One of my favorite story series of all time is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien had a masterful way with detail that brought the characters and their surroundings to life in vivid imagery in my mind. Because I (Kara) am such a visual person, his style of writing appealed to me. However, it was not for everyone, and Teri was not a fan. When the Lord of the Rings movies began, I mentioned to her that I wanted to reread the books but didn't have copies. She promptly gave me her book set because she knew she wouldn't be reading them anytime soon. When she gave them to me they were in much better shape, but as you can see from the picture I have loved them well.
Fast forward five years to a quilt challenge presented by our local quilt guild. The challenge was to make a quilt based on a favorite song. The last installment of the Lord of the Rings movies, Return of the King, had just come out and I had been moved by the closing song. The movie ended with a poignant scene where Frodo went off in a ship to the Grey Havens with the wizard Gandalf and the last of the elves to live out the rest of their lives. The song "Into the West" by Annie Lennox was sung right after that particular scene, and that was the song I chose to use for the quilt challenge. I felt that the closing image of that movie would represent the song quite well and since I loved landscape quilts, I decided to give it a try.
The fabrics used were batiks, cottons, and a piece of moire upholstery fabric for the sun. As I gathered the fabrics, I was missing just the right piece for the sky but I had a batik that was close. I submerged a test piece of the batik in a light solution of bleach and voila! I had my perfect sky fabric. I liked it so much that I used it for the border.
Teri and I had recently taken a thread painting class, and this project was a perfect choice to try this new-to-me technique. I was a novice at thread painting (still am) but I was able to get the effect I wanted.
I think it may have been a requirement of the challenge to have the words of the song somewhere on the quilt, so I printed the words onto iron-on paper and attached it to the back.
Most people who are fans of the Lord of the Rings books and movies will probably guess what part of the story my quilt tells, as it is an iconic scene in both.
Making a quilt based on a story has its challenges. It can be difficult to get enough elements of the story into the quilt so that the viewer understands what the story is about. There are many quilting techniques that can be used when making a quilt about a story; raw-edge appliqué, needle-turn appliqué, paper-piecing, piecework, and many others. The method you choose will depend on which technique allows you to most accurately share your story.
As with most of the quilts I made long ago, (that makes me sound quite old,) I look at them now and think of ways I could have done something differently or look at some part of the quilt and think how much I've improved my skills since then. Being content with our works of the past is a good thing, because we used the skills and the materials we had at the time and it worked for us then. That, and I am happy that I finished something and it isn't sitting with my pile of UFOs!
Every quilt has a story, and sometimes our quilts are based on stories. We hope to share with you in the coming months more of our quilt stories, and eventually we will be sharing our story quilt project.
Kara and Teri