Zoo Family Portrait Block of the Month

This year’s block of the month is my best pattern yet- at least I think it is! This is my third year designing a block of the month for Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio, and the animal theme is proving to be a hit!

The quilt is designed using photographs I have taken at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium over the course of four years.  If I was lucky, each zoo visit would yield one or two good animal photos, and I ultimately ended up with about two dozen potential animals to incorporate.  In selecting animals for the final design, I wanted to make sure different types of animals and different regions of the world were represented.  Compositionally, it also became important to have animals of different sizes to make the overall design interesting to look at.

Value is an important aspect to the success of the design.  Pictorial quilts can sometimes flatten the image they are depicting, so every color used in the quilt has a dark, medium, and light version. There is also a very dark blue and a very dark red to add even more depth to the animals.  I have never been a person tied to the literal color of things, so the palette I selected has bright, whimsical colors.  If bright colors aren’t your thing, you can use any color palette as long as you pay attention to the value of your fabric choices. If you like the fabrics I used, you can order the optional Painter’s Palette Solids Kit to go with the pattern.

All of these blocks are created using foundation paper piecing, and anyone with a general understanding of the technique will be able to construct the quilt.  If you have little or no FPP experience, that fine too! We made a YouTube video explaining foundation paper piecing and there are general instructions included in the pattern.  We started the block of the month in August, but you can jump in anytime!

Let’s do a quick walkthrough of the blocks.  We have been joking that this is more of a polygon of the month more than a block of the month since none of the blocks are square!

We kick things off with the Koala block.  This one of the most challenging photos to get since koalas sleep most of the day.  This koala was reaching for some eucalyptus, but in this design it appears to be reaching out to touch the flamingo.

The backs of the flamingo and tortoise are next.  I was so excited when the tortoises decided to come to the front of their enclosure for a photo. The flamingos, on the other hand, were always happy to show off their plumage!

Next is the flamingo head and the body of the bear.

In the fourth block, we construct the tortoise head and the body of the frog. Yes, the frog is actually blue!

It was an unseasonably warm winter day that I captured this lion in the perfect pose.

The penguins at the zoo love to pose for the guests and there are so many to choose from, I could probably do an all penguin quilt!

When I started this project, I would have thought monkey photos would be easy, but it was more challenging since most are in glass enclosures.  I finally found success with the Vervet Monkey.

The bear in this quilt is a brown bear who resides at the zoo with his brother.

The red pandas spend most of their time resting high above in the trees, but it is such a treat when they come down to play!

Giraffes are among my favorite animals, so I thoroughly enjoyed watching them for extended periods of time while waiting to capture the perfect pose.

The kangaroo enclosure at the zoo has an open walkway, so a kangaroo may cross your path.  This kangaroo had been an ambassador animal until this year, so it loves to show off for the humans!

The cockatoos at the zoo share an enclosure with the kangaroos, and it is so fun to see them up close.

I loved making this quilt so much that I’m making a second one!  If you would like to join us for this block of the month adventure, you can purchase the pattern and optional kit from Dabble and Stitch!

Quilt Stats

Title:  Zoo Family Portrait Quilt

Size: 58″ x 83.5″

Techniques:  Foundation Paper Piecing

Quilting:  Free Motion quilting on an A-1 longarm

Fabric:  Painter’s Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios in 25 colors

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool and Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil in 19 colors

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

Sewing Space Tour

This month I am participating in the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and each day has a prompt to get us started.  Some days, like today, I will use the prompts, and other days I will be using other topics.  Today’s theme is our sewing space, so I thought I would give you a quick tour.

This is my main sewing area where I use my domestic machine.  I sit facing the center of the room with my design wall behind me.  (The photo above is from a few months ago, so the projects on the wall are further along now!)

My main sewing space is a large IKEA table with a set of drawers on either end.  One set faces the side I sit to sew. The other faces the center of the room and holds all of my 50wt Aurifil and longarm supplies.

Most of my go-to sewing supplies are in the top two drawers of the first drawer unit.  The top drawer has sewing machine feet, some bobbins, machine tools, marking tools, etc.

The second drawer has mostly 12wt, 28wt, and 40wt Aurifil and the coordinating bobbins.  It also has some specialty threads that I use on rare occasions.

My sewing machine is a Bernina 1008.  I bought it about six years ago, and it is an absolute workhorse.  It does everything I ask it to do.  I love a mechanical machine!

The longarm in the center of the room is an A1.  We upgraded the computer system a couple years ago so now it has an android tablet screen, and DIGITAL channel locks.  This is seriously the best feature! We can lock in any angle!

My fabric stash is right next to my sewing machine and design wall. Unless I am working on a pattern I am designing, I tend to pull fabric for a project as I go along, so easy access is a must.

The ironing and cutting tables are old library tables, and I have an industrial gravity fed iron.  If you have a place to permanently set up your iron, I can’t recommend an industrial iron highly enough.

Thank you so much for taking a brief studio tour with me today!

Polar Bear Block Pattern

In last year’s block of the month quilt I designed for Dabble and Stitch, I created a foundation paper pieced polar bear block to represent the Columbus Zoo.  I liked the block so much that I made a cushion with it, and many people who came into the shop loved the design.  This design is now available as a stand alone block pattern!

Polar Bear Block

I made a few adjustments to change the block from a rectangle to an 18″ square block, and I made it up in a new color way that is available as a kit with Painters Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios. (shown above) For this version I used Aurifil Monofilament so the thread would blend with the fabric color.  The straight line quilting was done with a walking foot on my domestic machine.

