Sometimes a person’s clothing isn’t the right material for a memorial quilt. When Eric contacted me about having a memorial quilt made to honor his late father, Dirck, he had just finished cleaning out his dad’s house. He wasn’t particularly inspired by Dirck’s clothing, but he wondered about using Dirck’s collection of Middle Eastern textiles instead.
In his younger years, Dirck had studied for a Phd in Middle Eastern Studies at the London School for Oriental Studies and lived in Saudi Arabia in the 60s. He traveled widely through the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa, purchasing a lovely collection of textiles along the way. He loved Middle Eastern art, architecture, and history, so Eric asked if I would design a quilt that was inspired by Islamic art and patterning. He sent some examples for me to work from:
The complexity of Islamic patterns made it particularly challenging to translate those shapes into a sewable object. I noticed that what tied all of these images together was a kind of interlocking star system. The pattern had to be simplified for a quilt, but not too simplified or it would lose the maze-like feeling these patterns evoke.
I ended up searching online for anyone who had translated similar patterns into quilt form and was delighted to find it on the m is for make blog. I re-built the paper-piecing pattern shared on the site to fit the scale of Eric’s quilt. I had never made a paper-pieced quilt before, but I dived in and was thrilled with how precise the process was. The challenge, of course, was to figure out which fabrics to assign to each part of the pattern, given the limitations on quantity of any given textile in the collection. Once that was figured out, I started cutting apart the fabrics, keeping detailed notes of amounts and placement along the way.
Then the systematic paper-piecing began.
The bright magenta wool pashmina became a wonderfully intense accent amongst all of the patterned cloth.
Here you can see a partial block sewn together with most of the paper backing torn away.
I never could have sewn this pattern with perfectly pre-cut shapes – the paper-piecing technique was key to the success of this quilt.
The electric blue of one of the silk fabrics also made for a nice focus around the center star.
I had set aside the ends of the pashmina scarf that featured the paisley-esque embroidery, so when it came to adding the quilt border, there was the perfect amount left to use.
The one textile that hadn’t made it into the quilt front was this prayer rug, mainly because it was a lot thicker, closer to upholstery weight. It worked great as part of the quilt backing, though, and I was glad to be able to use it.
Lastly, after the quilt was quilted, I needed to find a suitable binding material from what was left of all the fabrics. I had cut the gold-embroidered edge off of a 7 1/2 yard silk sari that Dirck most likely bought in India. It turned out I needed 7 1/4 yards of binding – serendipity.
Here is the finished quilt, plus a detail.
Thank you, Eric!