Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hippo quilt finished!

Megs opens the quilt

I was binding on the plane and then on the entire train journey from London up to Grasmere (where the quilt fended off anyone who might have snagged the open seat beside me), but I managed to get the quilt done just in time! Megan seemed very pleased with it, and it was not the only hippo-related item in her wedding booty—so my fears that perhaps her fascination had faded were assuaged!

A sunny day somehow got sandwiched in between clouds and rain in the Lake District, which made the wedding even nicer. And it was lovely to catch up with my English friends, of course—and to give my binding fingers a rest!

finished hippo quilt
(You can see the quilting better in this photo.)

hippo quilt back
The back

hippo quilt label
The label

Megan & Neil with the quilt

Considering the rush, I'm happy with how it turned out, and more importantly I'm glad Megs and Neil liked it too. Worth every stitch!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hippo quilt update

Sorry, no photos, as I'm getting my bits together to head to the airport for my friend's wedding. The hippos are all quilted—just in diagonal channels, but I'm happy with how it turned out. Only hand-sewing the binding remains, so I'll be that bizarre character needling away at a hippo-covered blanket in the airport terminal. Say hello if you run into such a creature—it'll be nicer than the inevitable stares!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hippo quilt, part IV

Well, it was a late night, but I got the top done in time for my guild meeting this morning!

hippos quilt top all pieced

(Are the smaller prints doing some freaky moiré stuff on your screen, too?) The piecing was actually a breeze, especially with my amazing, wonderful, how-did-I-live-without-it sewing machine. But oh, the cutting. How I cursed myself for making a pattern with all the blocks different sizes. I'm pleased with how it looks, though, and I think Megan will like it too.

And sure enough, I discovered who amongst my guild had sold the fabric—it was Carol, who'd organized our quilt show's boutique (and probably contributed a hefty chunk of the wares). She's not a computer user, but thanks for the fabric, Carol! And for the inspiration, as well, since the colour scheme, type of secondary prints, and appliqués all came from the hippo fabric.

Now I've got a week to get it quilted and bound. Stitching in the ditch probably won't work, since some of the blocks are pretty big. I'm thinking probably some sort of diamond grid (interrupted where the appliqués are), but if anybody's got any brilliant ideas, I'm open. It just has to be straight lines—I'm still getting up to speed on free motion!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hippo quilt, part III

four hippo appliqués

I'm a little behind schedule, having only just finished sewing the last hippo to its foundation. And I've got a rotten cold/allergies/snot thing, which is really making this less fun.

Can you tell what I mucked up yesterday? I forgot to reverse the last hippo (on the blue fabric) when I traced it onto the fusible web, so now all three of the side-view hippos are looking in the same direction. I'd already cut out the shape and fused it down when I realized, so I'm just going to fudge it.

Now, how fast can I piece?...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hippo quilt, part II

Three hippo appliqués

She's coming along steadily. I'm hoping to finish the appliqué today so I can cut and piece the blocks tomorrow. That means one more hippo from scratch (more cutting and fusing, ugh) and then sewing three of them down onto the foundations.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hippo quilt, part I

hippo fabric

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.

hippo appliqué pattern 1 hippo appliqué pattern 2
hippo appliqué pattern 3 hippo appliqué pattern 4
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.

hippo quilt

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:

two hippo appliqués

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.

hippo appliqué toes

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.