CB 2021: The Sumatran Elephant

Our 2021 Color Builders (40wt) are dedicated to an incredibly worthy cause that falls in line with our goal to increase Aurifil’s sustainability and positive environmental impact — Endangered Species. We’ve drawn our color inspiration from 12 magnificent animals, currently in dire need of attention, advocacy, and compassion.

We’ll aim to highlight their stories and work to create valuable change via awareness and fundraising. To help achieve these goals, we are collaborating with Earth League International and are looking forward to a strong and effective partnership throughout this year and beyond.

For January, we’re featuring the Sumatran Elephant.

The Sumatran Elephant is listed as Critically Endangered.
Population: 2400 – 2800
Location: Borneo and Sumatra
Habitats: Broadleaf moist tropical forests

In 2012, the conservation status of the Sumatran elephant was upgraded from endangered to critically endangered because half of its population had had been lost in one generation, a decline that is largely due to habitat loss and as a realist of human-elephant conflict. Sumatra is experiencing an alarming high rate of deforestation thanks to the pulp and paper industries and oil palm plantations. Over two-thirds of its natural lowland forest has been razed in the past 25 years and nearly 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant’s habitat has been destroyed in one generation. Elephant numbers have declined by a staggering 80 percent in that time, confining some herds to small forest patches. These populations are not likely to survive in the long-term. Click here to learn more about the Sumatran Elephant, what is being done to help their populations, and how you might get involved. (source: WWF)

In celebration of this magnificent animal, we’re thrilled to share a sneak peek of our Endangered Species BOM, a foundation paper pieced pattern by Aurifilosopher Cassandra Beaver of The (not so) Dramatic Life.

Blocks for this BOM are released on the first of each month to all Color Builder Subscription holders. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact your local quilt shop or consult our map to find a participating shop. In addition to the BOM, subscribers also receive quilting tips and tricks from Aurifilosopher HollyAnne Knight of String & Story and an exclusive machine embroidery pattern!

Today, we’re handing the post over to HollyAnne Knight for some tips & tricks on quilting with 40wt, specifically the Sumatran Elephant block. This is our intro and a sneak peek at the content you’d receive as a Color Builder Subscriber. Thanks so much to HollyAnne!

Happy 2021, Rockstars, and welcome to the Aurifil Color Builders Program!

My name is HollyAnne Knight of String & Story where it is my job to guide you to quilt with confidence. This year, as part of the Color Builders program, I’m going to be providing education and inspiration about using Aurifil 40wt thread and quilting your Endangered Species Block of the Month quilt. 

First of all, if you haven’t yet, make sure you subscribe to the Aurifil YouTube channel and check out the introductory videos I’ve made for you about 40wt thread and about adjusting your tension on both domestic and longarm machines. An important key for quilting success is balanced tension! 

Second, today, I’d love to talk to you about quilting plans. Each month I’m going to be drawing some suggested quilting plans for your Endangered Species BOM, so let’s talk about WHAT a quilting plan is and why it matters!

What is a quilting plan?

A quilting plan is your itinerary or road map of what you’re going to stitch on your quilt. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than starting to quilt a project only to realize you don’t actually like the stitching you’ve chosen and feeling the need to unpick it all. A quilting plan is all about “auditioning” different quilting motifs and ideas by drawing them on paper (on a picture of your quilt top or a drawing of the block) before you actually do any stitching. It’s a lot faster, easier, cheaper, and less frustrating to draw 4, 5, or 6 different ideas and then decide what you like than to have that many false starts actually quilting your project. In short, a quilting plan sets you up to quilt with confidence and enjoy the stitching process because you’ll have already done the “hard” part of making the decisions about motifs!

How do you make a quilting plan?

Since a quilting plan is a drawing of what we want to stitch on our quilts, we need to start with a picture. You can literally take a picture of your quilt top, print the cover photo from the pattern, or draw it out on graph paper. This can be on physical paper or digitally in an app like Procreate. 

