I’m not sure where to start with this one, as there is a lot of backstory to how this came into being. Quite a bit of it’s drama and the rest is me figuring out a creative way to use it all. The original design ideas started almost 10 years ago. I started the actual fabric work about three years ago. Life happened and this was set aside in my sewing room. It may have physically been in a tote bag, the actual planning has never been far from my mind.
*pauses to think of how to explain/sum up the thought process and the inspiration for this particular quilt*
I have a fascination with Ancient Egypt. More specifically, Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphics – I love how the stories get told with using pictures for words. At the Field Museum in Chicago, IL, they have a permanent exhibit of several Egyptian stelae, and this is where my idea first began to form.
For the unknowing, an Egyptian stela (stele; plural form is stelae) is a stone or wooden slab inscribed with words and images that is erected as a monument either for political, religious, or funerary purposes. These images are usually carved in (whether as a relief or engraved) or painted. Think of them as something along the lines of a modern tombstone with a splash of newsprint tossed in. For my purposes, I focused on the political aspects of a stela.
In my research and studies, I’ve played around with learning hieroglyphics and trying to understand what has been written in the tombs. I’m not saying I’m fluent in the language, nor am I saying the phrases I used are made up. The phrases used in this quilt are from actual tomb papers. While the style of the glyphs is purely modern, the phrases are original.
Before I continue, I need to make one thing perfectly clear: I will not offer translations for the text I used. If you really have to know what is being said, there are a list of books I could suggest to help you with learning the language.
The first thing I started to do was to go through the collection of phrases I had. It became a matter of picking and choosing which ones would best suit my needs. The next thing I did was pick out which particular style of glyphs I wanted to use. Figure this was much the same as picking out the type of lettering you want to use for an announcement. I wanted something clear, clean, and legible.
The first hurdle that I came to was what size to make everything. I knew I’d have a lot going on, and I wanted to make sure to include all of my ideas and designs. Equipment limitations would be the final factor in the decision making process at that time. So, now I knew how wide I could make the finished quilt. How long the quilt would end being would entirely depend on how tall I made the god and goddess. I knew I wanted to have a pillow tuck (the part of the quilt that goes up and over the top of the bed pillows when you make your bed) with the Eyes of Horus.
This is when math starts coming into play. If I allow X inches for a standard pillow tuck, this means I will have Y inches for the top of the mattress design. This is where the second hurdle arose. Do I make the god and goddess fit the side drape (the part of the quilt that hangs down the side of the mattress), or do I fit them to the top of the mattress with the phrases? (Three years later, this question still plagues me.) Given what I’ve seen of stelae, I could make it either way and still respect the originals. Hmmmm…
Knowing I wasn’t going to get any work done if I didn’t start somewhere, I began making my glyphs. Believe it or not, a printer made the final decision for me. I printed out the individual symbols for each phrase, and decided to go with whatever the printed images came out to being. Equipment limitations didn’t include the length of the quilt, just the width.
The colors I’ve chosen for my designs come from photographs of the tomb of Nefertari. In the Valley of the Queens, she was in tomb QV 66. I tried to color match my symbols to those that were drawn on the walls of her burial tomb. If an owl was a specific color, I wanted my owl to match as closely as I could get it. If the same symbols were painted with different colors, then I randomly picked one that worked for my purposes.
It was at this point that my project was put away for three years. Life happened. Then, I received a quilt show call for submissions in the mail. I pulled out my notes, fabrics, blocks I’d started, and began to figure out where I was in the design and building process. I knew what my submission entry deadline was. Could I get the design finally finished and made in time to hit it?
Imagine my delight when I found I’d completed more than I remembered. I was at the point of needing to stitch down the applique pieces and start painting the detail work around each glyph. Past-me was thoughtful enough to separate the phrases and keep the symbols in the right order. In a few short hours, I had two phrases on my design wall drying. The textile medium I added to the acrylic paint needs to dry for seven days before I can do the final heat set with a dry iron. (This will allow the paint to be machine washed and dried.)
