent off for the block and waited impatiently for it to arrive. The pattern consisted of an outline-drawing of the design, and details about which stitches to use to embroider legs and wheat-ears and what size buttons to use for the eyes. This is a pattern from a larger Baltimore style quilt, and the original was of course appliquéd by hand, but I decided to machine appliqué my version. So the first thing I did was make a copy of the drawing so that I could trace the pattern components onto fusible web using my light table. I placed the copy upside-down on the light table so that the finished crows would come out facing the same way as in the original block.
Then I started fusing the web to the fabrics that came with the block (small pieces, but enough to get the block done) and cutting them out. I laid them on top of the pattern drawing to check accuracy and to make sure I had everything!
The pattern had come with a cream-coloured background fabric, but I didn’t like it (I used it for the back of the quilt, eventually) so I auditioned a few cream-coloured fabrics from my stash. I chose a tiny leaf pattern, and then checked that it contrasted enough with the beige colours for the ears of wheat. Using my own fabric also allowed me to cut a more generous sized front piece, to allow for shrinkage due to appliqué and quilting.
Because the appliqué components were small, I decided to assemble the pieces on an appliqué pressing sheet into fusible units before appliquéing them to the background. I used a Clover mini-iron for this step, and made good use of my Thermal Thimbles!
The pieces fuse fabric-to-fabric on the sheet, and the rest I could just peel off when it had cooled down and fuse to the background in the usual way. I used the layout drawing as an underlay so that everything was in the right place. To be doubly sure I made an overlay tracing of a quarter of the design (each quarter is the same in turns of positioning) and used that to check over the top if everything was in the right place.
Then I could easily see where things needed to be adjusted or added.
Once I had all four units made, I used a Creative Grids 12″ Square it up/Fussy cut ruler to make sure the units were accurately positioned on the background fabric.
Then I fused the four units in place.
Given the number of pieces, I decided to do the appliqué with transparent Aurifil mono-filament thread (with cream in the bobbin) so that I didn’t have to change threads all the time, and so that I could try to optimise the amount of stopping and starting I had to do. Still had to do a lot of that, by the way, but not really surprising for a Baltimore block! I layered the backing with some tear-away stabiliser and went to work. I used a narrow zig-zag stitch for the appliqué, and soon I had a front that looked like this:
And a back that looked like this:
I left the stabiliser in place to have extra support for the fabric whilst I embroidered the crow’s legs and the tufts on the wheat-ears. I used 2 strands of DMC cotton mouline.
I was really pleased with how the zig-zag looked: the sheen of the mono-filament catches the light a little and gives the appliqué a tiny ‘pop’. I added a micro-button to each crow as an eye. The eye really brought them to life: all at once there was a bird there, instead of a black shape with legs!
The I embroidered the little sprigs on the ears of wheat. I also drew quilting lines on the leaves with a white pencil.
Then I carefully removed all the stabiliser from the back (which is messy, but goes a breeze with Uncle Billy’s Silver Gripper – I am afraid I might one day lose this little tool, so I have bought a spare just in case). I layered the quilt with two layers of Hobbs 80/20 Cotton Batting, as I wanted it to have some extra definition to counteract the slight stiffness from the fusible appliqué areas.
I echo quilted around the outside and in the middle of the crow-wreath, with a variegated YLI thread, and I outline quilted the birds, quilted their wings, quilted leaf-veins on the leaves and a random cross-hatch on the ears of corn, to suggest corn kernels. For that I used 50 weight Gutermann thread in matching colours. Then I cut the top to size and stitched 1/8″ from the edge to stabilise the edges.
In line with the rest of this series, this mini-quilt is also bound with a batik: I had a sunflower pattern in yummy autumn colours that I used for the binding.
I added a hanging sleeve to the back, during the binding process, and a label, and then hung the quilt on the Ackfeld Wire quilt hanger. As this is the first autumn quilt, it has an oak-leaf and acorn topper.
October says Autumn/Fall colour to me…I’ll be posting the result of that inspiration soon.