TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Paradise Found: A Mola Quilt by Rayela Art

Paradise Found, a mola quilt by Rayela Art

For years and years, I have been promising my friend Diane that I would make her a quilt. Guilt has plagued me as for those same years and years as Diane has been one of those friends who walks the talk. She has consistently given support in the form of advice (as a chemist, Diane is a well of knowledge in all household and textile care tips), as a customer, as a knitter (I have benefited as the recipient of wonderful woolen goodies), as a book pusher (many of my favorite authors came through Diane's guidance), and much, much more.

Diane, AKA The Yin-Yang Knitter here on the blog
and DLouse on our Fiber Focus group.

Last April, Diane came down from Wisconsin to help me with my booth during the Quilt Show here in Paducah. I had just purchased a bunch of molas to sell on Etsy and we decided that I would finally make true on my promise of a quilt, using bird molas as the basic theme. Our booth was next to Bob (also a Fiber Focus member) and Helene's, who were selling fabric. Diane scoured through and picked a selection that she liked:

Aaargh! For all that we do have in common, our color palettes are not one of them. I prefer earthy, more subdued colors, while Diane's favorite color is bright yellow. However, I admit that her choices work well with the bright colors the Kuna Indians like to use in their molas. For months, the fabric sat in a pile- I just couldn't see what to do with it. Then, leafing through a quilting book I have, New Cuts for New Quilts by Karla Alexander, I saw what I could do.

The book shows different techniques for "stacking the deck", where layers of fabric are stacked and then cut in free form. Rotate the layers and you get repeat blocks, but with different fabrics. The quilt is very busy, so it may be hard to see the blocks, but the center is made of big, bold leaf designs, alternating the flaming oranges with lighter fabrics. The border on the top and bottom is another set of stacked decks and the sides alternate larger molas with forest greens. Perhaps some symbolism can be read into the reds and greens, referring to the destruction of our forests around the world and the hope that this paradise may somehow continue to exist.

Small molitas are appliqued throughout the center with large leaves protruding from behind them. The larger molas on the sides were sewn into the quilt as part of the piecing.

The quilt looks a lot better "live" than it does in the photos. Some close ups will help show the details.

Border Medium Size Molas:

Small Molitas with Big Leaves Appliqued in the Middle:

The Back of the Quilt
I like to bring elements of the front to the back of the quilt. In fact, I really like the simplicity this brings and often prefer my backs to the tops I've made. Most of the quilts I've made have been for other people so their tastes or designs have been dominant over what I would prefer to do. I long to play more with these ideas.
I also like the prairie points that go around the border of the quilt.

There was absolutely no way that I would be able to quilt this thing! Molas involve layers of fabric appliqued and reverse-appliqued so that they can often be quite thick. Diane hired our friend, Pam (another Fiber Focus member), to do the quilting. Pam is a professional long-arm quilter and did a great job! I told her I imagined vines and tropical leaves throughout the piece.

Pam Heavrin, Professional Long-Arm Quilter

Pam knew exactly how to translate my idea into reality! The quilting shows up best on the back.

Paradise Found is also about friendship and the collaboration we do together with our interests. Diane saw the vision, Bob and Helene had the fabric, I put it together, and Pam made it all stick! Plus, there is the international touch with the molas, bringing people and nature together. If the quilt were mine, I would have overdyed the whole thing to tone the colors down, but Diane absolutely loves it and that is what counts.

Molas are wonderful center pieces to work with and I hope this piece inspires you to look at the ones I have listed on Etsy. This quilt used 16 molitas, which could become quite costly, but simpler versions could be done. Molas are sturdy and work great to applique on pillows, jean jackets, bags, and other accessories. If you have ever made any mola projects, leave a comment and give us all some more ideas on how to use them!

Books on the Kuna, Molas and Stacking the Deck,
available on Amazon

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Note on Commissions: I am available for commissions. I enjoy doing them, especially if I have some freedom in coming up with ideas. A similar quilt to Diane's (in terms of labor) would be around $1,500 plus cost of materials and another $300 or so for Pam to quilt it. I especially enjoy working on memory quilts that honor a person or occasion. I will not be able to start on any new projects until after the New Year, but will happily work on commissions after that.



  1. Rachel - this is a gorgeous quilt. :-)

  2. Fabulous qulit - I love the sightly chaotic result - much like a real rainforest with everything tangled up.

  3. The Mola's add a nice visual punch to the quilt.

    Nice work!

  4. Beautiful Rachel...... i love the colours and as a gift....well that makes it even more special :)


  5. Holy mackeroly! Stunning, stunning quilt. LOVE the use of molas. I'm going to go post a link to this on my blog right now! Hope it brings you a little extra traffic.


  6. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Your work, Pam's work, Diane's choice of molas and the happy chance that Bob and Helene were right there with fabric - wow.

  7. Rachel, that's one amazing work! That it was a group effort makes it even more wonderful. And the quilting! Made me gasp at how many layers of creativity this piece has. I love the colors, and your use of the molas was inspired to bring it all together. Thanks, and may you be commissioned to do many more!

  8. Your work is exquisite, so much detail, I love your colour combinations too. I must explore the rest of your work


“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)

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