Friday, 1 February 2019

It Started with a Caterpillar

I was on my daily walk, pondering our "Texture" theme.  "Let's see," I thought, "let me start with the basics.  There's the texture of cloth itself...I could do something with the cotton flower, cotton boll, and finished cotton cloth...No!  I have those cocoons!  I can do silk!"

With that thought, the whole idea popped into my head so quickly that I am a little afraid I must have seen something like it in a book.

Quite often on my walks I find these cocoons fallen out of oak trees.  Close up, the intricacy and luster of their strands is amazing, and I have written more about them here.

Close-up of strands.

One time I was lucky enough to find one unhatched, and kept it in the house until it broke out so I could discover what species it was.
Polyphemus moth.

I was also thinking about stitching the design of his antennae into the corners of the quilt.

I have some big pieces of vintage tussah silk that I bought years ago at an antique shop.    Tussah is defined as "a strong, coarse light brown silk produced by various undomesticated Asiatic silkworms," in Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles. I love its sandy texture and strength.  For this quilt, I dyed some of it with Jacquard silk paints and Dyna-flow paints, but left some its natural color.

Then I mixed in Thai silk and Burma silk which I get every year from a fair trade booth at the International Quilt Festival.
Silk from Spirit of the Artisan.  Thai silk on the top, Burma silk on the bottom.
Both of these are changeable silks -- with warp one color, and weft another. Depending on the angle of the light, different colors appear. The Thai silk is very fine and regular in appearance, with a black warp and solid color weft -- both warp and weft are about equal in size.  The Burma silk also has warp is very fine, but the weft is much heavier than the warp, and has big slubs in it.   Some of the color combinations are gold warp with sea green weft, and royal blue warp with lavender weft.

Originally I planned to stitch some of the cocoons onto the quilt, to do a lot of stitching with silk thread, and maybe even to add some embellishments made from old silk scarves.  But as I worked, I just loved the contrast between the types of silk so much, subtle though they are, that I didn't want to add anything.  I just wanted it to invite viewers to touch it and feel the difference between the nubby tussah silk and the slubby lustrous silk.
Tussah and Taffeta (maybe not strictly silk taffeta, but it makes a good title).

The lighter blue is dyed tussah, the dark plum is Thai silk, and the shiny rose is Burma silk.

So even though our local cocoons and moths were my inspiration, they did not make it into this quilt!

The cocoon inspiration on the quilt corner.

I had many other ideas for this theme, and I hope I get around to making some of them.  And I know after I read the other posts, I will have even more ideas!


  1. It's interesting to read where inspiration comes from and the path it takes to finally become a quilt. I'd like to reach out and touch the silks. Fun piece!

  2. I enjoyed reading about the different types of silks. It is good to know there are others like me, who take a turn in the path of the final project. I love the sheen of the Burma silk.

  3. Your journey from the cocoon to the fabric is fascinating. Back in 1986 I used a length of Thai silk with shades of orange yellow and green in a plaid. The color changes are so subtle, not shiny but slubbed. The way you used the fabrics is stunning and the off-white squares reflect the light beautifully. I’m so happy that I got to see it.

  4. What incredible finds! I love where your thinking took you. The result is beautiful and I can imagine that this is a lovely piece to hold and feel.

  5. This is a gorgeous piece. I love the way the different textures reflect the light and I wish I see and feel it in real life. I was also very interested to hear about the different silks you've used and to see your photos. The cocoons are amazing and the moth you hatched is stunning :)

  6. This is lovely. Silk is a wonderful material and you have done it justice in this beautiful piece of work. The photos of the moth are beautiful too

  7. Shimmery and silky, nice texture and I enjoy reading about your process.

  8. Love the process and the transformation of the fabric with the contrasts you describe fits perfectly with the cocoon and transformation inside it that inspired the piece. Very thought provoking.

    1. That is a very lovely thought! That somehow this piece captures the sense of transformation, even though I couldn't find a way to portray the actual cocoon and moth. Thank you!

  9. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and processes of how your quilt came to be! I love the colours and textures that the different types of silk gave. I found it fascinating to see the beautiful moth that emerged from the cocoon you found. How lovely to find cocoons on your daily walk!
    I’m off to read more about the cocoons on your blog.
    I love the quilt ..... I think you have used most of my favourite colours there, tee hee ...... it’s beautiful!
    Well done!
    Barbara x

    1. Thank you, I am glad you liked it, especially the color choices. :) I think silk helps every color looks more beautiful.

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