I guess it's fair to say I usually design on the fly. I start with an idea, some fabric, and see where it leads me. My best laid plans are often thwarted because the quilt has other ideas. One thing leads to another - solutions to puzzlements present themselves in the most unlikely way, leaving me wondering how I could have been so blind. Here's how one such scenario played out yesterday.
My angel quilt has this brown wood-like fabric running across the top and I decided to add more of the "magic" leaves along it to continue the vining arbor-like feel. They are subtle, yes, but that is what I'm looking for here. I want them to be something you may not see from a distance, something that adds interest as you move in closer. I will quilt around them with navy thread to give them a little more definition. If you look closely at the batik along the side, you'll spot the top of one of my "elegant" scrolls. It too is supposed to be subtle. I knew there wasn't a great deal of contrast between the browns in the two, but once the scrolls were fused in place, they darn near disappeared altogether. Well, I thought, that too can be fixed during the quilting (I hope....).
Next, I tried one of my "clunkier" scrolls along the top of the arbor, in that bright green of the piping. I didn't really think this would work, and I was right. Among other things, it was too prominent, drawing the eye away from the angel in the center. But I also thought by trying it there, I could better envision how those shapes might work if merely quilted in. My eye kept moving to the blank center of that brown above the arbor. I considered arranging more leaves to fill the entire area, but I didn't think that was the look I wanted. What if I took one of the scrolls designed for the skinny sides of the arbor and placed it horizontally in that space? From the paper pattern it looked like it would work, so I used some Steam-a-Seam fusible on the gold fabric used to create the piping effect around the angel and cut the shape out. Yes, I think I like that. The gold isn't used anywhere else so this might be a good tie-in.
As I stepped back to view the overall effect, it occurred to me that I could have used this same gold behind my elegant scrolls to highlight them, just like I had the angel. Argh! Too late now because those scrolls were firmly fused in place. Well, I thought, I must have some golden thread in my stash that would do the same thing. Probably one of those King Tut threads I'd stocked up on recently. As I opened my thread cabinet, my eyes fell on this luscious silk thread. Technically, it is buttonhole twist, but I purchased my first spools of it at a quilt show and loved the way it worked up as a quilting thread. It's the dickens to find though, and when I finally found a specialty fabric shop carrying a good supply, I stocked up.
Rather than wait and use it to quilt around the scrolls, I decided to just stitch around them now. My free-motion quilting isn't good enough to trust to something that would be so visible and need to be perfect. Stitching before layering for quilting meant I could do this with feeddogs up and not have to mess with a walking foot or maneuvering the bulky quilt sandwich in the machine. You'll note I am stitching next to, not through, the applique. This is another thing I like about Steam-a-Seam II over WonderUnder; the edges of your applique do not need to be secured by anything other than the fusible itself.
This thread was just the right color and thickness to visually pull those scrolls out of the background just enough. In this picture, the lower scroll is outlined while the upper one is not and fades into the distance.
I'm very pleased. And I'm relatively sure that I wouldn't have thought to use that thread had I not added that gold scroll along the top. I'd been considering a gold metallic or even a navy thread. I probably wouldn't have thought to use that scroll either, had I not been playing with a similar motif just underneath that space. The pictures unfortunately do not capture the effect very well, although if you click on any of them, you'll see a larger view and more detail. You'll just have to trust me on this one.