The Artistry of Sheena Norquay, Part 4 — Seabird Collection

We have arrived at the final day of our series celebrating the work of textile artist Sheena Norquay. Today is all about her Seabird Collection, a gorgeous array of colors in Auriful 80wt threads. The colours were inspired by puffins, oystercatchers, herring gulls, and black headed gulls.  Their feathers are black and white with added greys for the gulls. The yellow, orange, red, pink and navy blue/grey were inspired by the colours of their beaks and legs.

We are absolutely head over heels for this one and couldn’t have asked for a better showcase of our new 80wt threads.

The colours are:
Black 2692, Dark Grey 2630, Medium Grey 2605, Light Blue/Grey 2600, White 2024
Yellow 1135, Orange 1154, Red 2255, Navy Blue/Grey 1158, Dull Pink 2375

Please visit The Artistry of Sheena Norquay, Part 1 for more details + the full interview with Sheena.

GIVEAWAY
To enter-to-win the Seabird Collection by Sheena Norquay, please leave us a comment on this post letting us know which of Sheena’s pieces below is your favorite and why. Entry will close at 11:59pm on Friday, August 18 and a winner will be announced here on Saturday, August 19. This giveaway is open to all of our International friends!


INTERVIEW (con.)
The Seabird Collection is your latest release, available since April of this year, and it features our new 80wt thread. What did you like most about working with the 80wt?

80 weight thread is very versatile. When piecing, I take a small stitch such as 1.5 or 2 and press the seams open. This gives a smooth ride when quilting over a seam and the small stitches help prevent wadding fibres popping through the seam.

Secondly, it is great for free machine embroidered small details such as the birds. I embroider the bodies of the birds on to cotton organdie which is inserted in an embroidery ring. The birds are then appliqued either by machine or hand to the seascape and the excess organdie cut from around the body shapes. The 80 thread is then used for embroidering tiny details like beaks and legs, although sometimes if the details are really small, I hand stitch the eyes, beaks and legs with one or two lengths of 80 thread. I use a wrapping stitch for the legs and this gives them a more 3 d effect because of the stitches pulling from side to side.

For larger birds which are hand appliqued like the “Three Puffy Puffins,”  “ Two Black-Headed Gulls,” or both oystercatcher pieces, ”Two Oystercatchers on Sand” and “Three Oystercatchers on Boulders,” I use the 80 thread for needle turned hand applique. The thread is so fine you can’t see the stitches.

I have also used the 80 thread for hand embroidered trapunto and have stitched with 2 colours of threads in the needle on the top section of “Pop Ups and Sink Holes,” which was inspired by a drain cover. The bottom section, which has the sink holes, was free motion quilted with 80 threads.  There are 2 colours in each sink hole in every second row.

Finally, the 80 thread works really well if I don’t want the actual quilting stitches to be too prominent, but I want them to create an indented, fine line; or if I am free motion quilting small patterns such as rock line details on the applique or on the border; or if I am free motion quilting lines which involve back tracking  (“Five Feathers”).

How did you go about selecting colors?
I looked at pictures and my own photos of puffins, oystercatchers, black headed gulls and herring gulls, taking note of the colours of feathers, beaks and legs. It is quite tricky to match the greys in particular to their feathers. Also the legs of oystercatchers seem brighter and more orange at certain times of the year, and yet paler and more of a dusky pink at other times.  Anyhow, I then selected thread colours which were the closest match and looked for fabrics to match the threads.

The collection could almost be split into 2 sets of colours, bright and dull, which can be used separately and for other things as well as seabirds. The blue/white /pink sample and the yellow/red/black sample illustrate how the 80 thread works well with decorative stitches on the machine, especially stitches which are quite dense. The fabric is less inclined to pucker when using the 80 thread.

Do you have a favorite piece made with the threads?
I enjoyed making all the samples but I have at long last, found a thread to stitch fine lines such as those on a feather so I guess “Five Feathers” is my favourite.


Sheena made some amazing samples with the colors of Aurifil 80wt from her Seabird Collection. She was also one of our initial testers for the 80wt thread before our launch  in Fall of 2016. She was kind enough to send us her impressions and her tips and we are ever grateful!

On using Aurifil 80wt for machine stitching:
When using  80wt threads in the machine, I tightened the bobbin tension from the setting I use for 50wt threads. Because my old machine has only vertical spool holders, I put the thread spool in a tall, narrow glass behind the machine so that the thread was coming off from the top, clockwise. The other method I used was to put the thread spool on the upright holder and threaded the thread up through a large safety pin so that the thread was coming off from the top. I used an 11/75 quilting needle. All the small birds were machine embroidered on to cotton organdie in a 6-inch ring so the 80wt thread is good for really small birds. I would use no. 50 thread for embroidering slightly larger ones as the thread covers the surface quicker.

On using Aurifil 80wt for hand stitching:
The 80wt threads were great for hand applique – so smooth to stitch with. I  hand appliqued all the large birds and on some I also embroidered on top of the applique. I also used the 80wt threads to hand stitch fine details on the beaks and legs. I used 2 threads in the needle, both cut and knotted at the end next to the spool. The threads lie better if you do this rather than cut one thread and fold it over and knot it. I think I would probably prefer to use the floss for hand embroidering small details if I am covering an area but the 80wt if I am stitching lines.