Seeing how quickly these seemed to be going together, I wanted to see how the glyphs would look in a rough idea of their final arrangement: It looked a lot better than I’d imagined! Work continued into the next set of symbols.
By now, it was time to start figuring out the next section of the overall design – the pillow tuck. I sat down with graph paper and started playing with shapes and sizings. Once I measured out how big the glyph blocks were, I knew that a basic queen size bed mattress is 60″ x 80″. If I did my design right, double checked my math, I should be able to figure out how big to make the pillow tuck as well as the next couple of sections.
The background fabric I’d purchased, I knew I couldn’t get any more of it. What I had is what I could work with. If I needed to find any more fabric and add it in to the overall design, this was the time for me to find out. Once I had the dimensions figured out, I measured what background fabric I had. I had 2-3″ extra of the yardage I’d need. Talk about cutting it close!! (Pardon the pun.)
I printed out the next three sections to size. These would become my next round of base patterns to work with. From there, I cut out the fabric for the pillow tuck base. Instead of marking up the fabric, I pressed in my registration marks.
I knew I didn’t have the right fabrics for this section, so a quick run to the store fixed that. A couple of hours later, I’d started cutting and placing fabric. To be blunt, I was a bit surprised by how well the colors were playing together. It wasn’t too much longer and I had the other half ready.
I wanted a simpler version of the Eyes of Horus, to go along with the modern version of the heiroglyphs I was working with. This seemed to be the ideal rendition. I still haven’t decided whether or not to add any detail features in between the Eyes. That would be a choice for later.
The next section will become one of the side pieces. Since I’d already printed out my base pattern, I still needed to assemble it.
Given how quickly the glyphs went, I had high hopes the next couple of panels would go quickly. The pieces were large and there shouldn’t be too much with fussy cutting.
It wasn’t too long before I had this much already done. I’m used to main pieces (for some of my intense art quilts) taking several hours to work through. That I could get this much done in a fraction of the time was a delightful surprise. Before I called it quits for the day, I managed to get all of the final pieces sewn down. The next day, I would begin hand painting in the details.
When asked why I was hand painting all of the details, I had a couple of responses. The first was to attempt to stay loyal to the original artifacts and painted works. The second was more about expediency – I really didn’t want to have to figure out how to get all of the details put into place with bias tapes. While I like the covered edges of bias tape work, I would miss out on some of the “look” I was aiming for.
Oh, for those that think the background fabric is a cream or an ivory color… you’re partially right. There’s a white print over the cream color. This, I feel, gives a sort of ‘white wash’ effect to the fabric.
I’m the curious sort of person… I knew this quilt was going to be big, as I ran the numbers while I’ve been working on it. I was not expecting the impact of how really BIG this is going to be, right up until I pinned Panel 1 and Panel 2 side by side. Let’s just say I was scraping my jaw off the floor for a little while.
I still had one more panel to make, as well as creating the top and bottom borders. I still needed to figure out how to quilt this thing. I knew, from what my measurements were coming in at, this was going to be way too big for a long-arm quilting machine – no matter which way I turned the quilt top. The average long-arm quilting machine capacity is about 120″ wide. By the time I finished adding the third panel and borders, I’m looking at a quilt that’s about 130″ tall by about 130- 140″ wide.
There had to be another way. The completed quilt top would be way too large for me to handle on my mid-arm machine. (I’m not that comfortable with said machine – yet. I’m still working on it.) I was sitting in my front room, which doubles as my library/quilting machine room, trying to figure out my quilting issue and mentally gear up for working on the last section. A book was all but falling off my shelf, when the inspiration struck!! This author, Sharon Pederson, had already figured out what I needed to do. She’d figured out how to make reversible quilts by quilting the blocks first, and then putting the blocks together to make the final quilt. Once the blocks were sewn together, the quilt was done. YES!! This was exactly what I was going to do. Ok, provided I could get my long-armer on board with my idea. A quick phone call and a few text messages later, I was set!! Oh, and the book that was the missing link? It has absolutely nothing to do with Eygptian design; it’s a Japanese quilting book.
