Today’s guest post comes from Suzann Thompson, an author, textile designer, and accomplished crochet designer. Suzann will be debuting her “Mama Lion” Textile Fusion piece at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! in Portland, Oregon on August 13-15th. If you’re in the area, please check out the show and see the piece in person. Read below as Suzann has detailed her methodical process for executing her design.
Since today is World Lion Day, we found it quite fitting to share her beautiful artwork celebrating these majestic beings.
It was a great day in spring, when I learned that Lion Brand® agreed to sponsor the first national exhibit of my TextileFusion artwork at the Quilt! Knit! Stitch! My first thought was “Yay!” My second thought was “How can I possibly show my enormous, heart-felt appreciation?” Well, by making a wall hanging, of course! The subject was easy, because LION Brand; and lions’ manes are absolutely a dream to embroider and embellish. So my daughters and I embarked on a research trip to the zoo.
The lion we saw was so handsome. We admired his profile as he napped on that hot and humid afternoon in Texas. Occasionally, he lifted his nose in the air, sniffing the breezes. I sketched and took photos and tried to memorize how his mane and face merged into each other.
Half an hour later, we moved on to find the lioness lounging on a ledge. She was majestic and alert, watching over her three cubs, who slept in a tangle in the grass below. My original plan changed in an instant. That mama was going to be the lion in my wall hanging.
Making Mama Lion
Late in July, Lion Brand® tweeted “Never hang your sweaters. They will stretch out…” True. So how is it that hanging sweaters will make them stretch out, but hanging a knitted wall hanging is okay? Read on and I’ll tell you!
All TextileFusion wall hangings begin with a minimal plan. I decide the size of the wall hanging and make rudimentary sketches or work from a photograph. I estimate how many square inches of each color family I’ll need.
Based on gauge, I calculate how many stitches and rows to knit, adding about twenty percent to allow for trimming and flexibility in the plan.
Mama Lion needed three shades of lion, two main colors of savannah, a light sky, and three shades of rocky ledge. I enjoyed gathering yarn as usual, starting with Lion Brand yarns and adding yarns from my collection for additional depth and texture.
Amazing® anchored the striated rock that runs across the finished wall hanging under the lion’s paws. Solid colors of Wool-Ease® and Cotton-Ease® accented the multicolor yarn. In the darkest rocks, rich browns and purples inspired me to plan a garment with those colors; they looked great together. The sparkle in the lion’s coat was courtesy of Vanna’s Sequins. I used Fishermen’s Wool®, Wool-Ease®, LB Collection® Superwash Merino and LB Collection® Angora Merino in the lion’s coat, savannah, and sky.
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Steam blocking relaxed the knitted fabric. Once the fabric cooled, I stabilized the knitting by ironing fusible interfacing to the knit side. The interfacing kept the cut pieces of knitting from unraveling. It also made machine sewing a lot easier.
Wait, did I just say “cut?” Yes, I did. In some of my early wall hangings, I cut the knitted fabric without stabilizing. Those were exciting days.
Using a photograph as a guide, I cut the knitted fabric into patches of light, medium, and dark to create the image of the lion. I pinned them to a foundation fabric and used a wide zig-zag stitch to sew the patches together and to the foundation at the same time.
Those dark eyes looked hollow and scary. But I knew that quilting, embroidery, and embellishment would alter the look of this freshly finished quilt top.
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Using clever methods I learned from my quilting friends, I created a quilt sandwich: top, batting in the middle, and a cotton backing fabric. The piece became an actual quilt, when I stitched all three layers together.
The quilting stitches added more texture to Mama Lion. Quilting stitches also further stabilized the knitting, and that is why we can hang these knitted wall hangings and they won’t stretch! A binding of Indonesian batik covered the quilt’s raw edges and provided a frame for the picture.
Finally it was time for embellishing, which is my favorite part of making wall hangings. Simple embroidery stitches defined the lion’s features…eventually. I redid the eyes, nose and mouth numerous times before I was (mostly) satisfied. Straight stitches in the lion’s coat added the illusion of shadow and they also smoothed the transition between patches of color.
To make the savannah seem grassy, I embroidered grass in the foreground and sewed seed beads throughout.
I was in the midst of sewing on buttons that blended with the stones of the foreground, when my twelve-year-old daughter Ella said, “Mom, that wall hanging needs more color.” She has a good eye, so I chose a couple of button colorways for her to review. She like the turquoise best. That is why Mama Lion has a row of blue buttons across the top.
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When the last bit of embroidery is stitched and the final button sewn in place, is the wall hanging finished? Find out at www.textilefusion.com/blog/?p=1620
For more information about Quilt! Knit! Stitch! visit www.quilts.com
Suzann invites you to follow her on Instagram @cutecrochetworld and Twitter @textilefusion. She is the author of Cute Crochet World, Crochet Garden: Bunches of Flowers, Leaves, and Other Delights, and Crochet Bouquet: Easy Designs for Dozens of Flowers.