The Monkey House quilt

My intention is to make a new photo window on the website one day, and it will be filled with NEW ART! I have been making new quilt art, but for various reasons I am not ready to share them with the world, so in the meantime I will talk about some of the quilts in the photos and the stories behind them.

First up is the Monkey House Quilt – here is the story…


Monkey House Quilt, by Barb Mortell, 2007


This quilt was built fast! It was completely improvised, and built loosely following the traditional log cabin form. Here is a traditional log cabin block:

29In the traditional quilt world, there are many interesting variations on the log cabin block, and log cabin quilts, mostly created by colour and value placement with the fabrics. I will probably talk at length about log cabins over the course of writing this blog, because, well, the subject is pretty interesting – to me, at least. I have been making log cabin variations since I made this tiny quilt as a sample for an analogous color scheme in a Colour Theory class I was teaching. It uses a variation called courthouse steps. There are plaid squares in the middle of each little block, see how each block joins to it’s neighbour through the use of colour?

red courthouse steps

Red Courthouse Steps by Barb Mortell, 1998


So, back to the Monkey House quilt – I made this quilt for a dear friend who was having a giant health event – his heart system was not working properly and he was rushed to the hospital to have a stent installed, a thing that keeps the passageways open for vital fluids to flow around inside the body as they should. (Technical medical talk, yup.) Our dear friend is a house builder, he designs and draws and builds the most beautiful houses and his craftsmanship is absolutely top notch, and his business style is that of monkeys. Yes – he is a monkey bizness man. A true gem, this dude, and we were really alarmed to hear of his health troubles. I rushed into my workroom and made this quilt  – using the log cabin form to honour his house building, putting monkeys in the windows, and placing a BIG RED HEART in the attic, and in the centre of the quilt. I quilted messages all around the surface of the quilt and surrounded them with nice wide open passages that all lead to the heart. I used Aurifil brand wool thread, in a colour like graphite so it looked like pencil lines, and with my sewing machine I drew the lines and shapes and messages of good will with a free motion quilting technique. You sort of use the sewing machine as a stationary pencil and move the quilt under the needle as it’s sewing a mile a minute, that’s how it works. It takes some practice, but it’s fun.

I gave the quilt to our friend while he was in the hospital, that was back in 2007, and I think he still naps under it. Then and still, this creative and capable monkey-man is an inspiration to me. He is making beautiful wooden things and selling at craft fairs. I have it in my head that I will get a van and travel around to craft fairs selling spoons and quilts. Anyone have a good old van they want to part with?


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