I’ve made three map quilts – one seems to lead to another. The first is I Left My Heart in Africa, and I will put a photo up as soon as I can get one taken. The quilt is so huge that photographing it will require hanging it off a balcony – and it will take at least two people. It’s a big quilt.
When I asked my niece if she would ever like a quilt, she immediately said she knew just what she wanted, a Morocco quilt. She will photograph it next time she is home – it’s another photo that got lost in the last move, which is why I am putting all this online.
A local friend asked if I would do a map of Turkey for her, and I was happy to do it; she is a dear woman and . . . I like Turkey, too.
Thinking about a map quilt takes longer than actually doing it.
The very first thing is that you get an Atlas and some graph paper and do a basic outline of the country you are going to do – or continent, as in the case of Africa. Before you make the map, you need to know about how big you want the squares to be – for example, I needed 3 1/2 inch blocks for the Africa quilt to use some of the giraffe fabric I wanted to use, and that was the minimum I could make work.
Once you have drawn the country, you know how many squares you are going to need. I use only squares and half squares for the outline, and on Morocco, I made mountains using a stitch and flip technique.
You will need a project wall to put the rows up on as you sew them. Every two rows sew together, and sew every two the the group above.
You need a lot of fabrics. Where there is sea, you need to have a variety of very lights, to go around the coastline, and a lot more mediums, and a good variety of darks. Tell your friends you will accept any and all scraps that can be used as water, from the very lightest colors to the very darkest.
(With the Africa quilt, friends came up with all kinds of great scraps, including some Egyptian scraps and African symbol scraps. Very cool.)
Where there is land, I use yellow/sand/beige, and, like the water, I have the lightest colors closest to the land mass. Countries surrounding the country you are highlighting get nothing but blah colors, so that the featured color stands out.
Around the edges of the country or continent, I use the darkest colors; the contrast between the dark and light makes the country pop out.
You’ll need to count the number of half square triangles that are land and sea, and the number of half square triangles that are land/land and prepare the half square triangles before you actually start assembling the quilt top.
I also count the land, half triangles and sea/other land squares and put the number in each row. Saves time.
If there are particular motifs you want to include, you have to make them first, unless you intend to applique them later. For the Turkey quilt, my friend wanted a single engine plane and a sailboat, which I made into a dhow. I added the protection against the evil eye and the hand of Fatima. Block them in on the graph.
I usually divide the graph into quarters, and I plan a dominant color for each sector. You will also want transition fabrics to get you from one color to the next.
If you have a large block of land or sea and you want to put something in it, you need to plan that ahead of time, too. In my neices Morocco quilt, there was a large desert area that I couldn’t do anything about (in a rectangular quilt) so I used slightly lighter squares and made a great big camel. I also quilted around it. I told her there was a camel in the quilt, but it was months before she found it – you had to be standing far enough away, and it would pop into view! So – have some fun with this.
Start cutting your squares. You aren’t going to cut the exact number you need, because you need to have lots and lots to choose from, so you cut and cut and cut so that you have masses of squares.
When you sit down to put together the quilt, figure out what dominant color group you will be starting with, and have those closest to you.
As you finish each row, cross it off. As you start the next row, make sure there are no two identical squares next to each other, or above or below.
The quilting is easy – you stitch in the ditch on the landmass, and you can stitch waves or stipple or free motion in the sea and land.