Friday, 18 May 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival Spring 2012

I have taken part in all but the first of these fabulous on-line events. And the fact that I haven't finished any new quilts recently wasn't going to stop me taking part this time!
So I searched back through my old quilts to see if there was one that I had never posted about before. I ummed and ahhed, and tapped my fingers against my chin... and then I looked up and saw this quilt! It hangs in my sewing room and so I guess I have become a little blind to it. But it is a real 'story quilt', so settle down with a cuppa and a biscuit and listen to my quilty tale!
A long, long time ago, in what I like to call 'my first age of quilting' I came across a reverse applique technique called Mola. I used to be in a local quilt group back in my mid 20's. All the other lovely ladies were quite a bit older and I learnt a lot from them. I think somebody must have come along to a meeting with a book about it. It is very important in the culture of the Kuna Indians who live in the San Blas Islands off Panama, you can read more about this here
Anyway, I have always loved hand sewing and this technique appealed to me so I made a cushion cover. That's it, in the photo above, but without the fish. I was also very keen on embroidering shisha mirrors at the time (all that ethnic stuff was very 'in' during the 90's!), so I used these too.
The other ladies in my group were impressed and asked me to take a class. I think this was the first time I taught anything, and seeing as now I teach sewing all the time, it was probably quite a pivotal moment. I had bought a book about Mola which had some traditional patterns in it, including the cat above, which I made as a demo piece for the class.
I then began to teach Mola to some other local groups and made more demo pieces. This griffin was inspired by a tapestry/embroidery I had seen at Traquair House, a local stately home and the oldest inhabited house in Scotland.

This next piece is a bit odd, and the only way I can explain it is to say that it was part of my '30's crisis! I started it a few months before I turned 30. I was feeling very depressed about getting old (ha! now I am heading for 46 this seems hilarious to me!). I had been visiting local graveyards and this design was carved onto a lot of old gravestones. I was really drawn to it's blunt honesty. No mucking around, just the truth - your bones are lying in the ground and your soul is floating upwards and the sands in the great timer of life are at the bottom.
I always choose my colours very instintively, and for this piece I chose very jarring, harsh colours (I think this is the only time I have ever used brown and jade green together!) which was obviously a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. I remember showing it to friends as I was working on it (I thought it was lovely) and they just gave me really funny looks! Once I turned 30 I felt great and totally embraced being a grown up (until I had my 40's crisis that is!).
This next piece has a sadder origin and is still hard for me to write about. A terrible tragedy happened in the town of Dunblane (about 50 miles from where I was living at the time) involving very young children. My sons were 4 and 6 at the time and it affected me very deeply, as I am sure it did everybody at the time. I really felt so distraught I didn't know what to do with myself. The only thing I could think of was to sew something and this design just grew in my head as I thought about what had happened. As I worked on it I felt calmer and more at peace. I felt that I was sending hope and love out in to the world with every stitch.
This piece was based on a design from a majolican plate I found in a book. I just loved the way the fish interlinked. But halfway through I put this aside and just stopped making Mola's.
And then a year or so later I went on holiday to Menorca, which is a beautiful Island that belongs to Spain. In a little, funky boutique in a back street of Ciudadela (the old capital) I found a pile of actual original Molas. I was totally spoiled for choice but I picked out 2 to buy (they were quite expensive, and rightly so).
As you can see, they put my work to shame, they are so intricate, and must have taken forever! Here is a close up, the beautiful rainbow coloured running stitch around the bird's head and the eyelashes were done by the original artist.
I loved owning these pieces of textile art from far across the atlantic but I didn't want to just keep them in a drawer. So I found all the old Mola's I had made and laid them all out with the original pieces I had bought. My son, Felix, was 10 at the time and had quite a big, bare wall in his bedroom. He liked the idea of a quilt made of all these colourful, graphic pictures to hang on his wall.
So I took apart the original cushion and added that strip of fishes. I finished the Majolican plate and added a sword (at Felix's request!). And then I just needed one more piece to make it all fit together.
A trip to The National Museum of Scotland brought me more inspiration. I loved this tribal mask and jotted down the design on a scrap of paper. I added a few more shisha mirrors for eyes, just to keep my hand in with the technique! The snake's eye is a shell.
Then I put it all together with black sashing and more reverse applique, revealing white circles beneath the black.
Instead of using wadding I used 2 or 3 layers of old cotton sheets as they do in parts of India. As there was still quite a few layers of fabric from the Mola technique the quilt has a very heavy feel.
I then hand quilted it VERY heavily, hopefully you can see this from the photo at the back. I just wouldn't have the patience to do that anymore!
It's a really unusual quilt and not something I would ever make now, but I love the history and stories inside it and the fact it holds these 2 original Mola's. As I speak, Felix is back in India, on his travels again. He has left the quilt with me, and I love having it hanging in my sewing room, but I kind of hope he asks for it back again one day.
Thanks so much for listening to my very long story! If you have more time to spare, head on back to Amy's Creative Side for more amazing quilty eye candy. Thanks so much for hosting again Amy!

