Meet the African Wild Dog

The African Wild Dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. The largest populations are found in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

The wild dogs are social and gather in packs of roughly 10, though numbers can often be greater. Known by a variety of names, including Cape hunting dog or painted dog, its scientific name, Lycaon pictus, meaning “painted wolf,” seems most fitting, referring to the animal’s irregular coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears.

The largest threats to the African wild dog population are people, often hunted and killed by farmers who fear for their livestock. They also have increasingly less space to roam in their natural habitats and are susceptible to diseases like rabies and canine distemper. It is thought that their population is in an irreversible decline, which is why they are considered to be endangered. (sources: WWF & National Geographic)

Aurifil’s African Wild Dog thread set was created in tribute to this long-legged beauty. It features 3 large spools of our 40wt thread in 3 hues of yellow— a warm, a medium, and a dark— 2105, 2115, & 1135. When purchased via Shop Aurifil, this set includes a custom designed foundation paper pieced PDF pattern by Aurifilosopher and pattern designer Cassandra Beaver / the (not so) dramatic life

This block finishes at 16″ x 16″ and is absolutely fabulous!

We enlisted HollyAnne Knight of String & Story to share some tips and tricks for quilting this block. With her help and expertise, you’ll have this stitched up and on display in no time. 

As you already know, Rockstars, a quilting plan can add a lot of visual interest to a quilt or quilt block. We’ve had the opportunity to experiment with very simple and much more complex textures together throughout the Endangered Species Block of the Month. At several points, including on the Green Sea Turtle, I’ve mentioned using FMQ to provide more than just texture but also to create a more pictorial background. Let’s take that idea to the next level today and talk about thread painting. 

What is Thread Painting?

According to The Quilt Show, Thread painting is “is a free motion sewing technique used for creating lines, areas of color and texture, or embroidery designs and motifs by machine. Threads in various colors and weights are used to stitch on top of a base fabric. The maker stitches back and forth across the design area, layering the stitching and filling in shapes and motifs to create the design or desired effect.” Aurifil Artisan Kathy Ross and Aurifil Designer Sophie Standing are absolute masters of this technique, creating stunning free hand machine embroidered works of art. 

Today, I’m going to teach you “Thread Painting Lite.” Our work will still be based on free motion quilting motifs, but we will use multiple thread colors as well as a bit of thread layering to create a thread painted effect on and around our African Wild Dog.

Tips for Thread Painting

For our Endangered Species BOM, we’re going to use thread painting to create the habitat/ environment of the African Wild Dog. We don’t want to distract from the piecing too much, so it’s important to think of this composition like a painting and put the elements behind the dog in the distance without too much detail. I chose to depict Kilimanjaro and the impression of a savannah to illustrate how the dog blends in so well to its surroundings. On the dog itself, I will thread paint overlapping grasses as well as the distinctive spots, splotches, and strips that create the dog’s camouflage.

In addition to creating your quilting plan, you’ll want to choose several colors of thread to add interest and depth. Check your tension and be aware that you may need to fiddle with your tension more than usual. Personally, I find that I’m a bit herky jerky when thread painting (versus regular FMQ), and it causes me more tension issues and thread breaks than FMQ. Be mindful not to set your tension too tight, and do your best to move as smoothly as possible.

Suggested Quilting Plans

African Wild Dogs are one of the world’s most endangered mammals with one of the largest remaining population groups residing in Tanzania (hence my choice to thread paint Kilimanjaro). When running at top speed, they can clock a solid 44 mph (source: World Wildlife Fund). WOW!

Introductory Level Quilting Plans

Introductory Level Quilting Plan

Designer Cassandra Beaver did an amazing job with depth and color on the African Wild Dog block. As a result, one option for quilting this month’s critter is to keep it simple. If you just want to let your piecing and fabrics shine, you can do that with some introductory level meanders and switchbacks.

Beginner Level Quilting Plans 

Two of these beginner level plans used hooked swirls and woodgrain to create interesting visual texture behind the African Wild Dog without full thread painting. The third plan changes things up a bit with square spirals on the dog itself. This doesn’t allude well to the spots and fur of a canine, but it seems to fit well with the dog’s focused/ slightly miffed expression. 

Intermediate Level Quilting Plans

Finally, if you want texture, these quilting plans are for you! McTavishing in the background creates the idea of shrubs and grass of the savannah. This pairs well both with the less “realistic” square spirals and the more depth-creating switchbacks. 

Our thread painting quilting plan uses intermediate level skills to paint our African Wild Dog right at home in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. 


Aurifil’s 40wt Color Builders

If the African Wild Dog has you feeling inspired, don’t forget that it’s one in a series of 12 mini collections, dedicated to some of our world’s most Endangered Species. Each collection features 3 large spools of our 40wt thread in 3 hues– a warm, a medium and a dark– and comes with a coordinating FPP pattern custom-designed by Cassandra Beaver. 

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 this year! Stay tuned as we’ll feature one animal per month throughout this year. Will you sew along with us? 

Don’t forget to tag us in your project images on Instagram– we love the opportunity to celebrate your work! 


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

1 comment

  1. your work is beautiful and AURIFIL is my thread for everything…but you quilted so much its hard to see your pieced work. Less is best sometimes. I enjoy both aspects of the work, thread most definitely and the quilt pattern, piecing is gorgeous.

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