28 July 2014

Marble Collection quilt

Marble Collection.

After four years, I finally utilized the 9" squares of marbled fabric made in a fabulous workshop with Elin Noble. The marbleizing techniques with which we are familiar today evolved in the Middle East beginning in the 15th century, as a way of decorating paper to be used as a substrate for calligraphy.  The craft move westward as the techniques were adapted to produce decorative paper sheets utilized by European craftsmen in the book-binding arts. 

9" marbled fabric squares.

My marble fabric workshop samples languished in my fabric collection until I admired the "Thousand Pyramids" quilt below, with its bright accents of yellow, from the Quilts and Color exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Somehow, in my mind's eye, the book arts tradition of marbling collided with a venerable American quilt pattern, and I set to cutting up my marbleized fabric squares into equilateral triangles. I indulged my love of yellow, generally the stepchild of today's quilting world.

Thousand Pyramids quilt, ca. 1920, maker unknown.

Lengthwise grain marked lightly in pencil.

After auditioning every yellow solid in my stash I marked 4 1/2" strips, then subdivided these into equilateral triangles. (I use both rotary cutting techniques and scissors in my work.) To ensure the triangles were eventually sewn with the lengthwise grain running in consistent alignment, I marked the grain lightly on the back.

Since the appearance of fabric is dependent of how light strikes the woven surface, stitching the yellow triangles in just any old alignment would have resulted in the solid yellow material looking variable and uneven in tone, distracting from the beautiful randomness of the marbled fabrics. This quilt is all about contrast - the stability and regularity of geometric triangles as a foil to the animated chaos of the marbled colors.

My large gray felt wall helps me organize the layout, and sticky notes record the position of each piece.

Final layout of triangles.

Sewn rows of triangles.

I love the look of carefully sewn quilt backs.

All basted, with a solid yellow as the backing.

I basted on the floor, as usual, as the lines of the oak strip flooring help align everything.  A solid yellow backing will reinforce the golden glow of the yellow triangles in the top.

In the hoop.

Using 1/4" quilting tape as a guide for outline quilting.

Narrow border of random triangles.

A shot cotton binding vibrating in pink and periwinkle sets off the yellow but works with the colors of the triangles. This quilt is not an earth-shaking or innovative visual symphony - it's more of an etude, perhaps - but it has some impact, and I am pleased to get those marbled fabrics out into the world, at last.