Sunday, May 12, 2013

Red Tail Hawk

My light bulb moment this week happened when I realized there was no way I was going to be able to get the quilt I am working on done by the time for the St. Augustine Members show submission.

I'm not sure what is wrong with me- these hand crafted quilts take a lot of time.  I can put together a section the size of the palm of your hand in about 7-8 hours.  Which means they take forever.  I'm not sure why I can't remember that when I am not working on one....  but I have been working on this for a couple of months now and it is nowhere near ready to quilt.

Anyway, for those of you that follow along on these bird quilts.... this is the largest one so far.  The photo was taken at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Texas at one of their First Saturday events.  They have always been of great help in getting some fantastic photos of the birds and are doing a great job with the facility and park. There are some really wonderful people volunteering out there.  The Raptor Center was not very far from my old house and I miss going to see them.  Guess I will have to see if they have any raptor rehabbers around Jacksonville who will put up with me...

I had the photo blown up to 22 X 40 in black and white at a copy shop. This is my pattern.  I usually build the birds up out of a bunch of different sections, then assemble all of the sections later.  The sections are typically divided up where the natural breaks of the body occur.  I got a new little light pad that is working wonderfully- it is about 12 X 14 and half an inch thick.  I first draw on the pattern with a black pen and decide where all the pieces will be.  Sometimes this is a trick, as there are blurred sections or places where the feathers are fuzzy. When I get done, it looks like a giant puzzle.   Next I put the light box under the pattern and trace the section I am going to work on onto a piece of plain white paper.  This is the pattern that I will use to assemble the section with.  It is much smaller and easier to deal with than the gigantic photo pattern.

Using the little pattern section, I trace the section on a piece of freezer paper with the shiny side up.  The slick side is sometimes hard to draw on- I have a mechanical pencil that I like to use for this.  When I get all the section on the freezer paper, then I cut it out.  These are the pieces that I will use for my piecing.

Now comes the hard part- the selecting of the colors.  I'm not sure how Sierra behaves in real life, but as a quilt she is a most difficult bird.  I had spent several weekends dyeing fabric with all kinds of stripes on it in order to have the different colors of striped feathers available.  I did all this work on several sections of her body and wing and then decided that it was completely overwhelming.  She looked like a man in a plaid suit.  So I ripped it all apart and started over again.  The only striped fabrics I have kept in so far have been the dark stripes for those striking feathers in the middle of her wing (which are coverts, I think).

When I finally pick out the fabric, I iron the shiny side of the freezer paper to the fabric.  Then I cut it out about 1/4" from the edge of the paper.  I clip any curves and paint the edges with liquid starch.  I use a Clover ironing tool to iron the edges over the piece of paper.  I then place the fabric covered pieces on the white paper pattern and secure them in the correct location with masking tape.  Then I sew them together.

This is my small pattern and some of the assembled feathers. This is the dyed fabric I kept...

The other section of the top of the wing.

Underneath the wing- you can see all of the freezer paper before I take it out.  (Note:  if you try this technique, be sure that you do not take out any of the edge pieces until it is sewn on to the background!)

These are not sewn together yet, but you can see the wing taking shape.

This was a piece of the original wing which I scrapped after I put all the stripy pieces together.  
Also my reference photo- Sierra is a spectacular bird and Erich was very helpful in getting her to pose for me.

Today I have been assembling Sierra's body- here she is with the wing sections placed in the correct locations.  Not sure I like the beige yellow striped feathers at the bottom of her wing or the couple of stripes up near the dark spine of the wing.  Those may be coming out too.  But she is a beautiful bird!


  1. That is just amazing! I was just commenting on someone's quilt show pictures of very intricate appliqué quilts (Baltimore Albums) and said that I couldn't imagine making one of those, but yours is even more complicated! A true work of art. One of these days I need to visit the raptor center.

  2. I love reading the progress you are making and the process you use. I don't have the patience for this, but you make such beautiful birds on your quilts! Can't wait to see more!

  3. She is a beautiful bird indeed, and I am amazed at how you capture her image in fabric. It's not anything I would ever attempt but I love seeing how you accomplish it. Please keep sharing your progress!

  4. Another completely amazing bird in progress.Thank you for sharing!

  5. I'm not the least bit surprised they take a long time. There is so much subtle detail and colour variation. It's a magnificent creature and your art quilt is a fabulous tribute. It's remarkable to see the bird created before our eyes.

  6. I have trouble remembering how long it takes me to get stuff done too, and my creations are NOWHERE near what you put together! It's beautiful and stunning and amazing and I'm only sad that it won't be done in time to shine at your quilt show. But there's always next year, right?

  7. I feel like I'm watching the birth of one of God's beautiful creatures. It literally gives me chills. Simply stunning beyond belief. Thanks for sharing. Audrey S

  8. How many have you done so far? Each one is more fantastic than the last. Are they all mini-quilts or will you eventually join them into one? Love what you do, but you know that, right?