From where I sit here at the keyboard, I can look out on my backyard full of apple trees in bloom. It's a glorious sight- too bad the blossoms only last a few days. They are already beginning to fall, littering the grass with white petals, a flurry of "snow" with each flutter of the breeze. It was these trees that were my inspiration for The Nest.
Our Guild does not do a Challenge each year, but with a Show this spring, the Committee decided a Challenge to our members was in order. Rather than dictate the fabrics to be used, as is often done, we wanted to encourage participation so just threw out the Challenge for their interpretation of our Show's theme "Thoughts of Spring". All work had to be done by the entrant, it had to be quilted and could not be over 96" in perimeter. Other than that, it was "anything goes".
Since I was on the Committee, I knew I had to participate. Now I have to tell you, this chickie is not usually a Challenge participant. I guess the idea of someone else dictating colors and fabrics just does not excite me, no - not even a little bit. But with the freedom to do whatever I wanted with my own fabric choices, I knew I did not have any excuse not to participate. I mulled around several ideas before I finally got the brainwave for The Nest - combining two of my favourite spring things - apple blossoms and a robin's nest.
I probably spent as much time planning and thinking it all out as I did actually doing it. Knowing that the branches would be roughly textured and the leaves, blossoms and nest would all be three dimensional, my first concern was how I would quilt it... It didn't take me long to decide I would have to quilt it first- before adding anything else to it- I know, just the complete opposite of what one usually does. I have to admit- this entire piece was somewhat of an experiment- as I had no idea if my "vision" would actually work... But I was quite sure that quilting the "base" first was my only option. So I layered the top and batting only, (I would add a "false back" later) and with my walking foot, put some gently curving lines across it, in hopes it would look like a spring breeze blowing. Of course I forgot to take a photo of this first step... so you'll just have to imagine it (pretend you're Anne Shirley with a great imagination...)
Next came the branches. Apple tree bark is quite rough and on my trees at least, there is quite a variety of color from browns and greys, depending on the light, to even rusty red in some areas, not to mention some velvety green moss. I planned to add texture with thread-painting and the addition of some textured yarns but I knew I would have a problem with trying to keep it all flat - I knew it would "pull in", even though the branches were narrow. So I sketched my branches on the Steam a Seam (a fusible product), fused it to my reddish brown fabric, then fused the branches not to my quilted background but to another piece of the same soft blue fabric. I pulled out every brown, beige, grey, gold and rusty red thread I owned, along with a variety of textured yarns and even some wool roving that I thought might work. First I did some stitching with just the threads, then began adding some yarns and stitched over them. One slubby yarn gave some nice effects. Once I was satisfied with the look of the "bark", I cut out the branches, being careful to cut as closely as I could to the edges, trying to leave little or none of the blue background fabric showing. Then I placed the branches where I wanted them on my already quilted background and stitched them in place with a darker brown thread. Voila - my textured branches were nice and flat - no puckering from the heavy stitching.
Next - the leaves, blossoms and the nest. Stay tuned!
"There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our heart must be very quiet to hear it." ~ Minnie Aumonier