Earlier this year, there was a little addition to our family – my sister had a little girl! Such an exciting time for everyone. And in keeping with my own little tradition, I wanted to make her a baby blanket. I had made the decision on what to stitch up quite a while ago, I just hadn’t got around to actually making it until recently. And with winter almost finished in Australia, it might still get a little bit of use this year!
A Purple Duck
There is a little story on the purple duck. I had decided I wanted to stitch her the little duck blanket from the Inspirations Book ‘The Worlds Most Beautiful Embroidered Blankets’. It is such a cute little duck. Sneakily, I also suspected it would be quite a quick finish too. After the sheep blanket dragging on for a long time, I didn’t want this one to suffer the same fate!
The only problem? The blanketing fabric I had was yellow – not a colour that was going to work well with a yellow duck! So I thought I could do a purple duck on the yellow blanketing, and we would have ourselves a satisfactory solution! I have plenty of purple crewel wool, so it was also a solution that helped curb the ‘stash’! I did check with my sister that having a purple duck wasn’t going to be too strange, and she happily agreed that it would be fine!
There was another change I needed to make to the original pattern and design. The original design calls for yellow homespun to be used to construct the feet and beak. Except I didn’t have purple homespun, but I did have purple felt. I didn’t think twice about substituting it over! This was where I ran into a few little problems.
When you make the beak and feet from homespun, the instructions say to stitch two pieces of the fabric together, stuff them, and appliqué them on. So I decided I would do the same with the felt! What I failed to take into consideration was that felt is considerably thicker than homespun. This meant that when it was appliquéd on, it looked more like mountains for feet and a beak! Now whilst I’m all for going and trying different things, I decided quite quickly that if these mountains didn’t come off, this would be one ugly duckling.
Since I was using felt and didn’t have to worry about the edge being exposed, my next solution was to buttonhole the elements on, with sufficient stuffing in them. At first I thought this was ok. But after adding a few stitches on the face, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a viable option either. It just looked messy!
And in true ‘third time lucky’ style, I finally reached a solution that was going to work! And probably the simplest of them all. I simply stitched the felt on using small stab stitches and stuffed it sufficiently. That was it! When I added in the beginnings of the face stitches, it didn’t seem to look strange or messier than it was meant to look anyway. So at last, I could really get on and finish her!
Stitching the Face and Body
The instructions said to use long and short stitch to fill in the body and face. But when you look at the picture, it is not a tidy, silk shading style of long and short stitch. A much more haphazard, just got out of bed look. In some ways this is easier, but in others, being so random is a little difficult. Most of the stitches are quite long, but with a slight variation of length and direction. It was actually quite fun to stitch in this way!
Adding the eyes is always the part which worries me a little. I was able to (just!) draw the eyes on with a water soluble marker. I could just see the markings to be able to stitch in the outline before filling it in. As you have probably guessed, I wasn’t paying particularly close attention to the instructions. And here was no exception! The instructions said to use a padded satin stitch, but I wasn’t sure that was really necessary. So instead, I used a satin stitch only, and that seems to have worked. After adding the little glint, she really came to life!
You will probably have noticed some similarities with this garden to the one I popped the sheep in! I liked the whimsical way their garden ended up, and I thought a similar approach would work well here too. The only difference is I added in quite a few French Knot flowers for the duck garden – there was no risk of French Knot overload in this piece!
The long pink daisy has a lovely cord that the little ducky is holding onto. I love making these cords! They are always so much fun to make. I chose two greens and a yellow to spin together to make the cord. I have a ‘fancy’ tool called a ‘Spinster’ to help with this process. It makes it quick and easy to make lovely ropes and cords, and is actually quite reasonably priced! As the blanket is for a young one, I couched it down in a few spots. But if it were for an older child (or an adult!), you could leave it quite loose which would be fun and add that extra dimension too.
The buzzing bees
I quite liked the way the bees buzzed around the duck in this design, and I really liked their trailing! The two longer bees were supposed to be butterflies, but I wasn’t a real fan of the way they looked on the original, so I decided I would just do a slightly different bee for them.
My bees are made up of two bullion knots with a couple of straight stitches for the stripes. The pattern uses four bullion knots with alternating colours. I made the change for no real reason, mine are just not fat bees.
To add just a little sparkle, the wings and trailing are stitched with metallic threads. I find these metallic threads are always a little difficult to get to behave themselves (especially the DMC one!), but after a few attempts, the chain stitch wings eventually worked.
Finishing the blanket
After washing off the solvy I used to transfer the design (it was quite a plastic feeling one, and I didn’t enjoy stitching through it), it was time for the dreaded backing of the blanket. I’m sure this stage took just as long or longer than the actual embroidery did!
I would have liked to have had a purplish backing fabric, but the only real viable option I had in my supply was a blue polka dot fabric. I contemplated buying some new fabric, but decided in the end the blue would be just fine! There is a bit of blue in the garden, so it’s not a completely new colour added right at the end.
The process, whilst taking a while, was all going along well until it came time to stitch the dreaded mitred corners. Whilst I’ve always struggled a bit with this in the past, this time I just couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong! For some reason, the corners just wouldn’t ‘fit’ if I stitched and cut along the line I was supposed to.
But, I could successfully mitre the corners if I treated it as if it were a piece I was mounting! Eventually this was the route I took. I decided that it had to get done eventually, and I was just going nowhere in my attempts to do a ‘real’ mitre corner. So a little unconventional but at least it was finished! Hopefully next time I’ll be able to work out what I was doing wrong!
At last it was ready! One purple duck for a special little girl!