Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIP: Chickened Out

This is what my living looked like in spring of 2004, ten years ago. I started a chicken wall hanging to go with the farmhouse decor I had back then.

The love seat and a wing chair had been upholstered with a tapestry fabric woven with a farm scene.

I'd made the tab top curtains from a red barn country print. 

The pattern for the wall hanging is called We're Chicken and is copyrighted 1994. I thought if I made it up in green tones it would really go with the living room.

The outer border was built from variation of the Hen and Chickens block pattern – how appropriate.

I just finished the quilt this week  –  in 2014. Twenty years in the making is a pretty bad track record for a 35" x 35" wall hanging, especially for a room whose decor has long since changed. But I was dedicated to my UFO completion mission.

I thought a good use for this orphaned pieced top would be to practice my evolving quilting skills. I am in the process of taking a Craftsy class on using a walking foot to quilt on a domestic sewing machine and so last week I started the grid work in the center by that method. I was brave because I branched out and, instead of using a green thread that I knew would blend in and not show my quilting lines, I chose a contrasting mustardy yellow thread for the inner grid work, like the itty-bitty chicks in the mini-print background. The same thread color choice is in the bobbin and will show on the backing, too, since the backing is a deep red with again the same yellow itti-bitty chicks. The lines are not perfectly straight but I am relatively content with the outcome. In the Hen and Chicks block border I decided to do the outer black bands linearly, too, using my Integrated Dual Feed on my Pfaff and liked the way they came out looking like leather strapping on a cage.

Last to quilt were the Hen and Chicks variation blocks with largish chicken wire squares surrounded by five half-square triangles. I chose to do these by dropping the feed dogs and doing FMQ. I wanted an open feel to the chicken wire blocks and so just edged them ¼" in from the outer seam. The lines are not perfectly straight but tolerable. I wanted the feel of feathers in the HSTs and thought arcs would have that effect. This is where I need a lot of practice. My arcs in the triangles of the HSTs are very wobbly. Beside my low skill level, I did something very dumb – I trimmed the outer edges before I quilted it. In retrospect I think I trimmed it because I was going to bind it before quilting the outer border. I then changed my mind thinking I might overshoot the FMQ into the binding. Anyway, it was a dumb move. I remind myself, this was a learning experience to grow my quilting skills.

Because I trimmed, I had very little to hang on to for FMQing. Going toward the edge on the right I could grip and pull the quilt sandwich to the left, but going in from the edge toward the left, I just had to hold on in front of and in back of the needle and try to guide sideways by pushing. I did get better by the 20th block. My 20th block is on the left and my 1st block is on the right with the green safety pin. At least I had the foresight to quilt the arcs only in the beige triangles of the HSTs where the mustardy gold thread is less visible than if it had been in the boldly colored triangles of the HSTs. The stitches are not so tiny but that I could pick out the really awful ones, but I am choosing not to hone my picking out skills at this time.

And I am actually quite pleased that I figured out a continuous motion quilting pattern that only backtracked on itself a short distance in one place, near the heart symbol in the following photo.  I started at the star symbol. Straight lines 13 & 18 are the only ones that backtrack on themselves and they are short.
    1-6: I arced along the outside of the HSTs
  7-19: I sawtooth arced along the first inside of the HSTs
10-12: I surrounded the corner inner HST with arcs
13-18: I edged the chicken wire square by entering and exiting at the heart
19-21: I sawtooth arced along the other inside of the HSTs.

The gold thread shows up on the red backing and the difference between FMQ'd straight lines and the even motion feed-dog driven lines is noticeable but not horrendous. I made my label by using my alphabet decorative stitch on a length of grosgrain ribbon. I centered it diagonally in one corner, trimmed the edges at a 45° angle, and whipstitched it in place. I attached and then hand-sewed the binding after the label so the raw ends of the grosgrain ribbon are beneath the binding.

I thought "Aaah, complete at last". Then I remembered. I still had those eight chickens to embellish with eyes, beaks, wattles, both legs, and tails. Forty-eight body parts were left to go. Here are some of those eight beaks and eight wattles. They were pretty teeny-tiny and it only took me till the fifth chicken to get good at peeling off those wonder-under bits of paper in one piece.

Appliqueing them onto each chicken with a machine zig-zag stitch was a bit more challenging than it had to be since I'd spray basted the 35" x35" quilt sandwich first by mistake and had to rotate and manipulate the whole shebang in the throat of my domestic Pfaff. Then I zig-zagged the sixteen legs and decorative circle stitched the eight eyes.

Here is the completed wall hanging...

... with a bit closer looks at the top and bottom rows of chickens.

Aaaargh! I just noticed. I forgot to do their tails! At least it now truly qualifies as a work in progress so I can link up with this week's Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday. How could such a small wall hanging take so long! And how could a blog post about it be so long? Those eight tails will just need to wait until later this week. I am chickened out by now.


  1. Those chickens are so cute! I really like your idea for the quilt label. I'll have to give that a try.

    1. I used to struggle using the alphabet stitch on my Pfaff because it would hang up, not feeding forward and the letters would be unevenly spaced. I re-read the manual and learned I was using the wrong pressure foot. Be sure if you do a label this way that you put on the foot with a clearance channel for the embroidered letters to pass under as they are stitched. I have not had a problem since. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. This quilt makes me think of my dad, since he raises chickens! Congrats on [almost] finishing this project that was long in the making! And, it sounds like you learned a lot in the process.

    1. Learn a lot in the process? Boy, did I ever!

  3. I Love your post, and your WIP. So funny, I used to decorate country too, only the blue and pink. Much less original than yours. Fortunately, I didn't quilt back then, so I don't have anything that old. Counted cross stitch...maybe? I'll never tell! cdahlgren at live dot com

    1. It is amusing how decor styles do change. I have heard it said that the granite countertops of this decade may become the shag carpets of the next. Thanks for visiting and commenting.