Here, Kitty Kitty…

A new pet has joined the dog pack and this time it’s a kitty cat. I’m pleased to say that everyone’s getting along just fine although that’s quite a glare on her face, don’t you think?

quilted pet portrait, cat portrait

Quilted cat portrait

This cat portrait came together quickly using the method I’ve outlined in previous posts. This time, I decided to go big so I enlarged the line drawing 140% on my Canon printer. Here is the line drawing of the cat, the fabric value reference chart showing the eight fabrics I chose and the templates fused to the respective fabrics, with Lite Steam-a-Seam tacked onto the wrong side. The cat’s eyes were irresistibly green and I was lucky to find the exact colours in my fabric stash

Process for making pet portrait


I traced the cat onto a thin piece of muslin with an ultra fine Sharpie pen and now it’s ready to begin the construction phase. This phase of the project is truly like painting by number as I fill in the shapes marked on the muslin. I always start by laying down the pieces that are furthest away as they will lie underneath the closer shapes. The exception is that I add the eyes last. The eyes are a key to connecting with the portrait so I’m reconsidering this step and plan to experiment with placing the eyes down first. They’ll need to be cut a little larger to bury them underneath the fabrics lying overtop of them.

Cat line drawing

Cat line drawing marked with values


As I auditioned the cat against the muted pink batik, the pink nose popped out and completed the triangle of the cat’s gaze. That told me I’d found the right background. Kitty is is up on the wall now and I can almost hear her purr.

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Boston Terrier on Blue

As an art quilter, I generally don’t make two of the same quilts on purpose. But, while I was auditioning the green background on Piper’s portrait, my enthusiasm got out of hand and I was having so much fun, I just had to complete it. But, it was a commission and I had not even asked the client what colour she wanted! With a copy of the templates in hand, I made a second portrait of Piper and fortunately, the black & white version also looks great on this saturated blue.

Quilted pet portrait, boston terrier portrait

Piper’s quilted portrait on blue background

















Below is the workup for Piper, showing that I had traced the line drawing onto a thin muslin background. The lines are almost all covered up, but hopefully you can see a few of them in the face area. Since the individual fabric shapes are all backed with Lite Steam-s-Seam II they are lightly sticky and I can simply fill in the spaces, one shape at a time.

Process for constructing pet portrait

Piper portrait from photo to fabric












Using a re-positionable fusible product such as Lite Steam-a Stam II allows you to view your work in the vertical plane as it progresses. No pins, no glue, no pieces slipping around! It’s truly a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ approach and makes a world of difference.

Here’s what I learned from making Piper twice:

Tip #1: always find out what your client wants before getting too carried away!

Tip #2: photocopy your templates so you can quickly make a new set when needed.

Tip #3: using a re-positionable fusible lets you work in a vertical plane and truly see your work as it develops.

There you have it: making a piece twice can really have unexpected advantages.


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A Boston Terrier Joins the Pack

Piper is a 6 year old Boston Terrier who’s as sweet and adorable as they come. His mom captured this great photo of him in a local park. He’s pretty focussed on something interesting in the distance so I strongly suspect that cookies were involved in him sitting still!

Piper, the Boston Terrier

Piper, the Boston Terrier


The expression on Piper’s face told me right away that this would make a terrific candidate for a fabric portrait and I could hardly wait to make it. Here is the 20″ x 24″ quilted portrait made from that photograph. It’s made entirely of cotton fabric (and batting) and was stitched using a Bernina sewing machine.

quilted pet portrait boston terrier

Piper quilted pet portrait

I wanted to make an interesting background that related somehow to the grassy park setting so I experimented with a collection of green fabrics in my stash. I cut the chosen fabrics in widths from 3/8″ and 1 1/2″ and then placed them in alternating directions all around Piper. Since I had applied a fusible product (Mistyfuse) to the back of the fabrics before cutting them, I was able to press them onto the background with an iron once I was satisfied with the effect.

Deciding on the quilting design is always a challenge. To help with this decision, I start by doodling on paper before trying out the best designs on small 8″ x 8″ quilt sandwiches. In this case, I came up with a free motion design I’m calling paper clips. I used a green polyester Magnifico thread made by Superior Threads and stitched the paper clip design in one continuous line over the entire quilt.

quilted pet portrait boston terrier

Piper portrait – quilting detail

I like to add an internal border to set off the portrait and more often than not, this Australian aboriginal print is the winner. I love the playfulness of the white printed lines as it reflects the dog’s playful soul and I think you’ll agree that the balance of white on black complements Piper’s colours really well.

