Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Latest Material Mavens Quilt: The Spirit Tree

The Material Mavens are now in their second round of quilts.  The group elected to have the option of making our quilts either 12"x12", as we did in the first round, or 11"x14", and we could either use the portrait or the landscape view.  We have also moved to an every-three-months Reveal.  Our theme this time was Contrast.

So I chose to use the new size.  While pondering how to interpret the theme, I was also reading the wonderful book THE INVENTION OF WINGS.  This book, based on real-life sisters who pre-Civil-War were active abolitionists and even advocates for the rights of women, featured the relationship between a slave girl, Handful, and the daughter of her owner.  In a chilling passage in the book, Handful is presented to the daughter as a birthday present.

The CONTRAST between the life of an enslaved girl and that of a wealthy slave owner was striking and powerful.

Handful's mother, a slave on the same plantation, told her daughter about the African custom of choosing a spirit tree and then investing one's spirit in this tree.  And so mother and daughter choose such a tree.  When the mother steals a spool of red thread from her owners, they begin to wind the thread around the tree.  To me, this symbolized the surreptitious rebellious spirit of the mother and daughter.

The mother also made quilts, and she often used a pattern of triangles and favored the contrasting colors of red and black.   She explained to her daughter that the black triangles were the symbols of birds and of slaves who had learned to fly to freedom.  Of course, I realized that this quilt block was the traditional flying geese block.  Thus the background of my quilt is a mini-quilt made up of flying geese, black geese against a red background.

I used a copy-right free image* of a realistic flying goose, printed it onto ExtravOrganza, and super-imposed it onto the quilt top.  I loved this theme, love the new format, and greatly enjoyed the construction of this quilt!

I agreed to credit the image I used, and so the citation is below.

*<ahref="" target="_blank">GeekPhilosopher: Instant download of free stock photos, images, backgrounds, and desktop wallpapers. Pictures can be used for personal and commercial web sites.</a>


  1. Lovely! It's wonderful, the way you've translated a literary passage into this striking and powerful image--uniting the real with the abstract emotions and symbology the women were sharing together. beautiful work--good going, Alice! Congratulations on creating such an excellent and rich realization of a concrete concept.

  2. Lovely piece. I really like the red/green complements.

  3. You wrote so clearly of the book which was the impetus for your quilt. The quilt will stick in my mind as strongly as the book incidents it referred to. Lovely work!

  4. The goose seems to be flying free of the tree, like the spirit of Handful flying free of earthly bondage.