When one of my buddies at work shared with me that she was expecting, I immediately started seeing visions of a gangly-legged baby lamb quilt, made just for her. Why, you ask? Well, for one, she has a thing for Lambs. And for two, she married a Lamb. Since her baby was certain to be a Lamb, why not wrap him in a cozy lamb quilt to make sure he knows how special he is?
With a bit of not-so-covert quizzing, I did find out that the gender of the baby was unknown, and that she really preferred a simple grey palette. But you know me. Yep. You know me and my turquoise. I knew that somehow, somewhere, I would be sneaking some turquoise in this quilt..
Now to get further inspiration, I had to find the lamb and figure out how I was going to make it. I scoured Pinterest and Craftsy for patterns, dug through my magazines and patterns and books, but I couldn’t find the right feel. I specifically wanted an identifiable baby lamb, not a sheep. It couldn’t be fat, fluffy or cartoony. Not for this classy lady.
I had even resorted to searching for images on google, determined to make my own pattern, but the right one just was not cropping up. Then, on Remembrance day, while searching for wall art for my living room at Homesense, I happened across this leggy little beauty in the discount bin:
I knew, the second I laid eyes on him, that this was my inspiration for PJ’s Little Lamb! I snapped a quick shot of him with my phone, and tucked him away while I pondered how I planned to make him come to life.
I was envisioning a gray background, with the little lamb standing, wobbly-kneed in the corner, and I knew I wanted to do something more than a simple silhouette, incorporating the highlights, colours and shadows I could see, but I also was bent and determined to find a way to work some turquoise or teals into the actual lamb. Then, while participating in my nightly Insta-addiction, I literally fell into the rabbit hole–I followed links to Shannon Brinkley’s webpage and this Simple Bunny Quilt dashed across my path and really caught my attention:
That’s the idea I was looking for! Shannon Brinkley’s quilt was made using a technique I had never tried before: “Scrappy Bits Applique” Available here.
I began reading-and re-reading everything about the technique, and the author through instagram and any links I could find. Here is her webpage: Shannon Brinkley Studio: Shannon described the technique well enough to convince me that this was indeed the way to go. I scooted over to kindle and bought the e-reader version immediately and started planning a simple project for a Christmas exchange to make sure I was experienced before taking on the Scrappy Lambkin.
Once I felt familiar with the process (and had finished my first major quilting goal of 2017), I had two weeks to make this lamb’s trip into existence both short and sweet. First step: Importing my inspiration shot into EQ7 for a little silhouette-making. I am new at EQ7, so it took some fiddling around to make the shape look right. Then, I printed it off at 18 inches tall, taped it together, and called it a day. (Note that I would have made him probably about 2 feet tall, if I had the chance to make him again–that would enable me to use bigger scraps, AND he would fit better, proportionately on the quilt top size I had chosen. Good thing is, I can modify it with a few clicks, if I ever need to make another one someday, since I have the EQ7 file!
The next day, it was getting late but I wanted to work on the project. Shannon Brinkley recommended using a light-weight interfacing to do the applique, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I found some thin, thin cotton, and hoped for the best. I traced my little lambie shape and started narrowing down fabric choices.
I knew I needed to have a light grey solid for the background and had collected some some light peachy-pink tones for the nose and inside the ears. I would need dark, and medium greys and mid to light teals/turquoise. And of course an array of creams and whites to make the lambie take shape. I used my black and white feature on my phone to help clarify any ambiguous values.
To shade the lamb, I squinted at the photo, found the dark bits and rough-sketched them on my fabric outline, prepared my fabric according to Shannon’s instructions and sorted it into bins according to value, not colour. I wanted my lamb to have random shots of colour to make him look more scrappy, like Shannon’s bunny, while making sure he still had some dimension to him. If I ever do this again, I am going to figure out how to block in the shading on EQ7.
As I laid out the design, I didn’t worry about precision anywhere except under the chin, where a distinct, rounded shape was needed in order to give Lambie his sweet little face. I did all my dark shading under his chin before layering the lighter highlights of colour on top. I made sure his ears and baby nose were peachy to give the little guy a little bit of a youthful cuteness, and I was ready to move on to the details.
When the patchwork was finished, I prepared and fused eyes and the nose bits by tracing them off my computer screen onto a piece of fusible interfacing, instead of all the fuss of EQ7. If I ever make another, I will figure out how to make a pattern to share, but until then, it was fine with me to just whip it up as a one-off.
Here’s where I made a wee mistake… I got so excited to see my lambie’s shape in his full glory, that I cut him out, right on the line, before I sewed down all those wee patches. That meant that it would be harder for me to keep the edges free from fraying. Let me tell you, I used a lot of thread keeping those guys flat. I almost went blind with the glare trying to see the poly thread.
He turned out pretty cute! I was pleased with the likeness yet also pleased with the scrappiness. Yay for balance!
The next step was to build a quilt sandwich, and quilt it with something that makes us think of lambs. Bouncy little happy lambs that frolic and play in the meadow. I wanted the quilting to be fairly large, and fairly simple, but I felt that straight line quilting was not my friend for this little wool-dude. I wanted him to live on a background of FMQ joy.
My mind bounced between thoughts of spirals to rows of upside down cursive u’s that look like the path of a bouncing lamb across the surface. Then my daughter doodled out a motif that was found on one of the cream fabrics I used in the applique. A chain of lower case cursive “e” shapes, over and over. It made me think of the lamb’s wool, all kinky and curly. Sold.
My original thought– the one I went with– has the e’s looping vertically up the surface, but my second thought was that this motif would have been super-cute placed horizontally, reminiscent of a field for the fuzzy guy to inhabit. Oh well! I was not about to reduce the size of the quilt to a teensy useless size just to get a more satisfying motif, so on I pressed.
You might be wondering why I didn’t applique my lamb to the surface prior to quilting, but I didn’t want him quilted with the loops, and I thought it would be faster not to have to go around the lamb and break thread, or try to line up the loops on either side of the lamb, as though they were continuous. I also didn’t want a blank space with no quilting on the backside of the quilt. I had done this before with a huge applique bear on a chevron quilt and it worked out perfectly. Since I didn’t want my lamb to be too thick for the needle during the applique process, I used spray glue and pins to give me a bit of stability and hoped for the best. I thought that using fusible interfacing might make sewing a bit sticky.
I opted to use a deep buttonhole stitch, but, yet again, think I might have been wiser to have made a different choice. I wanted the edge to be delicate, and not excessively bold, hence my decision, but I hope PJ won’t have to wash it too much! It might not be as durable as I would like, given the number of tiny bits worked together on the applique.
I bound the quilt using scrappy strips of grey and turquoise
…made a custom label on the computer and attached a tag…
Here’s the finished product, waiting to be gifted:
And here’s the happy Mama, holding up her quilt after we held a little shower for her at work.
Mission Scrappy Lamb accomplished!
Finish 2 of 2017 FAL competed! To see my original Finish-A-Long Q1 list click HERE.
And the baby was a gorgeous boy, by the way!