I have been wanting to share my newest acquisition, something I purchased about a month ago and have been enjoying in my home. It is one of the tentmaker quilts–a very interesting story and some truly remarkable work.
A bit of background. It starts with Jenny Bowker, a very talented art quilter from Australia who had been living in Egypt for some time. There she discovered and brought to the rest of the world the Tentmakers of Cairo. From a tradition that dates to nomadic tribes who decorated the insides of their tents with these canvas backed “quilts” (that is our word), there is still one street in Cairo called Chareh El Khiamiah with shops where the tradition of hand sewing (almost all by men) of these intricate and colorful quilts is still being done. In Egypt, these are sometimes still used in celebrations or funerals, elsewhere in the world they are prized for their decorative qualities.
Jenny brought some of these to Festival of Quilts in England a few years ago and then to a show that toured the US with the help of AQS (American Quilter’s Society). I never saw the show in person because it never came near enough to me, but purchased the catalog. Mind blowing. But when reading the catalog I saw something interesting–rather than spend the money to ship these back after the tour of the show, AQS was selling them here in the US. When I went to the website I could not believe how gorgeous these were–and how relatively inexpensive considering the hours of work that must go into each one. I was hooked. I bought one, turned on a few of my friends who each bought one, and I still may buy another–as soon as I can figure out where the heck I would hang it!
Here are some of those still for sale at the AQS site that I particularly loved (click here to go to the sale page):
The patterns are based on traditional Islamic designs, calligraphy and certain often used motifs. They are designed by folding the square multiple times, drawing the design onto one wedge, and then expanding that into the rest of the folds. Look at this detail, the color. Unbelievable–and don’t forget–all done by hand.Some are more intricate, some more simple. As much as I adored all the pattern and detail of these many gorgeous “quilts” I decided to go with something quite simple and therefore more graphic (well, simple is a relative term, since there is a tremendous amount of intricacy here). Here is the gorgeous tentmaker quilt I get to enjoy every single day:
I just adore this and never get tired of looking at it. The big surprise when I got it home was how it is constructed. I had assumed it was done much the same way some quilters do “stained glass quilts” where the line design (white, here) was overlaid onto the colored areas. Not so. On this quilt the white is the foundation and all those designs in black and two shades of blue are appliqued as negative space.
Check them out for yourself and drink in how amazing these magnificent tentmaker quilts are. I know I will enjoy mine for many years to come.