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Leila's No Latitude Quilt Top

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.

 Quilt Top made up of four large quilt blocks, each one with a graphic oval pattern. Three are bright fuchsia and one is a warm, green-brown. The quilt background is pale patchwork and the quilt is hanging on a white wall. A large spiky houseplant is on the floor.

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 MercyGeometric StripeEmbroidery FlowersThistle, Essex Homespun, Classic Wovens and Solids, Fingers Crossed, Floral Fantasy, Natural Textured Wovens
Size Made: Throw (60" x 72")

 Close up of one quilt block from Leila's "No Latitudes" quilt. It is a fuchsia orb, made of appliquéd bias tape on a pale white patchwork background, with bits of blue and gold fabrics mixed in.

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.

Leila's "No Latitude" quilt top, a full view of the quilt. Four quadrants each with an appliquéd orb made from bias tape lines. Three are fuchsia and one is brown, the color of a fuzzy kiwifruit.

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.

 Leila's "No Latitude" quilt top, photographed at an angle from the side. The patchwork is fuschia, white and brown, and in the background of the photo there is a bright window and a spiky houseplant.

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.

 Leila's "No Latitude" quilt top, a detail of the very bottom left corner. The edges of the quilt top have not been trimmed, and are uneven due to the improv patchwork.

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.

 Leila's "No Latitude" quilt top, hanging on a white wall in a room with a black door to the left and a large spiky houseplant on the floor to the right. The quilt has four quadrants each with an appliquéd orb made from bias tape lines. Three are fuchsia and one is brown, the color of a fuzzy kiwifruit.

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.

 Leila's "No Latitude" quilt top, a detail of the bottom right quadrant. This orb, made from applique stitched bias tape, is the color of a fuzzy kiwifruit, and a bit the bias tape is made from vintage black fabric embroidered with metallic silver stars.

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.

Detail of Leila's quilt, showing the patchwork and applique. Hot fuchsia curved lines of bias tape are appliqued onto a pale patchwork background. Some frayed selvedges show, and the word "mercy" is printed on one of the selvedges.

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.

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