Top photo: one of many ceilings we saw in ancient temples and tombs in Upper Egypt, decorated with a pattern of long-armed, five-pointed stars. The stars appear on on ceilings to ensure they will be present in the Afterlife of the pharoah for whom the tomb or temple was built.
Lower photo: a free machine quilted motif of that star pattern on a recent quilt made of sheer fabrics, which I hope to have selected into SAQA Icons and Imagery Transformations ’08.
For several years I have occasionally taught a quilting class, “Quilting With Attitude” , for hand and machine quilters, the core point of the class being that inspiration for the quilting on a quilt can come from many sources. Quilting of course is the functional constructional element that holds the layers together in a quilt designed principally to warm a body on the bed. Traditionally the quilting pattern is dominated by the shapes on the top which it tends to echo or follow, and large open shapes are then filled with decorative motifs, feathers, flowers and other linear shapes. The rise of free machine quilting in the 1980’s was popularised by several teachers and writers including Harriet Hargreaves, perhaps best known of these. Using the machine in with a traditional quilt design, the aim is often to try to replicate the traditional quilting patterns. Despite the claim by some that this saves a lot of time, it has never appeared to me that the equation is equal – if the time is saved technical excellence has always appeared to have been compromised. If the impeccable technical standards that characterise most traditional quilts is achieved, it really does take about the same amount of time to include in the process properly fastened off and hidden quilting threads, anchored so that they will not unravel or pop as the quilt is used. This does not apply to decorative wall quilts of course. This need to rush quilting (‘saving time’ by machine quilting, or make a quilt in a is a day classes) is sadly a product of the fast-paced lives many Westerners lead today.
There’s a lot more to think about too, as many ‘art quilt makers’ or quilted textile artists, (myself included) produce smaller sized works for wall decoration. Despite using modern materials, dyes, printing inks and digital printing processes, and this smaller decorative format, they aren’t necessarily ‘Art’.
IMHO, a well chosen quilting motif or pattern adds another design element to a quilt and can enhance the value of the overall design; and just as easily a meaningless pattern with no connection to the quilt or one that looks merely routine, easy, a no brainer, can reduce the impact of the whole piece. One of the most popular no brainer quilting patterns around these days is the meandering or stippling, where the quilted line wanders like a little maze, or like electronic circuitry over the surface of the quilt. Now, this could also be totally appropriate to the underlying design, but as generally used, isn’t. Dijanne Cevaal recently published a book of all-over machine quilting patterns she has come up with, “Seventy Two Ways Not to Meander or Stipple – Ideas for Free Machine Quilting”, now available in english and french, in book form and cd: for ordering information follow the link on this page to her blog (Musings of a Textile Itinerant) posted October 6, 2006. A great starting point for opening the mind to the potential for machine quilting. Well, you could also do some of them by hand, too…. let’s be open minded about all this.