I Left My Heart in Africa: The Original Map Quilt

This is the quilt I told you about earlier, the Africa Quilt. It took me so long to get a photo up because the quilt is humoungus. When I was busy cutting out all the fabrics for the quilt, carefully collected over the years, one of my friends said “It shouldn’t be called ‘I left my heart in Africa’, it should be called ‘I left my BRAINS in Africa.'”

It was a labor of love. I was still fairly new to quilting, and so unsure of my machine quilting skills that I actually did a lot of hand quilting – I hand quilted 1/4 inch all the way around the continent, I hand quilted a hand of Fatima in the upper NW quadrant, along with a Tunisian tea pot and a caravan of camels going in and out of Ouagadougou.

(When we were at the Embassy in Amman, one of the state-department wives jokingly told me that if you were bad, you got sent to Ouagadougou, and it always gives me a big grin to think of it.)

While making this for my husband, I had to hide it every night before he came home. One night I was still working – he hadn’t called me – and I saw him drive up. I was still desperately trying to stuff it all in the closet when he got home, and he got a fairly cool and distracted welcome, something like “you didn’t call me to tell me you were coming!” which hurt his feelings.

At Christmas, when he opened the quilt, I told him that’s what had happened and we both got a good laugh. He loves this quilt, and he has told me he wants to be buried in it.

We often go to Africa. We love to go there, and every time we go, we sew another heart on. We have been to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. Lots of hearts! So we say the quilt is still a work in progress.

I machine stitched in the ditch for the continent, and then did a wave stitch in the ocean, which is actually about half of the quilt. You can see how using a very light blue at the coastline, and then graduating into the darker blues makes the continent really pop out.


Northwest quadrant:


Hearts across South Africa:


This one is entirely 3 inch squares (there is a giraffe fabric that I couldn’t go any smaller, and that drove the size of the entire quilt) and half squares. What was really fun is after getting over being aghast at the scope of the quilt, many friends came up with fabrics for it, especially Egyptian themed fabrics, all of which adds to our joy in using the quilt. I have some fabric bought many years ago in Tunisia with Berber symbols on it which I used in North Africa, and Sudanese fabrics I used in the West African sections. There are a very few pure black squares, in places where truly awful things continue to happen in Africa.

Did I mention we love this quilt? πŸ˜‰

Update: If you want to make a map quilt, just click here. If you want to see other map quilts I have made, click Map Quilts under the Categories on the right side of this blog.


29 thoughts on “I Left My Heart in Africa: The Original Map Quilt

  1. momoneymoproblems says:

    Amazing job! I think thats one of the nicest pieces of craft I’ve seen… well done!

  2. Violette says:

    WOW!!! This is fabulous. You are right that the light blue fabrics at the coastline make the continent stand out. How did you determine the number of squares to use both vertically and horizontally? Did you piece the continent first and add the ocean later?

  3. worldquilter says:

    Momoney – Thank you!

    Violette – Thank you!

    1. Graph paper – that’s how you create the map, and it is how you count the squares and how you keep track of what you have finished.

    2. I piece these quilts in quadrants, then sew the north south seam of each quadrant, and then the east west seam. I do it in quadrants because you really need to use a project wall (or nearby curtain) so you can keep track of what pieces need to go where, and so you won’t use two same pieces next to each other.

    Click on “map quilts” in the tag section, and it will take you to a long explanation of how to do these quilts. This one was the first.

  4. Darla says:

    Truly spectacular! Well thought out & beautiful…with the hearts & the black spaces & shading for desert areas… How big is the finished quilt?

    I’m a quliter as well…& I would never have the patience for something with this much detail, forethought & pieces!

    Just beautiful. πŸ™‚

  5. worldquilter says:

    The quilt is something like 105 x 110 inches. I’m glad you like it, Darla.

    For me, it was fun, kind of like a puzzle. I would rather make a map quilt any day than to paper-piece even one block with more than five pieces! I just can’t wrap my mind around thinking upside down and flip-wise!

    The map quilts are all squares and half squares, and fabric collection and fabric selection, so for me, it is easy. We’re all wired a little differently, eh?