Welcome to the pack, Piper!

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Another dog portrait is done!

The latest dog portrait has finally graduated from the design wall to the dog house. Welcome, Gus … formerly known as Max!

Each portrait I make provides an opportunity to try something new and this time, I decided to make a strip pieced background. Orienting the strips on the diagonal seems to enhance the sense of depth and add extra punch to that big pink tongue. I also decided to use more colour in the eyes, nose, and mouth, again emphasizing these great features.

quilted pet portrait

Gus waited a long time on the design wall as I spent almost a month touring by bike through France this summer. Now that I’m back and rested from towing my possessions behind me on my bicycle over 1400 km from the Loire Valley to Provence, I’m in the studio and making dog portraits again. All that pent up creativity is getting released. Ahhh… that feels good.

I have also been working on improving my brand and the first item on the improvement list is to change the domain name of my website to More exciting changes will follow. Thanks for staying tuned to my journey as it evolves in the world of dog portraits.

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A Golden Lab Emerges from My Stash

Labs appear to be the most popular dogs right now so it seemed fitting to do a quilted pet portrait of Max, a golden lab who is walked by our favourite dog walker, Paige, at Beyond The Leash Dog Walking. He’s on the design wall and looks like this:

quilted pet portrait

Max the golden lab

Here’s a recap of how this comes together. I began by posterizing the photo with Picasa and then went to work deciding how best to define all the different values (lightness/darkness).

Posterized photo

Posterized photo

Once I had outlined the shapes, I marked them with their values and arrows to indicate how they would be layered. I traced this onto a sheet of tracing paper to create my master.

Master for pet portrait

Master for pet portrait

The next job was to find the fabrics that would work for this portrait. I started pulling all the fabrics that might remotely be suitable and cut out a small swatch of each. I placed them on my value finder tool, aiming for eight different values of tan/cream/yellow and seven values of pink. From these, I chose the best matches.

Lab portrait

Fabric selection for quilted pet portrait

Next up was to trace the shapes to my Pellon Lite EZ and fuse these to the chosen fabrics. It didn’t take long before I realized this fusible product would not work for this job. I applied the sticky side of the fusible to the fabric and cut it out ok but when I tried to remove the paper backing from my cutout appliqué shape, it became clear that they overshot the amount of stickiness required. The tacky layer is so sticky that a thin plastic layer separating it from the paper backing pulled away from the paper, leaving me with a piece of fabric with a smooth plastic backing. I tried again and again to get it to work and after 5 failed attempts I threw the Pellon Lite EZ in the garbage. I went back to my Wunder Under and managed to finish the job. These are just some of the scraps remaining from all that fussy cutting.

Fussy cutting scraps

Fussy cutting scraps

So how long did all this take, you ask? I didn’t set any stopwatches but it’s in the vicinity of 16 hours. The funny thing is this: time seems to disappear from my awareness when I’m doing this. Yes, it requires patience and lots of decisions but that feeling of being in the zone is a mighty fine feeling. And seeing the dog take form is the icing on the cake.

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Methods and Materials

That title “Methods and Materials” takes me back to my university days when I was a science student. I spent a good part of my life in the laboratory in those days studying chemistry, physics, cell biology, bacteriology, biochemistry and so much more. Every experiment was followed by an exhaustive write-up which included ‘Methods and Materials’. I don’t plan to repeat that here, but it does make me reflect on how that hard work contributed to the skills I use in making my quilted portraits, namely the ability to observe details and the patience to stick with the process until I’m satisfied with the result.

In the past few weeks, I took a diversion from making dog portraits so I could focus on refining my methods and materials. The idea was to work with something I could finish fairly quickly so I could play around with my technique. After a little searching online, I found a copyright-free photo of a ceramic coffee mug that fit the bill. Its strong reflected light lent itself well to my method for conveying depth. I settled on a variety of chartreus-ey greens and yellows on a grey & black background and made this 10” x 12” mini quilt.

coffee mug, quilted, art quilt materials and methods

Coffee mug

So, just what part of my technique did I change and how did it go? Well, if you are an appliquér (is that a word?) you’ve probably noticed the wide variety of fusible products in the marketplace. It’s kind of mind boggling, isn’t it? Others have been down this road before me and written up their findings. Here’s a link courtesy of Susan Brittingham that summarizes the world of fusibles quite well. Elaine Quehl has also written a great blog article about using fusibles.

