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Nine Blocks Done [Oct. 7th, 2012|11:40 pm]
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I finished the first nine blocks (three more blocks to go, plus the fancy border) of the Christmas Village quilt, in a happy burst of creativity coinciding with Judy Laquidara’s October Quilt-till-you-drop weekend. (I know she calls it something kinder, but what can I say? I’m not nearly as nice as she is.) Those weekends are a great excuse to push myself to get past barriers and take the time to really make some progress, and that boost helps me all month long.

So, anyway, I laid out the appliqued Christmas tree panel blocks on a temporary muslin backing and pinned them in place to get the spacing right, then started adding elements to finish the scene. Rough cut kitties for more broderie perse and fabric shapes intended to be extra presents and curtains and cushions and such were laid out to fill the frame and give a sense of crude perspective. The sashing was set over it all to see what effect the “window frame” would have on the composition.

Here’s the rough draft version of the center:
Rough draft - Christmas Village Center

I wanted curtains to frame the tree and add interest without fussiness to the two empty panels on either side of the treetop star. I wanted them to look like (stylized, idealized) curtains with folds of fabric where they were drawn back.

Here’s the curtain mock-up which I used as a photo reference:
How I want the curtains to look

To make the curtains, I used a technique Elly Sienkiewicz teaches for shading fabric with oil pastels (the link is to a YouTube video of Elly briefly demonstrating this.) She uses freezer paper or self-stick paper underneath the fabric being colored to stabilize it, and a similar paper cutout on top to give the outline. I went with a quick and dirty version of the technique and skipped the stabilizer, since I was working with simple shapes with the grain. And using masking tape to make my outline worked great! By running a line of dark oil pastel down the masking tape near the edge, the coarse tape held just the right amount of pigment to smudge onto the fabric with a scrap of cloth wrapped around one finger. It went much faster than I thought it would! A thirty-second press with a hot dry iron sets the color; I laid a piece of scrap cloth on top of my colored curtain to iron it but all the color stayed nicely on the curtain fabric.

After that, it was just a matter of laying pieces out and stitching them down. It’s odd to be working on this free-form, large scale project. Usually I’m much more planned-out on applique projects, with intricate drawings and back-basting. But so far I’m really happy with the results.

Nine blocks done:
How the curtains came out

I’ll try the rough-and-ready pastel coloring technique again for shading the cushions the cats will be on; that will be a more complicated shape, so I’m hoping that firmly held vellum paper will work as well as the masking tape did.

As ever, click photos to embiggen if desired. Take a look at what other quilters are trying out too, on Judy Laquidara’s Design Wall Monday.