  6. worldquilter says:

    Glad you like it! πŸ™‚

  7. paramjeet says:

    just fantastic

  8. worldquilter says:

    WELCOME, Paramjeet! πŸ™‚

  9. foggyskye says:

    I stumbled upon your blog today completely by accident. This is one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL quilts I’ve ever seen, but aestheticially and conceptually.

    I hope one day my quilts are as beautiful and meaningful as yours. πŸ™‚

  10. worldquilter says:

    Foggyskye, you just made my day. My husband totally LOVES that quilt, and wants to be buried in it. 😦 We actually use it on our bed.

  11. DaisyMeme says:

    What a beautiful quilt! You are a true artist.

    Thanks for sharing

  12. […] My husband says he loves this one almost as much as I Left My Heart in Africa. […]

  13. Stephanie A. says:

    Requesting a copy of the quilt. Thank you, SA

  14. worldquilter says:

    Stephanie, there is no pattern, no copy. I used graph paper and an enormous collection of African fabrics to put it together.

  15. […] searches came up with this amazing patchwork quilt of Africa.Β  Note the hands along the top to get a sense of scale.Β  Those are 3″ squares.Β  […]

  16. This is one of the most fabulous quilts I ever saw ! Many congratulations ! I love the way you used “sand” shades for the Sahara area, South of Morocco, Mauritania and part of West Africa. I also travelled quite a bit through the African continent and my collection of fabrics looks like a Moroccan “souk”;) those materials are my favourites to work with. Not only because of their unique colours and patterns but also because of the soft texture of the various sorts of coton. I am so glad I came across your blog !

  17. worldquilter says:

    Welcome, Welcome, Threads! I’m so glad you enjoy the quilt. I’ve also done Africa in a Kaleidoscope, did you see that one? The map quilts are fun, go together quickly, and allow you to use that special fabric just one more time . . . πŸ™‚

  18. Shirley Cunnington says:

    Good afternoon

    I was wondering if it would be possible for us to use a photo that you have of a Quilt of africa site mentioned below.


    This is to be used in two Grade 6 Home Language Namibian learner text books for the languages Oshindonga & Oshikwanyama .

    Many thanks

    Shirley Cunnington
    021 – 905 7107

  19. worldquilter says:

    Shirley, I am honored and I have written you giving you permission to use it, and giving you my name to use as the creator of the quilt.

  20. Sophie says:

    I just stumbled upon this, and, despite being three years old, it is phenomenal. My heart is in Africa I want to go all next summer for mission work, and this quilt makes me want to go even more. Thank you for sharing, you have an amazing talent.

  21. Jac says:

    I came across this website when looking up world map quilts, and I think this is just incredible. It’s mind boggling, how you managed to keep the big picture in your head and putting it together like that. I hope you don’t mind if I post the quilt picture on my blog and link you!


  22. worldquilter says:

    Jac, you are welcome to use a photo and link to me here. I used graph paper, and worked one quarter at a time. Actually, I had been collecting the fabrics forever, and had some ideas where I wanted to use them. It was easy, because it was so clear in my mind. πŸ™‚

    You might want to click on Map Quilts, over on the side bar, and see some of the others. I really enjoy doing these quilts.

  23. Ashlee says:

    LOVE this. Maybe someday I’ll learn πŸ™‚

  24. worldquilter says:

    Thank you, Ashlee. It is actually a very easy quilt πŸ™‚ Get your friends to contribute some fabric scraps; variety is key. And graph paper!

  25. Kirsty says:

    Hi! I run an African Adventure residential centre for children aged 9-11 year olds, and I would love to get the schools and children to make a similar quilt to this! It would really brighten up our lounge area and it would be really exciting for the children all to see their work hanging up. We have around 20 schools come each year so would need to break it up into smaller squares… I have never quilted in my life and have no idea where to start, could you give me any advice?

  26. worldquilter says:

    Kirsty, start with graph paper. Draw a simplified outline of Africa, all squares and half squares (find a quilter who can show you an easy way to do half squares).

    I divided my grid into quarters, but you could divide it much smaller, as long as each group of kids completed a grid. They would need to find blues and light blues for the sea colors, and then a good variety for the land colors. The grids could help guide color choices.

    It’s a lot easier than it looks.

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