This Year's Novel Idea book is No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Stayal. While I was reading the book I had a hard time coming up with any quilt ideas for the QuiltWorks Novel Idea Challenge. This year is the 15th year for the Novel Idea program at our local library, and it's the 8th year that QuiltWorks has done a special gallery show for Novel idea quilts and other artworks. I've done it every year and I didn't want to mess up my streak! I like the book quite a bit, but have to admit to being a bit disappointed that there was barely any mention of nature and no birds that I can recall, my favorite subjects for representational art. I did eventually find a passage that inspired me:
"She had taken down a large assortment of cups and saucers, and a shiny silver serving pot presided over them like a proud parent. Fancy, loose tea leaves, and containers of cardamom and ginger were at the ready. The kitchen was made beautiful with their smell. She was going to make true Punjabi tea."
I decided to dig into my stash of silks for this project. The silks reminded me of Indian sari silks and silk ties as evidenced by the cover (one of the main characters works in a men's accessories department). My silk stash includes various types and weights of silks including silk ties and silks of unknown origin. I first set out to sort the bunch and determine which colors to use.
I decided to use a very warm color palette, perhaps influenced by the book cover. Since I don't work with silks very often and I decided this piece would be machine appliqued, I started a sample piece to try out my techniques before doing the real project. Below, you can see "It's Teatime!", the 12" x 12" sample the I ended up finishing as well. The sample will be displayed with the finished piece above in the gallery show. I learned a few things about the silks I wanted to use and how to finish the edges. I had never done satin stitch applique edges so I had to try that and I also wanted to get a somewhat sketchy look to the design, so I played with the free motion lines in a dark gray. After finishing this I was able to move on to the larger project.
Let's also back up just a bit to that teapot shape. I knew I wanted to do something somewhat authentic, so I did a google search for Indian tea pots and was astounded to find these vintage Indian teapot designs. These pieces are so lovely and complex and even though I didn't try to duplicate anything like this, I did use them as inspiration for the shape of the teapot.
Once I was ready to create the large piece I used Mistyfuse to attach a couple of larger pieces of silk to a backing of harem cloth. Harem cloth is a gauzy cotton fabric, very lightweight, that I've used for hand stitching projects that need a little stability. It works well with the silks to add the stability, but little weight or thickness. Then I took patches of various colors and patterns of silk and used Mistyfuse to attach them as a background that would sort of bring to mind a patchwork table cloth. I did a straight stitch along the edges to keep them in place while I attached the objects.
I sketched out various styles of tea cups on cardstock to use as my patterns. For these I used Wonder Under to attach them to the background. Wonder Under is easier to use than Mistyfuse because it has a paper backing, but I really don't like the stiffness it adds. I would probably stick to Mistyfuse for future projects like this.
I figured out how to use the satin stitch on my machine, then I machine quilted around the objects and created the lines in the background with free motion quilting. To add details to the objects I used free motion quilting in dark gray or a matching color. I also did the sketchy dark gray lines to go around the edges of all the objects. When I do that I go around at least 2 times, sometimes three or four times if I need to restate a line. To make the words for the containers I used free motion stitching on a piece of silk that was fused to another piece of harem cloth. This made it stable enough to stitch on. I practiced the words on some muslin and then just went for it. My main concern was to get the words sized right for the containers.
I then added some more fusible to the back of the words and cut them out to add them to the containers. I added some more stitching around them for character. All the photos below are of the finished piece, with binding, label and sleeve attached. I did the binding with a lightweight shot cotton because I didn't know if the silks I have would be sturdy enough. I really like how this came out and have more ideas for future projects.
One last thing before I go, you'll notice I put a bird on it! As I said before I was disappointed to not find a mention of a bird in the book, but when I saw the phrase "assortment of cups and saucers" I immediately thought of adding a bird to one of the teacups. I then added the pink flowers and also decorated the teapot similarly for balance. You'll also see my machine stitched signature in the last photo. I don't do it on every project, but I probably should. The Novel Idea quilt exhibit will be displayed at QuiltWorks in Bend, Oregon for the month of April. The reception is on April 6, 5-7 pm.