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[personal profile] lobsterdesigns
Method: hand-pieced and hand-quilted, with a little embroidery.
Size: 36" x 41" plus 1/4" binding.
Piecing design: my own design, based upon photographs of turtles I found online.
Fabrics: about 40 fabrics. Except for the Makower Dimple used for the limbs, they were all batiks. The sea background was all cut from the turquoise in Sew Batik's Gradation range, also known as Nuance, which contains four shades of turquoise.
Batting: Hobbs Polydown.
Backing: Squiggle - Sunkist Orange Spice from Sew Batik. The background is patches of yellow green, light fuchsia and yellow-orange with a yellow-orange and yellow squiggle motif.

Other notes


The first business was to find a turtle that I liked. I looked at other turtle quilts and found them rather rigid, with the traditional bird's-eye view looking rather as if the turtle had been laid out for dissection. A turtle is made of such simple shapes that no stylisation was needed, and I readily found a candidate by looking at photos of real turtles through Google Image, although I had to stitch two together as the main photo I used cut off the back flippers. The only thing I ended up changing was the placement of the eye, as I was putting on a face with a child's version of a mouth.

I wasn't sure what I wanted for a background at first, and tried a few designs for the sea. Lines radiating out from the turtle didn't work, so I settled on gentle curves to represent waves and found that continuing them into the border worked well. At this stage I tried a few different border widths and coloured in sketches until I found a balance I liked. What I did wrong was colour in a rough version of the four different shades of turquoise for the sea on an A4 sketch and decide it looked OK without testing the fabrics properly at full scale. I did however keep my original idea of shading the sea overall from deep at the bottom to light at the top, though slightly on a diagonal.


I knew that I wanted hot pinks, oranges, yellows and greens for the turtle, and to use the shaded turquoise for the background. I felt that it needed the simplicity for the sea background as there were so many busy fabrics and strong colours elsewhere, and I wanted to try putting different shades of the background next to each other so that they'd contrast a little, as opposed to the fish baby quilt where I carefully pieced the background so that the colour would flow smoothly and uninterruptedly from light to dark. I laid a few fabrics out and photographed them to give me a rough idea, then made up the full-scale drawing and templates, and started to cut and iron on the pieces. I cut the background first based on my sketches, and later wished I'd swapped round a couple of pieces to balance the shading better. Thankfully, I think the quilt is strong enough that you don't really notice. After this, I selected the pieces for the shell. By this point I knew that I wanted deeper blues and greens for the border, following the shading from deep to lighter of the sea, and that the inner border strip would be golden yellow while the outer border strip would be yellow-orange. I'd already cut out the narrow border strips and laid them out on the diagram, along with folded fabrics to represent the blue border fabrics. This made it easier to balance the shell fabrics. I had several fabrics in mind for the limbs and put them out folded while I was deciding on the shell fabrics.

My mother helped me choose the shell fabrics, and was perhaps a little bolder than I would have been in starting with the strong pink-on-green piece in the middle. I wasn't sure at first, but we worked around it and it balanced by the end. The shell shades a little from darker at the bottom to lighter at the top, in an attempt to add three dimensionality and mimic the original photograph. I think this is the point at which I decided on the dimple fabric for the limbs. The colour and tone were right, plus I felt that it was a place for a simpler fabric. The one snag was that it didn't quite stand out enough, something I managed to remedy later on. My friend S helped me choose the border fabrics, and as with my mother this was very enjoyable and I appreciated having someone else's artistic input and perspective. We did this in a later session.

Piecing Method

I used McDowell's freezer paper technique, which involved taping several pieces of A1 together for the master diagram and several strips of freezer paper together for the templates. This was a little fiddly but worked out fine. I had paid due attention to section lines when making up the original sketch, and while some of them were a little odd and involved partial seams or strange curves, I was hand-piecing so this was fine. I'm glad I only included two S-seams (on the back flippers), though, as these were fairly tricky to piece. As well as the original A4 sketch, I scanned it in and printed out a reversed copy, onto which I put all the piece numbers and the highlighted section lines, which was crucial when piecing. This time I used yellow highlighter for most of the section lines and pink highlighter around the borders, which worked well. I used 2B and 3B pencils for marking the fabrics. I used 14 colours for the tic marks, and this was just about enough, it was still like doing the four-colour map problem. The numbers were:

