Tuesday, 6 January 2009

"Dancing Colours" and Squire's badge panel

When I made "Dancing Colours" for Brian & Carol in 2006/07, I used the quilt-as-you-go technique, foundation piecing the strips onto backing & wadding, making the strip panels slightly larger and trimming them to size (a better option than risking them being slightly too small, given the isometric layout of the piece). I saved these strips with the idea of using them for a related piece later on - if Brian was elected Squire of the Morris Ring. When I planned the first quilt, I thought about adding the squire's badge & chain of office as a border design, quilted/appliqued over the Harris tweed. Having seen the badge, it was too complicated to incorporate in this way and would have spoiled the original design, plus the quilt is so heavy it would be difficult to handle on the machine for free motion quilting in the the border section. Making a smaller picture panel to compliment the quilt seemed a better idea.

Starting with a high resolution photo of the squire's badge, I increased the contrast digitally and printed it onto a Miracle Fabric sheet. The original photo had deep black shadows, but solid black areas always come out dark grey on the fabric sheets. The fabric badge is only slightly larger than life size. Using Hobb's 80/20 wadding (so the quilting had plenty of depth), I machine quilted it using a Madeira metallic thread, a black poly with a silver/gold twist. This thread runs much better in my machine (Bernina 153 QE) than Madeira's solid metallics, and doesn't break (using a metallica needle of course). Originally I was only going to quilt around the figure and the outer edge of the badge, but it needed a bit more quilting, so I added some detail to the leaves, wheat and acorn bells, before quilting around the edge in a sprial with a YLI black/grey shaded cotton, flattening the background a bit more.

Then I trimmed the panel to a narrow hexagon, as an equal sided one didn't look quite right. Auditioning the border strips (below) -

The quilt-as-you-go strips from "Dancing Colours" provided the border pieces. I added triangles first, joining them with sashing strips, then trimmed the panel and added another border. As the leftover strips were quite narrow, there are two extra pieces at the top corners. The finished panel was trimmed square and the edges overlocked on the 153 QE. The panel was stuck to the back of the mount with double sided tape across the top and the bottom corners, as it could have got slightly distorted by lacing - and double sided tape was easier! The frame is oak veneer, from Ikea (I've used their frames for projects many times - they are in a good range of sizes for textile pieces).
It was tempting to add more detail to the outer border (the quilt-as-you-go strips). As the panel is only 12 1/2in square, replicating the longsword lock from the original quilt at a smaller scale would have been a bit fiddly and, as it is likely the two pieces will end up in the same room, I didn't want the new panel to detract from the larger quilt. The swords are one of my favourite details of "Dancing Colours", especially the grips (handles), which feel slightly 3-D in real life, thanks to fussy cutting the fabric to have light and shade. Piecing the badge into a triangle gave the panel a different emphasis, although the patchwork strip borders replicate the spinning effect seen on "Dancing Colours". Strips leftover from the border patchwork strips were used for the sashing, apart from the multicoloured long strip in the left in the photo, which was leftover from the second colourway for the laptop bag in "Fabulous Fat Quarter Bags" but looked like a bit of a North British Sword waistcoat! There's no Harris Tweed in this panel, so I had to represent North British with another fabric...

Click the photo below for a slideshow of making "Dancing Colours".

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