Ask yourself some key questions to decide how complicated you want your quilting plan to be:

  1. Who is this quilt for?
  2. How will it be used? 
  3. How much time do I want to spend quilting it?

For the purposes of our time together this year, I’m going to define quilting plans as Introductory, Beginner, and Intermediate based on the complexity of the motifs I’m using. When I’m making plans for entire quilts, I often use these categories:

  • Basic/ All over design: just one motif for the whole quilt
  • Semi-Custom: 2-3 motifs (often, one for the blocks, one for the sashing, and one for the border on a traditional quilt, and 1-2 for the foreground and 1-2 for the background on a more modern quilt)
  • Custom: 4+ motifs, and usually pretty complicated. Custom quilting is more likely to have more thread breaks and more color changes as well

Quilting Plans for the Sumatran Elephant Block

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about what a quilting plan is, why it matters, and how to make one, let’s look at a few to inspire you this month as you make your first block in our Endangered Species BOM. Remember, these blocks can be finished individually as mini quilts (I’m working on a collection to hang in my boys’ room!) or can be combined into a sampler. Whichever way you decide to finish yours, these plans can be a bit of inspiration!

Introductory Level Quilting Plans

These are some of the simpler ideas you could use to quilt your Sumatran elephant blocks. Even with motifs as “basic” as the meander, stitch in the ditch, and walking foot straight lines you can create different textures, different depths (I love quilting the background either more simply or more densely than the foreground to let the foreground “pop”), and a general WOW effect. (Remember, you don’t have to know all the things about free motion quilting in order to finish your own projects and be a Quilting Rockstar!) The third quilting plan gets a little more custom with some selective stitch in the ditch and some FMQ to create the elephant’s ear. It’s amazing what just that little touch can do to add life to this block!

Beginner Level Quilting Plans

If you have a little more experience under your belt, check out the textures we can create with these Beginner level quilting plans. Again, I love the idea of some selective stitch in the ditch + the FMQ’d ear detail to add life and depth to our elephant. Dense geometric quilting in the background will really help the elephant “pop”!

Intermediate Level Quilting Plans

As a “more is more” type of quilter, I have to confess that these are my personal favorite. I’m OBSESSED with the texture we can create using McTavishing to add dimension to our elephant. For the background, choosing a much simpler (meader or straight lines) or much more geometric (straight lines or geometric spirals) motif creates excellent visual contrast. 


Per my comment above, you’re probably not surprised that I chose an intermediate level quilting plan. Here’s a video of my stitching process so you can see how I went about it– I’m using Aurifil 2600 and 5004 for my quilting, a size 18 needle (I’m on an industrial machine, plus this block has a lot of bulky seams), and I’m using a glide foot to get over all the seams as smoothly as possible. 

Next Steps

We are SO EXCITED to see your Sumatran Elephant block and the quilting you choose! Tag us on Instagram @aurifilthread @stringandstory @cassandra.beaver #Aurifil and #AurifilEndangeredSpeciesBOM

Also, if today’s quilting plans inspired you, but you’re brand new to free motion quilting, check out my Intro to FMQ Mini Course to learn the basics! 

Thanks so much to Cassandra Beaver for her stunning block design and to HollyAnne for giving us all the quilting confidence to turn this block into a dazzling mini! Don’t forget to inquire about getting your own Color Builder subscription in order to participate in this amazing year long program!


  1. Same as above – there’s no shop anywhere near me that carries the subscription. Too bad we couldn’t do it online. So many quilt shops offer BOM’s online, although I’m sure there is lots of aggravation to go along with it Love the Sumatran Elephant!!

    1. Would love to do it online. 2 of my favourite local animals are featured! Unfortunately no South African ships carry the subscription due to the high exchange rate. Please consider making it available online! Had the same problem.last year with the gorgeous colours in the Color Builder subscription.

  2. Looking at your map there are whole states with no shops participating, there are some great online stores like fat quarter shop that could cover those of us who are not within driving distance, maybe a thought for the future.

  3. Happy 2022!! We’re delighted to share that we are now offering all of our 2021 Color Builder boxes via our website: https://shopaurifil.com/collections/2021-color-builders. Purchase single boxes or purchase all 12. Collection purchases are partnered with both the FPP & the Machine Embroidery patterns. HollyAnne Knight’s inspiration posts will be shared here on Auribuzz once a month! Happy Stitching!

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