Green Woman #12 – Finished!

October 11, 2020 at 8:39 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 5 Comments

Celebrations are in order! I’ve finally finished all the invisible bits and pieces that were still missing, and now I have a finished quilt I’m very happy with. Here it is:

Finished quilt with image of "Green Woman" by Iain Clark.
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In addition to putting on the binding, adding a label and a tunnel for hanging, I added a few tiny details that were better left for embroidery and beads than for patchwork:

Detail of "Green Woman", showing the sundew flowers with embroidery and beads.

Here are the sundew flowers with the shiny beads, and I also gave the flower on the upper right a few:

Detail of "Green Woman", showing the beaded center of the flower on the upper right.

That’s one long-term project done, and I am happy with the result. Who knows when I’ll be able to show it off to people in real life, though, with everything that’s not happening this year.

Off to find something new to get obsessed with, now…

Green Woman #11 – Quilting

August 16, 2020 at 9:27 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 2 Comments

I was pretting busy during the last weeks, what with a virtual Worldcon and all that. I can’t believe it’s been a year since Dublin 2019, where this project was conceived. When we saw this last, I was trying to figure out how to do the quilting, and right now, this part is finished!

Free machine quilting is one of my favourite parts of making a quilt, even though it tends to be a struggle to maneuver the quilt through my very normal-sized sewing machine. I have seriously been eyeing some of the dedicated quilting machines at times, but then, who has that much space to spare?

So, here’s some progress shots I took:

You can see that I followed the line drawing pretty closely in the coloured areas, which makes the quilting do double duty – adding detail to the image as well as securing the layers together. For the white areas, I knew I had to come up with something different, since those are totally unstructured in the original image. I already had experimented with leaves on the postcards, and my thoughts went to something like a wild rose hedge for the foreground. So I did some doodling:

black ink drawing showing different variants for rose hedge continuous quilting design.

These are not quite what I finally used, but having them on the page helped me visualize how I wanted the border to look. To stay with the clean look of the original, I was going to quilt with white thread on white fabric, so this will be one of those nice things you only see when you look at the quilt close-up, but shouldn’t make a huge impression on the overall look. Here’s a detail, so you can see how it came out in the end:

Lower left corner of quilt, showing the white-on-white quilting of a rose hedge in the foreground.

The big flower is actually the outline of a flower that was woven into the fabric of the damask table cloth I used. It’s pretty much invisible unless you look very closely, but it’s there and it makes me happy.

After removing the basting stitches and squaring up the edges, here’s the pretty much finished quilt:

That’s most of the creative work done! Next I will be attaching the invisible binding, and then do the small bits of hand embroidery and beading I have planned for the sundews and flower. It might still be a while, since currently it’s way too hot to sit under a quilt and sew!

Green Woman #10 – More Samples

June 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

So, last time I ended with a finished top. The next steps were making a quilt sandwich and basting it, thus preparing for quilting, and actually figuring out how to quilt the thing, which would involve more sampling.

Basting happened, here she is spread out on the table all stitched up:

Green Woman 10-08

For the sampling part, I decided to try something different and make some fabric postcards with the interesting features I wanted to get a handle on before embarking on the real thing. Here’s the motifs I choose:

Green Woman 10-01

As with the real quilt, I ironed on the pieces using Bondaweb. The choice of background fabric is not quite optimal for the green pitcher plant, but the background will be rather more brownish for the real thing.

I then quilted the whole piece, trying to figure out what would work:

Green Woman 10-02

I decided to completely ignore any shading and mostly go for recreating the black lines from the line drawing, and I think this mostly works and fits the medium. For the white, I tried fairly dense quilting on the rightmost piece, and then just did a few smaller leaves on the other two. This looks much better to me, and I’ll do a variant of that (suited to the larger spaces I’ll have there) on the quilt.

After aquiring more of the material used for backing those – a very thin but stiff sheet which I think is normally used when sewing bags – I cut them apart and finished them. I figured out a process that works pretty painlessly, so I may do more cards in the future. Here’s the whole row, with added bling for the sundew:

Green Woman 10-03

I was planning to try out different ways to do the sundews, but found the perfect beads, which together with the dark red embroidery thread convinced me on the first try.

Here are the cards close-up for your viewing pleasure (click to enlarge).

I’ve already started quilting, but of course this gets harder when there’s a whole quilt attached to the small piece you’re working on, so I’ll probably be a while.

Green Woman #9 – I’ve got a top!