53 comments:

  1. Wow! What a quilt!! It's so wonderful reading all the stories that are stitched into it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!! Happy Festival!!

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  2. Wow Jo what an amazing series of stories and inspirations and what an amazing quilt. I feel quite overwhelmed after my two line blogpost lol.

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  3. Thank you for posting this. It certainly isn't common to see Molas outside of Panama, and I haven't seen many quiltmakers (including me!) attempting to make one. This is certainly inspirational... makes me want to work on one myself!

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  4. Wow! What a great story to go with a very unusual quilt. Well done you!

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  5. What a fascinating quilt Jo! SO unique with a fantastic story to go with it!

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  6. Fabulous quilt full of history and memories, and incredible skill. Glad you chose this one to enter!

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  7. That is a BEAUTIFUL quilt!

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  8. WOW!! Fabulous quilt and the story behind is so meaningful. So much history and so beautiful. Perfect quilt!

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  9. Jo that is so wonderful - your patience must be legendary!!

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  10. What an amazing quilt! Thank you for sharing about the each block, and for talking about mola -- I'm so interested to learn more!

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  11. That was such a good read as well as a look, and really touching stories, Funny how these landmark birthdays always seem such a big deal and then after you think what was I worried about! Great quilt, great story

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  12. The turning 30 block is AWESOME! That is exactly how I felt when I turned 30 too! LOL I love this quilt and have been thinking about doing Molas for quite some time!

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  13. Thanks for telling us all the stories behind it. I remember Dunblane very well too. I think that having children a similar age brings it home all the more. I love quilts like that with stories behind them. Maybe you should write a little history of each and label it with it? Then, a couple of hundred years from now, our children's children's children (multiply as much as you like) will know what it meant and why it was put together like that. Just think, they will say, it was made aaaaal the way back in the beginning of 2000, wow!

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  14. WOW! So much work into that quilt! I have seen Mola's and am even more intrigued now!

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  15. That is really beautiful. Thank you for sharing the background on it, too.

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  16. I love this quilt and the stories behind all the blocks - thanks for sharing it with us!

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  17. What a wonderful quilt and thank you for sharing such personal stories about it's creation. I am amazed you've been able to translate your feelings so well into color, design and finished pieces.

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  18. amazing and love the story
    Ann

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  19. A beautiful quilt. I remember Dunblane very well and it devastated me at the time, it was just awful. Thank you for sharing this, I keep talking about making a story quilt and yours is just lovely xxx

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  20. Dunblane was just awful, wasn't it? Beautiful quilt, thank you for sharing it xxx

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  21. I remember the tragic event @ Dunblane... I was preparing to sit my A-Levels that year and my brother was in his last year at middle school. I dreaded my 30th birthday, too! That skull & cross-bones is typical of some Victorian gravestones.

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  22. Great stories to go with the blocks! I can see how the heart surrounded by sunrays could help to lift up your heart! I have a mola I got a few years back and love it.

