Thursday 6 August 2015

Quilt a Little Birdhouse For Your Soul

Sometimes when you see a pattern that you like it sits in the back of your mind until the right occasion comes up for it. Sometimes, as in this case, you see a pattern and know instantly who it must be made for. 

Batik Birdhouse Wall Hanging - design by Sue Belleli

This design was by Sue Belleli and I found it in the May 2014 issue of Australian Homespun Magazine. This is the same magazine that I got the panda puppet pattern from which shows the variety of projects that the magazine has. The original design was in bright and vivid colours and worked really well. This would be a perfect "stash busting" project as it uses so many bits and bobs. The pattern is really easy to follow, there were photos to help with putting the bird houses together, and the whole thing was divided into sections, which I find makes it easier to get my head around the steps involved. There were also some really helpful tips.

For the recipient I had in mind I really wanted it to be made from batik fabric. She loves batik fabric and she loves colour. It needed to be bright and bold and fun! The joy of using the batik fabric is that despite all of the different colours of fabric the use of the same style ties it all together, so I had no concerns about clashing textures or patterns. The downside of using batik fabric was going to be the expense. In using batiks instead of raiding my existing fabric stash I would have had to purchase all of the fabric new. In the end I used 44 different fabrics so even just buying fat quarters was going to cost a significant amount. On top of that I was then going to be left with a mountain of batik fabric to add to my stash. I did consider buying fat quarters as then I would have had a stockpile for future presents but in reality the cost and space involved in buying all that fabric was getting ridiculous.

I then started thinking about getting an assorted pack of smaller 5” by 5” squares. I could then just purchase a larger piece of black, sky blue and purple for the edge.  The problem with this idea was that 5” by 5” squares were not going to be quite big enough, although when I looked at the pattern and overall dimensions I realised that it would work if I made it slightly smaller. There is a risk that if you shrink a pattern like this then you make life a lot harder for yourself as smaller pieces can sometimes be a bit “fiddly”. It is a trade-off with quilted projects that the larger they are the more difficult they are to control in the machine, however if they are made too small the details can be difficult to sew and can get lost in the pattern. I shrunk the pattern pieces to 80% of the original size and then pieced it together. I was happy at this size that it was still a substantial piece and that I was keeping the smaller details, like the wings, at a workable size. This meant I could order a Moda dream catcher batik charm pack which contained forty-two 5" by 5" squares.

The fun then really began. It became like a giant puzzle trying to get the right shades together and making sure that I didn’t end up with purple leaves, pink birds and brown flowers. There was a lot of time spent trying to get the colour palettes right on the birdhouses. I chose more neutral tones on one and brighter shades on the other. I actually found this part really fun. With it all finally laid out I started construction of the bird houses...  and I then started unpicking the bird houses!  This was because I had completely underestimated the difference that the smallest mistake with the angles around the centre pentagon could make to the overall shape. It magnifies any error with each strip that you add, so I went back and did it again with a lot more pins. It is a common theme when things go wrong with my sewing that I tend to need to use more pins. I am aware of this fact, and it is a work in progress.

Having got the bird houses sorted I then started putting the pieces together. I ironed them on with Bondaweb. I do not have a sewing machine with blanket stitch on it so I tend to hand stitch some types of applique. I do enjoy hand stitching and I find that it is easier to match fabric to embroidery thread as there are more colours available. The blanket stitch by hand was difficult as you are sewing through quite a lot of layers of fabric as well as the Bondaweb, which can make it quite tough. I have since invested in a leather thimble to help with my hand applique! With the flowers, birds and bird houses all attached I edged it with some pretty fabric and then attached the webbing and a brushed cotton for the back. Instead of using separate binding I folded the rest of the fabric from the back and used that to bind the front as shown here.

I did some very basic light quilting as I did not want to make it look too fussy but it helped lift it further. I attached tabs to the top by hand and it was complete. I thought the size worked well despite being smaller and the batik worked well with the design, however I would happily do the project again at full size as a fabric "stash-buster"