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Une Belle Amitié (A Beautiful Friendship)  
This Baltimore-album style quilt is a collaboration between one of my sons, Harold, and me. He redrew and reinterpreted each block of a quilt—attributed to Mary Simon—that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and I sewed the quilt. The entire project took us 8 years to complete, although I would say it represents about 5 years of actual sewing on my part. It is amazing to me that Harold was only 16 when he drew the first block for me. We formed a wonderful friendship through working together. As he said, he never knew what I was going to do with his line drawings. That made two of us! I loved working on every bit of it. We started it in August 2004, and finished it in July 2012. I have selected a few blocks to introduce you to "Une Belle Amitié." The finished quilt measures 96 inches square. une belle amitie quilt
This is A1. It sits in the very top left corner. Harold drew small animals on each of the cornucopia. This one has delightful little tree frogs. The surface of the cornucopia is also embellished with lace, tatting, and a few beads. The fruits in this block include pomegranates, pears, and peaches. I cut apart a piece of lace and used it for the 5-petal flower centers and the ivory leaves that look slightly textured. (The lace was very old and tattered, I promise!) The spider mum is made using 4mm silk ribbon. A1full
Close up on A1 showing you the center detail of a pomegranate, a little lace insertion and beads on the roses, and the 5-petal flower centers cut from old lace. I added beads to these as well. A1closeup
A1 close up, with a good view of the frogs and the surface of the cornucopia. The frogs are appliqued using batiks and embroidered with silk floss, ribbon, and Kreinik glittering thread (the blue). The cornucopia is covered with lace and tatting and some of the fabrics also have a lace motif in them. A1closeupfrogs
B1 is a real departure from the block on the original quilt. I was not very enamored of the orignal block and asked Harold to draw whatever he wanted for this one. He came up with an artist's palette. The roses are being created right before your eyes. I love the way the butterfly is forming from the paint and flying off the palette. Flowing and jubilant are words that come to my mind to characterize this block. B1full
Close up on B1 giving you an idea of the intricacy of this block. The ins and outs and over and under of the pieces was quite harrowing, but worth it. The paint brush bristles are straight stitches in varying weights of silk/wool. B1closeup
C1, by contrast, is very close to its original cousin. The four cornucopia are nicely balanced and a very classical composition. I did do one thing differently. In the original 1847 quilt, the block is placed with the cornucopia facing upward (toward the outside edge of the quilt). I did not notice this until after I was quilting the quilt. This was the way that looked "right" to me! C1full
Close up on flowers in one of the cornucopia of C1. The centers of the 5-petal flowers are tiny French knots (the photo is larger than they actually are), and the center of the blue flower is a combination of bullions and French knots. The rosebud is pierced ribbon stitch using 4mm silk ribbon. C1closeup
D1 is a wreath of morning glories encirling a scissortail flycatcher. This is a relatively simple block, but for that reason, I really like it. I love the way the blue-violet really shines. True to the spirit of Baltimore albums, not all the blocks are equally embelllished or elaborate. D1full
Close up on the scissortail flycatcher in D1 sitting among crabapples. The branch he is resting on is ruched bias silk ribbon that is couched and then beaded. There are also a few scattered beaded flowers among the leaves. D1closeupbird
Close up on the embroidered bow of D1. It's a mix of silk ribbon and silk floss embroidery highlighted with beads. E1closeupembroidery
E1, which I nicknamed the Bridal Bouquet. It even surprised me when I finished this one; I wasn't expecting something so elegant. It really is true that these blocks seem to have a mind of their own! These are actually the same flowers you are seeing in other blocks, they are just finished differently. E1full
Close up on E1. The bow is overstitched with herringbone in 2-ply silk floss; then I ran 4mm silk ribbon under it. The white areas have tiny 1-ply silk floss French knots as flowers along them. Then, I outline stitched the entire bow. The 4-petal flower has silk ribbon loops (4mm) and a beaded center. The 8-petal flower has bullion loops stitched with silk perle and a beaded center. The rose centers are silk ribbon loops that are couched with a bead. E1closeupbow
F1 is the cornucopia that completes the top row and sits in the right corner. A dormouse is tucked up in the crook of the cornucopia munching on luscious berries while peaches, roses, calla lilies, and exotic flowers spill out. F1full
Close up on bouquet... The rose at the center is made from Point de Venice lace that I cut to shape to the rose, plus some silk ribbon embroidery and beads for its center. The acorns have fringed caps, like some of our oaks here in Texas. The calla lilies are finished with light yellow bullions made from silk perle. F1closeupbouquet
Close up on the dormouse, a cute little fellow who is thoroughly enjoying his perch and his berries. His tail is embroidered with Sheep's Wool, by Thread Gatherer, a 50/50 silk/wool blend. The berries are French knots made with 2-ply silk floss. F1closeupmouse
This is the block we did first.  It is A5 (letters across the top of the quilt and numbers down the side). I selected a batik solid by Hoffman Fabrics for my background, called Pearl. It amuses me to think now that I limited my embellishing at first, because I did not want to set too high a precedent for myself. I went back later and added more embellishment to this block.  As I went along, I found it was the embellishment that kept me fascinated and interested in doing each block. The finished block measures 16 inches square.
