The one with the bird

Last year, I did a class with David Taylor, a master of art quilts, through Handcrafters House. I love the realism of David’s work (Maynard, which I think of as ‘dog bum in the snow’, is my favourite), but there was one snag in my plan to do his class: he achieves his effects by using a lot of batiks. I really, truly dislike batiks. I forced myself to look about in local and online shops for batik scrap packs, but I could not bring myself to buy any. Eventually, I scrounged a selection of batik fabrics from my kind batik-loving friends.

Even so, my heart really was not into the batiks. At Serena’s suggestion, I put my Liberty fabrics in the car ‘just in case’ as I packed for the four-day workshop. By lunchtime on the first day, the batik scraps were back in the car and I was happily playing with my Liberty florals. My fabric choices were not David’s cup of tea, but he could tell I was miserable when I was forcing myself to use batiks, and he supported my decision.

Of course, when I started down that detour, I could not then continue to machine quilt the life into it as David does with his art quilts. Machine quilting over all that hand-appliquéd Liberty did not feel right. Instead, I was inspired by Pat Goodchild’s free-form perle 8 quilting, a bit of embroidery, a bit of sashiko and a bit of boro. (Pat is a talented local quilter who is a regular at Calico & Ivy.)

You would think that because I strayed so far from David’s plan that I did not learn anything in his class. That is not true. I do and will continue to apply the techniques he taught us – but perhaps not to create anything that mimics his amazing work.

By trying something outside of my comfort zone, I had fun experimenting. I was not precious that it had to look a certain way. I did not worry that the bird was not realistic. At no point was I sure that the idea would work, and my plan evolved as I sewed, but I was having fun going with the flow. I was also watching a lot of Wallander, Shetland and Hinterland.

The class was in June last year. Almost as soon as I began, I was determined to enter it in our local quilt show this May. I did not know whether it was going to be a good quilt, but I filled in the entry form anyway, long before it was finished.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

It looked like this when I had made only a few tentative starts on the quilting.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

All finished!

I did not win any prizes, but I did not expect to. One of the things I like about our show, QuiltWest, is that it is primarily to display our association’s members’ work. Yes, prizes are awarded, but our association stresses the importance of displaying a variety of members’ work.

My entry was in the pictorial quilt category, and our local community has some amazingly talented art quilters. This was my first pictorial or ‘art’ quilt. It might be my last! I think it is my first quilt deliberately made as a wall-hanging (if you do not count the growth chart).

The judges’ comments gave me an A for the neatness of my stitching and a B for overall visual effect. I think that was fair. My stitches are freakishly neat (I am a Virgo), but the quilt probably could do with a bit more ‘oomph’. The stitching in the background fades into the background too much, perhaps. You have to stand far away to see the bird and up close to see the hibiscus, and I felt that could be seen as a problem.

The biggest praise came when I dropped the quilt off. The lady doing the show collection called her husband in to take a look. If you rouse your husband from the couch to take a look, it must be good, I thought.

I finished it the day before the show deadline in May, but I had not photographed it until today because it has been hanging out in the shop window at Calico & Ivy. Today was overcast, but I was determined.

The quilt’s name is inspired by the names of episodes of the TV show Friends. Friends offered their batik scraps. Friends pushed me to go my own way. Friends picked up extra Liberty supplies for me when I needed more blue. Friends helped me choose the backing. Friends encouraged me to try to something different in the background, and friends’ creativity inspired me to try new things.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

The feet and tummy feathers were fiddly to sew!

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

Choosing the pink and red fabrics for the wing was my favourite part.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

I am not sure if this was inspired by sashiko or boro or both.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

I tested my embroidery skills with pistil stitch.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

Isme helped me choose the backing fabric, which I love.

Here are a few random facts about the quilt:

  • It is approximately 33 x 43 inches.
  • I used Liberty fabrics, linen and Quilt Lite.
  • The appliqué was sewn by hand using Aurifil thread.
  • I hand quilted it with a combination of Gutermann quilting thread and any sort of perle 5, 8 and 12 I had, including Finca, DMC and Aurifil.

I am really happy with it because:

  • I tried something new.
  • I let myself experiment.
  • I completed my first solo quilt-show entry.

This has been my main project for a long time. Now it is finished, I feel liberated to play with one of my many other UFOs.

‘The one with the bird’ by Granny Maud's Girl

There are four flowers, not one, quilted into the background. Can you see them? Nope!

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17 thoughts on “The one with the bird

  1. Gorgeous… And I feel it works just as well in Liberty fabrics as it would have in batiks; it’s just a different look. Those huge almost-invisible hibiscus flowers in the background are wonderful. If you can spot the pistil stitch, the flowers slowly become visible. Well done, on finishing it, and on achieving your challenge to learn something new. Well worth it, I’d say.

  2. Carla, I remember you looking for the Batik bits and pieces but not wanting to use them, your finished bird is just wonderful and I love your choice of Liberty fabrics.

  3. I think your quilt is lovely, and your stitching is superb. I love the the flower I can see and am sure I could see all if in person!

  4. This is so beautiful Carla. Congratulations. I’m not a fan of batiks either. Your Liberty fabric choices are spectacular. 💖

  5. I am so glad you packed Liberty fabric and put the batiks away. There is no sense working with something that doesn’t make your heart sing. I love how the hummingbird turned out and I think I could get up close and absorbed in your hand quilting and hibiscus details for a long time. Beautiful quilt and quite worth the time, effort, and care you put into it!

  6. omg, so amazing! wow! thank you so much for sharing & for your process. (i also, Normally, do Not prefer batiks!!! so nice to hear of another in sewing-land 🙂 i will choose some at times, but Not usually.) anywho, i really love your “friends” quilt & you have inspired me! Thank you!! 🙂 gorgeous 🙂

  7. That looks great Carla , not sure how long it took you but a lot of work anyway
    You must feel very satisfied

  8. Wow, your bird is so beautiful with your printed fabrics! I happen to be a lover of batiks but I have ALWAYS been impressed with your fabric choices – I just love them. As a matter of fact, I have often thought that I would surely drool over your stash if I were to see it. I love that you tried something new but in your own style. To me, quilting is a form of art, and while we can learn so much from each other, the art form must always come from within ourselves.

    I love the hand stitching. YOur stitches are truely beautiful as always!

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