Art Quilt: All the Pretty Bones

It started with an impulse purchase: a patterned cotton called to me. I had no plans. When it arrived, along with the threads and cloth I actually needed for a project, I set it out and began gathering its friends. One was a hand-dyed light gray-blue velvet, an impulse dye, the leftover color after overdyeing one of my favorite fading work skirts in raven black. Others were a black and white Japanese woven cotton, a tea and beet dyed scrap, a pale commercial gray, a hand-dyed deep Brazil nut brown, and a Kona cotton black.

When I was ready to organize and cut the cloth it became apparent that the patterned cotton was much too strong. I would have to use just a small piece. It's hard to start cutting small pieces from a long luxurious one, but first I needed a plan. I knew I wanted to do a quilt about shells, or rather a tribute to the creatures that once lived in those pretty objects we collect. Of course! The nautilus shell reminded me of the golden ratio, or Fibonocci numbers, which seemed to be a good starting point for organizing. I found a chart that could be the measurements of the squares: 21 / 13 / 8 / 5 / 3 / 2 / 1 / 1, but improvised from there (because: math).

The quilt design is abstracted from shell shapes; the stitching hints at shells, waves, and sea life.

All the Pretty Bones
28"w x 46"h (71 cm x 117 cm)
Hand-dyed cotton and velvet, Japanese woven cotton; cotton and metallic thread; sashiko-style stitching; hand and machine quilted

free motion machine sewing on the left; partial sashiko waves pattern hand stitched on the right; machine stitched details on the abstract shapes below right; hand embroidered shell below left

sashiko style rising steam pattern below left; improvised sashiko pattern below right