How to capture my fascination with the spew of seashells and seaweed on the beach that I study when I walk there -- that is the challenge I've set myself for a small quilt challenge put to the Bayberry Quilters by the officials planning a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Seashore here on Cape Cod. We members of the guild have been asked to make quilts 16x20 that depict something about the National Seashore. The quilts will be displayed first at our guild show the first weekend of August and then move to the visitor's center at the National Seashore to hang until sometime in October.
I immediately thought of showing the horseshoe crabs that I find so fascinating when I find them washed up on the sand. They are many sizes from "babies" 3 or 4 inches across to "ancients" 10 or 12 inches with blackened, and often encrusted shells. I had thought of printing photographs on fabric and appliqueing them to a quilt. So far my printer has not been cooperative -- it's very picky about the papers it will accept.
Secondarily, I knew I wanted to create what looked like wave-washed sand and add other shells and seaweed. I have a piece of upholestry fabric that is almost okay but it needs some toning down. So I painted it with thinned acrylic. In this trial piece I think the tone is too white and I will use a tan on the eventual piece. I'm happy with my free quilting with high loft batting that gave me the sense of the wave washed sand. I have other upholstery fabrics with seashell prints. The colors needed to be toned down with pencil and marker -- but I think I will get pastels or blendable crayons to use on the next piece. Then I searched through my small stash of crewel yarns and found a green for the seaweed -- it's not as bright as the fresh weed but that's okay. It's usually tangled with shells so I have tied some shells through the holes that were in them when I picked them up. This one quilt is only about 9x9. When I make the larger one, I may find a way to include a horseshoe crab shell, I will make sure that the shells I cut from my printed fabric to applique are species found here and not something exotic from Aruba or Tahiti. I'm even thinking that there may be some clear fixative I can spray in spots to hold a sprinkling of actual sand on the surface.
This really is a labor of love. I have only discovered the joy of walking on and studying the seashore in the last couple of years. It's a delight to think about how to make this experience work within the small scope of a quilt. The next one will have the elements this has but will be different. I have until August but will get to work on it before long, after I've thought about this a bit more.
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