19 November 2017

Mama Ru

Mama Ru, 74"x84". Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Creating art brings a tremendous amount of joy to my life, and boy howdy has that been important this year. I chose the subject because RuPaul gives me so much joy with his music, his podcast, and most of all with Drag Race. And this quilt brings me buckets of joy. 
I started with the inspiration of promotional photos for the Sissy That Walk music video. The process of making it has been a little scary. I haven't done many portraits and I wasn't entirely confident this one would work out. Would it read as Ru? Would the shifting colors just look like a rash? So many questions.
Improvisationally pieced log cabin blocks. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
The only thing to do was start. I decided that the portrait should glow from behind, and that I'd pull colors from the full rainbow. The portrait uses light values of red, orange, and yellow. The background uses dark values of green, blue, violet, and purple.
Quilt top layout. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
 I free pieced a bunch of small log cabin blocks, then arranged them on the design wall. I didn't have a plan other than I wanted the colors to flow green-blue-violet-purple. I started with a few green spots and filled it in. After a few adjustments I sat down to sew it all together.
Reverse appliqué layout. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Because I constructed the reverse appliqué patchwork in 12" blocks I had to do a bit more planning. I drew a grid overlay over a reduction of my portrait sketch to rough out the flow between yellow, orange, and pink. Then I made blocks corresponding to the grid. The blocks follow Chawne Kimber's "Roberta" pattern, a combination of 2 large squares, more medium squares, and lots of little squares. "Roberta" gives the appearance of randomness without complicating construction — similar to an ashlar paving pattern in the landscape.
Trimming. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
I cut out a paper template for the portrait and traced the design to the log-cabin layer using chalk pencil. Then I basted the two appliqué layers, sewed the outline, and rough-trimmed the excess fabric from the front and back. The trimmed bits and and any extra blocks form the bulk of the quilt back.
Quilting detail. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Finally I basted the quilt layers, quilted on my domestic machine, gave the raw edges a detailed trim, and threw Ru in the washing machine.
Appliqué detail. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
I was pretty sure it was going to come out okay, but I'm never certain my reverse appliqués will match my original vision until they come out of the dryer. As I mentioned at the top of the post I was especially unsure about this one. I'm so happy with how it turned out.
Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Mama Ru
Materials: cotton solids and prints
Techniques: machine pieced, raw-edge reverse appliqué, domestic machine quilted, hand bound
Finished size: 74" wide x 84" tall
Started: August 2, 2017
Finished: November 19, 2017


  1. So damn IMPRESSIVE! We are lucky to have your inspiration and effort in the world.

  2. Divine! Chante, you stay! I so (Bigheart) your work, Dan....

  3. It's fantastic! I am so glad that you achieved your vision.

  4. This quilt is amazing - your technique is so intriguing and turned out excellently.

  5. Another gorgeous reverse appliqué achievement, Dan! I love them all.

  6. It is unmistakably RuPaul. Great job!

  7. Another winner.
    RE the "Roberta" blocks, I looked on Chawme's site, and didn't see where she explained them at all. I can sort of see how they go from your pictures (I.E. 3,2,1 proportions for the 3 block sizes, finished), but would love a wee bit more, if it's to be had.

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