A Gift of Quilts

“A Gift of Quilts” is a project to organise making 500 quilts. One will then be presented to each of the participating countries in the 2012 Olympics. This is the “A Gift of Quilts” website, where there is more information and lots of photos: www.agiftofquilts.co.uk

I’ve just finished putting the hanging sleeve on my quilt “Genome” & am waiting for the printed label to dry (printed on inkjet fabric) so I can sew it on.

The quilt was inspired by the Human Genome Project. I was blown away by the beauty of the images published when the project began to release its findings in 2003, and kept cuttings from newspaper articles at the time. The Science Museum site has an easily-digested overview on the project: http://tinyurl.com/6l4grgc – the official site is rather dry.

The lightbulb moment for using the gene-mapping images in a quilt came when I was fondling the West African batik fabrics on Magie Relph’s stall at The Festival of Quilts (www.africanfabric.co.uk). Not only were the colours and textures of the batiks just right, but I felt there was a connection to be made between the Genome Project’s search for our common identity, and Africa being the “cradle of civilisation”.

I took liberties with the colours, and chose to eliminate red, orange and yellow from the palette, because I felt they would fight with the predominantly blue/purple/pink/green fabrics I liked.

Anyway, here is my quilt. The design is edge-to-edge, with no borders, as I wanted to show that this is just a fragment of the gene map. The individual coloured segments of the gene map are called “letters”. My quilt has 182 letters; the full gene map has 3.12 billion.

Once the quilt was in progress, I thought of trying to link as many parts of the world as I could into this one idea, so the backing is English cotton, the batting is from the USA (Hobbs Heirloom 80/20), and the machine piecing was sewn on a Bernina from Switzerland.

Quilting lines follow the shape of the double helix that knits our DNA together, and is hand-quilted in Japanese sashiko stitching. This was very hard, not just because my hand quilting is appalling, but because keeping the big stitches even on both sides of the quilt was difficult – sashiko stitches are supposed to be the size of a grain of rice. I chose a dark thread, as I didn’t want to detract from the colours on the quilt top – a thick white thread is normally used for sashiko. A dark backing would have been kinder.

Now all I have to do is to follow the very specific instructions for sending the quilt:

“When the time comes to send your quilt to us we recommend that quilts should be rolled around a tube. We recommend a cardboard tube, such as the inner used for carpets about 4″ in diameter. The tube must be greater in length than the quilt is in width. Cardboard tubes must first be wrapped in aluminium foil to create a barrier against acid migration and then wrapped, preferably, in acid free tissue. Before rolling, the quilt should be laid face down on top of a sheet and covered completely with tissue. It should then be rolled carefully, but loosely, onto the tube and interleaved with tissue with the top side facing out. The rolled quilt should then be covered with fabric or sheeting and tied, not pinned. Wrap in brown paper, address to and from clearly marked.”

All the quilts from the “A Gift of Quilts” project are going to be displayed at the Stitch & Craft show at Olympia in March 2012. The draw to determine which quilt goes to which country will also take place there –  see www.twistedthread.com for more information.

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