Peranakan Houses Applique Quilt
An art quilt depicting the Peranakan houses of Koon Seng Road, Singapore.
The idea of making a quilt of Peranakan houses (or shophouses) has been in my mind for quite a while, but I was never confident enough to take up the challenge until recently.
It's easy to see why I'd been so inspired to make this quilt. I feel that the architecture of Peranakan houses are so inherently beautiful that anything inspired by it will be beautiful no matter what. While I have taken the liberty in making a few colour changes and in simplifying the architectural details to make it possible to applique, the overall aesthetic of the quilt is still very similar to the real Peranakan houses at Koon Seng Road, Singapore. As a matter of fact, if you go to Koon Seng Road today (as of the date of this post), you will see these blue, pink, and green houses in that exact order.
The making process starts with tracing the outlines of the houses' image in CanvasWorkspace (because I will be using my Brother ScanNCut to cut the intricate pieces). I traced a photo of these Peranakan houses that I found from Google (by just typing "Singapore Peranakan House"). In my tracing, I simplified many of the architectural details to make it possible to cut out and applique each shape. This is important because I will be doing satin stitch applique (as opposed to free-motion applique) that follows each outline exactly, so I had to minimise the amount of intricate shapes to keep my sanity intact (although, I was close to losing it!).
Then, I auditioned and selected my fabrics to match the actual colours of the real Peranakan houses. I used a variety of cotton fabrics, including quilting cottons, Japanese cottons and homespun cottons. The batting was cotton polyblend, and for the backing, I used one of the batiks I purchased during my trip to Semarang, Indonesia.
My initial fabrics pulls. You might notice I did not actually use some of these fabrics in the finished quilt.
Except for the background fabrics, I applied fusible web to the wrong side of all other fabrics before cutting out the shapes. I cut the simple shapes manually, while the more intricate shapes like the window trims were cut using my Brother ScanNCut.
Then, I ironed on the pieces in place.
Even after ironing, I made changes to the shapes as I progressively figured out how to create certain details like the Peranakan tiles around the windows. This meant I had to pull out some of the shapes that were already stuck to the background, modify them, and then reapply them. It's a lot of trial and error. Naturally as I went, the process became much smoother by the time I was making the third house (I made the pink first, followed by the green, and finally the blue).
Among the things I pulled out and modified were the pieces below and by the sides of the upper floor windows (bright green pieces in the above photo). These are supposed to be Peranakan wall tiles. I figured I could create the impression of Perakanan tiles using one of the decorative stitches in my sewing machine.
By the time I have finished ironing-on the applique pieces, I had the three houses in three separate panels. I basted each panel onto separate battings, and then started machine embroidering (with satin stitch) along all the raw edges of the applique pieces, which also quilted the layers.
Here's the look on the back of the batting after embroidering.
Once all the raw edges were embroidered, I sewed the three panels together into one row (by placing two panels right sides together and sew along the long edge), cut out excess batting along the seam allowance (not the fabric!), and pressed the seam allowance open.
Then, I basted on my backing fabric, making sure the seam allowances remained securely open (you may want to pin) and stitched-by-the-ditch along both sides of the seams between panels. Then, I strategically stitched-in-the-ditch all over the quilt (with matching threads) to keep the backing layer sewn firmly onto the batting without letting any of the stitches show.
Stitch-in-the-ditch (red dotted lines) all over with matching threads to quilt the layers of top, batting and backing.
Finally, I sewed on the binding and the quilt was complete!