Monday, May 16, 2016

Bat Falcon quilt

Bat Falcon Quilt: measures 42.5" x 31.75"

I'm so happy to finally be blogging about this finished quilt!  I started it back in October, and while I've shared a lot of progress pictures on my instagram (@quiltsNfeathers), I have been lazy about sharing it on my blog.  So here is the entire 40 hour process of making it!

Original photo, taken by me when I worked/volunteered at a local wildlife park.

I took a class taught by Rod Daniels (go check out is gorgeous work!)  through the NMQA on turning a photo into an applique quilt.  I had seen some of Rod's quilts in person at ABQMQG show and tell, and was excited to try a new method to turn a photo into a quilt.  The first thing to do was pick a photo.  I chose the photo of the bat falcon because I consider it one of the best photo I took while working and volunteering at a local wildlife park.  My leaving the wildlife park was really ugly and hurtful, and I wanted to reclaim this photo (though let there be no doubt that it is mine) and my happy memories. 

Next was printing out the photo and then tracing a basic outline of the colors and shadows (I printed extras in grayscale and edits to try and get the most accurate outlines).  The bottom right is the final version:

Then I took my traced outline to the copy store and enlarged it.  I had no idea what I was doing, so it turned out huge, haha.  Then that big version was traced onto a thin muslin, and I started placing appropriately colored fabrics on the quilt (glueing them down when I felt confident with my choices):

Bat Falcon Quilt: Pre-lunch progress in Rod's class.

Bat Falcon Quilt: Post-lunch progress in Rod's class.

I knew if I didn't finish it right away it would be a horrible WIP to come back to.  So the next day I dedicated all of my available time to finishing it!  In total I think I spent about 12 hours just creating the quilt top, and 99% of that on the bird's head!

Bat Falcon Quilt:  Pre-lunch progress, Day 2.

Bat Falcon Quilt: post-lunch progress, Day 2.

The background colors are Kona Silver and Kona Cornflower.  My biggest regret is how the blue on the right side dips down too sharply at the bird's shoulder.  But I wasn't about to re-glue anything!  So I accepted it as a design element, haha.  At the time I was also working on a lot of other projects and knew I didn't have the time to quilt and finish it, so I carefully rolled it up and put it in a safe place.  

Finally last month I basted it (using one layer of Quilter's Dream wool)!  Here is a look at the 22.5 hours of quilting (I took a photo after most of the 14 bobbins I used!):

Bat Falcon Quilt 1: Basted and ready to quilt!

Bat Falcon Quilt 2: started on the face and smaller pieces so they wouldn't shift!  Yeah I was pretty intimidated to quilt this guy, just look at the glare!

Bat Falcon Quilt 3: filling in around the head and chest.

Bat Falcon Quilt 4: worked on the back and wings (the black areas).

Bat Falcon Quilt 5: Decided it was time to work on the background before things got more distorted from quilting on just the bird.  I marked out a 1/2" grid on the silver and did an echo on the blue.

Bat Falcon Quilt 6: I have never quilted such a large area with such tiny orange peels!!  I spent 8 hours and 4 bobbins on JUST quilting those tiny orange peels.

Bat Falcon Quilt 7: four year old for scale.

Bat Falcon Quilt 8: I was definitely questioning my sanity on quilting so SO many tiny orange peels!  But I really love bokeh they create!

Bat Falcon Quilt 9: Finally done with the orange peels!!  My husband and I estimated using various methods that there are at least 6,000 orange peels (as in each little pumpkin seed shape)!

Bat Falcon Quilt 10: That lower left blue area gave me some trouble and I ended up ripping and redoing the center of it.  But look how smooth and nice it looks now!  Also the orange above the nostrils wasn't right (I was overzealous with that color, haha), so I removed most of it and replaced it with a dark grey.  Worth the effort.

Bat Falcon Quilt 11: back to working on the bird--mostly on the grey feathers here.
Bat Falcon Quilt 13:  (photo 12 was indistinguishable, though I know I added stuff!).  This is just before I called it Done.  You can see around the bird the quilt is really warped!  I soaked in in the washing machine all afternoon to remove the marking and dissolve the glues. and then spent an hour and a half blocking it and ironing the face flat (you can see a photo of that on IG!)

Here is the before and after quilting:

Bat Falcon Quilt: Original photo, before and after 22.5 hours of a quilting!

Obviously the finished quilt wouldn't be so amazing without all of that quilting to add depth, texture, blending and shading!  Here are all of the Aurifil threads I used--mostly 50wt because my machine prefers it for dense quilting/overlap, but some 40wt (green spools) because I didn't have those colors in 50wt.

Bat Falcon Quilt: Aurifil threads used!  I bought Dark Pewter (#2630) to use on this quilt and love it for a nice dark grey!  It's the third darkest from the left!

Check out this gorgeous "ghost" on the back!

Bat Falcon Quilt: the grey thread is Aurifil #5004 (the 4th darkest grey in the thread photo), backing fabric is Kona Espresso, binding is Kona Chestnut, 

Just look at this gorgeous grey thread!  I love how the direction of the stitches translates the image so well on the back.  The Aurifil does a lovely job of catching the light and giving life to the "ghost" on the back!

Bat Falcon Quilt: back quilting detail. 

