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Leila’s New Zealand Arlo Quilt

Ko wai au?

Ko Tangi te Keo te maunga, ko Te Awakairangi te awa, ko Te Whanganui a Tara te moana, ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi, Ko Kōterana te hapu, ko Poneke te kainga. Ko Leila toku ingoa; ko Broomfield toku kainga inaianei.

No reirā, tenā koutou, tenā koutou, tenā koutou katoa.

Carolyn Friedlander’s quilt patterns have a twofold effect on me: I am almost always instantly insanely attracted to them, and I almost always instantly feel like I could never make them.

Multi colored geometric quilt hanging up in on a wire line.  The background is sunny with evergreen trees in the background.
Pattern: Carolyn Friedlander Arlo Quilt
Fabric: Carolyn Friedlander Line InsteadKona Cotton, Essex Solids, Carolyn Friedlander line Collection CF, Woven Dobby Plaid, Neon Neppy, Green Velveteen, Shot Cotton Stripes

Her Arlo quilt pattern, made to showcase her fabric collection ‘Instead’, was the most recent electrifying instance of these feelings. Carolyn’s is such an unusual and quietly appealing quilt! I studied her color gradations, the shapes, the repetitions, the contrasts, the effects. This felt like an extremely thinky quilt to develop, and I wasn’t sure my creative process would produce the balanced kind of beauty that Carolyn makes seem so effortless.

Three major creative factors came together over a period of months that alchemized into inspiration and momentum to create my own Arlo quilt: a curated collection of scraps that a dear friend had gathered for me as a gift, based on my favorite fabrics at the time (they included texture, black, neon, velvet, rust, and dots); a trip to my homeland, New Zealand, after twenty-one years away; and a trust in my delight in color, which led me to decide on a block-by-block approach, rather than a mass cut-and-sew process.

Quilt hanging up in a sunny backyard with evergreens.  The quilt is divided into 4 uneven quarters.  Upper left is colorful flowers, lower is light green and white, upper right is dark velvet green and lower right is bright irish green and white.

At Fancy Tiger Crafts, I chose a selection of textiles that complemented the base palette that I had started with. Marta generously helped me with her time and eye for beauty to fill out the fabric pull with solids, linen blends, quilting cottons, wovens, and garment-weight cottons.

The beginning of the quilt was interrupted by a trip to the North Island of New Zealand for two weeks, and when I came home to Colorado and looked at the handful of Arlo blocks up on my design wall, I realized that I could tell a story about this holiday through choices in colors and substrates.

I started playing with the stack by finding favorite fabric combinations and just going for it, two by two. This quilt came together very deliberately and slowly, and I spent a great deal of time auditioning fabrics in combination on a case-by-case basis. As far as large lap-sized quilts go, this one took a long time and often felt like the definition of “savoring each stitch”—a very Carolyn thing! This quilt became the most exciting thing in my life while it was under way; I would rush home to (slowly) work on it.

Front porch with a red table and chair with a multi colored quilt folded up hanging over the right chair in the sun.

My New Zealand Arlo quilt is about swimming in the fresh water of Lake Taupo, the sparkling summer sun in cloudless blue skies. It talks about the blurping silvery mudpools at Waiotapu, the strenuous and spiritual hike to the summit of (and back down) Mt Tauhara, sitting in the hotsprings at Otumuheke Falls, and breathing deeply amid the rolling green hills of Matamata before we got lost on the way home.

We went honey-tasting, and I found a gorgeous piece of honey-colored fabric at The Eye of a Needle in Taupo. I let it drip down through this quilt. Roses from my mother’s garden, the delicate fronds of ferns, tiny manuka, cutty grass, harakeke, pohutukawa, and the striping effect of shadowy trails through the bush are all referenced in my choices of florals and the way I cut them up and then sewed them back together again. One of my favorite fabrics in the quilt, a striking blue that occasionally features a small bird, worked for me as a stand-in for the frequent sightings of fantails we were lucky to have on our walks. Ponga trees, toetoe, mosquito bites, and kiwi feathers are recalled in the tactile quality of silk velvet, dobby dots, mariners cloth, silk viscose, and the light roughness of a dark woven. The glimpses of gold and other patches of sparkle recall the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s, and the foundational block shape of hexagons itself can be a reference to the parliamentary building called the Beehive in the capital city.

Close up of quilt with colorful geometric blocking background is evergreen trees.

Classic Maori-art color combinations like red and black feature in my quilt, and Shawna from, Eleventh House Quilt Studio, quilted it with an interpretation of koru designs in a gorgeous copper thread. A chinoiserie-style Liberty of London tana lawn has space here—it features a stylized dog and dragon, the love-hate symbolism of which I felt was apt, since Chinese New Zealanders have lived in, built, and belonged to New Zealand for more than 150 years, but a statue of an early prime minister who compared Chinese people to monkeys still dominates the New Zealand Parliament grounds. My dad is learning Maori language, and talked every day about Maori grammar and pronunciation. He helped me by providing my pepeha—an abbreviated version of my whakapapa, my genealogy—at the beginning of this essay, which convention is tikanga Maori: the Maori way of doing things.


A close up photograph of a quilt hanging up with blue sky behind.  The is two big squares left side is bright colorful flowers, right side is dark green lush velvet.  Image is up close to show the quilting pattern.

A funny thing is that I had no green in my original pull of fabrics, while New Zealand is famously a generally very green place. I decided to get a lot of green for the backing of the quilt, and I wanted to evoke not just verdant color but also grassiness in velveteen and lawn. The finishing of the quilt had me reaching for a simple tartan blue to bind it that I felt spoke to my Scottish ancestry but also has Swanndri vibes, together with a soft neon woven stripe and a delicate floral lawn.

At the beginning of this project, I had never sewn a single y-seam, and now it feels like I’ve sewn thousands. If you’d like to have accompaniment in learning this skill, keep an eye out for a class I’ll be teaching at Fancy Tiger Crafts, making a small version of this quilt with your own exciting fabric choices!

I hope you now want to come into Fancy Tiger Crafts to have a feel of my New Zealand Arlo quilt and enjoy spending some time with it ;-)

Layflat image of quilt on a white fuzzy background.  It is the corner of the quilt that has a light green patch above and a darker leaf green a pattern below.  The blanket has has a leather patch that says made by Lelia

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