Monday, September 12, 2016

Ballena Muerta mini quilt

Ballena Muerta (Spanish for Dead Whale), measures about 14" x 10"

This quilt started as one of those ideas that grips you and doesn't let go until you've turned it into reality.  It started while I was working on the Fractal Friendship Star quilt.  That quilt has the most basic of quilting--only in the ditch, so basically unnoticeable.  It worked really well for that quilt, but my swap with Yvonne was for straight line quilting, which is definitely a different aesthetic than stitch in the ditch!  So I thought, okay I'll make her a second quilt and go crazy with straight line quilting!  Then I broke more rules by doing the straight lines around intricate free motion quilting, haha.  I'm a quilting rebel!

Ballena Muerta: I made a composite bowhead whale skeleton from 3 different pictures I found online. I probably spent an hour in front of a sunny window trying to get all the details traced onto that Kona Pepper.  Cue the bright light induced headache.

I originally planned to make her a mermaid (I'm dying to make a mermaid!) but realized instead I should make her a creature she would like (and I'm not sure how she feels about mermaids, though I doubt it is negatively).  Then I remembered her saying how much she loved whales!  But I wanted it to be a part of my Quilted Mythological Creature Series, so set out to find some good whale myths to inspire the quilt.  Somehow I came across the Japanese myth of the Bake-kujira (meaning whale ghost/creature) and it struck a chord, partly because we came across a whale bone sculpture while in Oregon together last month and I liked that tie-in.

Ballena Muerta: outline and skeleton quilted.  And yes, that small floating bone is the whale's pelvis!  I was debating about including the baleen at this point since it's made out of keratin and not bone.

I picked Kona Pepper so the whale would be a really dark blue (and let it be known that Kona Pepper IS a dark blue, not a dark grey!), with the intention of filling the background with ocean-y colored threads:

Ballena Muerta: adding organic straight lines using with my FMQ foot and Aurifil variegated 4662.

I ended up going back and adding even more straight lines, but with medium and bright blue Aurifil threads:

Ballena Muerta: straight line quilting detail

I knew I wanted to decorate the rest of the whale with tiny flow quilting designs (including some quilted paisleys!), which ended up giving the whale a very Dia de los Muertos feel, especially on the back of the quilt:

Ballena Muerta: quilt back.  And how fitting is that dandelion in this photo??  I love it.

On the front of the quilt I used Aurifil Dark Navy so it would almost blend with the Kona Pepper--I wanted the quilting to add texture and a slight blue shine to the designs, but not really distract from the bones:

Ballena Muerta: quilting detail.  Check out those tiny hand/flipper bones!
Ballena Muerta: quilting detail.

I had fun going through my Aurifil thread collection and picking threads for this quilt!  I wanted most of the quilt to read as watery and the whale to be at least reminiscent of an actual bowhead whale in coloring.

Ballena Muerta: Aurifil threads used!  Top left were used for the whale and bottom left for the background and whale outlines.  I used the really dark grey in areas that I wanted the quilting to disappear, and black was used in the bobbin.

I was delighted to be able to gift it to Yvonne in person during a recent visit (how lucky am I that she comes to Albuquerque several times a year?!) and she's already hung it in her sewing room!

Ballena Muerta: back quilting detail.

Ballena Muerta: back tail quilting detail.


  1. Umm, that's Kona Pepper? I assumed it was Navy or something. It is definitely in the blue family. Crazy! And the Dia de los Muertos feel is super awesome. I love both quilts and am so honored that you made this for me. I did love the connection to the whale bones we saw in Oregon and that you remembered how much I like whales. Seriously, I just want to swim with them. Until maybe I get a chance and then I might freak out (could they eat me? They are so huge they might not notice me! Eek!).

  2. Ack! This is amazing! And so much more you than the Fractal Friendship Star (which was still beautiful, but not so much YOU). I love the detail in the whale skeleton, and all the fmq that fills him in, but almost blends in so the bones are so much more noticeable. Gorgeous and a true work of art!

    1. Oh, and is there a snail in there somewhere? It feels like there should be :)

  3. All I can say is WOW! That is the coolest quilt! I am so impressed with your artistic prowess, and the really unique projects that you come up with. This one is great both front and back!

  4. Amazing! The attention to are so artistic.

  5. Gobsmacked! You continue to amaze.

  6. Almost speechless on this one. It's breathtaking! Lucky Yvonne!

  7. Absolutely stunning. Great overall design, with perfect colors and texture. Total #CreativeGoodness


  8. Absolutely amazing! There is so much attention to detail and so much...awesomeness! This really is an amazing quilty work of art.

  9. Great and beautiful. I love your idea and amazing quilting.
    Greetings from Poland

  10. Oh my goodness, this is amazing. Seriously, I think it may be my most favorite mini quilt ever. Such cool inspiration and execution! Yvonne is very lucky :)

  11. Sooooo GORGEOUS! All I can say is...WOW! I'm jelly...ok, now you should make a Jellyfish :) and send it to me!

  12. I am in awe of your quilting talents, Renee. This quilt is so detailed and the quilting is so meticulous and compliments the whale perfectly. Thank you for letting us see it.

  13. Wow this is truly great !
    Love from Belgium.

  14. Who would not love a paisley ghost whale?
    Yes, you are a quilting rebel, but we admire you for it.

  15. This amazes me! The whale inside and so spectacular! You are such a master with these pieces, you so inspire me! Just gorgeous!

  16. Everything about this project inspires me! Thank you for playing along in the Linky Party

  17. This is fabulous! Stunning and all!