Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Gorilla Family, with Island Batik & Aurifil

The October Island Batik Ambassador challenge is sponsored by Aurifil and is an especially neat challenge.  To start, each ambassador was sent one of Aurifil's 2021 Color Builder set.  Each Color Builder includes 3 large spools of 40 weight thread focused around a single color; each set includes a a warm, a medium, and a dark.  This year's Color Builder sets draw inspiration from twelve species of endangered animals from around the globe, drawing attention to animals that might disappear forever.  I was sent the purple color builder dedicated to the Cross River Gorilla.


 The products featured in this post were given to me by Island Batik, Aurifil, Schmetz, and Hobbs. 


momma & baby
The challenge was to make something inspired by our featured animal using all three threads in the Aurifil color builder set.  I love that the parameters were both really specific (inspired by Cross River Gorilla) and pretty open (use each of three thread colors however you like).  Purple is my favorite color and I love gorillas, so I was also thrilled with what I had to work with.  I wasn't familiar with the Cross River Gorilla, the least known of the gorilla subspecies. Scientists estimate that there are only 200 to 300 Cross River Gorillas left in the wild, scattered in at least 11 groups across Cameroon & Nigeria.  (I'm a librarian, so I have to cite my source.)


Do you ever "save" quilt techniques or ideas that you want to try but need to find the right project?  That's exactly what happened to me with this project!  In my first year as an Island Batik ambassador, we had a "artsy fartsy" challenge and Joan of MooseStash made a vase using little snippets of leftover IB fabric. 

I really liked the look and wanted to try the technique so I started saving my Island Batik offcuts.  Not so much the really tiny stuff Joan used, but cut off ends from snowballing corners, the end of a strip that isn't quite a 2 1/2" square, that kind of thing.  I've been saving tiny pieces for about two years now.  I went through my bin of tiny scraps and pulled out all the purples and almost-purples.  I bought water soluble stabilizer and put a sheet down on the table.  My piece was roughly 15" square because the stabilizer I had was 15" wide. 


pile of purple scraps

Then I laid dark & medium scraps over it to cover the stabilizer.  I did this pretty randomly, I just wanted to cover the stabilizer I sprayed another piece of stabilizer with basting spray so it would stick and put it on top. 

I took it (carefully!) to my machine and just stitched it like crazy.  I wound a full bobbin of the darkest color, Aurifil 2545 medium purple and used a brand new Schmetz microtex needle.  I stitched and stitched and stitched until I used the entire bobbin in the 15" piece.  I didn't have a stitching plan, I just kept moving around and around.

stitched, before washing away the stabilizer

When the bobbin ran out, I got the piece wet to get rid of the stabilizer and laid it on top of a towel in the sun to dry.  I ironed it like crazy.  I searched for royalty free clipart silhouettes and enlarged one I liked to create a paper template, which I used to cut out a silhouette.  The first one I did, with the dark thread on top and bottom, is the daddy gorilla.   

my new "fabric" drying in the sun

While the first was drying, I laid out another roughly 15" piece and did the same thing.  I used another full bobbin of Aurifil 2545 but I used the medium tone Aurifil 2520 Violet on top, so when it was done I could choose which side of thread to use.  When I cut the out the silhouette later, I chose the lighter thread color; this is the mommy gorilla.  


For my third piece of created fabric, I laid out medium and light pieces, then stitched with Aurifil 2520, again using a complete bobbin.  This became the baby gorilla, so mom & baby have the same thread showing.


Now for the background.  I started with Sky from Island Batik's Foundations fabrics and added a gently slopped piece of the ground fabric--I'm not sure of the exact name, but it's from the Flea Market collection that was in my very first ambassador box!  I layered with Hobbs Thermore batting and Island Batik solid white for the back.  I followed the curve of the ground with Aurifil monofilament in Smoke at varying intervals for interest.  I decided to keep the quilting in the sky in straight lines to mimic the horizon.  For the sky quilting I used the third thread  from the bundle, Auriful 2562 Lilac.



The final step was to applique my gorilla family to their habitat.  I stitched around daddy gorilla in 2545, mommy gorilla in 2520, and baby gorilla in 2562.

I really loved making my own "fabric" from lots of small pieces of Island Batik fabric (and lots of Aurifil thread!) and will absolutely use this technique again.  I don't make art quilts often, really only when the challenges dictate it, but I am finding that I enjoy them so I will need to start challenging myself to make the occasional art quilt, even if it's not for an Island Batik challenge.

our toy gorilla, Strong Arms, with his fabric relatives

Be sure to visit all the Island Batik ambassadors this month as they use Aurifil thread to create art spotlighting 12 endangered species.

Megan Best ~ Best Quilter
Pamela Boatright ~ PamelaQuilts
Elizabeth DeCroos ~ Epida Studio
Jennifer Eubank ~ Archipelago Quilting
Jennifer Fulton ~ The Inquiring Quilter
Preeti Harris ~ Sew Preeti Quilts
Joanne Hart ~ Unicorn Harts
Mania Hatziioannidi ~ Mania For Quilts
Jane Hauprich ~ Stitch By Stitch Custom Quilting
Connie Kauffman ~ Kauffman Designs
Emily Leachman ~ The Darling Dogwood That's me!!!
Denise Looney ~ For The Love Of Geese
Leah Malasky ~ Quilted Delights
Sally Manke ~ Sally Manke, Fiber Artist
Maryellen McAuliffe ~ Mary Mack Made Mine
Claudia Porter ~  Create with Claudia
Gail Renna ~ Quilt Haven Threads
Brianna Roberts ~ Sew Cute and Quirky
Michelle Roberts ~ Creative Blonde
Gail Sheppard ~ Quilting Gail
Andi Stanfield ~ True Blue Quilts


  1. That looks like a fun project, and it turned out really well!

  2. You sure had fun with this one! I love the gorillas and the technique you used. It was perfect. I have bag of scraps that I slab once in awhile but this could be a fun technique to try some day. Like you, I make art quilts when called for, but I love to try new things and this is a technique I have often wanted to try.

  3. Just WOW!!! Thank you for sharing your process. Looks like all the gorillas will live happily ever after.

  4. WOW!!!
    I LOVE it!!!
    How fun it must have been to stitch and stitch and stitch, cementing all your fabulous fabric in place! What a great technique!
    And then to make your baby, moma and daddy ... they look perfect!
    AND ... the background (habitat) is wonderful!!!
    What an awesome piece of art!
    And ... I forgot to say it's pretty fantastic!

  5. Absolutely fabulous, my favorite finish so far. You really nailed the technique and the challenge.

  6. Beautiful tribute to the endangered gorillas. Looks like you had fun. Truly a unique creation.

  7. Brilliant, my friend, Brilliant xoxo

  8. Wow Emily! This came out really great! I liked learning about the technique you used and the gorilla family look fabulous. Have a wonderful day!

  9. Emily your art quilt is just beautiful…..a fitting tribute to these amazing gorillas. It sad to think they might cease to exist. Great technique! Thank you for sharing it with all of us.