Anna Grossnickle Hines                                                                                    Home    Guide
Creating the
Nian Quilt

Nian was the first of the Winter Lights quilts that I designed on the computer and the fourth one I started sewing. My first computer sketches were very rough. I knew I wanted to use the bargello technique, but thought perhaps I would combine it with embroidery for the dragon details and fireworks.


All images and text © Anna Grossnickle Hines 2005

Then I started to play with the idea of piecing the fireworks using the bargello technique, too. It would be a little tricky because I would need very small pieces for these sparkling lights, smaller than I wanted to use for the dragon. But I thought it could be done if I sewed the fireworks strips, then sewed two and sometimes three together to be the same width as one dragon strip.

My mother was visiting me in December 2003 I invited her help in selecting fabrics for the dragon. She suggested adding the green. I was still playing with the tail, too. I wasn't sure how to end it.

I drew the lines for the dragon part and traced them onto the flannel batting. I would be sewing this quilt, as I had Lucia, using flannel as the batting. I laid the flannel and backing fabric and basted them together, then sewed the bargello strips through all layers, quilting as I went.

I sewed fabric and cut strips for the various fireworks combinations.

I had a lot of difficulty getting the background to work around my dragon's head. Several times I went back and reworked my computer design. I ended up taking it apart and resewing it a couple times before I was happy with the way the background worked--more or less anyway.

This photograph show how I roll these strip pieced quilts so I can handle them more easily as I sew the strips on. You can also see here that this time I have drawn all the lines onto the flannel which really helped me keep the strips straight. I hadn't done that for the Lucia quilt. Live and learn!

Then I showed my work to my illustrators group. I was still a little concerned that the dragon's head didn't stand out enough. They all agreed and felt strongly that the dragon's face didn't read as a face. He needed eyeballs, they said, and teeth. My mother agreed and I think my editor may have even chimed in here, too.

In any case, I scanned the piece I had sewn, scanned some fabrics to cut and paste in PhotoShop, and designed a new face for my dragon. It was quite challenging to design a face that could be made with strip piecing. I have mixed feelings about this one--wish I'd done it better somehow, but it does clearly read as a face now.

It bothered me that the text space was so plain. Even though this poem was fairly long and would need a good deal of space, I thought it would look best with a few fireworks.

I tried this...

...then decided on a bit less.

When I stopped keeping track, I had spent 99 hours on this quilt. At that time I was still in the process of ripping out the head for the last time and still had to do the other end and add the border.

The next quilt is Christmas Tree.

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