Friday, November 4, 2016

Quilts of the World Part I: South Africa

Part of the 2016 Pacific International Quilt Festival was the World Quilt Competition XX, which is a special exhibition within the larger P.I.Q.F. This competition, which is open to quilters from many different countries, starts out each summer on the East Coast of the U.S.A.; then the best quilts from that show go on tour to the various regional shows in America. Each week, Quilt Inspiration will feature highlights of quilts from a different country. We hope you enjoy this presentation, beginning with quilts from South Africa.

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The Three Watchers, 72 x 56", by Kathryn Harmer Fox

Blue ribbon winner in the Innovative Quilts category, Kathryn notes, "Africa's wild dogs look as if they have trotted through an upended bucket of paint. Each dog has its own particular pattern or markings splashed across its pelt. " Kathryn has done an outstanding job of depicting a fascinating array of shading and patterns using muted neutral colors.

As described below in the rhinos quilt, Kathryn uses a method she called "fiber embedment" to create these dogs with their intense expressions.   We really admire the wonderful depth of texture that Kathryn achieves with this innovative technique.

Once There Were..., 72 x 55",  by Kathryn Harmer Fox

African rhinos are in danger of being hunted to extinction for their horns. Kathryn says, “Due to man’s greed and utter stupidity, the rhino is relentlessly slaughtered for the lump of hair-like cells growing out of its face. It, like the unicorn, will one day be a thing of myth." Rhino poaching has escalated in recent years; you can read about the sad state of affairs at Save The Rhino.

In the closeup photo above you can see the intense stitching on the rhino's head, and the birds that ride on the rhino's back. Kathryn explains, "I use a self-explanatory technique which I call fiber embedment using scribble stitch. Combined with free-motion machine embroidery, these two techniques allow me to paint with fabric and draw with thread.”

Contemporary African Baskets, 79 x 79", by Colleen Butler

Colleen explains, "The fabulous and colorful Telephone Wire Baskets- Imbenge Bowls made by the Zulu people in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa were the inspiration for this quilt. Once I had created some of the typical Imbenge Bowls, I began experimenting with wedge rulers of differing degrees to create the other basket-inspired circles. "

Colleen's original design is machine pieced and long arm quilted. This particular circular design of the imbenge basket, with its bright primary colors, reminds us of a classic Dresden plate block pattern.

Tree Spirit, 75 x 98", by Sue Cameron

Winner of the "Best of Country" award, Sue notes, "Tree Spirit was inspired by the idea that all living things have spirit. Needle-felted yarn and organza were used for the tree in the foreground, along with couching and needle painting with zig-zag stitch. Organza [fabric] was used to help create perspective."

Close-up, Tree Spirit

In this close-up of the tree trunk,  you can see the female face and the form of the breasts which represent the feminine creative energy of the universe, sometimes known as "mother nature." Sue's intriguing work is machine pieced, machine appliqued, and sewing machine quilted. She adds, " Tree Spirit is embellished with thread fabric, beads, hand stitching, and double-sided leaves."

Pele: She-Who-Shapes-The-Land, 57 x 39",  by Jenny Hearn

Pele won Third Place -Innovative at the World Quilt Competition. Jenny Hearn says: "Pele, passionate and temperamental, is the feared yet respected Hawaiian Goddess of volcanoes. She is destructive but also regenerative. The pyroclastic ribbons of molten lava and flaming rock she hurls down the mountainside of Kilauea into the sea extend tongues of new land. Ashy volcanic sediment contains rich nutrients. Pele seeds lichens, splitting the lava, thus allowing ferns and trees to root, creating lush forestation of the area."

Pele was hand and machine appliqued.  Jenny Hearn used commercial and hand dyed cotton fabrics together with cotton and machine embroidery threads. The embellishments include batting-stuffed “pebbles”, thread covered metal washers and curtain rings.

Transition in South Africa - Growth vs. Destruction, 36 x 59",by Mari Claase

Mari's energetic and complex quilt is a "statement quilt", which shows many images and people associated with South African history between the years of 1837 and 2015. Mari writes,"[For] Growth, the black and white blocks represent the South African transition from Apartheid (racial segregation 1959) to Democracy (1994). Our Protector Thuli Madonsela (the woman at the very top of the quilt)  is wearing a laurel wreath. [Responsible for the investigation of government misconduct], she is our icon of hope and truth. Destruction ......March 2015: Downward spiral to anarchy of a once beloved country's values, resources, and people [due in part to government corruption and economic hardship]. I portray important issues that our country is struggling with, including poverty, fraud, and crime."

Close-up, Transition in South Africa

At the bottom of this quilt, Mari has very creatively added colorful slogans and words which look as if they might be written in chalk on sidewalks, walls, or buildings, in the form of graffitti, as expressions of political ideas.

This close-up shows President Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa from 1994-1999. A world-renowned leader, President Mandela was a Nobel Peace Prize winner ,as well as a United States Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Mari's very impressive work is machine pieced, machine appliqued, and sewing machine quilted.

Gracie's Garden, 43 x 52", by Ingrid Figenschou

Ingrid says, "This quilt is in memory of little Gracie, who loved to sit on the windowsill in the sun, the light glancing off her soft fur and whiskers, staring at the wonders of the garden. This is a One Block wonder quilt with applique, trapunto, and thread painting in glorious pastels, pinks, bright oranges and purples."

Note that the orange ball of yarn at Gracie's feet is made of real yarn! Gracie is extensively textured with thread as shown below.

Image credits: Photos were taken by Quilt Inspiration.


  1. Extraordinary! I especially love the Pele one!

  2. Truly amazing! Tree Spirit just blew me away. Wow! Now on the Rhino and African Dogs quilts - did she paint/draw first and then thread painted? Again, truly amazing. I look forward to seeing more quilts of other countries.

  3. These are truly highlights of fabric art. Looking forward to those that follow with thanks.

  4. Great art work.

    Great design.

    It does not get better.


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