I finally finished this next block in my Charley Harper needle turn quilt. This one took a long time – about 4 months – to finish. Not only are there a lot of details to sew on, like lots of leaves with embroidery and about 50 sunflower seeds, I was working on this one in the fall months. Fall’s generally a pretty busy time of year with holidays and then there’s those colds that get passed around and I was in the process of changing jobs, so this block took a back seat to everything. This one marks the halfway point in terms of the number of blocks, but in terms of area, I’m more than half way because I’ve finished two of the biggest blocks.
As I’m working, I’m constantly reminding myself that the goal of this project is not exact replication of the original art but to capture it’s essence, it’s playful, delightful shapes. I had to let go of a lot of details. If you compare this block to the original work by Charley Harper, you’ll notice that I left out the holes on the leaves. I may go back at some point and add those, but really, this block has so much detail (and I find small pieces to be really difficult to applique) that I decided for now that I can leave them off. Another important lesson that I’m still learning is that precision is pretty difficult with needle turn. In spite of my best efforts, some things don’t line up the way Harper’s did. That’s ok. I’m pretty sure most people that see this quilt aren’t going to notice. I only see it because I’ve been working so close to it and having to deal with the implications of some pieces not quite lining up.
I haven’t looked very hard, but I haven’t ever seen a possum quilt block. Yet, that’s just what I’ve been working on, specifically for my Charley Harper quilt.
This is part of a needleturn applique project introduced in an earlier post. If you’re familiar with Charley Harper’s original, you may know that this version is lacking some of the detail, notably the whisker dots on the possums’ noses. There are two reasons for this. One is that I didn’t want to clutter up the clean lines with imprecise dots (it is incredibly difficult to replicate the precision of the original work in applique!). Translating the art into quilt blocks does require some editing for the medium. The second is that I just hate French knots… they never come out right and I’m pretty sure at some point the ones that are on there are going to get pulled out by a curious kitty. That’s my embroidery confession. So there you have a possum quilt block.
Read other posts about this project.
An example of a curious kitty just waiting to pull out French knots.
I’ve been a big fan of modern artists Charley Harper’s work since 2012 when I taught may Science to Art course at University of California Davis. In that class, students were tasked with communicating science concepts through art. At the suggestion of the Wildlife Museum staff who sponsored the course, we chose to emulate Charley Harper’s style of simplifying species down to their most simple yet still recognizable forms. We learned how Harper repeated forms – leaves and mice in one image are the same teardrop shape, for example – and simplified bodies down to their most elemental form. The work was all completed in Inkscape and eventually printed on large banners that hang in Academic Surge. The results were magical.
Fast forward a few years and I saw a post on the Charley Harper Studios’ Facebook page asking people to post images of quilts they had made using Harper’s images or their line of fabrics. The quilts were charming and it made me think about how those simplified forms would easily translate into quilt blocks.
So, I set out to figure out how I could make one. I have made one traditional quilt and one comforter more than ten years ago, but I regularly sew and do felt applique for Christmas ornaments, so the skills are there. I learned about applique for quilting (particularly with woven fabrics that can fray, unlike felt) and decided that needleturn applique sounded like the least fussy option. I found this video on YouTube to be an excellent quick tutorial:
Next, I needed a plan so I found a bunch of images I liked and arranged them in an Inkscape file with a page size set to the size of the finished product that I could later turn into vector lines for pattern pieces. More on that later. This is my plan (please note that the artwork is copyrighted by the artist):
I’ll update my progress as I go.