Friday, January 3, 2020

Portrait of Lucy

With all gifts now opened, photos can be shown of a project that was secret until Christmas.

For a couple of years I've wanted to make a portrait quilt of my granddaughter, Lucy, as a surprise for her parents. The trick was finding a photo of her that had enough contrast to "posterize" into three clearly defined tones. This is the posterized photo...

...and here is the finished quilt, roughly 22" x 17," titled, simply, Lucy Maeve.

I've only made one other portrait quilt, several years ago, for my son who was grieving the loss of his best friend. I learned the process from a couple of books, but now there are videos on the internet that teach it step-by-step. It isn't hard, but there can be a lot of fussy-cutting, especially if you are including shading and highlights in the subject's hair.

Below are a few photos of the quilt in progress:

Tracing the photo using a storm door (my light box is too small)  >

Traced pattern at left for the medium-tone fabric
(all one piece, which required cutting out all the
little spaces where the light tone would show);
traced pattern at right for the dark-tone fabric
(1 large and 80+ tiny pieces)  ^

Fussy-cutting my traced pattern after fusing it to the medium-tone fabric

(The 80+ dark pieces are backed with fusible web, rough-cut and waiting in the plastic bag, to be fussy-cut and fused to the quilt last.)

Paper backing torn away...medium-tone fabric ready to be fused onto the light-tone background (off camera). Being all one piece, this was tricky to position correctly. (The color looks wrong here just because of the incandescent light shining on it. All the other lights are full-spectrum lamps.)  > 

< Fused! It was going well, but at this point I was getting nervous--it was time to make her eye and her eyebrow, and I knew that could make or break the quilt.

It went fine, but boy, was I careful, especially when
painting the white spots in the pupil. Breathed a huge
sigh of relief when that was done and I realized this
portrait might be a success after all.

Got so caught up in what I was doing, I forgot to photograph the dark sections as they were fused.

Time to piece the flower (this time the light box was used). The flower wasn't in the photo, but because Lucy's crouched position wasn't totally clear after posterizing, I needed something that was obviously near the ground to give it context.

All total, this project took me 63 hours, from the first photo tracing to sewing my label on the back. I don't know if that's fast, slow or average, and the only reason I logged my time at all was in case I ever decide to make another one. It's always good to know how much of a commitment you're in for beforehand.

Would I do a project like this again? Probably, but only as a heartfelt gift, like this one; never on commission (actually I don't make anything on commission, deadlines having proven fatal to my creativity). Those 63 hours were grabbed at every possible opportunity during November and December, which was quite a feat with holidays and Christmas prep happening. To be fair, I did manage to make two couch-sized quilts for Lucy for Christmas, but working on anything for my Etsy shop was out of the question.

Next time there will be a small landscape art quilt, using very little piecing.

Happy new year!



  1. That is spectacular! What a very special gift.

    1. Thanks, Vicki. I loved every minute of making it.

  2. Oh my goodness. This turned out beautifully. Of course it helps that you started with the perfect image. Well done

  3. Linda, this is absolutely AMAZING!! Such a good representation of the real Lucy! Happy New Year to you and yours

  4. Beautiful and so lifelike. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Angie. I was concerned it might not look like her, and so relieved when it did!

  5. I love this sooooo much! You are so incredibly talented!

    1. Thank you, Julie, but honestly, if you can trace, cut, fuse and sew (and I know you can), you can do this. Good way to freeze Ben and Chloe in time.

  6. This is most definitely an heirloom and I'm sure it will be treated as such. I imagine Lucy's parents were totally blown away with it. Thank you for sharing at least some of your process. There's no way I would ever tackle such a thing - I'm sticking with buildings!

    1. If I could do buildings the way you do, I'd stick with them, too! My son and his wife loved the gift, and of course I loved making it, so it was a win all the way around.

    2. Thank you so much for saying that! I still consider myself a beginner and I know I have a long way to go. Faces/people scare me and buildings are a whole lot more forgiving. Anything I do wrong can simply be put down to the general decay of the original.

    3. Gotta admit I knew going in that this was going to be an unforgiving project--it would either look like her or not, and if it didn't I would consider it a TOTAL failure, regardless of the quality of the work. So I get what you're saying about the buildings, but still, you have a real knack for portraying them.


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