6 Questions With Award-winning Quilter Jeannie Henry
We catch up with Jeannie Henry and she explains the inspiration and the materials used for creating the True Blue Jacko quilt.
How did you come up with the idea for your quilt?
This quilt was my response to the 2015 AQC True Blue Challenge. I immediately thought the quilt should depict something uniquely Australian and be predominantly blue. My thoughts kept coming back to our true blue icon, the kookaburra, in “an old gum tree” against our incredibly blue sky, and I knew we had a blue-winged kookaburra.
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How did you design the quilt?
The design process began by googling information and copyright-free images of the blue-winged kookaburra. I finally found what I was looking for and took my small printout to the local print shop and they enlarged it (in pieces) to a metre square. It was very blurry and took me ages to redefine the shapes with paint and a black marker. This was my master plan.
How is the quilt constructed?
With ideas swirling around in my head about how I would construct the bird, I began with a more straight-forward process, creating the brilliant blue sky, a colourwash of pieced squares on point. The kookaburra was created separately on calico, a slow process of appliqué and sew/embroider, using Inktense pencils and blocks to enhance colours on the feathers. As his tail feathers were close to the viewer, I decided to make them 3D by making each feather separately and satin stitching around them.
I now had a cut-out of a bird and a blue sky. His large branch and his claw were then constructed by placing Solvie over a collage of brown fabrics and stitching like crazy to create the appropriately textured fabric.
Then came the big dilemma! I had a sky, a bird and a branch and no idea what to do next as my small original photograph had a fuzzy out-of-focus suggestion of a gum tree, but there was no detail and I felt that was what the composition needed. I went back to my research collection and found some gum tree branches and enlarged them. I also went for a walk and brought back a gum tree branch for colour, texture and shape inspiration. If only I could have sewn that branch on — it was perfect! Right-sized leaves and all.
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I then knew that what I wanted to do was put Jacko amid the branches and leaves. Another problem was that I could not find any green fabric of the right colour so I got my Hi Strike fabric paint out and painted a metre of gum leaf green, with my collected leaves beside me to get the colour correct.
This was the most difficult decision-making part of the quilt as I then played around for ages, moving branches and adding or subtracting leaves before I committed to stitch.
Happily, I stitched the branches, leaves and bird into place. The sky was then quilted after working out a pattern based on feathers and gum leaves. Finally, I cut my quilt down to a 90cm x 90cm square.
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Did you use any specialty products?
Yes. To make the quilt I used Hi Strike fabric paint, Inktense pencils and blocks and Solvie.
Did the quilt turn out as you had envisaged?
I was happy with my final result even though the background was now totally different to the plain brilliantly blue sky I had envisaged, but placing Jacko amid the branches worked much better.
What awards has the quilt won?
I was absolutely over the moon when True Blue Jacko won the AQC True Blue Challenge in 2015.