Sunday, 17 May 2015

Journal Quilt: The Final Chapter. Backing, Batting and Bling

After a year of going with the flow and creating weekly quilt squares as seemed best at the time, the finishing touches took some thinking about how to make it all work together.

I had painted the backing in Perth and then sent it home along with the fabric paint and some other goodies.  Coming by land rather than mail, it arrived home just before we did.  I did a quick measure (I was pretty sure that it was a bit bigger than the front of the quilt so it could be trimmed to size) and then had great fun adding a few photos as well as a selection of quotes about travel that I had been collecting along the way – most particularly off the walls at the Mt. Cook Hostel in New Zealand. Big thanks to Nico Brink and Alicia Fuller for taking great photos and sharing them.  Also thanks to Louise Mann for some great quotes that she found and used in a game on the truck.
Here's the backing waiting to be cut down to fit the front.
(Before I realized it was 1 1/2 inches too small in both

Cal and I leaving Vermilion with 60 kg checked luggage
for a year of travel.
Nico took this photo one early morning in
This one by Alicia was on our boat trip in Chitwan National
Park in Nepal.

Sonya took this on the Franklin River (Tasmania)

Everest Base Camp (Tibet side). 

And us returning home with 35 kg checked luggage

Here's the backing on the patio at our hostel in Perth

To my dismay, the backing that I had designed to be cut down as it would be too big actually turned out to be too small... and with autographs right to the edge on the front of this quilt, I had to come up with a creative solution.  The quilt police are no doubt shaking their heads, but if you think about finishing a quilt without the front on it and then appliquéing the front to the batting and backing you have the idea.

Simple machine quilting along the original square lines attached everything together.  It was slow going which allowed me time to enjoy each square, notice some things I had forgotten, and think about which bits of stuff (a highly technical quilting term meaning anything you can figure out how to attach to a quilt) I had and where they were stored.  Another couple of nights were spent hand sewing the silk sari yarn along the journey we had taken.

This journal quilt started in June 2013 and you can read about it here.  I also mentioned it again just before leaving home in April 2014 when I talked about a “snivel kit”  The front traveled with me for the year in a small dry bag and gradually gained squares.

I wrote about the first row (home and then our time in Turkey) in May while travelling in Georgia. Then a quick post about a square for Armenia before two posts on the adventures of my wine dyed square for Georgia (here and here).  Definitely some creative sourcing of materials.

First fifteen squares.  Follow the dark green sari silk yarn from
Grimshaw to the market in Kashgar (China)
Plastic Kyrgyzstan money.  One of those countries
where the currency had very big numbers
Armenia's square - the felted flower was covered with tissue to protect
it from rubbing against the other squares while travelling.

Next post about the quilt was in late July and I had completed eighteen squares to remember Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Tibet.  It was a combination of being busy and of using my iphone to access the internet which was poor to non-existent.

Next fifteen squares.  From China through Tibet
then Nepal, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia
Malaysia and on to Australia.
The bits of glass were found on the south shore of Lake Issykul
where we stopped for lunch.  Begaim said it was probably
from champagne bottles.  Memories of Cal's birthday.
It is amazing how much longer and thoughtful the blog posts got once I got a small notebook computer in Kolkata and could use two handed typing on a keyboard, save to the computer and then upload when internet was available.  I blogged about the squares I had completed for India to Singapore in November during our time in Perth.  I was already working on squares for Australia, so clearly my mind felt that having created the squares I must have also written about them!  Here’s photos, as well, of some of the squares with their final embellishments.

Quite delighted with how the square for Cambodia turned out.
Hand embroidered names of some of the important places we visited.
I used light coloured thread and Far East font so it is just a
subtle memory.  The brass dove is one that was given to me
by Kati from Ten Thousand Villages.  It is hand cut from
shell casings that litter the countryside and the word "Peace"
is in English and Khmer.  It traveled in my sewing
kit for the entire year.
The shell at the top right corner was found during our week
on Koh Tao.  Cal says that is is in the process of becoming an
agate.  So, it is a young fossil (or an old seashell)

We were 11 weeks in Australia and I created 7 squares.  I blogged about them in January from New Zealand.  Many of those squares have had shells and other found items attached.  I’ve mentioned a number of times that as a “land locked Alberta girl”, putting me on a beach is a source of endless enjoyment.

