Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hawaiian Applique Part 1-More UFO Progress

You guys-  sorry for the momentary lapse into narcissism, but I'm so proud of myself for finishing this project!  I start this quilt in 2007 after getting back from a trip to Hawaii.  It was a challenge from the get-go. My mom has this Hawaiian Applique book by Vicki Fleming and I thought I'd give it a try since I think the intricate designs and blocky color in good Hawaiian quilts are just beautiful.  Did I know how to hand applique?  No I did not.  Did I particularly enjoy hand sewing?  No I did not.  Did I enjoy turning things under? No I did not.  So, of course the logical next step was not to try some small hand applique, or even to try a small Hawaiian applique block.  I decided to make a giant Hawaiian Applique.  Everyone needs a GIANT HAWAIIAN APPLIQUE (cue Jaws music).

I blew the pattern up so that it filled a 36" square (I'd bought a yard of the fabric I wanted to use as a background) and started in.  I encountered so many problems along the way, I cannot even remember them all to catalog them here.  Many were made worse by the fact that at the time I started this project I was such a baby quilter, I didn't even have many basic skills or resources (glue stick anyone?).  I tried pinning the applique: it squirmed around.  I tried doing the actual turn-under hand stitching and made it approximately 6 inches before, ahem, giving up on that.  For some perspective, photoshop has just informed me that the perimeter of my applique block with all its twists and turns is 497 inches.  Yeah.  Finally, I did some weird combination of ironing the whole thing onto fusible while still trying to maintain the turned under edges, adhering it to the background and then blanket stitching around the applique motif with my sewing machine.  The motif was attached but did not look good.  I then added some pink strip-sets cut on the bias to the top and a couple of borders.  I had wanted the strip sets to look like chevrons, but I didn't cut them right, so now they just look like slightly offset slashes.

After all that, I layered for quilting and started in.  I thought originally I would do some echo quilting like on a traditional Hawaiian applique, so started inside the block.  It was disastrous.  I will not even show close up photos of how awful it was.  I had a very hard time moving the largish quilt (38 x 55) under my little sewing machine.  Then the thread broke every two inches, mostly because I was jerky and not smooth.  Being extremely frustrated, I set aside the quilt for oh, a couple of years (!).

When I next picked it up, I thought I was much more advanced, further evolved etc. but when I started trying to quilt largish feathered wreaths (don't ask me why I picked that) in light pink thread on the black background, it was horrendous!  The thread was still constantly breaking, the feathers were jerky and not smooth ACK!  I was so frustrated I was sure there was something wrong with my sewing machine.  I took it in twice, and each time they said it was in great working condition, no problems.  Even I had to admit it sewed fine on everything else.  Of course I had to rip out all the ugly pink stitching, it was horrible, and knotty and really really hard to get out.

In the end, I decided to mark a grid of 4 inch squares on point on the background, and just doodle quilt in them in a dark green blendy thread. I figured that 1) if I was doodle quilting, I would be smoother than if I was trying to follow a pattern, 2) if I was working only in a small 4 inch square, I wouldn't have to move the quilt as much and could be, again, smoother, and 3) if I used a dark thread it wouldn't stand out as much if it was horrible.

This approach actually worked out ok.  My doodle quilting took a long time but filled in the background nicely.  I used varying shades of pink thread to outline the alternating rows (so there's not so much doodling all together) and finally got all the background quilted.  Here are some of my doodles.  Pardon the bad photos, it was really hard to get in focus shots of the dark green on black.

After finishing the background quilting, I had to go back and finish the echo quilting in the green applique block since I had left it unfinished before.  I had hoped that my newly honed skills would make it go more smoothly, but alas no.  In fact, it looks even weirder than before, because I didn't have quite the same shade of green thread.  So all the leaves are quilted poorly, and two of them are a different green than the rest.

I then quilted small feathers in the pink slashes in the top border.  In the bottom border, I used my flexible curve ruler to draw a line of curves.  In each curve I put one of my favorite easy filler patterns.  Is it wrong that this green border is my favorite part of the whole quilt?

Sorry for the long, ranty post.  Stay tuned Friday for the final quilt.