Category: Hummingbird Quilt


Birds all around!  As I headed into my studio today, I found a house wren perched on my loom.  I have no clue how he got inside but he looked quite content.  I had to walk through the studio to open the doors which frightened him up into the rafters.  I grabbed a broom and tried to gently nudge him toward the door but he had other ideas.  Stormy, our dalmatian, became curious and came to help.  I was finally able to get the bird out without Stormy taking it on as a toy.

So, now back to moving the hummingbird project into the studio.  Once I had the image finalized on the computer, I printed it out.  I had to “tile” the image in Photoshop Elements to print it using my home computer.  I ended up with 12 pages to tape together.  It’s in black and white as my printer doesn’t do colors.

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I drew lines with a sharpie to delineate different colors.  I usually start with the lightest colors and proceed from there.  This can get tricky as some pieces are tiny.  I go ahead and mark them at this point, and decided if and how I will put them in with fabric later.  The grey scale is great at showing value, but colors having the same value won’t show up as being different from one another.  I keep a color copy of the posterized image close at hand so I can add lines delineating these colors as well.

I decided to focus on the hand first and the hummingbird later.

Now comes my favorite part; choosing the fabrics!  There is something so satisfying about handling batik fabrics.  And something therapeutic about playing with colors.

I figure out what color families I will be needing.  In this case:  greys, pinks, greens and tans/browns.  I have my fabrics sorted into bins; each bin contains a color family which contains varying values of the same color.   I will pull these bins out and pull out any fabric that I think might work color-wise with my design.  I will often end up with thirty or forty fabrics on the table.  Then I will finalize color selection according to the number of shades I need and how they complement each other.  In this case, I used the colored poster on my iPad to determine colors.  The posterizing can change the color a bit but, in this case, that was helpful as finding flesh colors wasn’t required.

This is what I ended up with for fabric for the hand.  Looking at these fabrics, I couldn’t quite see a “hand.”  This had been my problem with this project from the beginning.  I just wasn’t 100% convinced these would morph into a hand.  But I knew I had to take the leap or this quilt was not going to happen.

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Each fabric was arranged according to value within it’s color family and each was assigned a number.  I went back to my pattern and located where each would go and labeled it by number.  (Remember painting by number?)  Finally, I covered the pattern with a sheet of mylar and traced the outlines and numbers.  This will help me with placing elements onto the foundation.

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I dyed a piece of fabric for the background.  It is almost solid black, but has a bit of dark blue swirled into it.  (More on dyeing fabric in another post.)  I cut this into a rectangle several inches larger than I wanted the quilt to be before adding any borders.  I’ll use this as my foundation.

Next step?  I’ll begin “painting” the hand with fabric.

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The Hummingbird.

Every project starts with an idea.  That’s the easy part.  I have lots of ideas.  I keep a folder of photos, ideas and what-not that provide inspiration.  I see ideas everywhere.  The challenge is transforming the idea into a quilt.

Four years ago, this hummingbird was inside the building where my son, Blaine, was working.  The bird was trying to get out a window.  He managed to catch it and took it outside to release it.  It was at this point, his friend Bob grabbed his camera.  As Blaine opened his hand, the bird stayed there for a few seconds before flying away.

When Blaine sent me this picture, he suggested it would make a great quilt.  I put the photo into my ideas folder, not knowing what I would do with it.  Soon thereafter, he proposed to his girlfriend.  I then pulled the photo out as I thought it would make the perfect wedding gift.

I’ve thought about this project for over three years.  (And Blaine is still not married, but still engaged.)  It has percolated, kept me awake at night and been a challenge to meet.

First, and foremost, flesh colors are next to impossible to find in fabric.  When I couldn’t find the right colors in any fabric store, I resorted to trying to dye my own.  I used all sorts of materials; things from commercial dyes to coffee and tea.  Many yards of fabric later, I had some browns and pinks of various hues and values, but nothing fleshy.

I was introduced to Photoshop Elements about this time.  One feature of the program is “posterizing” your photos.  Basically, it takes your photos and converts it into an image with a limited number of different tones.

My sister, Do, suggested I do the hand in grey scale.  This was intriguing (and, honestly, out of my comfort zone) but I thought it might highlight the hummingbird. The bird’s bright colors would contrast with the monochromatic hand.  So I began to collect fabrics in all values of greys and black.  Months went by as this was percolating, but I never got to the point of commitment.  So there it stalled, yet again.

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Not too long ago, Blaine reminded me he was still waiting for his quilt.  (My response?  I am still waiting for the wedding!)  So, I decided to get back to the hummingbird.  I went back to the original photo and posterized it in color.  I played around with cropping the photo trying to decide how much of the hand I was going to include (or get away with eliminating?).  Here is the final result:

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I felt like I could work with this image.  Since the colors weren’t strictly flesh coloured, I had better luck finding or dyeing fabrics to work.

This leads me into Part 2; Moving into the studio and preparing to quilt.  Stay tuned.