C070 Orange
C120 Red
C140 Deep fuchsia
C210 Pink lavender
C260 Bright lilac
C320 Electric blue
C330 Blue
C360 Cloud blue
C370 Pale blue
C420 Green
C440 Light green
C460 Lime green
C530 Pale brown
C540 Pimento
C590 Ochre
C610 Dark terracotta

It took practice to tell the blues and browns apart, and the ochre and orange were fairly similar. Bright colours are definitely the way to go, anything too greyed fades into the background. This was a fairly good range, though I could probably have managed a few more in the red through yellow area. There were areas where I didn't use certain coloured pencils, mainly the blues on the sea.

I could probably have done with adding a few more tic marks along the longer seams, where it's easy to sucucmb to the temptation of spacing them out a lot more, but the piecing was very straightforward and surprisingly quick. As ever, it's difficult to get all the tic marks accurately placed in odd corners and multi-seam junctions, and I think I left out one or two tic marks overall, though never to the point of causing actual problems.

I pieced the shell first, then the sections of sea and limbs, then added them to the shell to make the central panel. The borders were simple to piece.


At this point the main thing I was unhappy with was the way that the limbs did not stand out well enough. Someone on [livejournal.com profile] quilting suggested outlining them by couching embroidery thread, and this proved to be an excellent solution. I used a strong, darkish green for the main thread and a medium green similar to the limbs fabric to tie it down. I then embroidered the eye in dark turquoise and had a little trouble with the mouth, eventually settling on a strong orange after unpicking a lighter colour. The eye was chain stitch and the mouth was twisted chain stitch. I embroidered my signature lobster in the bottom right border in a salmon pink, as I wanted it to stand out fairly well. I couldn't decide whether to have it going in the same direction as the turtle or not, and finally settled on having it going the other way, although both looked odd. I miscalculated when drawing the lobster straight onto the fabric and made the claws a bit too big for the body, so I added another row of chain stitch to the tail which seemed to balance it. I wanted to represent the contributions made by my mother and S more subtly, so I embroidered a starfish in medium/lime green for D on the sea just below the shell, and a seahorse for my mother (who adores seahorses) in a variegated yellow thread in the sea in the top left. Neither are immediately obvious but are fun to find when you look carefully. All three critters were in chain stitch, and everything was marked with a 4B pencil.

I didn't embroider the baby's name until I was already doing the quilting, by which time she'd been born and nammed Annaelle. I messed around with a few fonts, and had to do this in GIMP as I couldn't get the Hebrew fonts to show up in Open Office. As the Hebrew name is only four letters to the English/French name's eight, I manually spaced the Hebrew letters further apart. I chose Segoe Print for the English/French name, printed in bold. Once I'd got the size and spacing right, I printed them out, covered the bit of paper with sellotape, and used the craft knife to cut out the letters to form stencils, though I had to simplify the Hebrew letters a little. Then I placed them onto the fabrics using an acrylic ruler to check that they were straight, marked them in white chalk, remarked one name to move it a little, then marked them in 4B pencil and embroidered the names in chain stitch. I used a strong turquoise for the Hebrew name in the bottom left border, which was on a dark green lattice fabric, and a light turquoise for the English/French name in the top right border, which was on a bright turquoise/yellow/green leafy fabric. Unfortunately, while I checked that the names were well spaced within the pieces, I completely forgot to check what the colour of the fabric underneath each bit was, so that the first letter of Annaelle is on a lighter bit of fabric and doesn't show up well. Since it was enough of a nuisance embroidering onto a quilt that was already half-quilted (I had to do all my knots in the outside border strip seam), I left it as it was.

I used a Q-snap set to a smaller frame for all of the embroidery and found it ideal.


I have mixed feelings about that batting. The main problem is that it turned up squeezed into a tiny roll, and nothing I did could get the creases out. Some people recommend ten minutes or so in a cool tumble drier, but the minimum time my washer/dryer will do is forty so I couldn't do that. I hung it over the shower rail and filled the bathroom with steam for hours, then I left it lying out for two days, and it was still astonishingly creased. Worse still, some of these creases were so deep it was as if an extra bit of batting had appeared in the middle of them. On the other hand, for a baby quilt at least it was OK for basting, and once it was inside the quilt sandwich it behaved itself perfectly well. I could only get 3-4 stitches on the needle, which could be because I'm out of practice, not quilting well right now, or merely because it was a thicker batting (1/4"), but I found it very easy to quilt. I enjoyed the greater level of puffiness, which showed up my quilting designs nicely and really helped add three-dimensionality to the quilt. I don't recall seeing any bearding at all, even though I pulled out quite a bit of quilting. And it was very cheap.


