Many people asked Michael and I why we wanted to travel to Nepal to trek in the Himalayas. It all started when we watched Michael Palin’s series about the Himalaya Mountains. One of the things that captured my imagination in these shows were the pictures of Buddhist temples covered in prayer flags. We saw those images while in Kathmandu but not so much while we were hiking. Instead, as we walked, we passed many small prayer monuments. Our trek leader, Badri, said that he wasn’t religious but I noticed that he would often place a small rock, stick or flower on these monuments as we passed.
So, as we trekked, I kept visualizing the quilt that I wanted to make to commemorate this trip and I knew that it was going to focus around one of these monuments.
I started planning the quilt late last year, searching all of our photos for the perfect picture to use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find ONE photo that had everything I wanted so I decided to use bits and pieces from several of them.
This one had the look that I wanted and showed the aspect that I desired, but I wanted the monument to be wider rather than taller……
I used this as my pattern but extended the front so that the shape was different and also added a rectangle opening. It came out looking like this…..
I enlarged the design, traced it onto a very fine interfacing and started adding the fabrics, using a Wonder Under backing…..
But, I didn’t like how it looked!!! The grouting was the wrong color and the rocks looked too stiff. At this point, life got busy and this project got packed away and put into the closet.
Now, fast forward….. While we were in India, I found a blog by Susan Carlson ( Susan Carlson Quilts ). You may have seen her twenty foot Crocodile quilt or one of her other “Specimen” quilts. As I read her blog, I found that she free-cut her fabrics, gluing the edges down before she quilted. I also discovered that she had written two books so I ordered both of them and this one arrived first….
In this book she made use of paper patterns for the pieces, cut them out of fabric and glued them to a piece of muslin.
In her second book…..
….she dispenses with the paper pattern and instead draws the design on the muslin and cuts the fabrics to fill the spaces.
Since I felt more comfortable using a pattern, I chose the first method and started cutting and placing my fabrics on my interfacing backing…..
I was immediately happier with the more organic look.
After I had placed all of the fabrics and got ready to glue them all down, I realized that I couldn’t glue onto the thin interfacing because it would just seep thru the interfacing and onto my design wall. Instead, I traced the pattern out on a piece of muslin and started the slow process of moving each piece off of the wall and onto the base…..
Per Susan’s instructions, I used a VERY thin line (dots actually) of “Aleenes Original Tacky Glue” and slowly added the pieces….one row at a time.
I was basically pleased with the outcome…..
….although I knew that the opening needed some work (it is not yet glued down) and I also felt that there were too many color variations in the rock. I had the idea to add some paint to blend the colors together more, using a thin translucent grey in two shades. I used a sponge to add the color and, although I started the process with much feat and trepidation, I was happy with the end result…..
I moved to the sewing machine and started thread painting around each of the bricks, adding more thread and texture to the grouting. After I had finished the thread work, I turned it over and gave it a good pressing from the back. I was thrilled to see that the rocks had actually wrinkled a bit in the process, adding yet another serendipitous dimension to them…..
I also made the decision to have the opening go all the way thru the monument, although that may change again at some point.
Happily I have now completed the FIRST step in this quilt design. Next will be to create a spire of some sort to go on the top. Then I have to figure out how to add snow covered mountains to the background without them taking over the focus. Finally will be adding the prayer flags flying from the spire and hopefully staying in perspective as they flow out of the picture.
Contemplating the prospect of the project is daunting for me, but just like on the trek, I plan to take it one step at a time!! Hopefully the end result will be worth the journey, but regardless of the outcome, I am determined to enjoy the process to its fullest!!!