Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saga of a Quilt: Complete with Pictures

Since I try to keep my promises, here is the saga of my quilt "The Abduction from the Seraglio, or Oops, I dropped my Slipper."  By the way, if you went to the show, you may notice that the last half of the title was omitted from the description card.  This use of a primary title (frequently a bit pompous sounding) with an "or" followed by a seemingly unrelated, secondary title (frequently a bit silly or mundane) is a literary device meant to clue in the reader to look for a hidden meaning, a hidden joke, a poke in the eye to those who take themselves too seriously, etc.  Basically, the writer (or in this case, the quilter) is winking an eye at the reader, viewing public, the what have you and letting them in on the joke.  So possibly viewers at the quilt show had no idea that they were supposed to laugh.

Ah well . . . .

Here is my original Artist's Statement (which I was asked to shorten considerably) interrupted by photographs and irreverent comments:

Inspired by the first fabric in the Girlfriend Fabric Challenge, the one with the Persian-looking slippers and Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio

This is the original sketch in red ink on computer paper, drawn right after the fabric was given to us, and finally photographed (since I'm so good at losing things) on October 4, 2012.  My write up omits the fact that each member of the friendship group had to add one fabric (that would add four additional fabrics) that would have to be used in recognizable pieces anywhere on the front of the quilt.  At the time I sketched my "plan", we had only the slipper fabric and the orange fabric.  My donation, the blue fabric, came next, eventually followed by the fuchsia print, and finally the gold.  

Back to the description:

 I knew I had to create a Story Quilt that tells my version of the opera’s story through the main characters: Constanze’s rescue from her captivity in the Seraglio (harem) by her sweetheart Belmonte.  However, in my version of the story, that rescue may go wrong when the loss of favorite shoes makes Constanze turn back . . . 

That was as far as I got initially.  The rest of the story line evolved over time.

 . . . leaving her would be rescuer, Belmonte, hanging over the garden wall.  Making those characters as “bendy” dolls adds to the whimsy.

Trust me, making pipe-cleaner dolls occurred to me very early on, but I really didn't pay attention to that small, insistent voice in my head.  When I really accepted the fact that this quilt would be merely a bit of fun without a serious bone in its body, I realized they would be perfect.

The setting for my version of the story is a bird’s-eye view of the enclosed garden of the Harem - from the center surrounded by gardens, 

Below is the inner garden of which three sections are ribbon embroidery and  the other three are Kaffe Fassett fabric embellished with Swarvoski crystals. In my story, the ribbon gardens are the Constanze's idea. Their purpose was to alleviate the boredom of the women of the harem languishing in their rooms behind the three colored doorways (fuchsia, orange, and blue). The challenge was to design and grow the prettiest garden representing their "color" and the winning group would be given additional time outside in the cool of the evenings.  Each section features the color of that particular group and is nearest their doorway.

walkway, more gardens, 

Now you see the walkway where two of Constanze's "slippers" have fallen out of her makeshift bag.  If you look very carefully, you'll see the third in the "grass" above the walkway.

and benches and doorways in the outer walls.  Behind the walls against the night sky are palm trees, mosques, and minarets.  Finally, the border fabric of elegant slippers which began this story.

Now you can see not only the majority of the quilt but also see the wonderful quilting done by Sue Schoch. For the first time, I drew out what I wanted the quilting to be, but it's one thing to draw it and another to have a quilter who understands, is able to, and will do what is asked.  With her help this quilt earned a blue ribbon (first place) based on the average of the points awarded by two judges, and the pink ribbon is a Judge's Award for her favorite quilt.  And both were really a surprise though the latter knocked my socks off.  I had heard so much about "art quilts" being so outside the norm of the quilting world that they didn't fare well in judging - and mine is a story! - what would they think of that?  Wasn't I lucky to have two judges who must have sense of fun themselves!  

I should also tell you that in my version of the story, Belmonte is fed up with the rescue business and has decided to pursue a career as a model for the cover of romance novels.  And Constanze doesn't want to go back to being the dutiful royal personage she is expected to be.  Instead she hopes to convince her father to underwrite the cost of the chain of shoe boutiques she wants to open that will specialize in peep-toe shoes .

From initial idea to final completed quilt took a long time (2012 – 2014) because each woman in my friendship group had to contribute her choice of fabric, but mostly because I had to figure out how to make a hexagon – the shape I had decided the quilt had to be.  Thanks to computers and a yardstick compass, I was finally able to draft the size I wanted, but I held my breath until I sewed all the sections together and found I had indeed created a hexagon!  However, at that time I also discovered that fussy cutting the Persian slipper fabric left me without enough fabric for the outer border.  Once again I had to call upon my limited math skills to figure out the “wedges” needed to complete that border.

My journey through the construction of this quilt was one of imagination, trial, error, learning, and stretching!

On to my next idea . . . but not right away.  There is painting to be done, holidays to sew for, and a studio to set to rights!


  1. Congrats, Noel. What a gorgeous quilt! Both awards are well deserved. Sue is a former ARTAA member, a wonderful friend and an awesome quilter. What a combo the two of you proved to be! Enjoy the glow!

  2. Congratulations Noel! I loved your quilt and am so happy for your accomplishment.
    Two fabulous ribbons. You must be feeling so honored. Looking forward to seeing your next art quilt!

  3. You deserve all your ribbons! It's a truly wonderful quilt! And I'm really happy for you.