Monday, March 25, 2013

Quilting the Realistic Quilt

In my neck of the woods (literally, I live where elk and deer roam across the road and through our yards), there are a whole lot of people who LOVE Toni Whitney's designs. Originally a painter, Toni now creates amazingly realistic animal portraits in fabric. Her kits and patterns are very popular here. I've quilted the elk portrait five times now.

The fabric pieces are fused, usually onto a stitched “frame” to surround the image. The first one handed to me had been blown up 50% over the original pattern size. A majestic presence! I've quilted the same elk twice more where it was used as a centerpiece for larger quilts to be used on a bed.

How do you quilt a realistic animal face? The first one of these designs that I saw in a show, was quilted with an outline stitch. Essentially, the stitch line sewed each little fabric piece down, and, of course, quilted the piece at the same time. But, that's not what I saw was needed to maintain the realistic feel that the designer so deliberately set down.

So, I flowed the quilting lines along what I saw as the natural “fur” flow of the animal. I say “fur” although I mean also the mane of the horse, as well as the natural hairs that cover the animals' faces.
The quilting is done in long and short “lazy S” shapes, sometimes flowing off the edge of a fabric piece just a bit, to blur the hard cut edges.

I have a whole lot of appreciation for the makers of these quilts. Tiny pattern pieces are laid out on fabric, watching to take advantage of the natural flow of the design in the fabric. Fabrics are chosen to create the highlights and shadows that make these pieces look so true to life. Then, tiny little edges are cut, moving scissors back and forth until their fingers must hurt. All these little pieces are laid out according to the pattern. Lots of time consuming stuff here!

And, here is Jezebel, wearing her First Place and Exemplary Machine Quilting ribbons from the recent Arizona Quilters Guild show. My customer and I are quite proud of her!

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing were a miracle. The other is as though everything were a miracle.” Albert Einstein


  1. can i buy the wolf quilt email me at

  2. Do you know if the wolf quilt is also a Toni Whitney pattern? I checked her web site but didn't see it there.

  3. Robin Carden, yes, it is a Toni pattern. Do not know why it is not still available.

  4. Your quilts are amazing! My hubby would love the wolf quilt. What kind of fabric did you use? Is it quilting cotton or something thicker?