TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, June 13, 2008

Donna Hussain: Masjid Mosaic, The Making of a Quilt Top

When I decided to make quilts to honor my husband’s Muslim heritage, I started collecting travel photos and pictures of Islamic designs and architecture from art books. My collection includes a colored photograph of the interior of a mausoleum in Pakistan for the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai. Though the photo is fuzzy I can see that the dome is decorated with mosaic tiles forming stars and snowballs, traditional quilting patterns. In the photo a stream of light streaks across the dome and brightens the tiles in its path. This photo became the inspiration for my quilted wall hanging, Masjid Mosaic.

Masjid Mosaic, by Donna Hussain

Every quilt starts with an idea or pattern that the quilter wants to render in fabric. Beginning quilters rely on traditional patchwork patterns that they find in magazines or quilt books with directions for cutting and sewing. As their quilting skills improve, they become innovative in color selection and make pattern alterations to personalize their quilts. Most challenging of all is to design an original quilt. Some quilt artists do the designing in their heads. Most draw sketches on paper to plan their quilts in detail before they begin to sew. Computer quilt software can also be a useful tool in the design process. My quilts start with an idea and experimentation. I allow the quilt design to evolve during the sewing process.

Shopping for fabric is a favorite activity of most quilters. Since most quilts are for bedding that needs frequent washing, cotton fabrics are favored in quilt making. I use cotton even for wall hangings, choosing quality material with a high thread count to ensure durability. After all the time and effort I spend making a quilt, I want my quilts to last. I had no specific fabric in mind when shopping for fabric to create the patterns in the mosaic dome, but hoped to find a color or print that was suggestive of the rich décor of Islamic ornamentation. After visiting several quilt stores I found a Hoffman fabric in red and gold that seemed perfect as a focus fabric for the project.

Back home I drew fabric samples of different colors from my stash to serve as background for stars that I cut from the Hoffman fabric. All quilters have a stash consisting of fabric bought on a whim but never used and left-over scraps from former projects. These stashes help quilters decide on color schemes for new quilts, supply small amounts of accent fabric for new projects, and provide fabric needed for appliqué and scrap quilts. Unfortunately, stashes seem to grow uncontrollably. One quilter told me that she places her fabric scraps in a box that she stores in a dark warm closet where they multiply.

With the help of my stash I decided a solid red fabric combined with the Hoffman fabric would make dramatic star blocks. I also drew on my stash to choose colors for the snowball shapes. Then I decided how large the quilt blocks and quilt top should be. Those measurements determined how much additional fabric I needed to purchase. This led to another shopping trip taking my experimental blocks with me for color reference.

When the quilt blocks were sewn and joined together I considered ways to ensure that the viewer would identify the design as Middle Eastern or Islamic. The finishing touches took considerably more time and creative effort than anticipated. After searching for ideas in Islamic reference books I thought of framing my quilt blocks with an Islamic arch, which represents the portal to heaven in Muslim prayer rugs. Then I added borders and the name of the mausoleum in Arabic script. My husband wrote the Arabic words in chalk: I appliquéd bias tubes to the chalk lines.

Every new quilt that I make adds to my arsenal of quilting techniques. Since sewing Masjid Mosaic I have repeatedly used an Islamic arch in my quilts, and refined ways to sew interlacing designs on quilt borders with bias tubes, subjects I will discuss in future blog articles.

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her tag in the column at the right to see all of her past articles. The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


1 comment:

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails