Wednesday 27 July 2016

Caspian's Quilt - Animal Alphabet by Don't Look Now!

Most of the items I make are created using regular patchwork, which is where you sew two pieces of fabric together with a seam.  While I was on maternity leave, I decided to work on a person project for my son, but rather than traditional patchwork this quilt is done using appliqué.  This is a decorative technique where a design or motif is cut out of one fabric, and then sewn down onto a backing fabric.  I have done appliqué work before, and while it is a labour intensive technique, it is something I enjoy doing.

The Pattern:

I picked up this pattern two years ago at the festival of quilts, and at the time I never imaged I would be making it for my own child!  The pattern is Animal Alphabet by Don't Look Now!  Each letter of the alphabet is represented in both upper and lower case, and has one or more animals per letter.  I particularly like the decision to include dinosaurs and unicorns!

The pattern is extremely comprehensive, coming will an A4 image of the quilt (invaluable when it comes to positioning each animal and letter), four sides of instructions, and six A3 sheets of templates.  The instructions are detailed and well written, and the templates are provided full size, which means no messing about enlarging things on a photocopier!

Following the pattern has been been smooth sailing and I would recommend it without reservation.  I would also very happily pick up another Don't Look Now! pattern.

The Technique:

There are various ways of doing appliqué, but the one used for this pattern is fusible raw edge.  Firstly you trace the templates onto the paper side fusible interfacing (there are various types, but any good craft store will stock at least one type), then tri them down just outside your drawn line.  You then put the glue side on the reverse of your chosen fabric and press with an iron the fuse.  The pieces can then be set aside until you are ready to cut accurately around your drawn line (this makes it much easier to peel the paper side off in the next step).  When you are ready to transfer the motif to your backing fabric, you peel off the backing paper, position carefully and press with an iron.  The motif is then secured until you are ready to sew around the edges.

Detail Shot - Free Motion Outline Stitching
Most appliqué is stitched down using a decorative machine stitch such as as satin or blanket stitch, though a simple zig zag will also work.  These stitches look great on large designs, but can be bulky and so do not work so well on smaller or intricate designs.  This pattern uses free motion stitching to secure the edge.  To use this technique you lower the feed dogs on your machine and move the fabric under the needle.  It is quite a tricky technique, and if you have never done it before I would recommend doing lots of small practice pieces!   In normal cases a simple straight line or running stitch would not be used, but by outlining each piece 2-3 times you secure the appliqué from fraying and create a lovely effect of having drawn around the edge of each piece.  Because there are multiple lines it doesn't matter if you wobble about a bit either - it all adds to the charm!

I traced, fused then cut out my shapes one row at a time.  Once everything was cut out I started fusing and sewing to the backing fabric one row at a time.  I worked on one letter and animal group at a time, starting in the centre.

The Completed Quilt:

 I am totally happy with the pattern and how the finished quilt worked up.  The only thing I would change is the thread I used for the background quilting - it was variegated blues and I think a cream would have worked better.  But regardless I think it turned out brilliantly.

If you want a fun pattern to do for your child, or the child of someone you know you wont be disappointed with this.  There is so much potential to make this quilt your own with your fabric choices.  I have even used the pattern to make smaller wallhangings as gifts for friends.  Its a pattern that keeps on giving!

I used a black fabric marker to add eyes as I thought it would be more comfortable than adding beads onto a quilt that is meant to be played on by small children, but the beads are something I might go and add back on at a later date when he's all grown up!

Detail Shot
Back of the quilt - blue and green zigzags