December 26, 2011

Chinese silk brocade

I visited China in December 2007--a great trip all around.  In addition to the usual sites, I went to fabric markets in Beijing and Shanghai.  I came away with a small suitcase full of Chinese silk brocade. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, I would sometimes to go Marshall Field's and browse in some departments just to see beautiful things, and one of the displays I liked to look at was a table full of bolts of Chinese silk brocade.  Some 20 years later, I went back to visit them again, but alas, the fabric department was gone.  I think I carried that image of the fabrics with me still, and when I saw stalls filled with these silks, at extremely low prices (especially after the expected bargaining), I found myself buying one piece after another.  But then what to do with them?  I had visions of making wall hangings of some sort, but started out with smaller things.  The silk was very difficult to work with. I put it aside.  I tried something else.  Still didn't work out.  I made an occasional small gift (bookmarks, needle case), but kept thinking about what else I might do on a larger scale.  Finally, I got the idea to make a scarf, and this worked out well.  The photo above is a pile of several I've made.  Here they are hanging next to each other:

And then another idea occurred to me--a way of using large pieces of the fabric.  I could piece very large rectangles into a quilt top.  (My first thought was to cut the fabrics into blocks about 9x12", but decided I'd rather keep a large expanse of individual fabrics.)  I played today with the lengths of fabric that I have, and so far I like this layout (just pinned up roughly, selvages not yet cut off).  This is about 60x80":

I will ponder it some more, but I think this might work.  I'm thinking of using a somewhat puffy batting (Dream Puff), cordoroy on the back, and quilting it in large (10") squares.  Your thoughts much appreciated!

Here's the fabric I'll still have left:


  1. The fabrics are all so active they feel a bit like they're fighting each other for my attention. How about featuring one big red & gold piece and using smaller pieces of other red/gold patterns along with a gold or other solid color?

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