As a parent, especially of young children, my instinct is to keep them safe – to shelter them from everything. My kids are one and a half and three and a half. I don’t want them to know there are things in the world that can harm them or others. I want them to feel safe. Always. I know that’s not practical and I know that I will need to teach them ways to face these dangers and help bring light to this dark world, but that’s a task for another day and the topic for my next piece. For now, I will hold them tight and try to keep the darkness away.
If you’re interested in how this piece came together, pictures and a step-by-step description is below.
It all started with a list of words – things that we want to shield our children from. I asked friends, family, and followers on social media to help create the list and they came through with so many words! I printed the words on ExtravOrganza (sheer silk sheets of fabric that go into an inkjet printer) and then cut them apart.
I experimented with sewing them onto black tulle different ways and decided to sew them to the back of the tulle so the fabric dulls the white of the organza slightly. I laid them out on a piece of tulle larger than the background piece so I could gather the tulle together, creating darker areas.
Next, I layered and quilted the background fabric with white thread and free-motion stitching. For the background, I used a white fabric with a little glitter in it so it would sparkle a little through the areas with less tulle.
The piece was then ready for lots and lots of black tulle! I tested black, clear, and smoke thread in a free-motion zig-zag pattern and decided on the smoke. The other threads stood out too much and I wanted the fabric and tulle to speak for itself. I started with one flat layer of black tulle and cut away an area at the bottom right that would stay white. This is the section where the family would huddle, staying away from the darkness all around them.
For the second layer of tulle, I crunched it up to create areas that were darker, filling in some of the white background. In order to make the piece get darker as it moved from the bottom right to the top left, each layer was cut a little smaller than the one before it.
For each of the next layers, I did the same thing, cutting away a little more in the bottom right so the piece slowly got darker as it moved to the upper left corner. Below are layers three and four of the tulle.
Since I didn’t want the words to be too bright in the upper left corner, but I still wanted to be able to read them under the tulle, I decided to add the tulle with words after the fourth layer of solid tulle. I pinned it to the design wall first to arrange all the words, then sewed then in place just like all the other layers – with smoke thread and zig-zag free-motion stitching.
It’s possible that I got a little carried away and ran into a few problems. First, the fabric folded under and I ended up stitching the extra batting onto the back of the quilt (oops). Then, I was pulling the fabric a lot and the needle kept breaking on the foot. And I left a pin from the previous layer and had to cut it out (oops again).
I got through it all, though and the words were in place! I switched sewing machine feet so I didn’t break my Bernina stitch regulator foot (since I wasn’t using that feature anyway) and I stopped breaking needles. Unfortunately, I ran into a different problem with the new foot – the tulle got wrapped around it and I had to cut it free. Over and over again.
I slowed down my stitching and tried to be careful to minimize the number of times I had to free my tulle from the foot and soon had the next layer of tulle in place over the layer with words.
As the layers got smaller, things picked up a little and I could pin and stitch layer seven
And layer eight
And finally layer nine.
By then, the back was pretty busy with all the stitching! And there was a lot of lint to clean out of my sewing machine.
Next, it was time to square and cut the edges and add a facing and hanging sleeve. Since there were so many layers of tulle along the edges, it was hard to get the facing to lay flat, so I added a line of stitching along the edge, using smoke thread in the bobbin, to hold it in place.
At first, I stopped the line of stitching when it reached the white section, but then I felt it needed to go all the way around, so I finished that corner with white thread. After hand stitching the facing and sleeve, the piece was ready for the family! Check back to see how they came to life in my next blog post.