PUFFIN TRIPTYCH
Finished at 43 X 57.5cm
Created between September 9, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 15 hours 40 minutes

Puffin Triptych by Sheena Norquay

The puffins were free motion embroidered on to cotton organdie. The 2 on the left were hand appliqued with edges turned in which gives a better result than the pair on the right which were machine appliqued. The machine edge gives a hard, incised line. The beaks and legs were hand stitched with yellow 1135, red 2255, navy blue/grey 1158 and orange 1154. The sky, water, and borders were free motion quilted using light blue/grey 2600 and 1158 navy blue/grey. Cliffs were quilted with medium grey 2605.

Detail of Puffin Triptych by Sheena Norquay

THREE PUFFY PUFFINS
Finished at 52.5 x 43.5cm
Created between September 14, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 26 hours 40 minutes

The puffins were hand appliqued with white 2024 and black 2692 and have an extra layer of polyester wadding behind them to puff them out. Faces, beaks and legs were fabric painted and hand stitched (2 threads in the needle) with red 2255, yellow 1135, orange 1154, and navy blue/grey 1158.

The background is machine pieced, hand appliqued, and free motion quilted with 50wt threads.

TWO OYSTERCATCHERS ON SAND
Finished at 53.5 x 44cm
Created between September 8, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 19 hours 35 minutes

Two Oystercatchers on Sand by Sheena Norquay

The oystercatchers were hand appliqued and free machine embroidered on to a layer of wadding using black 2692 and white 2014 threads. Eyes, beaks and legs were fabric painted. Beaks and legs were then machine embroidered on to a layer of wadding using red 2255 and pink 2375.

Detail of Two Oystercatchers on Sand by Sheena Norquay

The background was machine pieced and free motion quilted using 50wt threads.

THREE OYSTERCATCHERS ON BOULDERS
Finished at 54.5 X 44.5cm
Created between September 14, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 23 hours 25 minutes

Three Oystercatchers on Boulders by Sheena Norquay

The oystercatchers were hand appliqued with 80wt black 2692 and white 2024. The boulders were also hand appliqued using pink 2375, light grey 2600, mid grey 2605 and dark grey 2630. Beaks and legs were fabric painted and free machine embroidered using red 2255 and pink 2375. The oystercatchers and boulders were free motion quilted using same colours.

Water was free motion quilted using 80wt blue 2725 which is not in the collection.

THREE OYSTERCATCHERS, 2 BLACK HEADED GULLS AND WAVES WITH WHITE BORDERS 
Finished at 43.5 x 27.5cm
Created between September 26, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 16 hours 55 minutes

Three Oystercatchers, two black headed gulls by Sheena Norquay

The birds were free machine embroidered on to cotton organdie using black 2692, white 2024, and mid grey 2605. Legs and beaks were hand stitched using red 2255 and pink 2375. The background was machine pieced with some fabric painting and free motion quilted using 1158 navy/grey, 2024 white, 2605 mid grey, 2630 dark grey, and 2600 light grey.

Detail of Three Oystercatchers, two black headed gulls by Sheena Norquay

BLACK HEADED GULL, TWO OYSTERCATCHERS WITH NAVY BORDERS
Finished at 43.5 x 58.5cm
Created between September 26, 2016 & November 22, 2016
Total time: 15 hours 5 minutes

Black headed gull, two oystercatchers by Sheena Norquay

The birds were free machine embroidered on to cotton organdie and hand appliqued to the background using white 2024 and black 2692. The legs and beaks were hand stitched using red 2255 and pink 2375. The background was machine pieced,  hand appliqued and free motion quilted using mid grey 2605, navy/grey 1158, white 2024, light blue/grey 2600.

FIVE FEATHERS
Finished at 63 x 26.5cm
Created between November 18, 2016 & December 8, 2016
Total time: 13 hours 25 minutes

Five Feathers by Sheena Norquay

This pieces was inspired by seagull feathers collected on walks. The feathers were free machine embroidered on to cotton organdie which was then laid on top of white cotton and 2 layers of wadding (thin polyester thermore and Hobbs 80/20 cotton/polyester), and free motion quilted. Colours used were black 2692, dark grey 2630, mid grey 2605, light blue/grey 2600, and white 2024.

POP UPS  1
Finished at 32 X 32cm
Created between November 22, 2016 & December 1, 2016
Total time: 11 hours 15 minutes

This piece was inspired by a photo of a drain cover which one of Sheena’s friends asked her to take. She suggested a challenge to use it as inspiration for stitching something. Sheena happened to have bought a bath mat which had holes in it and used it for printing a background of 7 x 7 holes, the same as the drain cover, on to a piece of calico. She then pieced a black border and tacked a bit of wadding behind the holes. She free machine embroidered circles in the round holes using the colours from the Seabird collection and trimmed away the wadding around the stitching. A layer of wadding and backing was added and free motion quilted following the lines of the printing and composing decorative circles on the black border.


ABOUT SHEENA
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Sheena Norquay was born on the Orkney Islands, just off the Northern tip of Scotland. Though she began sewing as a child, it wasn’t until attending University in Aberdeen to gain a B.Ed degree that she truly dove into the world of sewing, quilting, and textiles. The degree included 2-dimensional design in textiles which inspired her interest in exploring the artistic potential of threads and fabrics.

Having been a Primary School teacher in Inverness for 30 years, Sheena is now a freelance quilting teacher and teaches workshops locally, all over the UK, and sometimes abroad. She also writes articles for magazines and her quilts have been featured in several books.

Sheena’s work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally since 1981 and she has won many awards in competitive quilt shows. She sells her work, cards and postcards of her work, and also accept commissions.

Text courtesy of Sheena Norquay. Images copyright 2016 Sheena Norquay.