From My Sketchbook: Roosting Birds

August 6, 2019

If you have the latest copy of Today's Quilter - issue 52, with Jo Avery's beautiful appliqued quilt on the cover - then you may have seen my newest project, Roosting Birds, which is an exploration of the Tree of Paradise block.

 

 

Like lots of classic blocks it goes by multiple names, so you might also know it as the Pine Tree, Christmas Tree or Tree of Life block.

 

 

Many traditional blocks, like the Tree of Life block, were inspired by the things that early quilters saw around them: in this case the towering forests of North America. The block was traditionally pieced ‘on point’, with half-square triangles representing the leaves, and many nineteenth century examples were made in two colours, which emphasised the bold, graphic quality of the block.

 

Quilts from the Joanna S. Rose collection, documented by  Elizabeth V. Warren

& Maggi Gordon in their book, Red & White Quilts: Infinite Variety...

 

Looking back to that original inspiration, my quilt has become a fairy-tale forest, filled with the chatter of roosting birds. The leaves are made with flying geese units, which makes the trunks much easier to piece. Having said that, I've added some complications of my own...

 

 

But while the centre of every tree is slightly different, the trunks and branches are alike and there is a lovely rhythm to the piecing of the leaves. You could easily omit the birds if you prefer the look of the classic block. Or perhaps just add one pair, ready to set up home in a nesting box.

 

 Photo courtesy of Today's Quilter

 

In this quilt I decided to work with a dark background fabric - Makower's slate Linen Texture - and I love the way that the variety of green leaf prints glow against the grey. The trunks were pieced with a lovely woodgrain print from Purebred, by Erin Michael for Moda Fabrics, and the birds and nesting boxes were made from some precious scraps of Tilda fabric that I bought when I started quilting nearly ten years ago. The prints have a lovely folk-art feel which was perfect for this quilt.

 

 

My quilter, Jayne Brereton at The Quilter's Trading Post, added to the fairy-tale atmosphere with a cloud design that suggests mist descending in the twilight...

 

 

And changing the colours of the leaves or the background immediately brings a change of season to our forest...

 

Wouldn't an autumnal version be wonderful? I so enjoy seeing how you interpret my patterns and it's always a highlight of attending the Festival of Quilts when you stop by to share photos of your quilts with me. Needless to say, I can't wait to see which season you choose for your version.

 

Nicola xx

 

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