Okay, let's look at the front up close!

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the shadow side and background.

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the light side of the face.

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the sun-lit wing feathers.

Bat Falcon Quilt: eye detail

All that's left is the hanging sleeve and displaying it in my living room between shows!

Quilts Stats
Finished size: 42.5" x 31.75"
Hours spent working on it: 40 hours


  1. Oh, so I learned a new word: bokeh! Score. :) I really enjoyed watching this quilt progress through your Instagram posts, and I think all the quilting and rework were definitely worth it; the final product is pretty darn stunning. I'm excited to hear about all the places it will get to be shown.

  2. Fantastic - your quilting skills are amazing :-)

  3. The most intense orange peeling ever!! Wow - I am excited to hear about this quilt's future adventures! Also, love that dark gray. Need to try me some.

  4. Beautiful front and back. You've done an amazing job. I hope I one day reach a level of patience to be able to do something similar :)

  5. What a amazing quilt. Thanks for the taking the time to show each step. It is very inspiring. I can't believe all those orange peels in the quilting.

  6. Gorgeous! The up close pictures are stunning. Love your choices in stitches.

  7. Stunning bat falcon! Loved that you used the 4 year old for scale. Thanks for sharing the process too. It helps to know what you did to produce this work of art.

  8. Wow-stunning! What a gorgeous piece of art! Love the 4 year old for scale picture :)

  9. I'm not even sure how to comment because I'm speechless. I start to type then I scroll back up to keep looking, I can't take my eyes off him. This is beautiful! The amount of time you have in just quilting this project alone is unbelievable. I assume mentally it would be like running a marathon. You start out just chugging along and half way through you question your sanity and at the end you can see the finish so you just keep plugging along till your there. Then maybe drop to the floor and cry for joy? Thank you for sharing your process, I am in awe of every tiny orange peel. Every stitch is beautiful and brings him to life.

  10. This is artistry at a new level. Love the 4year old for scale!! To her it's life size. An amazing stunning quilt and love all the detailed pictures.

  11. Thank you for sharing some of your process. This quilt is stunning, practically leaving me speechless.

  12. Let me pick my jaw off the floor and echo everyone's comments of being left speechless. I'm not on Instagram so this is the first time I've seen this piece. It is absolutely stunning: the design, the applique, the thread painting, and, of course, the quilting.
    I was thinking of making a pixel quilt of my pet parakeet, but now am thinking I should give applique a try, though there is no way I could ever approach your artistry. It is truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing and thank your cute photo bomber for helping show how large this really is. ;-)

  13. Love it thank you for sharing.

  14. I am awed by your work. This piece is just gorgeous. So artsy and creative. You inspire me to quilt outside my own boundaries. I "pinned" it to my inspiration board! THANK YOU for sharing and inspiring!

    1. PS I just brought my second grade class to a bird sanctuary yesterday and the LOVED the Falcon and condors.

  15. My goodness gracious holy mackerel Rene! It just blows me away how you created your stunning bat falcon! I read every word and clicked on every photo to see it better. (Loved your 4 year old for scale - LOL) You are an amazing artist! You reclaimed a sad memory and made it into something spectacular. Congratulations on such an amazing achievement!

    1. Sorry for the typo - I meant to type "Renee"

  16. You are a quilting Goddess.

  17. Absolutely freaking INCREDIBLE! The detail on the bird is amazing and I cannot get over the background quilting either! I think I would have lost the plot with all those orange peels, but the effect is wonderful. I guess with eyes like that glaring at you, you just have to get it right! :D

  18. Renee, this is absolutely jaw dropping! You never cease to amaze me. I know I have said that before but really, this is just incredible! Oh the places this quilt will go and the ribbons it will win! The likeness between the picture and the quilt just slays me! You nailed this one square on the head! I actually lost count of how many times I said "Wow!" as I looked at all of your pictures. Cannot wait to hear about this quilt's adventures! :D

  19. Ditto Judy above. This is a gorgeous quilt. I like your process info too.

  20. So clever and such fantastic attention to detail. There are no words. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing.

  21. So amazingly incredible, Renee - and I love that you share the process like this, it's fascinating!!

  22. I'm speechless. What an AMAZING project. I can barely quilt decent large orange peels, and you quilted all those tiny ones. Standing ovation to you!

  23. Wow! Your "painted" quilts are amazing, this is such a lovely study of a beautiful bird.

  24. I agree with all the comments above and then some. Saying your quilt is amazing just does not give it justice. What I kept thinking while enjoying all your pictures was: How much time and years and dedication did it take to get to this level of expertise! This did not happen overnight.

    1. Hi Julie Ann! I'm sorry I couldn't reply via email--you are a no reply blogger! Thank you so much for your comment and high praise! I've been quilting almost 7 years and slowly working up to it!

  25. Holy Wow! Renee, this is stunning! I hope you enter it into Houston and some of the SAQA shows and also send it to Quilting Arts and Quilter's Newsletter. Everything about it is amazing!

  26. Amazing, Renee! I loved watching your progress on IG, but seeing it all here together is even better. Using your 4 year old for scale is great :) Bokeh is a new word for me, but a perfect description of how the orange peels adds depth to the background. I see ribbons in the future for this falcon!