My imaginative Spoonflower crew mates for this year's annual staff contest, Gart and Becca, brilliantly brainstormed our way into an unusual answer to the challenge to design fabric for and sew a quilt. I (Darci) was fortunate to be along for the ride.
Becca found inspiration for this quilting challenge in an old issue of Vogue, of all places! While educating herself about the proper accessories for a weekend in Montauk, NY, a gorgeous patchwork kite by Betty Street caught her eye and she immediately tore out the photo to show the team.
The Vogue feature of the kite quilt cited the Drachen Foundation's web site, an incredible resource for all things kite related. Any information you need to make and fly kites can be found on the Foundation's website, and a little poking around led her to an incredible collection of patchwork kites made by Texas Tech art professor Betty Street in the 1980s.
Gart: When Becca suggested the kite as an idea, we immediately spoonerized "kite quilt" into a "quite kilt," and pondered where that might take us. Ummmm, not terribly far. I thought it would be neat to make flight a design theme, a "kite flight quilt". I have a soft spot for transportation themes, and of course if you think of flight and design for even a second, you go straight to the interwoven themes of the golden age of flight and Art Deco.
One of my favorite examples that brings these themes together is Glenn C. Sheffer’s Art Deco “Chicago World’s Fair, 1933.” Not content with just Zeppelins, mono-planes, search lights, skyscrapers, and muscular statuary, Mr. Sheffer wrought these elements around an armor clad Valkyrie bestride the world.
Darci: Gart's vision for an Art Deco and flight-themed kite quilt was perfectly matched when he stumbled across the 1930s quilt block pattern “Flower of Autumn” by Laura Wheeler. To streamline our kite quilt creation process, and perhaps to accomodate our modest sewing skills, we fashioned a cheater quilt pattern by enlarging the quilt block to a lap quilt size, and filled a single repeat of the block with individual fabric designs. Flower of Autumn's compostion seemed ideal to host our flight and Art Deco patterns in a kite form, with it's radiant sun-like shape.
Becca: When Gart showed us the quilt block he found, I immediately loved it! Inspired by Betty Street’s collection, I thought it would be the perfect design for a square patchwork kite.
Darci: We created fabric designs to fill the cheater quilt with our hand-drawn artwork. Gart's illustrations of bi-planes and blimps guided our flight theme, and a smattering of Art Deco-themed drawings of architecture, feathery headdresses and beads, and sunburst patterns filled up our quilt block.
To craft the illustrations into cohesive fabric designs for our cheater quilt pattern, we selected a color palette inspired by Georges Barbier's Art Deco work, La Paresse. We narrowed our palette to a gold, orange, slate blue, and black.
Using the Spoonflower color changing tool, we recolored our scanned illustrations.
Becca: I decided to make a mock up of our kite to see if we could actually make it fly! I used fabric from my stash to construct a quick version of our kite.
This "quick and dirty" mock-up got much, much dirtier after several attempts to launch ended in mud puddles, but we do have video evidence that it was suspended in the air for several seconds!
Oh, I do hope Ms. Street would be proud!
Darci: Confident that our kite would fly, at least in tornadic winds, we cut into our freshly printed fabric and started sewing.
After sewing our cheater quilt top to a backing fabric printed with Gart's bi-planes fabric design–and leaving out batting for lightness in flight–we added a few accoutrements that you'd usually not find on a proper quilt, tails and pockets for the kite structure.
If you can't tell by the smiles on our faces, we're pretty pleased with our flight kite quilt. Now for a Spoonflower field trip to the beach to fly a kite quilt!