Monday, September 27, 2010

Nelliephant - Nellie

"Nelliephant" - 13"x 17"

fabric, tulle, yarn
oil stick pastels, watercolor pencils, ink

I had literally "hit a fence" for most of the month in trying to decide how to interpret Debra's photo.  My usual playing around with the picture in the Element's filters had not provoked any ideas.  Expressing my frustration in a conversation with my husband got me going.
He said, "How about playing with the lyrics to that song 'Don't Fence Me In'".
I said, "I've already made a quilt with a that."
He said, "How about putting an animal behind the fence?"
I said with a BIG smile, "Yeah! A 'Nelliephant'"
I knew there was just the right sized elephant in a printed fabric somewhere in my stash.  Finding it got all my fabrics resorted and refreshed in my mind as to what I have stored here at the cottage.

All of my IT pieces are the same size, 23"x 17".  However, the size of the elephant wasn't large enough to scale the whole picture for this one that big.  I cut a piece of batting about 12"x 9" and started layering the background in my "ortwork" collage technique.
I was so absorbed in creating this piece that I neglected to take anymore process photos than the one above.  That's black tulle making the shadows in the foreground and a bit of blue wool roving for the sky.

To turn an ordinary elephant into a "Nelliephant":
  • Strips of various black fabric scraps were cut for the hair.
  • The glasses were drawn on the paper side of a fusible web, then ironed onto black fabric and cut out.
  • The eye glasses were ironed into place.  The dots of color were made with watercolor pencils over the tulle netting after the quilting was done.  The tip of the pencil was dipped into water and gently rotated in place to leave just a dot.
  • Face color was added with oil stick pastels.  The pigment was rubbed into the fabric through the tulle with a stiff stencil brush.
  • An eyebrow and lashes were drawn in with ink.
  • The glasses strap is yarn laying loose on the surface.
  • The earring is a jump ring with a metal charm ... a key to unlock that gate?

I played with varying the the layers of batting, as well the sequence of quilting the different areas to get a bass-relief effect.
  • Two additional layers of batting were placed behind the elephant's head and the corrugated metal parts of the fence.  I machine stitched around those shapes and then trimmed away the excess batting on the back.
  • One additional layer was added behind the slatted part of the fence.  The slats were quilted and the excess batting beyond it was cut away.  The fence and foreground was quilted first before it was placed on the large beige linen background piece.
  • Then the small picture piece was trimmed to size and the edges finished with couched yarns.
  • It was centered on the large beige linen fabric that also had a layer of batting and backing. The sky and and trees were quilted through all the layers so that part would be compressed into the background.
  • The elephant's head and ear was again stitched around again through all the layers.
  • The corrugated fence parts were quilted through all the layers.  In reality it appears closer than the gate.
Decorative yarns were couched to surface of the linen on each side through the batting and backing before the picture part was added to it.

At the end I outlined the slats of the gate with ink.  Using a heavy black thread to quilt them may have done the job.  However, I didn't see that they needed emphasis until the piece was finished.

This piece ended up being fun to make.  It sure does elicit smiles and giggles from everyone who's seen it.


  1. Oh gosh, is that adorable. What fun! I'd know those glasses anywhere!!

  2. Unlocked creativity at its best! Just like you, the elephant is stretching outside its box! Super interpretation!!

  3. Another winner! All of the attention to detail always blows me away! "Nelliephant" rocks!

  4. This is really fun! What a clever idea, and excellent execution, of course.

  5. Well, it surely did give me a smile! The artistry and joy shine through. Great job!

  6. What a fun play on your name! I loved the close up of the details--all the shading on the elephant and the gate/fence. Nothing flat there!

  7. I love this!! Nelliephant!!! And the glasses! And the hair!! where's Elvis?!! Looks like you had fun with this one Nellie!

  8. Thank you all for your comments ... and yes, I really did have fun after the initial agony that made me almost skip this month's challenge. Karen, Elvis didn't show up.

  9. It made me laugh! What a wonderfully whimsical interpretation, and so Nellie!

  10. This is totally you and just so wonderful. Did you husband channel me with "Don't Fence Me In"?
    That is the title of my interpretation!

    Really enjoyed viewing this piece and loved the process.


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