Animal alphabet quilt: hand appliqued, embroidered and hand quilted

Animal alphabet quilt in cotton, appliqued in stranded embroidery cotton. Hand sewn and quilted.136cms square (53 1/2 .inches); each individual square is c 22cm square (8 3/4 inches)

This quilt was made when my children were young. For a long time it hung above the table in the kitchen and during mealtimes, especially if there were guests, the names of the more obscure animals represented would become an obstacle to good digestion. Regular visitors soon came to know:

i for ibis; n for narwhal; q for quail; u for urchin (sea) and v for viper (occupying one square).

Hand sewn and hand quilted, it was just the thing to have nearby with children around. When you’re making quilts, spillages, cat hairs and a bit of dirt don’t really matter as a wash when finished gives it a bit of a plumped up, slightly used look, which many people like. The fabrics were all Laura Ashley cottons in plain colours which were pleasant to handle and with just the right amount of roughness to give your needle a bite as you stitched – all nicely tactile. I do so miss those early Laura Ashley fabrics , both the plain colours and the single colour prints. They were never as lovely when the business became more sophisticated or, perhaps the cutting off point came when Laura Ashley died.

Quilt detail: f for flamingo; appliqued in satin stitch.


Quilt detail: j for jaguar, appliqued in satin stitch.


Detail of quilt: k for kangaroo and part of border. Kangaroo appliqued with satin stitch.


Quilt detail: l for lion; appliqued in satin stitch.



Quilt detail: o for octopus and middle part of pieced and appliqued right hand border.


Quilt detail: is for narwhal, appliqued in satin stitch.



Quilt detail: q for quail; appliqued in satin stitch.


Quilt detail: u for urchin and v for viper and bottom left corner showing pieced and appliqued border.


Quilt detail: z for zebra with satin stitch; bottom right corner showing pieced and appliqued border

I received much criticism from my children for having been cowardly with ‘x’. ‘X’, as in fox was apparently just not good enough. I should have tried harder  to find some animal that actually began with an x. Well, it wasn’t at all easy. When I made this quilt, internet searches were more than a click away. The computer with all its paraphernalia sat very solidly in the study and was occupied in gainful employment for most of the day. It wasn’t quite the plaything we see it as now. A few minutes ago, I did an internet search for animals beginning with x and got various lists, some  with more than 30 names. Here are a few of my finds, with my comments as to their suitability for the x slot:

X-ray fish: possible, being self-explanatory, colourful (I think, must check) and useful as the quilt had no other fish.

xanclomys (a small, extinct animal): extinction rather rules this out.  Children would groan and tell you if they can’t find it in today’s world, that means it doesn’t count.

xanthareel: now this is just the formal name for  yellow eel, so then it should come under y and I have one of those. The xanthe bit just means yellow (or blond haired) and anyway, eels are not especially fun to embroider.

xeme: a fork-tailed arctic gull has possibilities, but again, as arctic gull, it should replace  a for alligator  (or even g for gull) and the alligator is too good to leave out, especially as some people, adults and children alike, have to have a think about it, being confused that it’s not c for crocodile as for some reason crocodile seems to come to mind first.

xenicidae: the wren, for which I have a soft spot as at the moment (July) they are one of the only song birds left singing in the garden and their song is so much bigger and fruitier than you expect of such a tiny creature. I can’t help but be very tempted by this. However, this won’t really do either as xenicidae is the name of the family to which the wren belongs (of the order Passeriformes) and further, as these are commonly known as New Zealand wrens, it seems unlikely that they are the ones singing in my garden.  Additionally, I already have a bird, the quail. (In design terms, penguins and flamingoes have very distinctive silhouettes, so the fact that they are birds too, doesn’t really matter).

xantis: a type of yak. A real no hoper as I’d have a yak followed by a yak and straggly hair and horns allow limited distinction.

xiphosuran: The horseshoe crab would be fun, but a crab is a crab is a crab, and I’m sure children the world over would regard it as representing c for crab and be very scathing at trying to slip it in under x.

xoni: a mythical creature. Now this is probably the best of the bunch. Set the children to work to design their own  and you may get an hour to yourself while they fight for the colour crayon being used at that moment by their siblings and go through the reverse sides of a good pile of old computer print outs.

At the end of the day I’m perfectly happy that I went for x as in fox .  I like the distinctive shape (though not as much as the flamingo which I’ve used for f)  and  what’s a bit of derision and opprobrium to the artist. 

I have found it very difficult to get the true colour of the quilt in the individual photographs and in particular the pink looks completely washed out. In the photograph of the quilt as a whole the colours are quite accurate – even the pink is better. If we had not had non stop rain recently I might have taken the quilt off the wall and photographed it outside but this hasn’t been possible.


Quilt detail: x as in fox, appliqued in satin stitch.
Also bottom middle of border (pieced and appliqued)

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