Give Your Quilt some Dash with Appliqué

comments (0) May 20th, 2008     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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Baltimore Album quilts, also known as Presentation quilts, were very popular in the mid-nineteenth century
and were often made by several people.
Learning how to make a Hawaiian appliqué piece is a good starter
project for a beginner to learn and practice basic appliqué and
quilting techniques. My best advice is to keep your first
efforts small.
This wonderful appliqué mola is from Kuna Yala Panama. Molas often
reflect designs and motif’s that are familiar to the local community:it
is not unusual to see product labels or logos used.
Baltimore Album quilts, also known as Presentation quilts, were very popular in the mid-nineteenth century
and were often made by several people.

Baltimore Album quilts, also known as Presentation quilts, were very popular in the mid-nineteenth century and were often made by several people.

Photo: Courtesy of Treasureup/Flickr

Appliqué is a form of piecing that’s done by layering one fabric on top of another. It’s really a textile art that has spanned centuries and cultures. The appliqué techniques below represent different parts of the world and look stunningly different from each other, but at their heart, they all share the same basic combinations of piecing, layering, and stitching.

Baltimore Album quilts
are composed of a series of mostly floral motifs stitched to a white background. You can view some historical examples at the Web site for the Maryland Historical Society. Just click to see their online quilt exhibition. If you want to learn more about these Victorian quilts and how to make them yourself, get to know the work of Elly Sienkiewicz, who is credited with reviving the interest in Baltimore Album quilts.

Hawaiian quilts are also intricate in design. They’re like large paper cuts (remember making snowflakes when you were a kid) surrounded by quilting stitches that echo out from each large motif. Check out some designs here .

Molas originated among the Kuna tribes of Panama. These primitive, colorful, and very complex designs are examples of reverse appliqué—a process in which you layer fabrics and then cut away the top fabric to reveal what’s underneath.

Contemporary appliqué artists create equally intricate and complex quilts, but instead of using needle and thimble, they’re more inclined to leave raw edges and use the sewing machine and glue. Well, not exactly glue, but fusing agents that hold the fabrics together. Their designs are no less spectacular and their results are award winners:

  • Jane Sassaman, renowned for her bold examples of garden plants and flowers, machines-sews them—no raw edges for her.
  • Master fuser Robbi Eklow dyes her own fabric for her expressive quilts.
  • Laura Wasilowski and Melody Johnson are the founders of the tongue-in-cheek Chicago School of Fusing, and they're the poster children for quilting fun!

Some artists apply dye and paint to the fabric to create images—which could be considered a form of appliqué—and then add thread to embellish and quilt. One of the masters of this technique is Hollis Chatelain.

Looking at all of these works—historical, traditional, and contemporary—could definitely be intimating. But they’re also so inspiring, when you think what can be done with fabric and thread. These examples are like jazz, and you see it throughout the world of quilting —take a technique (the melody), and make it your own. Appliqué is about telling stories and expressing yourself using shapes, bursts of color, echoes of nature, and humor. I can’t wait to go cut up some fabric!


posted in: applique, hawaiian, baltimore album, molas

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