Quilting Cleaved

Here’s the recalcitrant fibre artist finally getting around to writing about how I quilted Cleaved, our wedding quilt.

recalcitrant 1843, from Fr. récalcitrant, lit. “kicking back” (17c.-18c.), pp. of recalcitrare “to kick back,” from re- “back” (see re-) + L. calcitrare “to kick,” from calx (gen. calcis) “heel.” Verb recalcitrate “to kick out” is attested from 1620s; sense of “resist obstinately” is from 1759.

That’s pretty cool.  I grew up saying ‘K.B.’ (to kick back – Southern California surfer slang), but that it originated in 19th c. France gives it a certain cachet and je ne sais quoi.

So, the last time I wrote about Cleaved, I had made the backing fabric and pieced the front of it.  Next step – Tada . . . .  quilting!

Normally when I make art, I fly a little bit by the seat of my pants, maybe get into a corner and have to figure my way out if it.  Most often, this gives me a surprising, serendipitous result.  However, this is my wedding quilt that I’m making, to hang first at our wedding altar and then, over our marriage bed.  Serious stuff.  So I thought, ‘This time, I’ll have a plan when I get started’.  So I spent the best part of an afternoon researching Art Nouveau designs.  In the process, I stumbled upon the brilliant Textile Blog by Cornwall based John Hopper.  Some of the images that inspired me:

Zsolnay tile

Art Nouveau border from inspyretrash

I drew up this design:

and got out my (supposedly) super-washable markers.

I was very, very certain that I had used these same markers on some fabric in the past and it washed right out.  Anyhow, I marked out my carefully researched Art Nouveau design, started quilting it and decided to dab away some of the ‘superwashable’ ink.  Do recall that our wedding day was in about a fortnight.

To my horror, this ‘superwashable’ ink didn’t. .  .  .  . superwash.  I went into a downward spiral of doom and panic for about 5 minutes.   I thought about re-printing and re-appliqueing all of the rose petals.  Or having to postpone our wedding (remember, this quilt was going to hang at our altar).  Then I pulled myself together and took my still safety-pinned quilt to the bathtub, got out the Fairy Liquid and a nail brush and managed to scrub 99.3% of the ‘superwashable’ ink out.  OK.  Probem solved.   I hung my quilt up to dry, but was back to square one with my quilting design.

The next morning, I went for a walk with my friend Nicky and her little terrier Wilf on Dartmoor.  I said a little prayer for quilting inspiration.  Towards the end of the walk, I found a crow feather near a stream and realised that my motif needed to be about the river and feathers. After all, the river is where the slate came from and feathers have been an important motif in our courtship.

I went into my album of photos that I took of the river where I found the pieces of slate.

And I redid my sketch with some of the Art Nouveau shapes and textures, transformed into river ripples, stones and feathers.

I had to work the following day and Steve went into Exeter and got me a proper water erasable quilt marking pen.  So I was able to mark out the basics of my design worry-free.  And the quilting just flowed.  When I quilted the feathers, I was so happy with how well they came out in stitch, that I was floating myself for about a day.

By the way, these two fish arrived unannounced, but very welcome, during the quilting.

I often dialogue with my artwork to see where it would like to go.  As I said above, I don’t plan ahead very much and sometimes this ‘letting go’ can get a bit scary as I become immersed in a piece of work and lose myself in the journey.   It takes a big leap of faith in my talents and problem solving abilities.  And a big trust in the creative process.  That it is going where it needs to go and a remembrance that I, the artist, am the vehicle that it passes through.  This realisation humbles me every time.  Because ultimately, it’s the reminder and the realisation of the Divine presence who moves and flows through all of Creation and all that I create.

So I think that my quilt wanted to be of the river and forced me to baptise it and start anew in a different place than from my carefully researched and planned out design.


The Online Etymology Dictionary


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