I picked up this fabric at my quilt guild's show back in November, before I had even joined the guild. I knew it would be perfect for my friend Megan, who has a special affection for hippos. And since she's getting married in a couple weeks, I had the perfect opportunity. (I don't think Megs reads this, but if you do, scram for a while!)
I've been a bit slack about showing quilts in progress, so I thought I'd chart my work on the hippo quilt, which I want to get done by Wednesday, when my guild meets next (so I can figure out who sold me the fabric). Wish me luck!
Once I had the fabric, I started noticing hippo designs in my stockpile of vintage craft books.
Sources, clockwise from upper left: Better Homes and Gardens Appliqué, McCall's Stitchery Vol. II: Appliqué, Scrap Saver's Stitchery Book, Quilting in Squares
They seemed to share an aesthetic sensibility with the hippo fabric—you can't see it in the scan, but the fabric has hippos wearing bow ties, just like one of the appliqué patterns! I scanned the designs and used EQ6 to trace the hippos into appliqué motifs. Then I used a custom set quilt to draw an irregular grid of blocks, dropping the hippos around and filling the other blocks with the hippo fabric and similarly coloured prints.
The red hippo fabric is from Ikea and was amazingly just about quilting weight (I may use it for the backing, too). The other prints aren't exactly the real fabrics I'm using, but they're good enough for getting the overall picture. The hippos will probably shift about a bit too; that one in the corner is really too tiny to sew. Since it's a pain to fiddle with custom-set blocks, I'll just make tweaks on the design wall. I used my satin-stitch trick to test thread colours—because I want Megan to be able to use the quilt as a picnic blanket, I'm using zigzag-stitch appliqué for washability.
Setting up the EQ6 quilt let me easily print out full-size appliqué block patterns for each of the hippos, which I could then trace onto fusible web. I'm pretty much using Sue Nickels and Pat Holly's technique from Stitched Raw Edge Appliqué. I wasn't sure I'd do much fusing, but I like their method a lot (even though they mainly use blanket stitch), and though I don't think they mention it in the book, it's an efficient use of fusible web, since you cut out the centers from each fusible shape and then can use it for smaller shapes. (On the other hand, I'm craving hand appliqué and must get some blocks of something ready to stitch!)
All this explanation is really just to prove to myself that I actually have been working on this project as the deadline looms. 'Cause this is all I've got sewn together so far:
Even that's misleading, since the only things stitched down on the dapper, bow-tied hippo are his toes. More updates as I fiendishly sew!
Some tips. If you're doing zigzag appliqué like this, Kona Cotton is great for foundations. It's got a little more heft than the average quilting cotton, and the extra stiffness helps stabilize the fabric. A spritz of spray starch can help, too, especially on lighter-weight fabrics.
To save myself the frustration of turning corners and starting and stopping, I'm just going to sew around the bottom of this hippo's feet with the darker thread that will outline the body. This way, after I sewed the arc around the top of each toenail, I could lift the needle and presser foot to spin the hippo round for the next toenail, all without clipping the thread. The threads between the nails ("jump threads," I think we'd say, if we had an automated embroidery machine and if we were opting to use the royal "we") will be concealed by the stitching around the bottom of the foot—click on the photo to zoom if it's hard to see.