Saturday, October 31, 2015

Northern Lights : John Hiatt Quilt #2 Finished


Northern Lights / Rivers of Light
Stolen Moments Series of Art Quilts
Inspired by the Songs of John Hiatt

Original Quilt Design 
by Michele Matucheski
24 October 2015
Oshkosh, WI

This is another quilt that's been a looonnnggg time coming.   Begun in 2007 (or so), it's finally finished!   This is another in the "Stolen Moments" Series of art quilts inspired by John Hiatt songs.   His lyrics are wonderfully visual.  This one comes from a line from his "7 Little Indians."   (PC People : Please don't be offended -- It's not about Native Americans at all.  He grew up in Indiana, and in the song that's what his Dad called everyone in his family while they were growing up.)  It's one of my all-time favorite John Hiatt songs -- always has been.  I discovered it about the time I was planning to move to Alaska in my younger days ... so I also love the line about "Some mukluks, seal skin gloves and a coat with beads around the collar."  

This is the line that inspired this quilt :

"Blazin' like the sheets of light dancin' in the sky up above Anchorage"  -- from John Hiatt's song "7 Little Indians."     You can see the full lyrics for this song at the end of this post.   Or listen here :

There are many other visual lines that could have inspired several other quilts ...  so more to come!

Now that you know the inspiration for this quilt, on to the specifics :

 A page from my Sweet Leaf Notebook / sketchbook, which acts as a repository for all these ideas before they actually come into real life.

No pattern.  Aside from the lyrical inspiration, this quilt is entirely my original work.  That's why these things tend to take so long ...  No pattern to follow, many design and implementation problems to solve along the way.  It all started with that Northern Lights fabric, and kept growing outward and upward.

Batting : Hobbs 80/20 cotton/poly batting. I always like how it gets nice and crinkly, antique-looking once it's washed.  And I did wash this BEFORE adding the beads.


Northern Lights Fabric in the center is not the traditional cotton quilting fabric we're supposed to use.  But what the heck -- I say use whatever you like in Art Quilts!  It's a satin with sparkles stuck to it -- from the prom section of the fabric store.   To me, this screamed (well--more like whispered) Rivers of Light dotted with stars.  Perfect!  The quilting in this area is very simple, following the contours of the flowing aurora borealis.    It didn't need much embellishment, as it already had bling.  I just kept building the block around this center.

Mountains - This is a batik scrap from my mom's very ample quilting stash.  The brown / gray was a hand-dyed fabric done by me.  Since the center square was on point, it was natural that the landscape was a mountainside with those angles.


The Trees - Mostly drawn and cut free-hand, fused to the mountain section and heavily free-motion embroidered to give them depth and dimension.  I used as many green fabrics as I could find that still looked like pine trees.

Sky - Starry night fabrics (I think) are from my mom's wonderful stash of scraps (again).  They could be mine, too, as I've used these for backgrounds in other quilts.    The starry night borders are quilted with a Van Gogh-like starry night swirl pattern This is one of my favorite go-to free-motion patterns that I can do in my sleep.

North Star - If you look closely, you'll see a tortoise amid those star trails.    Somewhere in my 45 years, I remember a story about the North Star being the belly of the turtle, and the whole heavens turn around it--Why the North Star Stands Still.   That particular piece of fabric came from Nigeria, West Africa in my college days.  It's a starch stencil resist indigo-dyed tortoise design.   I purposefully did NOT set the turtle straight up.  I wanted it to convey that sense of the world turning and star trails.  That worked better if the turtle was at 10 o'clock--if that makes sense?

Beading and Bling
*  Heavier green beads along the lower edge reflect the forest and also weight it down.



*  Iridescent beads border the night sky and help reflect the purple mountains in the night sky, providing some balance.   These little buggers are hard to photograph.

*  Hematite beads line the outer border.  Darker and shinier, hematite is also known as "Alaskan Diamonds" -- long been one of my favorite substances on this Earth.

*  The Star Pin is from my Gramma's old jewelry box.  (She gave it up when she moved into a nursing home.  My son got it as "treasure" for the role-playing games he played when he was younger.)  I tried a starry button and even a Swarovske crystal, but it called out for a larger something in that spot.  So Gramma's Star Pin won out.
*  Freshwater Pearls and shiny metal beads to simulate the stars in the Tortoise Shell. 2 rows frame the North Star and draw your attention to that area.

How to Hang a House-Shaped Wall Quilt?
A ring at the top point to hang over a nail or hook in the wall.
Corner triangles at the mid-points with a stick to keep it extended -- kind of like the framing in a kite.

Here are the full lyrics [I had to include the whole thing as it tells a wonderful story about his family, and there's no good video out there for this particular song.] :

"Seven Little Indians"
by John Hiatt
There were seven little Indians
Living in a brick house on
Central Avenue
Gathered 'round their daddy
Tellin' stories in the living room
From a slightly unrealistic point of view
Momma was off yonder in the kitchen somewhere
Boiling up some hot water for them to all get up to their necks in
The seven little Indians knew
If the rest of the tribe ever scrutinized their household
Somehow it would not pass inspection
The big chief railed on
And spun his tales of brave conquest
About the moving of his little band
Up to Alaska
Where the caribou run free
See he had been there putting in telephone lines
For the army during World War II
Even brought back a picture of a frozen mastodon
For the little Indians to see
And some mukluks and some sealskin gloves
And a coat with beads around the collar
His wife kept them in the mothballs
Underneath the Hudson Bays
And every once and a while he'd get all wound up
With one of his stories, he'd put them all on
And dance around in that blue TV light
Like it was some campfire blazing away
Well he stamped and he hollered
But he could not stay warm in that living room
And even the seven little Indians could feel the chill
And although everything always worked
Out for the better in all of his stories
In that old brick house it always felt like
Something was movin' in for the kill
Blazing like a trail
Shot through the eyes of the seven little Indians
Blazing like the sheets of light dancing in the sky
Up above Anchorage
Blazing like a star shot down to the ground
Back home again in Indiana
Now it finally got so quiet you could hear a pin drop
They started dropping like flies
The oldest little Indian got sick and vanished
The big chief went two years later
The mother raised the six little Indians up
The best she could
To be housewives, musicians, and insurance salesmen
But they all shared this common denominator
You see, all the characters in the big chief's stories
Were named after the seven little Indians
And like I said, in his stories everything
Always worked out for the better
And now as I'm telling this stuff to my own kids
Dancing around in that blue TV light
Well, I wish I had those mukluks, those sealskin gloves
And that coat with beads around the collar


Sheri Karobonik said...

A very lovely quilt. a nice piece of art.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful The pattern, colors and quilting are outstanding. I know where to go for help!!! --Joanne Drake

The Idaho Beauty said...

We are applauding out here in Idaho! Partly because you tackled and finished this (I'm still so far behind on what I thought I'd work on this year), partly because it is full of so much symbolism - you really thought through everything you added - and partly because it came out so well! Love the way you stitched the trees, and that prom fabric really does have the look and movement of the northern lights. Gosh, those opening guitar chords emulated the movement too. Really great work, and thanks for sharing all the steps, including inspiration and hanging apparatus.