Featured Project – The Darkheart Duckie Project

I had been gleefully watching this project as each duckie was slowly uploaded to our flickr group, and I was just waiting to pounce on our talented stitcher Chris so I could get her to share her amazing finished quilt with us once it was ready.

Well, the deadline for the quilt was fast approaching, and Chris got it done! We now have 6 delightfully hand-stitched duckies from our Daring Duckies collection made into one geektastic quilt. This amazing creation goes to one lucky little tyke, which is a fantastic and nerdy way to welcome a kid into the world. Chris joins us today to talk about all the work that went into this quilt and where it all began…

What started this project?

A friend becoming pregnant. I had already told her that when she did get pregnant, her sproglet would have one very cool baby quilt.

Did the embroidery inspire the quilt or was the quilt the catalyst for starting the embroidery?

The first! I was very taken by many of the Urban Thread designs, and a quilt is a good way to get multiple designs into one piece.


This looks like an impressive undertaking! How long did it take to embroider it all?

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 something hours. Around 80 hours per duckie, not counting the pantographs and bias tape borders. I took plenty of time with it, as I started in April and didn’t finish up until the end of September. Putting the quilt together went quite quickly in comparison. It probably wouldn’t be done yet if I hadn’t been up against the definite deadline of pregnancy.

Talk us through the embroidery… What make you pick the ducks? Which of the duckie designs did you decide to use?

Initially, I had planned to do a skully quilt, however, I took another look before picking out skullies and saw Zombie Duckie, which sealed the decision to go with duckies. My friend is all about zombies, she loves them and I had already made her a zombie pillow. So, duckies it was going to be.

The Duckies I chose: Punk Duckie, Zombie Duckie, Robot Duckie, Vampire Duckie, Nerd Duckie, Pirate Duckie, Devil Duckie and Ninja Duckie.

Punk Duckie provided a nice opportunity to deal with the knotty pink/blue problem by combining them both in one Duckie.

Zombie Duckie was sheer fun to do and I added some touches which tied it into the pillow I had made for my friend. We both share a love of Futurama, so I downloaded the official Alienese font and used it to say “Zombie Loves You!” Zombie Duckie also ended up with changes due to my not getting enough of the purple thread for the shirt, which resulted in a rather large hole in the shirtsleeve. I liked the end result, but that was not planned at all.

Robot Duckie quickly became Bender’s Duckie, due to Futurama love. I wanted a touch of color and DMC had come out with fluorescent light effects floss, which I used for the eyes and antenna ends. I used pink fluorescent to do “Bender’s Duckie.” One strand worked best when working with the light effects floss, it’s easier to manage and flattens out quite thick.

Vampire Duckie felt like it took forever, but I had a lot of fun with it. Rather than go with Maître d’ look popularized by Bela Lugosi, I went with a richer look for the clothes. I wanted a vest which resembled brocade. I think I managed that, but it felt like that vest was never going to end. Everything else was a piece of cake in comparison. A little bit of blood on the fangs was added to counter the cheerful expression and because, well, it’s a vampire – there must be blood somewhere.

Nerd Duckie was next and that one saw considerable change. I tire of the default geek = male, so I decided to make Nerd Duckie decidedly female because there are a lot of us glasses wearing geek women out there.

This gave me the opportunity to use variegated floss for the hair. I also used a subtle variegated floss for the shirt, DMC’s Color Variations Glistening Pearl. I chose red for the glasses frames because that’s my personal favorite color for frames.

Next was Pirate Duckie. I decided to add a pirate shirt and a tentacle had to make its way in there somehow, being as we’re both cephalopod lovers too. After giving it some thought, I decided to go with the classic black on Ninja Duckie.

This also simplified it considerably for me, because I had a lot of shading planned for the gray version. This was for a couple of reasons – the black is not only classic, but it’s more vivid and striking and I was running out of time at this point, so simpler made things go faster. Devil Duckie was fairly quick stitching, using two shades of red. I added quite a bit of shading for variation.

What kinds of embroidery techniques and stitches did you use to bring the ducks to life?

The fabric I was using is a lightweight cotton, so once the duckies were drawn on the fabric, I drew an outline of the duckie on a permanent iron-on stabilizer, cut it out and applied it. Then, two layers of tearaway stabilizer were ironed on. I went with split stitch for the bulk of the embroidery, it’s a rapid stitch and is very durable and stands up well to washing.

There’s also a liberal amount of outline stitch and satin stitch throughout the Duckies. In Pirate Duckie, there’s padded satin stitch (for the shirt ruffles) and running stitch in the tentacle. I used 3 strands of floss for all the duckies except Ninja Duckie, where I used 6 strands, as black floss has a tendency to stitch thin. Each duckie needed a pantograph to secure it to the batting (I used Warm & Natural needled cotton) and I did something different for each one, using glazed cotton quilting thread.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying to create something like this?

Plenty of them, most all of them due to oversight on my part, such as not getting enough floss for Zombie Duckie. When I first started Nerd Duckie’s hair, I went with Turkey stitch. I did a rather large section. Once I cut the thread, I hated how it looked. It’s an absolute nightmare, removing cut Turkey stitch! Don’t use it unless you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want to do. This goes for any stitch you aren’t sure of – it pays to have a piece of fabric hooped for experimental purposes.

I also forgot to pre wash the fabric on several duckies (always pre-wash!), which left me with upsetting tensioning problems when finished. Thankfully, that turned out not to be a massive problem once I did the pantographs. Doing a project like this can be a lot of fun and that’s the key – choose something which truly delights you, something which you can add your own touches to and something you won’t get bored doing.

What’s your next project going to be?

There’s a La Calavera Catrina sculpture, a museum piece, which I want to translate to embroidery on canvas and two Urban Threads trees (Natura and Skeleton tree) which I want to do on canvas (stretched and barred, extra heavy artist’s canvas). Then, a Skully quilt! This time, an adult-sized quilt, single size for a futon, somewhere in the neighborhood of 42″ x 72″. I think.

Thanks again Chris for sharing this amazing hand embroidered creation. I love how each duckie came to life in their own unique way, and what an amazing quilt they make! I cannot wait to see your next creations.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at blog@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

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6 Responses to “Featured Project – The Darkheart Duckie Project”

  1. 1
    Jolene Ehret says:

    that is aweseome quilt… I need to put that in my wish list. I have some of the ducks. Need to get all of them. Says the Queen of Procrastinators…

  2. 2
    Jenn Bates says:

    So impressive. So inspiring!

  3. 3
    Caine says:

    Thank you both so much! It was a labor of love.

    There are so many designs at UT I like I’ll be stitching for…forever. :D

  4. 4
    Pat says:

    Great! I must say great minds run togther! I am working on one almost the same for my new grandbaby. Due in Feb. I’ll post pics as soon as I can.

  5. 5
    Sandy Parks says:

    That is a GREAT quilt. Gone are the days of cutesy bears, rattles, puppies and lambs! (Hallelujah!) I LOVE the duckies!

  6. 6
    Sylvie Singer says:

    Double kudos for the choice of designs and embroidering by hand. I can’t hand embroidery and really admire those who can. This quilt is awesome and really a labor of love, thank you for sharing and inspiring us…

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