Squares 26 to 40.  From Cambodia through Australia
and into New Zealand
From Perth to Melbourne.  Seashells and a bit of wood.
Beachcombing along the Nullabor
My outback square with Emu feather (from Thread
Studio) and a shell from Rottnest Island

Perth square has had some shells added as well

Darwin to Perth.  All these shells came from eighty mile
beach which is just on the edge of Ningaloo National Park.
By early February I had added 8 more squares for New Zealand for a total of 43 completed (or with ideas of what I would do when getting home).  Here’s some of the squares with creative additions. Sadly, my square for Stewart Island has become “memories of muttonbird scrub” as the leaf which will remain soft and supple for years started to dry out and crumble as soon as it was pierced with a needle.
Last fifteen squares.  From Christmas in
Christchurch to home.
The Kiwi is sitting on a bit of greenstone Cal prospected along the lake
while hiking in Mt Cook National Park.

Memories of muttonbird scrub. The photo I took before
sending the leaves home has been printed to TAP, ironed to
fabric and then backed with wool batting (to give it
dimension) and then outline stitched.  Shells from
the beach at Mason Hut.

Wellington beachcombing. 

Paihia (Bay of Islands)  Shells (and a bit of weathered glass)
 came from the shore at Russell.
Auckland -  no simple picks to keep things together.  A
knotted bit of bamboo.

Five weeks in Bali and Lombok (Indonesia) and Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) were the last four squares completed on the road.  This left three squares (Hong Kong and then home) to be completed at home.
Lombok shells from our lunch spot the last day.
Surprisingly, we found no shells on the beaches
of the Gili islands.
My fortune:
"You are about to take part in an exciting adventure"
If you look carefully, you'll see an emphatic
Canadian eh!
A few of the shells that are not on the quilt.
I’ve been thinking about how this process is going to influence what I will do in the future. Journaling with fabric worked surprisingly well and will definitely be something to do on future travels.  I learned to identify what I wanted to remember each week and how to use minimal or non-traditional resources to create a “journal entry”. Hand sewing/slow stitching allowed me to think and remember the events of the week, including the adventures of finding items and accepting gifts from fellow travelers.  It humbled me how honoured people felt when I asked them to autograph my quilt; to be part of my memory of this year of travel.  I want to work harder at adding thoughtful notes when signing cards (or perhaps memory quilts) for others.  I also want to keep the sense of playfulness and relaxation about creating fabric memories.  I had to really think about the first “gift” for my quilt (the wine bag from Turkey), was delighted about the offer from my fellow travelers to make a square for my birthday (by which time there were no “rules” about what a square was made of, or even its exact size or shape), and jumped at the chance to have Bob the Banana and his monkey finally attach to the almost last square.

Next project(s)?  Probably a few smaller items.  My sewing machine is feeling lonely...  And I did bring home a lovely selection of fabrics.


  1. It surprised me how few posts I had done about my Journal quilt. I carried it (and the sewing kit with bits of thread and fabric) in my day bag so it was always with me. Most days I spent a few minutes in the evening working on the current square and I was seldom more than a week behind getting it attached. Everybody we traveled with saw it, touched it, commented on it and signed it. There are a surprising number of gifts from others on here - my fellow travelers thought this was an interesting way to document our travels even if fabric was not their medium.

    On reflection, I read myself fairly accurately. I'm not good at following up with written documentation. All my posts are summaries of events some time after the fact and bear some element of creative writing. This fabric journal was very much "of the moment" and much more social as I could be playing with fabric and interacting with others at the same time.

  2. Such a glorious project and so beautifully done! You have inspired me to explore the whole idea of what is most meaningful, and how to celebrate each memory-gift. Thank you, Lorri!