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  23. A lot of work (and patience) in this beautiful quilt.

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  24. It is a real patchwork quilt. In inspiration, in time, in colours... Nice.

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  25. What a great story and really enjoyed reading it. The finished quilt is truly amazing.

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  26. the fish block is awesome!

    Margaret
    http://quiltsoflove.blogspot.com/

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  27. Great story behind this, love all the little intricacies, thanks for sharing!

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  28. i've admired molas for decades, but have never been brave enough to try one--think in my old age it might be something i'll try. love handwork--not handquilting so much, though, with these old hands! your work is lovely, the story is great and result is just stunning! (my grandma was from edinburgh and grew up in the donaldson's orphanage then emigrated to canada--always hoped to go there some day) thanks so much for sharing and have a great day

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  29. Wow....absolutely beautiful.

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  30. I love your quilt and I love all the stories it contains. I am attracted to the Mola style quilts but I've never tried to make one.

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  31. Stunning! I love your quilt. thanks for sharing.

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  32. Oh, Jo that's fab! I really could have done with seeing that a few months sho - I taught a Mola class last month! Mthe ladies brought their Show and Tell Homework finishes yesterday, and they are stunning, but I Would love to have shown them your quilt . . . I will do next month (when they have asked to do Somerset patchwork, gulp, I now have to do my homework)

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  34. Wow, this truly is a stunning and orginal quilt, I can't imagine all the work that's goine into it. A true masterpiece.

    I'd love to know more about the technique if you fancied telling us?

    (sorry if I've posted this twice, my internet connetion keeps cutting out)

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  35. What a great story, as all great quilts should have. And it is oh so fun to go back and see where we've been as quilters! Thanks for sharing.

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  36. You have me completely intrigued with this beauty and the story! I hadn't heard of Mola before.

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  37. Interesting story behind this quilt! I never heard of Mola before. Thanks for sharing.

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  38. When I opened this link & saw your quilt, it literally took my breath away! Loved the stories behing each block. My mother was originally from Panama (Canal Zone) so I've known of them for a long time & have a collection of them. You may have inspired me to drag them out & incorporate into a quilt

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  39. What a wonderful quilt! I admire the mola technique so much but haven't been game to try it yet. Thanks for sharing the stories behind the blocks.

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  40. You know, I read a lot of quilty/crafty blogs pretty regularly, and occasionally, something really stands out as inspiration. This was a fantastic story, part of your heritage and your own personal growth as a quilter. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

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  41. Fabulous quilt, and I love the story - you did a really wonderful job on this!

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  42. That's an amazing quilt - it really does stand out!

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  43. Very fun quilt, very fun story - caught my eye!

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  44. Your quilt is jaw-dropping beautiful. What an inspirational story of the quilt's history. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Amazing!

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  45. Oh my goodness, what a story! I just sat here with my hot squash (!) enjoying the tale of each block...it's a super, original quilt and a great competition entry, good for you!

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  46. What a truly original, eye catching quilt, and a wonderful story too. I enjoyed reading it tremendously. I can relate to being a bit older and having had a younger stage of quilting. It's a great idea to document some of the early quilts made before blogging came along. The one you shared here is truly special- Thanks for sharing!

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  47. Love the quilt! Love the stories!

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  48. I have never ever heard of mola! Awesome! Thanks for sharing and for teaching me something!

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  49. I love this quilt, and am familiar with molas as I was born in Panama! We have several molas between my mom and sisters and me. You did a wonderful job with yours. I am trying to vote for this quilt and am looking for which category to put it in. Love it!

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  50. Your story has touched me as my mother used to love doing mola work and I have kept her pieces. I also know about the tragedy in Dunblane - I used to live there when I was very little not far from the primary school, though we moved north. Thanks for a few reminders.

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  51. Thank you Jo for sharing that story. I have looked at the wall hanging over the years and never appreciated all the work and research that went in to its conception and subsequent piecing together. I don't think you have ever told me about the two molas that you found on holiday either. It has been a very inspirational read, as always x

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