Harper’s Secret Garden

Block 3 of the Secret Garden is subtitled “Harper’s Secret Garden” because the cat in the background is modeled on my daughter’s cat, Harper.

Each of these primary “picture story” blocks presents a new challenge. They are all quite different from each other. I need to bring my overall SG colors and fabrics into each one while still creating something new and – hopefully – fun.

Starting this block, I had only the cat fabric figured out. It’s a wonderful tabby striped batik that I used several years ago for a cat quilt project, but it is dark and I would need some good light and bright to make it work.

It starts with Harper!

It was tempting to chose a really “pretty” fabric for the flower pot. We all love making those beautiful, ornate vases and pots. But this is Secret Garden and the garden is old and untended…would there be a shiny, pretty pot in it? I needed a fabric that looked older, a little shabby and maybe mossy from neglect.

Off to my stash where I found a fat quarter in several tones of the aqua with green smudgy accents and bits of white. I chose the lighter tone to add light to the block and balance Harper, with the darker version for the rim and accent.

Auditioning the fabric.

Creating the animal eyes for an applique is always a challenge, too. I dug into my button tin and selected two 1/4″ brown abalone buttons, a perfect color complement to Harper’s “fur”. Black vertical stitching through the button holes made the pupils. I used a bright white for the whites of the eyes to provide further contrast and some mystery to Harper’s expression.

  • Harper’s eyes were glued down and stitched prior to doing any leaf or flower work. Was this a problem? Absolutely! The right cat eye (cat’s left) is partially hidden which makes a button a problem but I had a glimmer of an idea for a work around as I insisted on the button.
  • I marked the area of the petal that would cover part of Harper’s eye and bonded a second piece of matching fabric underneath with a 1/8″ over hang and then added a small strip of my stabilizer underneath and appliquéd the edge. The edge was carefully trimmed and then the petal was ironed/bonded carefully in place.
  • My Bernina “hump jumper” pieces were used to complete the applique above and below the section covering the button eye and worked a treat! This was first using a hump jumper for a delicate task.

The green/yellow stripped batik used elsewhere worked well for the broad shaped leaves. The avocado batik was chosen to compliment the second flower style. I liked the deep maroon/purple splotched batik for the first set of flowers, but I left out the center petal piece as I felt they were complete with it. These flowers were given stamens with a deco stitch using a coordinating purple, and a coral and gold used in Block #1.

The second set of flowers uses one of my base fabrics for SG, a green/deep rose/blue flower patterned batik with alternating pink/maroon and deep blue ruffs. (The deep blue is also used in Block 1 as well as the setting blocks).

I brought in one of my little hummingbirds as a color balance (he has the same colors as the flower pot and a bit of Harper) and a tone/personality contrast to Harper’s intense expression.

And yes, I added a bit of Harper’s tail peeking out from the bloom at the far left of the flower pot. It concerned me that there was no cat tail, so through the magic of a tiny bit of fabric and stitching a tail appeared.

Enjoy your Secret Garden, Harper! (P.S. My daughter’s cats are all named after characters in the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”.)

Happy stitching all!


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