Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Birch Trees in the Blue Ridge

July's Island Batik Challenge theme is "Artsy Fartsy." The main requirement is to use a t least 3 different weights of Aurifil threads in the project.  I was pretty intimidated by this one, because I am not an art quilter. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I wanted to do.  I got several books of art quilts out of the library and flipped through.  Ultimately, I decided I wanted to do a landscape.  And my favorite landscape is the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 The fabrics were provided to me by Island Batik. Aurifil, Hobbs, and Acuquilt also provided materials that I used in this project.

I pulled fabrics out of my Island Batik bin that looked at home in a mountain landscape.  I started with Hobbs Thermore batting layered over Island Batik solid white for the backing.  I laid down a strip of sky, cut gentle improve mountain range curves into one piece at a time, working from light (far away) to dark (closer).  I pressed the curves so I would not being sewing raw edges.  Here's an in processes shot and you can see I've laid out my best Aurifil thread matches.

And another process shot with more of the mountains layered on.  At this point, I've used both 50 weight and 28 weight.  I was honestly just picking the best color match out of the Auriful thread I had.

And here is the completed mountain scene.  Each layer of mountains has been stitched in a corresponding Aurifil thread but there is just that one line of stitching in each section.

I mentioned that got several books of Art Quilts from my local library.  The book that I found the most inspiration was Small Art Quilts by Deborah O'Hare. She had quite a few landscape style quilts that helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do. 

I noticed that in her landscape quilts, she tends to quilt straight lines across the horizon even if the landscape is not straight.  I thought about it a lot, but decided I wanted to follow the curve of each mountain section in the quilting.  This was much more work (and created a ton of threads to bury) but I like the results.  I also left a few a few mountain ranges unquilted to give some textural variety. For both the sky and the ground, I deliberately quilted straight lines to contrast with the curve of the mountain ranges.

Here's the back at this point so you can see the stitching.  I used Aurifil 50 weight color 2000 in the bobbin for the entire project.

Fairly early in this process, I realized I didn't have a good Aurifil thread match for all my mountain sections.  I've heard that Aurifil monofilament is the best monofilament out there and this seemed like a good time to see for myself.  So I ordered both clear and smoke monofilament. Which technically gives me three weights of thread at this point.

I was always planning to add an element on top, because I got this fantastic variegated 12 weight thread from Aurifil. And it looked like birch trees!

The colors of birch trees!
Several months ago, my sister-in-law Heather drew some mountains and birch trees for me to use as a template for a different challenge.  I ended up picking a different subject for that challenge, but I kept the trees she sketched for me and traced the outlines for this project. I was worried about the light thread showing up on the darker fabrics, so I traced Heather's trees on to some Heat 'n Bond Lite and fused it on to more Island Batik solid white.  I fused the tree shapes (one at a time) to the mountain background and stitched over (and over and over and over) them until they were filled in with the 12 weight. This was my first time working with 12 weight and I absolutely love the feel of it--I keep running my fingers over the stitching!

I was worried that a binding would detract from the look of the landscape so I decided to do a faced binding.  I have not done a faced binding before, but several of my fellow Ambassadors used faced binding in June as part of trying a new technique.  Several mentioned using this tutorial by former Island Batik Ambassador Carole Lyles Shaw.  Since Carole recommends 2 1/2" strips for the faced binding, I used the 2 1/2" strip die with my Accuquilt cutter--I had all four strips cut in one go!

I took the finished quilt on a recent hiking trip to the mountains.  I tried to get the mountains in the background.  I do feel like this photo demonstrates how great a match the ground fabric is, as I can barely tell what is background and what is ground in the quilt!

Here's a list of all the Auriful threads used in this project:

50 Weight
28 weight
12 weight




While I was intimidated by the Artsy Fartsy theme, I absolutely LOVE the finished project!  I do love how these Island Batik challenges push me out of my comfort zone and produce beautiful quilts that I am proud of.  This was #3 on my list of Q3 goals for the globally hosted Finish Along.


  1. That is wonderful! I think you made the right choices in your quilting.

  2. Your photo taken in front of the mountain shows you nailed this. Fabulous job!

  3. Ooooh it is so pretty, Great placements of the fabric. What needle did you use for the 12wt?

  4. This is just lovely! You really did well on this challenge. I'm curious like Vicki -- what needle did you use for the 12 wt, and did you have to adjust your tension? How was it sewing with the monafilament too; did you have to adjust tension for that as well?

  5. This is a very cool art quilt! I love the techniques you used.

  6. That is one amazing art piece...love it

  7. For not being artsy, your artsy quilt turned out fabulous, Emily!!! I love the thread you used on the trees.

  8. What a great quilt and you are so right about the colors outside and the mountains. Congrats.

  9. This is absolutely beautiful!

  10. Emily, I love this! I need a little more artsy fartsy quilting in my life. This is an inspiration!

  11. Beautiful beyond any words I can find. Smoky grey monofilament works well for me with any batiks that I raw edge applique. This is Artsy Fartsy to the TOP.