I’ve spent many hours doing fine detail quilting this week, and as a result I have made great progress bringing Iggy to life. For more on the backstory, check out my post from Monday, Gold Dust Day Gecko Thread Painting, Part 1, if you haven’t seen that already.
Fair warning: this is going to be a pretty photo heavy post!
Over the weekend I was able to get some initial outlining work done and Iggy’s eye completed, but I was really looking forward to starting to add color to Iggy on Monday. Those first few additional colors were certainly exciting to see come together! However, I wasn’t entirely happy with how the blue definition over Iggy’s foreground eye looked. I began with a layer of darker blue outline, but when I added in the lighter blue fill, the contrast between the two blue threads was too close and that additional definition was not clear. As a result, I decided to go back and add an even darker blue thread on top to help accentuate the detail.
In the photo above, which is a photograph of the back side of the thread painting, you can see I’ve just completed the additional dark blue outlining. I also wanted to show this process photograph to share how I’m handling the thread tails. When I’m free motion quilting, I will pull the bobbin thread up to the top of the thread painting, and at the end, I also pull the bobbin thread up. I then tie the top and bobbin threads together into a square knot. Once the ends are knotted, I then move the thread to the back of the thread painting and I snip the thread tails off. Because this particular thread painting is going to be densely covered in thread, I can leave the tails a bit long to be tucked under the next layer of thread. I also know that this particular piece is meant strictly as a wall hanging / art piece, so I’m happy with this method of handling my thread tails without truly burying them in the quilt sandwich (which will get harder and harder as more thread is added).
I was then really excited to get started adding the first few layers of green thread to Iggy. As he is mostly green, having several colors and values of green and layering them is hopefully going to provide the depth and detail needed to bring him to life. I started with a lime green and colored in the underside of the tip of his nose and mouth, then I came in with a light green to complete the area around his mouth. Above, you can see that at the same time I was also working on details around his foreground eye.
From there, I used Iggy’s main green color to fill in the rest of the pre-outlined areas. That sounds simple and straightforward, but when I started adding in Iggy’s main color of green, I also made sure to drop down to add a bit of the darker green into some of the other areas to help give more texture and depth to the larger areas on Iggy’s face. If I left all of the larger areas a single color, Iggy would appear a lot more flat. Going in and adding slight highlights (like the very little bits of light yellow on top of the orange) or layers of green can make a big difference in how the final piece will read, especially from a distance. Our eyes and brains are so very good at picking up on subtleties!
I want to pause to note here that the inside diameter of the hoop I am using is 7.5″. I use a 7.5″ hoop because it pairs very well with the throat space of my machine, a Juki TL-2200 QVP Mini, which has a throat space of approximately 8¾” wide by 5¾” tall. Hopefully that helps give you some context for how small some of the detail in Iggy’s face is; the pebbles around his eye are especially tiny. As a result of the tiny sizes and the dense build up of thread (which can be hard on a needle), I quilt very, very slowly. I’ll share a video later in this post to give you an idea of how I sometimes need to operate one stitch at a time – I operate a lot based on the way my machine is sounding. Even though I am quilting very slowly, if I can hear my needle struggling, I know I need to immediately slow down or stop to evaluate what is going on.
My next task was to consider where else I wanted to outline with dark gray. As I mentioned on Monday, I want to use the dark gray to help with the in focus portions of Iggy. My plan for the areas that are unquilted is to come back in with a dark green for the under skin bump detail. By making the value transition smaller in that area, my hope is that it will give the appearance of Iggy going a bit out of focus.
After another day’s worth of quilting that added more fill of Iggy’s main color of green, I went in and finished the skin outline definition using my darkest shade of green. At this point, knowing that my goal was to finish Iggy this week (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen) or over the weekend (I hope!!), I was starting to question my sanity and if I would have enough time to get it done! ha!
When piecing a quilt, we keep all of our tools at hand, and when thread painting, I do the same. The tools just happen to be lots of different spools of thread! I also keep a print out of the inspiration photograph so I can study it and think about my next steps when I’m pausing to rest and stretch my shoulders, hands, and fingers.
There are many reasons I choose to use 50wt Aurifil thread for my thread painting. One is that I have a very big stash of 50wt Aurifil thread a this point, and I’m a big proponent of using what you have in your stash. Another reason I like 50wt thread is that I have found that 50wt creates less bulk on the backside of my quilt sandwich than thicker / heavier thread weights. I do occasionally also use 40wt or 28wt thread when I am lacking a color that I really need (again, use what you have!), but when I’m doing so much thread work, I want the bulk to be as minimal as possible to keep the quilt sandwich moving as freely as possible under my needle. I don’t need to be worrying about my thread building up to the point that it might get stuck in the throat plate.
My tagline, “Sewing at the Speed of Sound” may make you think that I am a very fast piecer and quilter. In fact, I often tell my students, that we ALL sew at the speed of sound; sometimes it sounds faster than others. I’ve actually never stitched with the speed setting as fast as it will go on my Juki!
I’m sharing this actual speed video of me working on a thread painting to illustrate how important it is to listen to your machine and slow down when it is asking for it. Because thread painting often means that there are lots of layers of thread to pass through, the needle is working harder and it is best to honor how things are sounding and take things slower to avoid breaking a needle or doing any potential damage to your machine.
As you watch the above video, note that when I hear my needle really stick as it is passing through the layers of the quilt sandwich and thread, that I start to quilt in a more “one stitch at a time” manner until I move to another, less densely quilted area where I can speed up a bit again.
The video also demonstrates how wonderful the embroidery hoop acts as a frame for my hands to use to guide the quilt under my needle. And I purposefully left a bit of my shoulder visible in the field of view so you can see that even when manipulating these small distances, my full body is engaged and focused at the task at hand. Making it very important for me to pause, hydrate, and stretch frequently.
Once the main detail of Iggy’s face was filled in and complete to my satisfaction, it was time to take a deep breath and reposition the embroidery hoop. I can promise you that I have made good progress on Iggy since I moved the hoop, but I still have a lot of work to go. I should have a finish to share with you on Monday, but I need to get back to quilting to make that happen.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you have a long weekend and are celebrating Labor Day, I hope you get some fun quilting time in and stay safe!