It LIVES! Bringing the Blue Heron to life.

I am truly loving yarn couching as an expressive medium.  I have a dozen projects going actually ranging from simple to very complex and am developing a manuscript about using yarn couching in a contemporary way.  The benefit of this is…anyone can do it, it can be done on a domestic machine with a $30 foot, and you don’t need to be a free motion quilt wizard…constantly stressing about stitch length and all that jazz.  I haven’t decided if Im going to self publish again or look into broader distribution with a book print company yet.  There is a  plus and minus to both.  I do know I want this book to be full color to tell the rich story of yarn texture.

Step one….get spectacularly lucky with an amazing yard of hand dye and have the good sense to see the potential scene of a marshy area against a blue sky…and the winning smile to talk your dye artist friend Debbie Heeps out of it.  Next, I drew in this heron using several images as source material using sharpened chalkboard chalk as well as some gestures meant to suggest where I might put some reeds of some kind.  Next, set up a starting pallet of yarn, in a mix of textures, sheen, and size.

For this project, I planned on yarn couching through the whole quilt sandwich…which is dangerous unless you really understand just how much micro quilting will warp a quilt and are prepared to very very densely quilt the background, and manipulate that density if necessary should warping occur.  I changed colors of thread to basically match or enhance the background areas and used dozens of background designs, blending them together.  The feathery sections are my signature “Nemeshing”, but all the rest of them are from my Background textures from A to Zen book.

With yarn couching…you have to think backwards.  The things that are behind get quilted first.  So, sometimes that means starting and stopping areas.  The underbelly area of dark here, for example.  The top part was blues first, then the leg.  But the bottom was leg first then blend the blues over it…but first sneak in the white, so the blue overlaps it too.  You just have to think in layers.  That is why all my feathers have a distinctive darker and lighter side…so the dark goes under the light and allows for the two to look overlapping.  Without it…the feathers would still technically exist, but they would be indistinguishable from each other.  

I continued working my way up the wings, finally near the crest of the wings, adding in eyelash yarn for the cape.  I dyed the eyelash yarn with a little watered down fabric paint to make some very faint steel blue colored yarn as well.  I also trimmed it ..that stuff made for great heron feathers…but it was way too fringy to start with.

I loved working on the neck.  Herons have amazing smooth feathers with a soft blush of taupe colors, and a front central ridge of bright whites and stiff indigo feathers.  Collecting a range of soft taupes seems overwhelmingly impossible…but it isn’t hard.  I used about 3 commercial oatmeal and grey blends and two skiens of ‘landscape’ yarn which features long smooth transitions of related colors.  One skien had about 6 colors of brown/taupe/ivory.  This picture shows a different skien that was all blacks and grey…but you can see how I just balled up related values.  You only use small bits of yarn at a time with this kind of couching …so cutting up a skien is no big deal.

I create shadows by carefully controlling the value of the yarn

Once done… used a craft project material called “Sculpty” which is an oven bake clay to make an eye.  Well…actually I made about 12 eyes and tried them all out.  It was glued in place with an adhesive designed for sticking on rhinestones to fabric.  Finally I used a needle and thread and carefully couched on “lids”, making the eye appeared set in to the face…rather than floating like some kind of bloodshot specter.



Next was all the reeds…and I feathered together a Burgundy and greenish yarn to create an interesting tipped seed head.  These aren’t any particular reed, more just a suggestion of a marshy thing.  Yarn was added as a grounding line in area to really reinforce a “waterline”.  I got SPECTACULARLY lucky with the dye color, making it look like the reed leaning over the marsh actually has a reflection.  I’d love to claim artistic brilliance there….but it really was pure luck and I only realized how cool it looked after I was completely done and standing back from it.

Next was blocking…and binding of course…which is in a new blog post!  Thanks everyone!    ~Bethanne

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