May 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

Last time I was preparing to attach all the tiny bits to the quilt top. I’ve already talked a bit about choosing the right fabric, so here’s an example. The spiral in the middle of this section gave me a bit of a headache:

The primary colour of the fabic on the left is a sand tone, with some browns and a red mixed in, resembling a marbled paper. A good fit in theory, but I couldn’t find a position to put my shape on that really convinced me. Here it is somewhat getting lost against the lighter fabric in the background. So I made a second try, this time with a brown fabric that is much less structured. Admittedly, in the picture it now looks like it’s getting lost against the darker browns on the right side of the background, but the spiral part itself is now more visible. I thought about that one for quite a while, but ultimately went with the right version.

That done, more cutting and tracing ensued, and I kept finding bits and pieces in the picture I had missed. But finally, all the coloured pieces were there:

Green Woman - all the coloured bits added

To get the final positioning right, I definitely needed the white foreground as well, so I proceeded to cut and trace that. Here she is with everything cut out and pinned down in its hopefully final position:

Green Woman - foreground in position

The bondaweb needs to be ironed on using a damp cloth, and of course the pins need to be removed first, so the ironing part was going to be a delicate operation. I had started to make a detailed plan for the order in which the ironing needed to be done, but somewhere midway I realized that it was actually easier to keep everything where it belongs if I did it all in one go. It doesn’t help that mistakes on that step are very hard to fix. I know why I usually prefer thread to glue! In the end, the only visible mistake is in a place where I did the step-by-step method and didn’t take the existing pieces properly into account when adding the new one. It’s not very visible, though, at least with a bit of distance. So, here she is, looking much closer to done now:

Green Woman - finished top

At the moment, she’s still hanging there, while I’m back to sampling. I need to figure out how to get the lady quilted! The quilting needs to do two jobs – first, all those raw edges need to be secured in some way, second, quilting gives me the opportunity to draw on top of the picture with needle and thread and add some structure. But more on that next time.


Green Woman #8 – Decisions, Decisions

May 3, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

So, my delivery of Bondaweb and grey cotton thread finally arrived, so I’m officially out of excuses for not working on this. Still no progress on the actual quilt, since decision making needs to come first. After deciding to use Bondaweb to attach the white, I am also going to use it for all the small foreground bits and pieces, since there’s no need to introduce yet another technique for that. So, I copied those pieces on transparent paper:

Green Woman 8/01

(There’s some missing in that version, I found and added them later.) The advantage to transparent paper is that it’s trivial to then copy things to the backing paper of the bondaweb, which needs to be done mirrored. In selecting fabrics for these pieces I need to be careful not to go too much after the source image, but also to take the actual colours in the quilt into account. Frustrated by the lack of space to see everything, because I need the work table to cut and sort fabrics and trace things, I put up my improvised design wall today (an old flannel sheet in front of my bookcase) and stuck the lady there. Here she is, with the first of the itty bitty parts (roughly) attached:

Green Woman 8/02

This solution gives me the space I need, also she’s looking at me very ominously all the time, which makes it more probable that I actually work on her. The ironing on of all the Bondaweb-backed parts will need to be done in one go, since things are sitting over and under each other, and also need to be fairly precisely positioned. Getting that right will be fiddly, but first I need to prep everything.

Another thing I needed to try out was how to create the spirals of hair on top of the white. I was thinking to needle felt them, and I already had the equipment for that around from last year’s Raksura Colony Tree project, although I had never used it. So I gave it a try on the sample:

Green Woman 8/03

This one has a thin layer of red on top of a thin layer of brown. Worked well for a first try. Looking at the backside, I realized that needlefelting is definitely something to do before attaching the backing, because here’s the backside of that spiral:

Green Woman 8/04

The felting needle pushes lots of tiny fibers through the top and batting, which makes sure the wool is attached really well, but wouldn’t look nice on the back of a finished quilt. It’s one of those things that seems logical once you’ve seen it, but I was surprised for a moment!

I made a second try, trying to mix the brown and red wool a bit better and twisting the colours around each other:

Green Woman 8/05

I like this look much better than the first one. Definitely workable.

But then, with the decision to do everything with Bondaweb, why not cut the spirals directly from the white and let the background show through? I’m currently leaning in that direction in order to not make things more complicated than they need to be. I think I will explore incorporation needle-felted elements into my quilts further at some point, though, since the process is pretty fun!

Maybe next time I’ll actually have attached something to the quilt?


Green Woman #7 – Samples

April 11, 2020 at 9:37 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 4 Comments

Here’s where we left the lady last time, and I’m afraid that’s what she still looks like:

Green Woman - pieced background

The next step was figuring out how to add the white foreground. As you can see from the original image by Iain Clark (he’s a 2020 Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist, go check out his lovely work!), it’s quite a few leaves and twigs, including sharp inside and outside corners, which turned out to be the real problem.

