I did just finish the butterfly quilt, which I've called Fluttering By, in time, and I gave it to Gran at a big family dinner on Monday night.
A couple of my uncles helped hold it up:
The background is an extra-wide custom hand dyed gradient by the clever and accommodating Vicki Welsh, who worked with me to get exactly the right shades of green and aqua. It's hard to get right in a photo, but the bottom is really quite an emerald green and a fair bit darker than the top (you can see the contrast in the binding).
I trimmed the fabric carefully so as to leave strips from right around the edges to use for the binding, which I reversed, so that the dark green binding is around the light aqua part of the quilt and vice versa. Having set aside this quilt for over a year due to problems with my old machine, I thought I'd lost these carefully trimmed pieces, and after a lot of searching was ready to give up and choose something else; luckily I decided to look once more!
All the butterflies are cut from the large selection of Vicki's hand-dyed gradients I have collected in my stash. They're beautiful fabrics, and are available in her Etsy store. If a specific one isn't in stock, she can do them on request.
I found a selection of butterfly silhouettes that I was able to use, printed them in a range of sizes, then traced oodles of them onto Lite Steam-a-seam2, fused them to the fabrics, and spent a number of nights cutting them all out with sharp scissors. I have a Fiskars pair with full-size comfy handles, but small, pointy, strong; sharp blades which are perfect - they are easy to control and cut cleanly and easily right to the tip.
I then started laying them out on the background fabric, starting with the biggest and working down to the smallest. The temporary hold of the steam-a-seam when the pieces are simply pressed in place with a hand is easily enough to keep them in place while I moved and manipulated the whole thing to the ironing board to fuse them permanently.
After that was when the dramas started. My old machine just refused to free-motion applique them on. It coped ok on the background, but the simple addition of one layer of fabric with a fine fusible was too much for it. No matter what adjustments I made, I had myriad skipped stitches and broken thread every few inches. It was unbearable, especially knowing how many there were to do, so I set it aside and determined to get an 820 ASAP! I did so earlier this year, and finally had space in my quilting schedule to pick this up again recently. I appliqued the butterflies in only a couple of days.
I free-motion quilted around each butterfly twice to applique it at the same time as the quilting, using Aurifil cotton Mako 50wt thread for the whole quilt, top and bottom. I have an Aurifil thread chart (made using the actual thread) and found it invaluable to select and order a whole heap more colours that were just right for this project.
Once the butterflies were in place I heaved a huge sigh of relief and started quilting a few feather plumes in the larger open spaces on either side of the quilt. Up the top I quilted purple feathers, and hyperquilted them with pink. Then moving down, I quilted pink feathers and added peach hyperquilting, and down towards the bottom the feathers are peach, with yellow hyperquilting.
The feathers add a bit of interest and were really fun to quilt. I used a Sewline air erasable marker to mark the spines and make a few small marks to indicate the spaces I wanted to fill, then quilted it all freehand. The marks vanished within about an hour this time, so I did it bit by bit.
I used the bump method for the feathers. It never used to my my preferred option, but I'm coming to like it, and am getting better and bumping back neatly so it's not so visible. As I started quilting these, I realised that the feathers would look much better if instead of finishing in an even curve, they alternated shorter and longer. I really like the effect and am pleased I've discovered this for myself, as I think it will work well in future.
After the feathering came the somewhat tedious task of filling the background. it wouldn't have been so bad if it were a large open space, but constantly having to stop and echo the butterflies and make sure I neither missed a gap nor quilted myself into a corner was frustrating. I dithered for a while over my choice of filler, and I'm pleased with the way the swirl design worked in all the odd spaces.
I'm very happy to have finished this quilt at last, and to have it out of my sewing room, and Gran was thrilled with it, so I couldn't ask for more.