My husband and I generally try to be in the present moment and to make choices to keep us excited about the future. We have a bit of a motto that to be happy we need someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. That said, there are a few things about moving away from Hawaii that are bittersweet. One of them is leaving behind Iggy, the dominant male gold dust day gecko who lives on our front porch. We grew rather fond of Iggy. (Don’t worry, the new owner has already texted us photos of Iggy; he’s still thriving and being a good guard gecko!) I knew that the first quilt I was going to make here was to create a thread painting of Iggy to hang in my studio, so as soon as I had Tangerine Peels pieced last week, it was time for me to get started!
I asked my husband if he had any good photographs of Iggy, and he gave me a beautiful selection of 5 portraits. I selected the photograph that also included one of his feet, because I think that without the foot in the composition, Iggy is going to look too much like a snake. With that in mind, I started thinking about how I wanted to finish this mini quilt, and I decided to see if any of my embroidery hoops would work. Happily, the largest (which is about 10.5″ in diameter) looks like it should frame Iggy nicely while still allowing his foot to be included. I am not exactly sure what the fabric is that I found in my scrap bin, but I suspect it is Kona Bone or Kona Oyster.
To help me make my initial thread selections, I printed a second version of Iggy out in black and white, and I was amazed to see that a lot of his colorful markings really do not show up in grayscale. I found that to be pretty fascinating! I know I won’t necessarily stick with using all of these threads and it’s very likely I will need to recruit in many more colors and shades as I make progress on the project, but it was nice to get confirmation that I generally had enough thread to get started with the project.
I fully documented my layout process for starting a thread painting in my Stone Sheep Mini Quilt Layout post. Following that same method, I used the black and white printed version of Iggy to cut away and mark out his major elements using pencil directly on top of my fabric.
Because thread painting can pull the quilt sandwich and distort it easily, I recommend embroidery hoop basting these projects. Just make sure that you install the embroidery hoop upside down – you will want the quilt sandwich to press firmly against the throat plate of your sewing machine.
Before beginning any thread painting project, it is very important to use a new needle (and be ready to use a new needle or needles as you work through the project), and test sandwiches can help you dial in all the settings on your machine. Because my sewing machine was just shipped from Hawaii, I was concerned that my tension settings could have jiggled loose. I was able to dial things in pretty quickly given my previous experience and knowledge of my machine: I like to use a Schmetz Topstitch 100/16 needle, and it didn’t take long to get the tension adjusted correctly. If you are new to thread painting, I have an in depth post on the Auribuzz blog about Pairing Thread and Needles.
Now, before you scroll down and look at the next image, I want to remind you about another post I shared years ago: Ugly Duckling Phase. As I mentioned earlier, Iggy, if framed without his foot, does look a lot like other reptiles, specifically snakes. He is going to go through quick an Ugly Duckling Phase as I work on him, and if you have a major reptile aversion and especially a major snake aversion, you might not like to see how he is progressing.
All projects go through the Ugly Duckling Phase, and I have to admit, that sometimes it can be downright hard to push through and continue working on something. There is always that nagging feeling of “is this really going to work out?” The answer is usually yes, but sometimes we have to get creative and come up with solutions or think about what we are doing in a new way to move forward.
The challenge for me with Iggy is that my husband’s photograph has a very narrow depth of field: Iggy is in focus in the foreground and quickly goes out of focus as he recedes away from the main focal point. With needle and thread, coming up with how to create that illusion of focus was something that I sat and thought about a lot as I was working with the photograph and preparing the quilt sandwich.
I ultimately decided that I would use a strong contrasting color around Iggy’s colorful scaly skin bumps in the focal point of the image to help Iggy look sharp and in focus. My plan is that I will quickly transition away from using 50wt Aurifil 2630 (Dark Pewter) to using a color that is only slightly darker to using no outline. I like to start my thread painting with the elements that are underneath – so in this case the dark outline behind his colorful scaly skin bumps.
I will need to come back and add more of this Dark Pewter definition, but I wanted to first outline the areas where Iggy is orange so that it will be easy for me to fill and complete those areas before spending all of my time working on his lovely shades of green. Basically, it was my goal to map out areas that will be easy to fill in and then I’ll come back after those are complete to create more definition.
Iggy’s eye is a large feature of his face, and I wanted it to look as round and 3D as possible. In order to aid in that, I used two shades of black / gray for his pupil, two shades of brown for his iris, and white to let the highlight pop and hopefully give the context for the shape. Up next I plan to fill in the orange, red, and blue areas on his nose, brow, and eyeshadow.
I’m now several hours into working on Iggy and I have a long way to go, but I am quite excited to finish my friend so he can hang out with me!