Inspiration comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Pay attention.
The artwork is a little different style from the previous panel. I’m ok with that. Besides, I was having a little fun figuring out my alignments of pieces.
It wasn’t too long before I had the third panel ready for sewing and painting.
While I liked the general feel of it, I still needed to tweak a couple of things before fusing and sewing all of the pieces down. The next step probably took the longest, as I needed to add a fair amount of detail with the paint. I didn’t add all of what I could, as there were some finer details that I didn’t feel were necessary to the overall design. This is what I ended up with.
I had panels 1 and 3 hanging side by side, letting the paint dry. I do know I still have some painting to do on panel 2, and that will be done before the pieces go to the quilter. Also, the top and bottom borders still need to have some detail work painted before those are ready to go, as well.
Strictly as a side note: I can’t hang all three panels (with or without the borders) side by side. My design wall just isn’t big enough. This amuses me to no end. 😉
The only thing left for me to do is pick up the fabric I’ll need for the backing material. I have the batting already on hand. All in all, this has been a fun and silly project. When the quilted panels come back from the long-arm quilter, it’s just piecing and finishing the frames and binding. There will, most likely, be a little bit of touch up painting to do.
Soon. Soon, this one will be over with. It’s a little hard to believe I’ll have the completed quilt in my hands. This quilt has lived in my head for so long, I wonder what will take it’s place.
The panels came back from the quilter a couple of days ago. It was time to figure out the dimensions they’d need to become to sew together. First thing I did was separate the top and bottom borders. Since the original piece was so long, I trimmed off all of the leftovers from the quilting process. From there, it was deciding on how wide to make the borders. I used tailor’s chalk to mark my lines, and then cut them apart.
After trimming the other panels, I needed to make the sashing strips to use for the final assembly. The instructions in Sharon’s book were very clear and easy to follow. I was tickled with how fast this sort of thing goes. I’ll need to remember this for future ideas.
My dining room floor was just wide enough to lay out the assembled panels together. I needed to get the width measurements so I could attach the top and bottom borders.
It wasn’t too long before I had the last panels attached. All that was left to do was bind the quilt, put a label on it, and then wait for the next day to get finished photos of it. Oh, and do the last of the touch up painting. There were a few lines I needed to add, to complete the look I’ve been working towards. I put the final touch ups on prior to stopping for the night. If my cats stayed off my quilt, I’d be all sorts of golden in the morning.
Heh. The Universe does like to laugh. I’ve spent the better part of the morning trying to figure out how I was going to display the quilt so I can add the completed images to this post. All I can do is laugh. Of all the problems that could have happened, this is the one that pulls me up short.
Ok… so the solution was NOT to hang my quilt at home. A friend and I ended up picking up safety pins and clothesline, and then headed to a local park. The idea was to hang the quilt off of the guard rails that were at the top of one of the hills. However, I didn’t like the way the sun was hitting the area. Plus, there happened to be a framework structure close by, so I could get the full-on photos I wanted, not the angle-up and hope for the best photos.
We pinned the back of the quilt and started to thread the clothesline through as we wrapped the handrail. Uh, yeah. No. The quilt was too heavy for the pins and kept pulling out. Another friend saved the day!! She arrived with extra-heavy duty thread, sewing needles, and scissors!! (I’m counting my lucky stars I have such good friends that they’re willing to help me out like this. Especially when I become a space case.) I managed to use a long whip-stitch on the quilt and the clothesline. Yes, I sewed the quilt to the clothesline. It worked!! It so worked!! Even with the gusts of wind making my quilt look like some weird Egyptian kite.
Finished size: 128 1/4″ tall by 132″ wide
Cotton fabrics; hand painted; cotton batting
Raw edge applique, machine pieced, machine quilted
Completed: April 16, 2016
Just to make a couple of things clear:
– I am not making any written translation available.
– I burned my notes and base patterns