Firefly Dance - An Epic Story!

One year ago, a client commissioned a sizeable art piece as a surprise for his wife.

Their space was under construction so there was no particular deadline, which was a very good thing from my perspective. The piece is eight feet tall, which would have been a problem in my previous studio - not enough ceiling height to accommodate a design wall that large!

Luckily my new studio has a bit more head room. :-)

Firefly Dance ©2017 Carole Gold

After our initial consultation, I knew the desired size of the piece, and that it should definitely feature a tree and some fireflies.

As part of our discussion, my client shared ideas and artwork that appealed to him (and his beloved) so I could get a feel for their aesthetic and design sensibility. This insight helped guide my decisions as the piece developed.

I didn't get much sleep for about a month after that, as my brain exploded with possibilities!

Discharge experiment - can I retain the edges of shapes that overlap?

I drew thumbnail sketches, took pictures of trees, and considered techniques for accomplishing my mission. My notebook filled up, and I decided to work with discharge spray to produce the texture and glow I wanted.

This decision called for an experiment on a small scale before starting the large piece. Once I was satisfied that things would work the way I'd hoped, I started piecing the background for the big guy.

Starting with strips

About two months ago, I did a full sized charcoal sketch of my idea. The dancers were on a separate paper so I could move them around, as were the dogs. (I scratched out dogs of all sizes, moving things around until I landed on a composition I liked.)

Charcoal sketch on design wall

At this point, my client had a look and gave the go-ahead on the design . . . excitement took over and we finally set a tentative deadline! (Almost made it, too! Ha!)

From the charcoal drawing, I made a "pattern" by tracing the scene onto a plastic overlay. At that point, I made sure the dogs looked like the couple's actual pets.

Making the pattern

Once the background was together, I used the plastic pattern to make a giant freezer paper template for the tree.

Positioning the template so it could be ironed in place

The freezer paper was ironed to the front of the piece and then a discharge product was used to remove colour, creating the image of the tree on the background.

The same process was used for the dancers and dogs.

More freezer paper templates

Mountain ash leaves became "ferns" in the foreground, and real maple leaves were "stamped" into the tree's canopy.

Leaves as a mask

Fireflies were next. Colour coded pins helped with their placement, and then it was a matter of adding the foil for sparkle.

Making fireflies - glue, foil, heat!


Standing back to ponder was a big part of the process.

Pondering my next move

Shortly before the quilt was due, my client's family grew by one! I figured their new baby also needed representation in this piece, so I added her Virgo constellation in the stars.

Virgo constellation

In glow in the dark thread!

Semi-darkness and you can already see the glow!

If you've lasted this long, congratulations! I'm starting to fade, but want to finish, so...

On to the quilting!

Basting every six inches was step one.

"Sketchy stitching" the branches and leaves with black thread gave them definition while retaining an organic feel.

The dancers were defined using the same "sketchy stitching" technique, but with more precision.

Stitching the figures

I filled the sky with wavy lines that roughly echoed the direction of the piecing, and stitched in the ditch in the tree, dogs, and dancers (with monofilament thread) to secure the layers.

The visual texture of the discharged fabric was so wonderful on its own that I feared additional stitching would detract from its beauty.

Yes. Every ditch. Totally worth the effort!

A jagged stipple seemed appropriate for the shrubbery, and simple straight lines that recede toward the horizon secured the foreground.

Expressive quilting

The piece is faced for a clean finish.

A hidden hanging rod will hold the weight of the piece, and laced grommets will appear to be the hanging system when the piece is installed - a cool idea floated by my client!

(Sure . . . why wouldn't I want to cut holes in the finished quilt? Ha!)

Cuttin' holes in the quilt!

With the lacing idea in mind, I placed the grommets in pairs along the top edge of the quilt.

The final touch.

Just imagine - this is the condensed version of the story! (Told ya it was epic!)

As always,

Try, Learn, & Grow!


  1. Wow, amazing, fantastic....and so many other words that could be used to describe your piece. You are truly an artist! :)

  2. What a fantastic piece! I love how it came out - I can see why you and the client are excited about it!

  3. This is stunning, Carole! What an amazing work of art and something the family will certainly treasure. I loved reading all about the process.

  4. WOW! What a beautiful piece that I'm sure will be treasured by the family.

  5. It looks amazing, only wishing I had been available to see it in person!

  6. Absolutely stunning! You've created a beautiful one-of-a-kind masterpiece that is sure to be treasured by your client and his family.

  7. Wow , you are amazing ! This quilt is stunning and I am sure your clients use be over the moon happy . Congrats on a wonderful finish .

  8. This is an amazing piece! So many interesting techniques and the results are breathtaking. I especially love the Virgo constellation in glow-in-the-dark thread. Perfect!

  9. oh, wow! This is absolutely incredible!

  10. This just might be the most beautiful work of art I've ever seen.

  11. Oh. My. Gosh!!! This is breathtaking. It is sooo much better than what my pea-brained mind could imagine and picture as you went through the process. Knowing just tiny bit of what you went through to make Firefly Dance, makes me proud(er) to know you (I don't even know it that makes any sense...)
    The dancing couple makes me teary.
    You put SO much love and care and thought and skill into this. They will love this piece forever. Congratulations on a (huge) job - *amazingly* well done

    1. p.s. glow IN THE DARK thread to represent the baby - how perfect!!! heeheeheee

  12. Wow! I'm speechless. That is such a stunning piece and a beautiful keepsake. Thanks so much for sharing your techniques. Every single thing about this quilt is lovely.

  13. I went and saw it at the show at the library. It is breathtaking. Well done.


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