Aurifil 40wt Color Builders: Red Panda

Last month, we had the pleasure of re-introducing our 40wt Color Builders. Originally offered as an exclusive subscription through our shops for 2021, this fabulous series is now available via Shop Aurifil. The 40wt Color Builders are a capsule of 12 mini-collections, each containing three large spools of supple and strong 40wt cotton thread — a warm, a medium, and a dark.

We drew our color inspiration from 12 magnificent animals—Endangered Species from around the world in dire need of our compassion and attention. It’s our goal to shine a light on their stories throughout this year.

To honor these magnificent creatures, we partnered with Aurifilosopher Cassandra Beaver to offer a series of custom-designed Foundation Paper Pieced patterns and with Aurifil Italy to offer 12 individual machine embroidery patterns. For 2021, these patterns were exclusive to subscription holders, but for 2022, they are available for all to enjoy! Each Color Builder Collection purchase includes a coordinating Endangered Species block + one Machine Embroidery Pattern. Purchase the full set and receive all 12 at once! 

Every month throughout this year, we’ll feature one animal, highlight the month’s color box + patterns, and share educational content, tips, and tricks for working through your own Endangered Species projects courtesy of Aurifilosopher HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

For February, we’re featuring the Red Panda.

The Red Panda is listed as Endangered.
Population: Less than 10,000
Location: Eastern Himalayas
Habitats: Temperate forests

The Red Panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black, and there are white markings on the side of the head and above its small eyes. Red pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that predominantly stay in trees. They use their long, bushy tails for balance and to cover themselves in winter, presumably for warmth. Primarily an herbivore, the name panda is said to come from the Nepali word ‘ponya,’ which means bamboo or plant eating animal.

Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. The loss of nesting trees and bamboo is causing a decline in red panda populations across much of their range because their forest home is being cleared. They are often killed when they get caught in traps meant for other animals such as wild pigs and deer. They are also poached for their distinctive pelts in China and Myanmar. Red panda fur caps or hats have been found for sale in Bhutan.

Click here to learn more about the Red Panda, what is being done to help their populations, and how you might get involved. (source: WWF)

Red Panda Patterns

Red Panda Spools + HollyAnne’s finished block

Welcome to month two of the Aurifil Color Builders Endangered Species BOM! I don’t know about you, but I’m simultaneously discovering a love of foundation paper piecing (FPP) and an intimate awareness of just how quickly those seams can bulk up! (Kind of wishing my gym routine was giving ME the same results LOL) Bulky seams are par for the course with detailed FPP patterns, but there are definitely a few techniques and tools that can help make them more manageable. Let’s take a quick look at those before I share this month’s quilting plans, yeah? 

Pressing Tools

What we use to press our blocks helps achieve tight, crisp creases that will minimize bulk as much as possible. I keep two tools handy for pressing at all times: 

  • My Oliso Mini Iron. Confession: I got rid of my big iron. I mean, it’s probably around here somewhere, but the Oliso Mini Project Iron is hot, heavy, and my absolute fave. I pair it with heavy starch for sharp, sharp seams
  • A wooden roller. I don’t get up to press every seam with the iron, so I also keep a wooden roller handy to add a little extra force to my finger pressing. I like it better than a wooden stylus because it doesn’t damage the fabric threads or create the “shine” of too much friction

Pressing Choices

As a general rule, I press all seams to the side, especially when doing FPP, but there is one noticeable exception. When I am joining large sections of FPP tops together, I sometimes press the seams open. The edges of each bit are often bulky enough all on their own and don’t need to be layered up more if it can be helped. And, contrary to what some quilters may tell you, this isn’t likely to cause any issues when you get to the quilting stage. 

A Glide Foot

I “introduced” you to my glide foot during last month’s quilting video, and if you’re quilting your Endangered Species BOM yourself (which I think you should!), and your machine brand makes a glide foot, I highly recommend the investment. They’re not as affordable a purchase as an FMQ foot, but I think it’ll pay for itself with all the seams on these blocks! It makes the quilting process so much easier and reduces tension issues caused by fabric bulk BIG TIME. If you can’t get or can’t afford a glide foot, be sure to slow way down as you approach those bulky seams and treat your quilt, your machine, and yourself with grace! Oh! And be sure to go up a needle size as you quilt to prevent breakage– I’m working with at least a size 16 on my quilts.

As I said above, bulk is unavoidable in many places on a detailed FPP project, but these few tips and tools will make them much more manageable and prevent the quilting issues that can arise from extra layers of fabric. Now, on to our quilting plans! 

Note Bene: I quilted my Red Panda with 5002 from this month’s thread box, 5004 from the Sumatran Elephant box, and 4093 from the Blue Throated Macaw box. 

Introductory Level Quilting Plans

These are some of the simpler ideas you could use to quilt your Red Panda blocks. As with the Sumatran Elephant, I like the idea of the background being pretty densely quilted, but density doesn’t have to equal complexity– make use of a tight meander or tight straight lines. The Red Panda is already visually very interesting, and has many bulky seams, so keep the plan equally simple here but less dense with stitch in the ditch or perhaps a few switchbacks to add shape to the Panda’s body. I couldn’t resist drawing woodgrain on the tree, but you could use wavy lines to similar effect.

Beginner Level Quilting Plans

If you have a little more experience under your belt, check out the textures we can create with this Beginner level quilting plan. My favorite version of the Red Panda still has pretty simple quilting, but I love the texture that paisleys add to the background. Paisleys give the effect of leaves on the trees, adding more life to our quilt block. 

Intermediate Level Quilting Plans

As a “more is more” type of quilter, I couldn’t resist creating leaves with feathers instead of paisleys and using McTavishing to add some really interesting texture to the Panda. The biggest challenge with executing so much stitching on the Red Panda will be the seams, though, so make sure your foot will be able to stitch over the whole block before going to town with this motif.  


Next Steps

We are SO EXCITED to see your Red Panda block and the quilting you choose! 

Tag us on Instagram:  
@aurifilthread, @stringandstory, @cassandra.beaver, #Aurifil, and #AurifilEndangeredSpeciesBOM.

Thanks so much to Cassandra Beaver for her stunning block design and to HollyAnne Knight for giving us all the quilting confidence to turn this block into a dazzling mini! Will you sew along with us this year? Which pattern is your favorite?

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