One of the ‘Gang’ of birds visiting our garden most frequently are the Goldfinchs. These fickle little chaps are faithful to us when we provide Nyger seed and don’t want to know us if anything else is offered as a substitute.
I’m in the habit now of looking up my chosen bird in my favourite new book A Year of Britain’s Birds ‘Tweet of the Day’ by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss. This fabulous book gives a little snippet of all our British Birds, their life and the problems they have faced over time, so….
- The red detail around their bill is said to be a result of the bird taking pity on the crucified Christ and them pulling the thorns from his crown.
- A flock of Goldfinches are often called a ‘charm’
- Their striking appearance almost led to their downfall in Victorian times as it was a popular cage-bird. By the 1890’s it was an endangered species. The RSPB made the species a priority and it is now thankfully a fairly common bird.
Because they are such a daily sight from my kitchen window I decided it was about time to base a piece on them. I wanted this image to be more realistic than the previous pieces so decided that I should have the bird on a single piece of backing fabric so that the bird was THE focus….. Bit scary because if the bird was rubbish as there would be no hiding place (I have a Bullfinch who has met his end from this problem – poor thing!)
Anyway, lets not linger at this point, on the failure of a piece….
I looked at loads of images of Goldfinches and found the one above with a teasel. I was interested in the bird having a solid base of sorts and thought the teasel would be fun to quilt.
This piece has taught me many things, mostly what not to do on future pieces, I’ll share these along the way.
I started by sketching the bird stationary as above but settled on the image below as it had a good feeling of motion, as if he was struggling in the breeze or his weight was too much for the plant to support.
From the initial sketch I then take a tracing paper copy (holding the tracing paper over the original against a window), simplifying the image into distinct colour block areas (I wasn’t organised enough to take a picture of the next process). I then wrote on the blocks the colour and retraced for example, all the black areas onto the non-paper side (raised) of a piece of BondaWeb. This ensures the pieces, when ironed onto a piece of cloth are facing the same way. I draw them all close together so that when it is ironed onto my correct colour fabric there is minimal wastage. Lesson 1 – copy the traced line over onto the paper side of the BondaWeb as when ironing onto dark or busy fabric you will not see your original pencil line!
The image below illustrates the image building up. However lesson 2 – I would recommend having the bird cut out as a complete silhouette in one colour of fabric, ideally the main colour. In this instance white would have been a good choice. This avoids areas being left out. If you look carefully in the image after next you can see backing fabric where I clearly had not carefully ensured all areas where redrawn onto BondaWeb. I was fortunate that I used a sympathetic backing and that this was lost in the threading. However it would have been much more sensible to have one base colour. I’ve done this on future pieces and its been a much smoother process.
Below all the main colours except the yellow have been added. I would recommend before ironing the BondaWeb into place popping your tracing paper outline over the top of the fabric layers to ensure they are all in position
Choosing such a small study (and variety of bird) was tricky for a first attempt. You can see in the pictures how much the black fabric wanted to fray. The very small pieces also had a habit of turing or overlapping as the sewing machine foot went over them. In hindsight, lesson 3 would be stitch the highlights like the yellow details rather than cutting, sticking and stitching. They were far too small and troublesome!
The next lesson (number 4) learnt on this piece was that I should always stitch the eye first. You can make or break a piece if the reflection in the eye is poor. I stitched the complete bird before adding the glint to his eye and had I messed it up there is no unpicking in such a small area of heavy stitching. I would far rather abandon a piece at the beginning than the end when the piece had really worked except for that eye!!!!
I’m not known in life for my preparation! But, in an attempt to be profesional I decided to do a small test piece for the teasel. I loved the piece of fabric I chose (not that you can see it at all after all my stitching) and BondaWebbed it to the same backing ready to start sewing.
The King-Tut threads were ideal for this job as they change colour so subtly and made it look far more life like than it would have done with single coloured threads.
I conveniently forgot about his legs and feet as I was unsure how to tackle them, anyway once I noticed they were not there I couldn’t stop seeing how he appeared to be balancing precariously! I popped the image onto Twitter and asked for advice. The overwhelming feedback was that although it may not have been instantly obvious they thought he deserved legs!!
Below is the final piece (plus legs) ready to mount onto board for framing.
Quilters and people who may be interested in buying a piece of Textile Art have very strong feelings about whether they should be framed or not. I’ll talk about the pros and cons in another blog and why I have chosen to go down the framed route.
A limited edition Giclee print of ‘Golden Breeze’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.