the quilt art of rebecca barker

I have loved sewing ever since 3rd grade at St. Scholastica’s Academy (Bacolod City) when we were taught basic mending and embroidery stitches on a retazo or scrap of fabric.

In fifth grade at Pasay Adventist Academy, we learned more elaborate stitches and had to embroider a throw pillow cover in cross stitch. Since the latter had a deadline for submission, our househelper at the time helped me complete it, but it was something I really enjoyed doing.

In high school we were taught dressmaking. I remember stitching up a particularly ugly dress in an ugly shade of lavender that was my favorite color at the time. Dressmaking was not my strong suit but I did learn how to baston my own jeans.

I rediscovered the magic of needle and thread after I got married. I’ve always been creative, and always need to do something whether its writing, cooking, or sewing.

In the early 1990s, cross-stitch became a fad and suddenly there was an explosion of x-stitch shops such as Dreams (which still has branches in Megamall and Glorietta). Supplies such as DMC floss and US and UK patterns became plentiful, unlike before, when the most you could get was the standard Japanese book published by Ondori which only had mostly simple border patterns. It is in fact still available at National Book Store – talk about “never going out of print”.

I snapped up a lot of magazines (from Booksale and National), floss and Aida fabric from the market (cheaper than buying at the mall), and stitched up a storm. I had even begun to teach myself hardanger on linen (which is really hard).

But after countless throw pillows and framed pictures (including wedding presents) later, my “been there done that” mood kicked in and I looked for something new to learn.

Enter quilting, which I promised myself I would never ever do. I picked up an old quilting mag at Booksale whose headline screamed, “You too can make this quilt!” The cover showed an unattractive Baskets quilt in my unfavorite colors of yellow and green. I was struck, though, by the beauty of the pattern and the mag’s claim that anyone could learn patchwork.

Having taught myself to quilt after reading countless magazines (Booksale is such a godsend!), my linen cabinet is now stuffed to the ceiling mostly with queen-sized quilts, a few twins, a lot of wallhangings and the ubiquitous throw pillow covers.

My Bottle Jar lap quilt. It was a popular pattern for swaps in the late ’90s.

My favorite quilting activity was participating in online quilt swaps. I spent loads on postage during the mid- to late-90s, during the height of my quilting frenzy. I ended up with many queen-size quilts (around 80×90) composed of traded quilt blocks and signature squares, which are squares of muslin, say 3″ or 4″ or whatever the agreed-upon size is, signed in permanent colorfast ink by the quilter.

I was happy to have participated in several Y2K swaps. Just before the millenium turned, quilters all over the world traded for 2000 charm aquares and “siggys” to make millenium quilts. I still have my swapped charms, as well as quilt blocks from theme swaps, just haven’t gotten around to sewing them up, but that’s okay, lots of quilters have UFOs (“unfinished objects”) that they swear to finish one day.

Though I am very busy now with work, and until recently, school, and have not been able to sew for two years, I still love quilting very much and have kept all my supplies – the special Omnigrid quilting rulers I bought in the US, rotary cutters and mats (for cutting shapes accurately), yards and yards of 100% cotton (US textile company brands) from Divisoria, and pattern books and magazines.

I also collect anything with a patchwork pattern, and my friends who know of my interest give me “quilty” gifts as well.

The photo below shows “Dove in the Window” by artist Rebecca Barker, who has made a name for herself as a “quilt landscape” painter. The name of the artwork is actually the name of the pattern.

My friend Thea Arnone (my roommate when I stayed in the US for several months in 2001) gave me a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas with this design. Upon my return to the Philippines, I had it completed and framed at the Jigsaw Puzzle shop in Glorietta. It hangs in my bedroom, where the pinks and greens go wonderfully with the cool celadon walls.

Here’s Rebecca Barker’s lovely “Butterflies on Nine-Patches”:

A “nine-patch” block is one where the elements are in a 3×3 grid. It could be a Simple Nine-Patch (each square is just one piece of fabric) going on to more complex designs where each square is made up of even smaller shapes in different colors. Designs like those usually have their own names.

Quiltmaking is a fascinating craft, and the art created with quilts as an inspiration take the play of patterns, colors, and patches to different levels.

taste more:

Leave a Reply