The Cloths of Heaven 4: astronomy for quilters

Before anyone protests, I know my night sky is hopelessly confused!

Landscape, nearly doneI have the constellations Aquarius, Aries, Gemini and Crux (the Southern Cross) all in the same place, when actually, Aries and Gemini are Northern Hemisphere, Aquarius is variable by season, and the Southern Cross is distinctly Southern Hemisphere. I’ve explained already my reason for including these constellations, and the scientifically minded will simply have to accept that this landscape is mythic, and not intended to represent reality.

I got the appliqué done, and am pleased with how it’s looking. The edges are flat and neat, it hasn’t drawn up the background too much, and using different thread colours to create the effect of mountains edged with a fine line of moonlight seems to be working OK. I did some tests with the silver metallic thread and have discovered it’s almost impossibly cranky. Zigzag of any kind is out; the machine chews the thread up. I can do straight stitch so long as I turn the top tension all the way down to zero. Which leads me to the next astronomy topic.

Constellation test pieceYou can see how the stars currently look. Silver ink. Pretty, but perhaps a little random, not much logic to how they’re laid out? How would it look, do you think, if I used the metallic thread (cautiously!) to draw in the straight fine lines that form the constellations? This image is a test piece showing the effect, which I rather like, and it does mean the stars will not look quite so random and their placing will make much more sense. Let me know what you think. I’ll do it my own way in the end, but it will be interesting to have your input! That said, you’ll probably come back tomorrow and discover I’ve done it anyway…

Tracing the starsBy the way, I’ve discovered yet another use for lightweight interfacing – tracing ‘paper’! To transfer the position of the stars on the template to the background, I cut a piece to size, added registration marks taken from the landscape on the template, traced the stars and then punched small holes for them with a large and extremely menacing darning needle, which gave a punch hole about 2mm across. I pinned the whole shebang to the landscape, lining up the registration marks, and used the fine silver marker to put a dot of silver ink through each hole. Job done, and I think I can even re-use the interfacing…

Once I have this issue resolved, the landscape will be finished!

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47 thoughts on “The Cloths of Heaven 4: astronomy for quilters

  1. claire93 says:

    for me, who doesn’t really know a lot about constellations, I rather like the idea of the lines between each star.

  2. Despite the ‘confused’ constellations, your night sky is looking lovely, great work.

    • katechiconi says:

      Thanks! I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going so far, but I have a huge border to add tomorrow, all wobbly bias edges and I’m going to have to be sooooo careful!

  3. My first reaction was Do the Lines!!! but I think that’s because I love metallic thread 🙂 The lines work, but I think on the whole it’s better without – there are only constellations because humans have drawn their own lines! Random is good xx

  4. Kudos for even attempting this, let alone getting so far so quickly.

    Metallic thread has ever been my Nemesis! I have neverbeen able to use it on the machine. I call it gold SHRED. My only success with it has come by couching the metallic with very fine yellow thread (for gold) or pale grey (for silver) I’ll send you a photo of en embroidery I did way back, using masses of gold thread for you to see the effect.

  5. tialys says:

    I like to see the lines when I look at representations of the constellations. It ‘sort of but not quite’ explains how they came to get their names. In your case, those particular constellations are there for an important reason and so I think the emphasis would not be misplaced.

  6. EllaDee says:

    I like the mythic sky, and linking stars gives them substance and also the illusion of movement. I have silver thread also that I’ve used for little projects and mending and it’s a bit difficult to get along with but I do love it 🙂

  7. Please don’t judge me. I just see pretty, sparkly stars.
    Astronomy has never been my strong point. 😦

    • katechiconi says:

      And I have pretty much reached the full extent of my knowledge in this post, so I do not judge. Pretty and sparkly are good! Just a few lines to stitch, and then I can start work on the poem border.

  8. I like how this is coming along. Can’t wait to see the next step.

  9. Debbierose says:

    I think your doing a wonderful job.

  10. knitnkwilt says:

    Artistic license is a good thing. We can move elements of nature around into effective designs. Cheers for your mythic sky. I lean toward the constellation lines being included.

  11. Lorij says:

    Hi Kate, the lines make it pop. I hope you will do better with your calligraphy than I’m doing with the embroidery on the quilt I’m working on. I didn’t think about the letters until I’d already sandwiched it and put it in the hoop. It then hit my brain that I needed to put a bit of history on it. It’s readable but it’s not pretty in some places. I took some of it out and redid it😊. I’m hoping to do better with the last bit when I go back to it. Your sky is pretty. Didn’t see post about it but that’s okay. It’s your work you can put the stars next to the sun if that’s what you choose😄. Whatever quilt you make will always turn out beautifully.
    Have you tried putting the metallic thread on the bobbin and using less tension ?

    • katechiconi says:

      I actually enjoy calligraphy, I just have a bit of pressure to get it right because if I make a mistake I’ve mucked up the whole border. The constellation lines are already done – I always wanted to have them there, but also wanted to find out if anyone had a really good reason why not to add them; I was prepared to be convinced too.
      I tried *everything* with the metallic thread. We just don’t play nicely together, but the job is done and looks respectable!

  12. Jen Gardener says:

    Aw this is cool! I always wanted glow in the dark stars so I could stick them on my roof in constellations and then lie there at night “finding them”. Mum and Dad never bought them for me cos they thought they’d wreck the paint.. so deprived! Are you going to add the saucepan with the piece of popcorn popping out?? Love it!

  13. Fabulous! Just catching up with you….glad to see you are including the lines, I find it so difficult to place the stars together on my own. Can’t wait to see the finished quilt!

  14. lucyannluna says:

    I love your astronomy quilt. Joining up the stars in their constellations is a good idea. We made an astronomy wall display outside our main lab, too fill in the background we added glow in the dark stars in constellation patterns, but not joined up. It looked awful, so we then had to remember which constellation was where & join them up it looked so much better. Just remember to join the stars up as you go otherwise, you have trouble remembering which star is part of each constellation.

  15. I love the silver metallic thread look. I know, I’m to late for it to matter but had to say so. You have a good eye and what you see is more important than what science says it should be.

  16. rutigt says:

    I´d absolutely “draw” the silverthread between the stars! Then it´ll be easier to figure out the whole composition (is this really English? Sometimes I seems to mix Swedish and English 🙂 )

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s done! And I’m so glad I did it, because it looks lovely. Your English is perfectly fine, and even if I wasn’t sure, I’d make a guess. After all, your English is so much better than my Swedish!

  17. Kirsten says:

    Re: last comment above – I was going to suggest drawing in the lines as the constellations never make any sense to me without them (apart from the blatantly obvious Orion’s belt), but you’ve done it, so . . .

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