Close-up photo of A5. Some of the flowers I kept constant from block to block, but most I allowed myself to vary as I wished. The camellias (white flower, top left) I sewed very much the same over the entire quilt. The roses, rosebuds, spinning flowers, and whirligig flowers I changed from block to block. The baby's breath are tiny French knots in silk floss. hand applique
This block is B5, and it is not a beginner block! I made the mistake of telling Harold if he could draw it, I could sew it.  I had to come up with a totally different approach for sewing this block and work in sections and layers. It worked. The ribbons are outlined with outline stitch in silk perle, and the leaves are detailed with French knots along their edges. The finished block measures 16 inches square. hand applique
Close-up on the dragonfly and mum. Harold was true to Baltimore form and drew great insects for me to sew. I used a very fine Swiss batiste for the wings and 7 mm silk ribbon for the body. Beads crisscross over the top of the 7 mm ribbon to give it some sparkle and dimension. The mum is 4 mm silk ribbon in pierced ribbon sitches worked in layers. hand qpplique
This is block A6, the first cornucopia I stitched. I love the fullness and exuberance Harold captured in these designs. The gourds have tiny outline fabrics to give them a bit more definition and a feeling of roundness. The dahlia is in full bloom, with a ribbon embroidered center. The finished block measures 16 inches square. hand applique
Close-up on cornucopia of A6. The turtles were so much fun to sew. Such quiet little characters! I also love the way one can personalize an album quilt; the last section of the cornucopia is a piece of my wedding dress.  hand applique
This is block C6. It is a very feminine design, and so I wanted it to be very pretty. I tried something completely different for the roses and gathered the outside edge. I was pleased with the result. Also, this time the whirligig flower sits atop a gathered lace foundation. (16 inches square) hand applique
Close-up on butterfly and center rose of C6. Harold's butterflies were inspired by Art Nouveau artists, and so I tried to make them a bit fantastical and glassy in appearance. In this block, their bodies are two long bullions of silk perle and their antennae are tiny beads. une belle amitie
This is block D6, and one of my favorites. (We are allowed to have favorites, aren't we?)  The birds are so light and airy, that they might just fly away. The chartreuse flowers, orchids, are embellished with 7 mm silk ribbon and tiny French knots. The four-petal flowers have 7 mm silk petal additions, beads, and French knot centers. The yellow ribbons are outlined with French knots. (16 inches square) hand applique
This is block E3/4, and it is called the Chinese basket on the original quilt. Harold reinterpreted his to an Asian basket, and I love the result. The center is a fan surrouned by hydrangea, roses, a spider mum, a lotus flower, peaches, cherry blossoms, and orchids. The basket itself is woven from silk ribbons with embroidery and bead carriers. Finished block measures 16 by 32 inches. basket
Close-up on block E3/4 basket center. The center of this basket is a tiny koi pond seen from above. It is worked in French knots, silk ribbons, and beads. In this photograph, you can also see the embroidery and beads that overlay the ribbons. hand applique
The quilt center, B3/4,C3/4. When Harold first started drawing this center, I was excited. Then reality hit home, and I was very frightened. I put his line drawing away until it was time to face it. Truth be told, it was thrilling to work on.  The quilt came together in this center. Most of the motifs in the rest of the quilt show up here. And then, of course, there are some new things to tackle as well. I sewed this block last, which I would suggest to anyone sewing a large quilt. It really becomes the pinnacle of all you have accomplished. The finished block measures 32 inches square. hand applique
Close-up on center block. Harold and I decided early on that the book in the center had to have something on its pages. What, we didn't know. But I was very happy with what we decided to do: this is the house where I grew up in Waterloo, Belgium. It was a special place to me and still is. It is totally hand embroidered. embellishment
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