Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Madrona Road Turtle

(Chelonoidis Madronas)

I reached milestones this week on three distinct fronts:  land, sea, and sky.

The first (sea) was Darwin, my entry for the STLMQG's Madrona Road Challenge:

New species:  Chelonoidis Madronas.  Charles Darwin's observations of giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands helped to develop his theory of evolution.  

After several failed design attempts working with this line, I finally came up with a plan.  I was browsing through my file of PDF patterns when I came across the Star Flower Pillow from Moda Bake Shop by Aylin Öztürk.

Star Flower Pillow front, Moda Bake Shop.
I liked the angular patchwork of the dodecahedron, and the scalloped chevrons around the edge.  I thought at first I might just make a pillow, plugging in scraps of Madrona Road along the way.  But the more I stared at this photograph, the more familiar the pattern seemed until I realized what I was seeing:  the angular, top-down view of a Galapagos tortoise.

Image borrowed from here.

Having never earned a structural engineering degree, I had no idea how to build such a lumpy, three-dimensional object.  A quick Google search revealed plenty of turtles, but none that I liked as much as these cuties designed by Ashley over at Make It & Love It:

Image borrowed from here.
Ashley generously offers a free PDF of the pattern with paper templates on her website. The dome of the shell is constructed in quarters, the pattern for which is placed on the fold prior to cutting such that it represents one-eighth of the total area of the shell.  By bisecting this pattern with an arc and adding in patchwork, I hoped to achieve an angular, 16-sector hexadecagon similar in design to Aylin's pillow above.

After sketching in the approximate pattern for paper piecing, I enlarged the pattern pieces to 250% at the local copy shop, and auditioned fabrics for the patchwork on the design wall.

I stacked each segment of patchwork in numerical order to keep them straight.  

One stack of fabric per sector.

The first sector stitched together.

Once the first four sectors were stitched, I lined them up side-by-side and started to get excited.  Seams were matching up, and things were starting to look the way I'd imagined:

First four sectors side-by-side...  Looking good so far.

It's this moment, I think, that first drew me to quilting.  That moment when you successfully transform a rough idea into a tangible reality holds much appeal to me.  My problem is that once that light goes on, I sometimes have a hard time drumming up the will to chug through the tedium to the finished product. Thankfully, there were still enough unknowns about the construction of this thing to keep my curiosity piqued.  

I managed to finish up all sixteen sectors, and stitched together the first individual quadrant.  

Fortunately, the seams all lined up correctly which helped spur me on to finish the other three.  Now, I could finally move on to the extremities.  The Little Man was more than happy to help me stuff:

Once the head, feet and tail were attached to the shell, I cut out the base prior to final construction.  That's when I remembered that the challenge rules required each project to have some quilted component.  (@#$%!)  With no simple option for quilting the shell, I slapped the base onto some Warm 'n White and free-motioned a quick floral design.  It was just a last-minute formality, but I think this little detail serendipitously turned out to be one of Darwin's most charming traits.  :)

Two twenty-ounce bags of Poly-Fil later, and Chelonoidis Madronas was born:

Top-down view of Darwin's shell, perched on the seat of an office chair.  

Though not nearly as large as his Galapagoan predecessors, Darwin's size does leave me somewhat concerned about the inevitable propagation of the species.  Perhaps we'll start out with a few tiny offspring, and see where we go from there.  In the meantime, I doubt he has much time to be lonely.  He's keeping some very good company at our house, and serves as a pleasant reminder to us all:  "Slow and steady wins the race." 

- - - - -

I hope to check in later this week with additional (land and sky) updates.

Happy Wednesday!


  1. Too cute Lynne, and I'm so glad to see that DARWIN is well loved not only by our guild; but by your adorable kids.

    1. Thanks, Kristy. He's pretty popular so far. :)

  2. Thank you, Pam! He's a lot of fun to have around the house (now, that he's finished, that is). :)

  3. Just in time for the 204th birthday celebration too! He is absolutely adorable. And a muchly deserved place in the STLMQG award ceremony!

  4. I actually started (and meant to finish the post) on the 12th, but then I got distracted and didn't get back to it in time.

    The moment had passed. :(

    So cool of you to notice!!!