I’ve had success using Wunder Under but I wanted to try out a re-positionable product so I could put the individual pieces in place temporarily and moved them around if necessary. Steam-a-Seam Lite seems to be the leader of the pack so I picked some up at my local quilt store and went for it. As promised, it’s re-positionable which really helps when putting all the bits in place. Sadly, I found it added too much stiffness where the fabrics overlapped. I could hear and see the needle struggling to penetrate all those layers and the bobbin thread broke several times. All in all, I wasn’t swayed enough to switch to Steam-a-Seam Lite.

How about you? If you have a favourite fusible, what is it you love about it? The next fusible I’ll try is Pellon EZ Lite, another paper-backed repositionable fusible.

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Welcome to the Dog House, Tinkerbelle

Today was a great day because I finally delivered the quilted pet portrait of Tinkerbelle to her parents. Tinkerbelle was there and she was none the wiser of course, but Mom and Dad were thrilled with the quilt.

quilted pet portrait

Without further a-do, here is the last instalment of this series explaining my technique for quilting a pet portrait.

Step 13

The final step is to finish the outside edges and add a hanging sleeve and a label. This is no time to gloss over the details and rush to the finish line because the quality of workmanship here can make or break the piece. The traditional finishing method is to square the quilt up and add a single or double fold binding which creates a narrow outside border. I prefer just a single internal border in my portraits so I add a facing to give the edge a clean finish. The facing is simply a 2 1/2” wide strip of matching fabric (a separate strip for each edge) that’s stitched to the front of the quilt and then turned to the back and stitched down by hand. To save time, I prepared the hanging sleeve and attached its top edge to the upper facing strip before it was applied to the quilt. Once the facing was secured on the back, all I had to do was stitch the lower edge of the hanging sleeve to the back.

I always record my name and the date the quilt was finished on a quilt label and I have a template on my computer for this purpose. I print the quilt label onto fabric, fuse it onto the back of the quilt with Mistyfuse and then secure it with an invisible hand stitch. Then it’s time to have one last look and photograph the portrait before preparing it for transport to its new home….and sigh with satisfaction as another dog is added to the dog house.

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Tinkerbelle is Off the Wall

It’s time to celebrate because Tinkerbelle’s portrait is done and she has moved off the design wall! In this blog, I’ll describe how I quilted the background and the portrait itself. If you’ve just landed here, you can scoot back to the original post to see how this quilted dog portrait started.

Step 10

I knew that I wanted to frame Tinkerbelle with an internal border 2 1/2” from the outside edge and that provided me the final dimensions of  22” wide x 24” high. Having selected the blue-green batik, I cut out a rectangle this size plus an additional 2” in width and height. I cut out slightly larger pieces of lightweight batting and backing and made a quilt sandwich out of the 3 layers, spray basting them so they would cling well and not slip around while I stitched them.

I had to decide on a free motion design so I took out a paper pad and doodled a few free motion designs, then chose two of my favourites. I’m a fan of testing my ideas before using them so I stitched some small samples to see how they would look. Oh my, am I glad I did that! This is how they turned out. The design on top was the winner hands down because it has a calming feeling while the one below looks busy and chaotic.

auditioning fm for tink

There’s no need to quilt behind the portrait itself so I marked off that area with a chalk marker. Then I went ahead and quilted the rest of the quilt sandwich.

Step 11

Next, I pinned the portrait in place on the background and with a Sulky invisible monofilament thread and Schmetz Microtex 60 needle, I zigzagged along the entire outer edge. I used my walking foot for this operation. After securing the portrait this way, I switched to an open-toed darning foot, dropped the feed dogs on my machine, changed to a Schmetz Microtex 70 needle and used the five colour-matched threads (Aurifil 50wt cotton) to stitch around the raw edge of each piece in the portrait.

