Quilted Chaos, one of the quilt groups I belong to, does a challenge each year. This year’s theme is “Splendors of the Orient” and must include some of this gorgeous silk:
I decided that I’d focus on the Silk Road, specifically the Mongolian section. My original idea was a bag or box of some sort that might have belonged to a merchant. It would be dusty and brown on the outside, but when the merchant opened it to show his wares, it would be bright and magical inside. The colors in the fabric were in a sort of zig zag pattern which suggested that my vessel be triangular. After much research on Mongolian imagery and after blocking out the triangles on my fabric, I decided that the triangles weren’t as WOW as I had hoped and the whole vessel idea wouldn’t give me the opportunity to include as many pom poms, tassels, and armor texture as I wanted. Besides, my very supportive friends (not!) suggested that a vessel wasn’t a quilt and that I was cheating by just using the fabric as a lining — no challenge there. I was prepared to counter their arguments, but the seeds had been sown.
I liked the idea of the Mongols providing the trade and security needed to make the Silk Road successful, so I focused on a shield shape and textures borrowed from Mongolian armor. If I divided into quadrants it would give me lots of opportunities for embellishment and a variety of fabrics like I wanted. I could also fussy cut the feature fabric if I liked.
When I had the whole thing almost together, I stood back and hated it. How many times have we seen this cut-up circle? I feel like it is done so often that if one does it, one must do it well. I had NOT done it well. My feature fabric didn’t look any more special than it had as a three dimensional triangle, and my curves were awkward to say the least. My overall circle motif was not looking very circular. And the diamond shape from the challenge fabric didn’t stand out as I had hoped, nor did the shapes look good fanned out as they had in my sketch (I was limited in the size I could make things due to the size of the piece of challenge fabric we each had).
Now the fabric was cut to bits and I couldn’t start over, so now my challenge was to figure out how to rescue it. I took off the diamonds and repositioned them, rotated the composition, removed the water/air symbol, re-did a few curves where I could, couched on some more silk yarn to guide the eye around the circle, and added a bit more challenge fabric to the “shield.” Now it was a little better. All I could do was go ahead and finish it.
I do like a few details, especially those inspired by armor, like the 3-D wool rectangles and the painted Tyvek:
And the pom-poms. The kids and I had great fun making pom-poms! The mere chance to put pom-poms on something probably makes this whole stupid challenge quilt worthwhile:
I’m OK with it now, although I’ll never love it, and I don’t think it will ever hang in my house. Maybe I could trade it for a few meals at the new Mongolian BBQ in town….
What I can’t believe is that with all my research on things Mongolian (mainly Ghengis Kahn), my glittery gold fabric, and my interest in all things German and kitschy, I didn’t remember this video (be patient through the wierd animated intro). Now, a campy disco revival quilt based on a song all Germans over thirty can sing along to would definitely have a WOW factor!
Speaking of WOW, this challenge did bring out the creativity in many of the other group members. K is working on a Japanese themed crazy quilt built around this silk embroidery crane she made:
Gorgeous! V actually made a beautiful quilt, but still couldn’t stay away from her true calling — purses! This one matches her jewel tones quilt:
I wonder what M will dream up for us next year.