First version of the polar bear pillow

It was good timing to release this pattern last month, because the Columbus Zoo welcomed a new polar bear cub on Thanksgiving, and this design was based on a photo I took of another cub at the zoo.  You can read more about the development of the original block in the original post.

Original Block of the Month Polar Bear Block

The pattern is available online or in store at Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio.  You can choose between the print pattern, a PDF, and a kit with a print pattern included.

Print Polar Bear Pattern

Print Polar Bear Pattern with kit

PDF Polar Bear

Polar Bear Block made into a pillow

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, so I will be blogging a lot more this month!

Whole Circle Whole Cloth

I love a challenge, and this month Aurifil challenged it’s artisans to create a whole cloth mini quilt using a Paintbrush Studios Painter’s Palette Solid and a coordinating thread in our choice of weight.  I was sent Midnight blue fabric and a matching thread.  This first photo has the most accurate color so imagine that color when you see all of the indoor photos! 🤣

Whole cloth quilting isn’t something I do very often, so I decided to start the process with a little research.  Quilting tends to rely on pattern and repetition, so the books I pulled out had lots of art that embraces those principles.  I was also leaning toward 20th century art for inspiration, but I include some inspiration from earlier eras, just in case something caught my eye.

Ultimately I landed on these two Art Nouveau tile images to use for design inspiration.  I liked the circular quality of both designs, and thought that they would combine well.

I drafted the design on AutoCad, then printed it across two sheets of tabloid size paper and glued them together to form the entire image.  Then it was time to pull out my perk wheel to use an old scenic painting technique to create a stencil.  I placed the image on top of my wool pressing mat and ran the wheel along the lines.  For the tightest curves, I used a large safety pin to poke through the paper.

Once the holes were poked through, I flipped the paper over and used a fine tooth sandpaper to remove the bumps on the back of the template and make sure the holes were completely open.

Then came the moment of truth — would it work?  I taped the fabric to the table and the stencil over it, then pulled out my chalk pounce pad.  I ran it over the stencil in small circles to keep the dust down, then carefully removed the stencil.

It worked like a charm!  The lines were clear and easy to follow.

This project was the perfect time to give trapunto a try, so I started the quilting process by using batting and the top fabric with no backing.  Since I was using such a dark fabric, I selected a black batting by Hobbs.  Since the black batting doesn’t have a huge amount of loft, I used two layers for the trapunto.

Using a walking foot on my domestic machine, I quilted all of marked lines through the top fabric and two layers of batting.  At this point I was using a 50wt Aurifil so it would be easy to quilt over using the final 12wt thread, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is what it looked like from the front:

And most of the back (thanks Monty— I think he knows how hard it is to lint roll batting!):

The next step was to trim away the batting around the areas of trapunto.  I used scissors with a rounded tip for most of the trimming, and only pulled out scissors with a pointed tip for the tightest corners.

Trapunto has the best effect when the areas around it are densely quilted, so most of the quilt has dense free motion quilting.  For this part of the quilting I used 50wt thread on the longarm.  At this point in the process, there is backing fabric, one full layer of black batting, two layers of batting in the trapunto areas only (three layers total in those areas), and the quilt top.  The final quilting step was to use 12wt thread to outline each area and help that trapunto really pop!

After a lot of knotting and burying of thread tails, I trimmed the mini quilt so the edge of the quilt extended 1/4″ past the outer ring of trapunto.  The edges are finished with bias binding to hug the circular edge of the quilt.  If it was more practical, I would curve all my quilt edges.  I love binding a curve!

The image above shows the front of the quilt with the 12wt thread defining the areas around the trapunto.  Since I used 50wt thread in the bobbin, you can see the difference in the image below.  I think the heavier thread makes a huge difference in trapunto effect.  What do you think?

Quilt Stats

Title:  Whole Circle Whole Cloth

Size: 16″ diameter

Techniques:  Whole Cloth

Quilting:  Free Motion quilting on an A-1 longarm and walking foot quilting on a Bernina 1008

Fabric:  Painter’s Palette Solid by Paintbrush Studios in Midnight

Batting:  Black Hobbs Heirloom batting

Thread: Quilted with coordinating 12wt and 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

Ice Cream Quilt

Each Summer I design a Row by Row for a local quilt shop, Dabble and Stitch, and I loved this year’s row so much, I decided to make a wall quilt featuring the design.  The ice cream cone design evokes Summer, so it was a perfect design for this month’s “Seasonal” challenge for Aurifil Artisans.

The theme for this year’s Row by Row is: Taste the Experience.  I like to base each row design on something local, and this year the design depicts Jeni’s Ice Cream.  Jeni’s started here in Columbus, and the shops feature lots of fun flavors. The cone that served as the model for the Row by Row design is Wildberry Lavender and Brandied Banana Brûlée in a house made cone.

When transforming the ice cream block into a quilt, I thought it would be fun to extend the background into stripes.  By adding narrow stripes between the ice cream cone columns, the overall design of the quilt has a beach towel vibe that enhances the feeling of sitting out in the sun with a hot weather snack.

Custom quilting on the longarm was done with 50wt Aurifil in color that coordinate with each area of the quilt.  The stitching is a mix of free motion motifs and straight line quilting done with rulers and digital channel locks. The backing is a Tula Pink wideback fabric, and I love how, in this context, the print has the feel of melting ice cream.

This quilt went with me today to the Ohio State Fair for some photos.

It even met the famous butter cow!

Quilt Stats

Title:  Ice Cream on the Beach

Size: 48″ x 48″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing, Foundation Paper Piecing

Quilting:  Free Motion and straight line quilting with digital channel locks on an A-1 Longarm

Fabric:  Assorted cotton solids

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back