"Shadow Climber"

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"Shadow Climber", 40" x 67", fiber (wholecloth with faux trapunto), 2020


"Shadow Climber"

March 18, 2021

"Shadow Climber" was made last fall as a gift for my daughter and son-in-law.  I had taken pictures of my daughter indoor rock climbing and used one as my reference. She is a very competent climber and moves like a shadow on the wall.



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It was necessary to make a full size drawing of the figure. I folded the picture to indicate grid lines. Once I made sure the proportions of the picture and the paper were the same, I drew grid lines on the paper. Using chalk and the grid lines for guidance, I drew the figure. The chalk is easy enough to "erase" with a slightly damp rag.

Getting the lines correct is the most critical step of the process.

Her hair style had changed since the picture was taken so that was adjusted and I changed her shirt from long-sleeve to tank top to show off her strong back.

At this point in time, I was also thinking about the mechanics of quilt construction. I added stripes to the shirt to stabilize the final quilt.

I had daughter and son-in-law look at the drawing to suggest changes. It is ever so much easier making adjustments at this stage of the process!

We made some decisions about foot and hand placement. Daughter requested a bit trimmed off the thigh.  If only it were that easy in real life!!



Once we tweaked the chalk drawing, I used a permanent marker to mark the lines. The marker lines showed the lines in the shirt to be distracting so we ditched the tank top and put a fancy sports bra in its place. The change still supported stable quilt construction. (pun intended)

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With the drawing approved, the next step was to transfer the lines to the fabric. 

Sounds easy enough, but the transferred lines needed to be visible on the medium gray fabric, permanent enough to hold up for all the quilting, and then completely wash out when it was all done.

If you've ever done any kind of marking on fabric, you know the importance of testing, testing, testing on each and every project to eliminate unwelcome surprises. The blue wash-out marking pens were invisible on the gray fabric and white chalk rubbed off.

Hello, grand and glorious internet.

The surprise winner was Crayola Washable Markers. I successfully tested them three times on the edge of the fabric before committing to transferring the drawing. The light box was an invaluable tool especially because of the darker fabric.

Side note: I had "erased" the striped tank top marker lines with brown paint so they were not visible to the eye, but the lines easily showed through with the light box. It made transferring that area a bit trickier. Definite reinforcement for getting the lines correct at the easily changed  chalk stage!


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I chose to use a faux trapunto technique to give dimension to the figure and the climbing holds. I used wool batting because I had some and it likes to poof. The two layers I inadvertently used poofed even more.

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I stitched the outline of the figure, then all the interior details. It was important to figure out which lines would be stitched through this trapunto layer of batting and which would be quilted again later. Those that would not be touched again needed to be completely finished.

This project was done using free-motion quilting on a home machine.



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The trapunto layer of stitching is complete. You can see some stitched details on the batting side.

Oh, I also used a lightweight  embroidery stabilizer as a backing for the batting. I don't know if it was strictly necessary, but I figured it would keep the batting from catching on the machine. Also thought it would help stabilize the final quilt. 

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Time to trim the batting without snipping the top.

It was a beautiful day so I worked outside.

The newly trimmed figure sparked some entertaining photo ops!

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Batting scraps were perfect for the climbing holds. I chose to stitch the bolt holes through only one layer of the double batting to add an element of realism and dimension. The outline of the holds was stitched through both layers, just like the figure.

Once the batting was trimmed, the faux trapunto part of the project was complete. The next step was to make the quilt sandwich. You can see the edge of the quilt batting, the dark back, and the beginning of the pin basting. 

In case you're wondering, yes, I did use the back of the gray fabric as the front of the quilt. The coloration of the wrong side was just what I was looking for to mimic the climbing wall.

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Darning foot, free-motion quilting, variegated gray thread, time and patience. I had already studied the textures on the rock wall for accuracy in the quilting pattern.

The quilting is smaller and tighter right next to the trapunto areas to help them pop out more.

Once I chose the starting place, it was imperative to continue working from one section to the adjacent one and from the figure to the edge. The climbing holds were quilted as I reached them. This avoided puckers and tucks in the fabric.

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Consistency in the quilting pattern was something I was very aware of. I would turn the quilt in different directions on different days which could slightly alter the pattern. Fortunately, the quilting is representing an indoor rock wall that has all sorts of inconsistencies in its texture!

It's a little easier to see the quilting from the back.


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Here is the finished product.

You can see what a difference the lighting makes for photos. The only thing that changed for these two photos was the direction of the lighting.

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Here are some bonus photos and a brag.

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Okay, maybe one more brag, "Shadow Climber" was also juried into the 2020 Houston show.


Fall 2020 was when I decided to send some of my work out into the larger quilt world to see how it would be received. I was quite pleased with the results.

Guess I'd better get to work on a new piece!

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