Green Woman - Original Artwork by Iain J. Clark, used with permission.

I knew what fabric I wanted to use – I’ve got some of my mom’s old white damask tablecloths, and it’s a fairly dense fabric (good if you want to put it on top of coloured fabric). I choose one  with woven in florals that I think fits the theme of this quilt very well.

The big question was how to attach the white to the background to achieve the fairly clean lines I’d like to see here? I’d have to try different options, so I started by grabbing a few of the cut offs of the background fabric and sewed them together, giving me a background that’s representative of the real thing.

I then choose a bit of the upper left side of the white border to try things out with, since there most of the interesting features are present.

First option: machine appliqué with a facing fabric

A friend suggested this solution, and I liked the idea because it would put another white fabric layer between the damask and the colourful background. It also would give me a clean edge that I could attach with a simple line of machine sewing. So, here’s a few process pictures:

Green Woman #7 01

The lines get transferred to the wrong side of the facing fabric, then both fabrics are pinned right sides together.

Green Woman #7 02

Sewing is a simple case of stitching along the drawn line. After that I cut off the outside fabric, leaving a small seam allowance. Then I turned the piece, and here’s where the problems start:

Green Woman #7 03

You can clearly see the puckers on the negative corners at the bottom, and the sharp tips at the top are not sharp at all. I took the picture on top of the line drawing, so you can also see the leaf forms are not as nice as they should be as well. At that point it was pretty clear that I’d need to find another solution, but I still attached this to the background just to see if I like the look in general, and to have a base for trying out further steps, like quilting.

Green Woman #7 04

I top stitched it down using a dark grey thread, trying to imitate the outline from the original. It doesn’t look very clean, and as that’s the goal, on to option 2.

Second option: hand appliqué

The next obvious thing to try was hand appliqué. I’m not that big a fan, especially as it would be a fairly substantial amount of work on a piece that size, but if it is what it takes, so be it.

I transferred the pattern onto freezer paper and ironed it to the back of the fabric. Then I cut out the fabric with a seam allowance:

Green Woman #7 05

I like the freezer paper method for hand appliqué since it gives me a nice clean edge to turn the seam allowance around. Here’s the result:

Green Woman #7 06

It doesn’t look bad on first sight. The sharp tips are mostly sharp, but they’re a pain to get to look that nice. It’s the negative corners at the bottom that made me give up after half the pattern was done: there just isn’t enough seam allowance to make those look good.

At that point I had also decided that I most likely would put a line of machine couching with a grey thread right on top of the edges, which would hide all of the seams, and hand appliqué that’s not visible at the end is just not worth the time and effort. So, what now?

Third option: Bondaweb

This is not my preferred option, since it glues the white fabric directly to the coloured background, making things a bit stiffer than when purely sewing, and having the possibility of the colour showing through. But it was the only realistic option left, so I gave it a try:

Green Woman #7 07

I cut the Bondaweb away on the inside of the pattern except for a seam allowance, so I could cut away the background as with the other options. you can see a small dark area, but it’s not as bad as I feared. I then simply topstitched with a white thread, assuming there will be a dark gray couching thread hiding it later. Ignoring the rust spots (no idea what happened here, need to avoid it for the real thing obviously), this looks by far the best to me, so that’s what I’ll go with.

I’ll make the final decision once I’ve tried out the couching and quilting part, because that can still have an influence on what works best. Ordered lots of Bondaweb and a selection of grey cotton yarns online, and it will take a while to get here, because for some reason or other everyone’s shopping online right now. So I’m trying to have patience and am working on other stuff in between.

Green Woman #6 – Background Piecing!

February 25, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 4 Comments

I said I’d be a while, but it turns out it took me just over a month to do the sewing, which is not too bad in terms of project speed.

Here’s what I started with:

Green Woman #5 - background fabrics

Sewing the pieces together was a highly technical exercise, since every single one of the seams is curved. I relearnt what works best with this kind of piecing. Note to self for next time: Tight curves are much easier if sewn in two halves, which means half as many pins to stick yourself with at one time. Additionally, it’s much less likely that the fabric on the bottom will bunch up and end up under the needle of the sewing machine when it shouldn’t have.

So, here’s the result of all that sewing and ironing:

Green Woman - pieced background

I think she looks pretty put together already. I’ll add the fine details and some shading with the quilting, I think, which will fit the original line drawing. But first, I need to get the white foreground and the various vines sorted out. This will take some experimenting, so I’ll probably show you the result of those experiments next time.

