When I first became a quilter my quilts were traditional geometric patterns that required only basic quilting skills. By taking advantage of classes sponsored by my quilt guild and local quilt stores, I have learned many advanced quilting techniques over the years, which I try to incorporate in my quiltmaking. Recently I have been sewing pictorial art quilts, like Baghdad Burning, an artistic stretch for me.
I drew my inspiration for Baghdad Burning from a number of sources: my respect for my husband’s Muslim heritage, my appreciation of the beauty of Islamic art, architecture, and décor; my interest in the lives of women throughout the world, and my despair over the war in Iraq. But how could I express these feelings in the fabric of a quilt? For several months I wrestled with this problem before realizing that the quilt should have symbolic images: a tiled mosaic or tapestry to represent the culture of
The first steps in construction of the quilt were to design the pattern for the background mosaic on graph paper, then shop for fabric and a pleasing color palette. With luck I immediately found a decorative fabric of gold swirls on a green background which shifted gradually to gold swirls on brown. Green scorched to brown. Perfect for a fire. This one fabric turned my “perhaps quilt” into a feasible working design. I then found matching fabrics, a blue for the background, a soft purple, and golds for the quilt that that looked well with the chosen scorched green.
Scorched green fabric
The unburned mosaic quilt blocks were easy to sew: the burned sections were the challenge. I spread all of the fabrics from my stash onto my bedroom floor to look for pieces that could be used to represent smoke damage.
Burned and unburned sections
I frequently use interlacing designs made with bias tubes for my quilt borders. In Baghdad Burning the interlacing border needed to be damaged on the right side of the quilt. I first tried to dye a section of the border for the burned portion, but the lacy trim would not absorb the dye. Instead I changed the color of the bias tubes and background, then covered the burned section with two layers of black tulle.
Burned interlacing border
To help me draw templates for the appliquéd flames, I looked at photos of forest fires on the internet. That is where I got the spiky shapes for my smoldering flames and hints about the color of fires.
For the major focal point of
The woman had to be a large figure in order for her facial expression to be seen. But how could I give her all black clothing visual interest? My solution was to make a pleated three-dimensional skirt, and to quilt heavily the fringed shawl with parallel lines of stitching. Unfortunately, photographs of the quilt do not show the contrast between the two blacks that are apparent to the eye when viewing the quilt on display.
Baghdad Burning has not been a prize-winning quilt, but it draws the attention of those who pass by at quilt shows. I would very much like to know your reaction to the quilt. Please leave me a comment at the end of this blog.
Baghdad Burning has been juried into the International Quilt Festival in
Note from Rachel: I saw Baghdad Burning at the AQS show in Paducah that took place here in Paducah this past April. I was zooming down the rows of displayed quilts, saw Baghdad Burning and stopped in my tracks. This quilt led me to find Donna and invite her to become a regular contributor to Fiber Focus, which she graciously has! If you attend the Houston show, do make the effort to find this quilt. It is powerful!
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 name to see all of her past articles.
The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.