My hubby had planted sunflowers several years ago in our back yard, and together with some heirloom tomatoes, I created the prettiest still life on my kitchen counter one summer evening. I wanted to capture the beauty so snapped a couple of pictures. Just for fun I started messing with the image in Photoshop, blurring the background. I loved the result and I decided that this photo would be the subject of my first art quilt.
Hurdle No. 1) Create a pattern.
I took the digital file of the photo and entered it into a cross stitch pattern maker called PC Stitch. The computer program converts a photo into a mass of tiny pixels and if you had every DMC floss color in the world (which I do), it would take you a year to stitch it. So I simplified the color palette and created white borders around the shapes that I wanted to eventually convert into fabric. When I printed out the pattern sheets for the whole picture, I had twenty-five 8 1/2" X 11" pages.
Hurdle No. 2) Matching the pattern pieces
Because I decided to do this quilt in squares (not sure that was the wisest of decisions) the individual elements of the bouquet and background overlapped into multiple squares. So each fabric piece, each petal, each leaf had to be matched with it's adjoining sections. What a pain.
I decided that I wasn't going to use the traditional applique technique, but just pin the pieces on a white backing and use a machined blanket stitch. That's actually a slight fib - I didn't know how to do the traditional applique techniques. But it all worked out. I started on one row and quickly discovered that I probably should have gone left to right and top to bottom. It was difficult and time consuming to match the elements, especially with the detailed flowers. I changed threads on each element to match each new color of fabric. Lot's of tag ends to clip!!
Hurdle No. 3) Every quilt needs a back!
Choosing the batting was easy. Since my squares were rather weighty and thick in some areas, I wanted the batting to be light weight. Someone recommended a natural cotton. The fabric for the back of the quilt was a little harder to pick. I thought perhaps a batik with a pattern might camouflage my irregular and erratic machine quilting. I used a multi color cotton thread for the bobbin, so the stitching on back would be somewhat uniform.
Hurdle No.4) The quilting
I knew that someday I was going to have to face the actual quilting of my project. My new Viking was capable of free motion quilting. but I had never done it before. The Answer - take a class! I practiced and practiced to get a good rhythm and learn how to work the fabric through the feeder foot, but I was totally stymied by the many patterns within the project. I wanted it to look like a painting with thread, but didn't know how to get there. I had a friend who is an excellent quilter come over and give me some ideas of stitching patterns, and after quite some time (I must have just stared it for over a month), I decided to dive in and just start sewing. The more I stitched, the easier it became, and the farther I got, the more fun and intricate my patterns became.
Almost one year from the start, I finished my quilt, and dubbed it California Harvest. It measures 38" X 48" and hangs in my dining room. I still enjoy looking at it.
It's been a couple of years since I completed California Harvest. A quilting friend of mine sponsored my work in a regional quilt show, and it was so gratifying to watch the seasoned quilters gaze and admire it. It's not perfect by any real quilter's standards, but it was an accomplishment for me just to actually finish it! Amazingly, I am just about ready to try another one. I rather doubt I will use the same technique - there's got be an easier way:)