For marking the quilting, I did my initial markings in white chalk (the pen-like thing with sticks of chalk inside which I sharpen with a craft knife), using the long orange bendy ruler to get my curves smooth, then went over them with 4B pencil. I discovered that a nail brush is ideal for rubbing out the chalk marks, although I learnt the hard way not to do this where there was embroidery! I drew on the designs a bit at a time after basting, as pencil smudges off quickly. As I was using the right type of pencil, this was fine.

Designing was more of a challenge, since I have very little experience with creating quilting designs. I started off by quilting in the ditch for all the sea pieces, the outside of the shell, the limbs, and along the border strips, which gave those pieces definition and also meant that once I had quilted inside the shell, I could take out the basting threads and no longer have them in the way.

My friends and the [livejournal.com profile] quilting community were very helpful. I sketched a few variations for the shell pieces and settled on inside echo quilting at 1/2" intervals, which was simple enough not to spoil the fabric patterns, then laid a variety of threads onto each piece to find which contrasted the best. I stuck to colours in the same family, so a dark green thread on a light green fabric etc. I did originally try a couple of threads from a different family, e.g. a dark green thread on a varied orange fabric, but they looked dirty and were replaced with red, which contrasted less but blended in better. For a few pieces, the contrast wasn't strong enough, about which there was nothing I could do, they were tricky fabrics. For a few of the light pieces, my initial threads were too dark, so I unpicked them and used a medium colour instead.

Going back to designing the quilting, for the sea background several people sketched lines that suggested the flow of the water, and someone else sketched random swirls. I combined these into flowing lines that each ended in a swirl, and with my friends' advice did my best to make these suggest the flow of the water, slipstream and so on. I used a variegated lime green on the darkest turquoise, which didn't show up too well in practice, but the batting was puffy enough that this didn't matter. For the other three shades of turquoise fabric, I used a darker variegated blue, darker variegated green, and variegated blue/green threads, which showed up nicely and I think helped distinguish the separate sea sections. As the sea fabrics were a very simple saltwash, the swirls showed up beautifully.

I left the limbs unquilted apart from stitching in the ditch, as that was enough to keep them secured and the quilt was busy enough already. I decided on this after I'd quilted the rest of the central panel, which is the benefit of drawing the quilting designs a bit at a time after basting rather than putting on the whole design before basting.

I couldn't work out what to do with the border until I'd quilted the central panel, and was torn between fussiness and simplicity. Originally I tried quilting seaweed, fish and shells into most of the bottom border, but while it was great fun learning to sketch them, it was too busy on already busy fabrics. You couldn't see the designs unless you looked very closely indeed, and from further way it just looked oddly messy, almost muddy. I unpicked them and spent a while with the fabric eraser: thankfully the fabrics were fairly dark so that the bits of pencil markings left over didn't show, and the backing is also busy so that you don't notice the tiny holes left by the needle unless you look very closely. I then drew a few curves in each piece that followed the curves of the pieces, using a blue/green thread that would not show up, so that you just see where the fabric had been pulled in. Important lesson: save busy quilting designs for simple fabrics and use simple quilting designs on busy fabrics.


Single-fold straight binding. I used a fabric in a similar golden yellow to the inner border strip, although it had a grid design which made getting the strips straight blissfully easy. For some reason, when ironing the fold onto the binding, using the method where two pins are put onto the ironing board and the binding strip is pulled between them, the width of the fold kept varying a little, so that when the binding was stitched onto the back, some areas of it were wider than others. I don't think anyone will notice and the binding should still be strong enough, but I'll have to be careful with this in future. I did the usual calculation of adding 12" to the perimeter, and this left me with about 11" over, although I think it may have been a bit more than 12" extra as I simply cut a whole strip (I was cutting strips from a FQ).

I'm exceptionally pleased with this quilt and feel that it's my best to date, and in particular my first real design. S commented that I've come a long way since my earlier fish baby quilt.

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