After the Chlorophyll

after chlorophyllI love trees.  Jim once missed a great photograph of a bird because his lovely assistant forgot she had his camera and stopped to examine the bark on a tree.  Now there are companies selling urns which contain a person’s ashes and a seed for a tree.  If they catch on, future generations can drive by a forest rather than a cemetery.  I love that idea!

Trees have shown up in several of my quilts.  I have pieced some traditional tree blocks, and I’ve used a commercial pattern and a fusible product (that was early in my exploration of quilting; now I generally refuse to fuse).  But the ones I’ve loved the most are the original ones I’ve made.

The one pictured here was one of my early art quilts.  I didn’t even know to call it that at the time, and I scoffed when a friend saw it in progress and asked, “have you always been artistic?”  I mean, loudly, rudely, scoffed.  Dismissed her remark with hilarity.  Now I realize she saw something I didn’t.

The quilt was based on a silver maple tree in our backyard, right outside my daughter’s window.  She missed her childhood vision each fall where the leaves are magically colored in golds and reds and greens and oranges all at once.  Against a brilliant blue sky, they sparkle in the sun.

So I cut a piece of commercial blue fabric, found a batik that looked like tree bark, and went outside to gather some leaves.  Once inside, I copied the leaves at reduced versions of their actual sizes, made freezer paper patterns, and kept the leaves close by while I found fabrics with those vibrant colors.  Now I wouldn’t bother with the template step, but ten years ago, I thought you were supposed to use a pattern, so I made one.

I stitched everything down with raw edges everywhere, using an invisible thread on the leaves.  The tree was stitched with a heavier dark thread and I attempted to stitch something that resembles bark. The sky has some free motion quilting that was intended to give the illusion of a breeze.

The quilt does not live with me, it resides with the one who missed her tree.  So I’m not including closeup photos, exact dimensions, or even the exact date.  All those details are not here at the moment.  But my recent love of the raw edge had me thinking about this first daring adventure outside the quilting rulebook.

The title of the quilt comes from the fact that in a maple tree, the chlorophyll is the first leaf pigment to disappear in the fall, leaving the accessory pigments to display their brilliance in reds, yellows, and oranges.


CBF treeMore photos:  Here are two small photos of early pieces using a commercial pattern by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry.  I enlarged her pattern to about 30” square and used batik fabrics for the trees and backgrounds.

Author: Sandy Gilreath

I've stitched my way through life. Early skills in utilitarian and decorative sewing have merged with art in the world of quiltmaking. My love of journaling has now crossed into the cloth world, too. I love old songs, old souls, old words; my collections attest to my fascination with memories.

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