Sometimes with creative choices, I experience what I call “an exclamation mark in my heart”. Those moments feel like very clear YESes from my core. When I saw the No Latitude Quilt pattern, it didn’t immediately speak to me. I think, though, that because it’s such an unusual quilt design, with the unusual “piecing” of bias-tape appliqué, it lodged itself in my creative consciousness, and I found myself daydreaming about how I might make this pattern in a way that worked for me.
Pattern: No Latitude by Latifah Saafir
Bias Tape Fabric: 2 yards Cirrus Solid in Fuchsia, 5/8 yard Yarn Dyed Essex in Spice, 1/4 yard Cornered Regal, 1/4 yarn In Bloom Red, and a vintage personal scrap
Background Fabric: Small fabric cuts and scraps equal to about 5 yards, including Mercy, Geometric Stripe, Embroidery Flowers, Thistle, Essex Homespun, Classic Wovens and Solids, Fingers Crossed, Floral Fantasy, Natural Textured Wovens
Size Made: Throw (60" x 72")
Before opening the pattern (or even turning it over to look at the back!), I decided that I would probably want to change the background fabric to scrappier, piecier bits rather than using yardage cuts of what would look like wholecloth. The bias-tape appliqué shapes soon resolved themselves in my mind as fruity orbs, and when I had these two bits of information, I realized that I would make a quilt that was an homage to the spirit of countries I’m connected to in the Middle East.
Accordingly, I chose a variety of wovens, yarn-dyes, neutrals, and specific florals with which to piece my background pieces that would evoke homes. My orbs would be pomegranates, so I made my own bias tape using bright fuchsias and pink linens.
Sherri Lynn Wood’s book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, encourages makers to experiment with ruler-less cutting, via channeling their creativity from a meditative and joyful source of inner peace. It is a banger of a quilt book, and I cannot encourage you enough to check it out. The way I like to cut fabric without a ruler is to space my feet about shoulder-width apart and take a slow, centering breath that brings me into my body and out of my head. I need to trust that my body will make the cuts that I need. If you haven’t cut slabs of fabric without a ruler before, think about giving it a go! It is quietly liberating and empowering.
Everyone has their own process in putting together improv blocks. Mine came together in a way that was also informed by my mindfulness about details like using frayed selvedge edges on some of the wovens to create a simulation of carpet tassels. Many of the selvedges also had words that I wanted to incorporate in the quilt top, like “Flow”, “Girl”, “Mercy”, and “Memoire”, so I intentionally left those in as I cut and pieced. City streets in the Middle East can be gridlike and planned, but I was thinking about a particular urban neighborhood I lived on a mountain, where ancient olive trees and noisy jackals were next to exquisite gardens and staggered pale blocks of apartments. I ended up creating a lot of vertical and long lines in my blocks as a result. The ivory and cream wovens reminded me of the softness of cool robes, delightful to wear in the high heat of a very humid August.
Making your own bias tape is a little time-consuming (and there is pre-made bias tape you can purchase!) but it is so worth it to allow for personalization. It worked best to make only enough bias strips for one “peel” at a time, since this meant I could improvise in balancing color and weight.
The devastating terrorist attacks in New Zealand this month, targeting Muslims, informed the final direction this quilt ended up taking. The last pomegranate became a kiwifruit, and I incorporated vintage scraps from my stash in making the bias tape that reminded me of New Zealand.
World and local events were in my mind as I pieced this quilt; Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” ends with the thought that there is no Deus ex machina coming to save us, it is “our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” This feels like a poignant exclamation mark in my heart. “Mercy” appears twice on this quilt and, while some of the words I pieced in were accidentally covered up by bias tape, I love that “mercy” stayed.