free motion stitching a quilted dog portrait

Step 12

I had selected a black on white aboriginal print for the internal border since it seemed to echo the light on Tinkerbelle’s face. I planned to make a 1/2” border so I cut a 1” wide strip the required length plus a few inches to join the two ends. With a Hera marker I marked a 1/4” crease on each long edge, turned these edges to the back of the strip and pressed the strip well. I marked the placement of the internal border on the background with a chalk marker and then pinned the strip down along the chalk line. Using a narrow zigzag and invisible monofilament thread I stitched the inner edge of the border down, leaving a gap where I needed to join the two ends. I used a standard technique for joining these with a diagonal seam then resumed stitching the rest of the inner edge and finished off the outer edge as well.

internal border of quilted pet portrait

All that’s left now is to finish the edges with a facing and add a hanging sleeve. That will be the final instalment in this series. If you have any thoughts on the processes I’ve described, please give me a shout by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again for checking in.



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Auditioning My Rendition … of Tinkerbelle

If you’ve been following along with me, you’ll have seen that Belle’s portrait finally came together. The next step is to find a good background for her, something that will really make her personality shine. I started by auditioning fabrics from my stash. Auditioning is simply placing the fabric on the vertical design wall and laying the portrait on it, then standing back to view it. It’s really important to audition on a vertical surface so you’re addressing the piece face-on and can absorb the full effect. What I was looking for is simple: do I get an ‘ah-hah’ feeling to tell me it’s the right one or does it feel flat or just wrong? Of course there are no rights or wrongs and you just have to follow what your head and your heart tell you is best. Here are a three worthy candidates I selected.

:belle on red-orange      belle on blue        belle on blue green

And here are my thoughts on each one:

  • I really like the movement in the pinky orange batik with the grey maple leaves stamped all over it but I struggle with the fact that Belle’s face is bathed in light and nothing in this background supports that. Or does it? Perhaps it’s the warmth that seemed to oppose the coolness of the greys and blacks.
  • The blue background worked well for my previous portrait, Jackeroo, but it’s a flop in this case. It simply feels flat and motionless and there’s no light emanating from it.
  • The green batik has movement and depth because of the blue/green shading. The lighter areas almost look like sunlight shining through a dense leafy foliage. It also has a subtle leaf pattern on it and while it doesn’t look so great in this photo, it ended up being my favourite. Now it’s time to prepare it for quilting so I can stitch the portrait down.

For you quilters out there, what tricks or guidelines do you use to select fabrics that play well together? And how do you know when they’re playing together well?

Thanks for reading my blog. Next time, I’ll describe how I prepare the background and what I do with the portrait.

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All Together Now…Altogether Now

The quilted pet portrait of Tinkerbelle is coming together at last. I’ve been describing this technique of transforming a photo of your pet into a quilted pet portrait in the last couple of blog posts. Today’s post is all about bringing a lot of little bitty fabric pieces together.

After fussy cutting out 85 pieces from 9 different fabrics, I started placing and fusing them onto a base I had cut out of fusible non-woven stabilizer. To be honest, this was a real challenge. Here’s the deal: many pieces had edges that had to be tucked under AND edges that had to go over the adjacent shapes. There were basically a lot of interlocking pieces. Here’s how she turned out…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Belle’s quilted pet portrait

Read on to find out how this all came together.

Step 9

So how did I bring all these pieces together? First, I spent time studying the original photo to observe depth of field — what parts are closer and which ones are further away? Then I did a dry run with all the major shapes to see how this interlocking would work. I made lots of mental notes and then I cleared the deck, making sure the keep the shapes together in numbered groups. I pinned the transparent master to my portable working surface, slipped the base underneath and one by one, removed the paper backing and placed the shapes in their final resting place.

Here’s the forehead region.  All those little arrows marking the ‘unders’ and ‘overs’  really come into play here as they tell me which edges to place underneath the others.

Quilted pet portrait

Here’s Belle’s muzzle. Yikes, some of those pieces are small! I use tweezers to move them into place.

Quilted pet portrait

As I positioned each piece, I used a light touch with the iron to tack it to the base and avoided touching the edges that had to remain free to allow the next shape to tuck underneath. Here’s how she looks under the transparency when all the shapes are in place.

Quilted pet portrait

At this point, I need to look at her with a critical eye to decide if I really achieved the right values in the right place. I can see there are a few subtle adjustments to make however the construction is completed. I’m off to the fabric store now to find a background that will really make this portrait pop. Next up will be a post all about colour and focal points.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading my blog! Remember, blogs are for sharing so don’t be shy.

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