Sunday, 5 October 2014

My "Knowledge" Challenge for Textiles Across the Tasman

I belong to a talented group of patchwork tutors from Australia and New Zealand who have challenged each other to make a small quilt every three months along specific themes and to a specific Fibonacci size (8" x 13").  Check out everyone's work by clicking the Textiles Across the Tasman tab at the top of this page.

The theme I chose, which had to begin with the first letter of my name, was "Knowledge".  Why?  You may ask, as this word stumped me longer than the other challenges so far.  It was the best word I could think of in a hurry that started with a "K".

I began by remembering there was a "Tree of Knowledge" in the Garden of Eden and that started me thinking about different trees from memories of my life.  I thought of the jacaranda tree in our backyard in Evaline Street, Campsie, where I grew up.  

My sister and I built a kind of a cubby house up there - well actually, it was a few slats of wood nailed and tied to the branches so we could climb the tree and sit up there.  We actually used to sit up there quite a lot and survey the surroundings.  We even took our toys and food and drinks up there.  Much later I climbed up but the branches were rotten and the seats too unstable to sit on.

That led me to remember the famous jacaranda tree in the main quadrangle at Sydney University.  I studied there for four years in the early 1980s, gaining an Honours degree in Archaeology. Our main lecture theatre was right in the corner of the quadrangle closest to the jacaranda tree.  We used to just say "meet you at the tree".  Looking back now, I guess these were the best years of my life, but I did not know it then.

Anyway, here is my jacaranda tree of "Knowledge".  I hope you like it.

I began by cutting out an archway of brown batik fabric (this fabric had fabulous texture like tree branches) and fusing it to a rectangle of cream.  The archway represents the magnificent arched architecture of the main quad at the University.  I button hole stitched this down on the machine in brown thread.  

I then drew a tree trunk and branches onto fusible webbing and pressed it to the wrong side of a dark brown reproduction fabric. 

I free motion stitched this to the background, adding extra branches in thread as I went along.  Free motion stitching is certainly not my forte, but I managed this by going fairly slow and steady.

Next, I fused webbing to the wrong side of three different purple fabrics.  I had to buy these especially to get the perfect colour for the distinctive jacaranda flowers.  Those of you who know me will know I do not have any purple in my stash.  I removed the paper from the webbing and cut up tiny pieces of the fabric with my rotary cutter.  I then started painstakingly arranging them on top of the branches. This is a confetti applique technique I have not used before.  It took ages and I discovered the more pieces you put on the better it looks.  I added a few hints of green to represent the leaves.  My teflon applique mat was vital here. 

I then fused some thick pellon to the back of the piece and pinned a backing fabric in place.  The hardest part was using free motion stitching to attach all the confetti pieces.  I tried little swirls but some had points on them!  Oh well, it would take a lot of practice to get this perfect, but I think the effect is OK.  I used a medium purple shade of thread for this.  I then machine quilted the tree trunk in long loops and the cream background with some spirals and the archway in straight lines to represent sandstone blocks.

I really enjoyed the process as this was very different to the other work I have been doing.

Thank you to my friend and colleague, Brenda Gael Smith, who has a fabulous website here giving fantastic instructions and step by step photographs for finishing quilts without binding.  I used her mitred facing finish to complete my little quilt very neatly.  Here is a view of the back, showing the facing stitched down.

I am very pleased with my little tree and it brought back lots of memories.

Now for the next challenge called "Seed".

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