Green Woman #5 – Colouring the Background

January 19, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

The next step is both the fun and the hard part in the category “Playing with fabrics”. Starting with the finished face on top of the pattern, I needed to choose the right fabric for every piece in the background, and make everything fit together somehow. Here’s the pattern again:

GreenWoman - first and second draft of background

The right version is approximately what I ended up with at full size. And this is what it looks like after colouring in the spaces:

Green Woman #5 - background fabrics

Just to make sure that nothing is jumping out too badly in terms of contrast, I converted the image to black and white:

Green Woman #5 - background black/white

The face sticks out clearly, and the hair on top of her head has the lightest colours, as intended. You will see a big difference if you compare with a black and white version of the original, though:

Green Woman #5 - original black/white

If you look just at the background, ignoring the white foreground, you see that there’s much less contrast in general between the different areas than in the fabric version. I think the main reason for that difference is the choice of medium: coloured pencils versus fabric. I started filling in the background with all those light greens at the top of her head, but soon realized that doing the background in all those relatively light colours wouldn’t work. For the rest of the background I went much bolder in my fabric choices, trying to keep to the general colour scheme as well as ensuring local contrast similar to the original. Another thing is that lots of the dark fabrics at the edges will be covered by the white foreground, so there will be much less of the darks visible at the end.

The next step will be sewing all this together, so I end up with a single piece of fabric for the background. I think I’ll be a while, I’ll let you know when I’m there.

Green Woman #4 – She’s got eyes!

January 6, 2020 at 10:56 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 2 Comments

Last time I ended up with a face that had an important feature missing: the eyes.

GreenWoman - Pieced Face

I was going to fix that next. The plan was to reverse-appliqué some bits of white fabric into the eye-sockets, but first I had to deal with the irises. Initially I was thinking of hand-embroidering them, but then I decided to try playing around with free machine embroidery. It’s something I always wanted to explore more, and might use again in different parts of this quilt.

Here’s my first try:

Green Woman - sample for eye

I layered the white fabric with a bit of water-soluble embroidery stabilizer, which I also drew the pattern on. I choose a dark red and an even darker reddish-brown embroidery thread, which fits the original colours well. I was quite happy with the first try, but did manage to turn the design the wrong way round when adding the second colour. So two more eyes it was.

I’ve made a little slide show to show you the steps for putting one of the eyes in:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here she is, and I think I got her likeness pretty well:

Green Woman - Finished Face

That’s as far as I can take the face right now, onto the background next. There’s lots of hair to add!


Green Woman #3 – Sewing the Face

December 31, 2019 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 1 Comment

Last time I decided to sew the face first, because the colours there will definitely influence whatever I’m doing for the hair. So, here’s what I did:

Step 1: copy the lines of the face to the shiny side of some freezer paper. The shiny side because it will be ironed onto the back of the pieces of fabric, and I don’t want to end up with a mirror image. You’ll need a permanent marker that writes and stays on plastics for that.

Green Woman - copying the face onto freezer paper

The letters are short for the different colours, and the tick marks will be used to pin the pieces precisely for sewing – particularly important for curves.

Step 2: Cut the pieces apart and iron them onto the fabric. The shiny side will stick onto the fabric when heat is applied, but not very strongly so it can be easily removed later.

Green Woman - pieces of the face

Step 3: Trace around the pieces and add the tick marks. Here’s a detail shot on how that looks like:

Green Woman - tracing around the freezer paper

Step 4: Cut all the pieces out, adding a seam allowance. Arrange in correct order for sewing:

Green Woman - pieces for face

You can see in the light green that the freezer paper is still attached to the back of the pieces at this point. Since my lines are curvy, I do need to remove it before starting to sew.

Step 5: Sew. I’m leaving you with a link to Ruth B. McDowell’s “Piecing – Expanding the Basics” for detailed instructions and lots of inspirational pictures. Here’s what I ended up with after quite a bit of cursing (some of the curves are almost too tight for sewing):

GreenWoman - Pieced Face

The light green fabric is thinner and more tightly woven than standard quilting fabric, and it also doesn’t iron as well. This led to quite a few wrinkles in her face. I’m fine with this, since what’s a few wrinkles between friends? Also, I will be quilting things quite heavily and probably most of it will not be that obvious once I’m done.

This is a pretty flat image for the moment. Obviously the shading is missing, and I’ll need to add at least some of it, probably while quilting. But I did make heavy use of the one way I have to directly add some dimensionality, which is by controlling which way I ironed the seam allowances. I’ll strengthen that effect later with some strategic quilting.

By the way, did you notice that she’s looking ever so slightly to the left? I didn’t until I traced the face a couple of times and noted the differences. I love how this project makes me look closer at the original artwork!

The next step should be pretty obvious: Giving her some eyes. I have some ideas on how to do them, but there’ll probably some experimenting first.




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