Thursday, 5 March 2015

'Starry Starry Night' Mini Quilt

We've had quite a few cold, but incredibly clear nights over the last few weeks. There was one night in particular that made a big impact on me. We'd come home late and the sky was just spectacular, so many stars. I discovered, only very recently, that Exmoor was designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe a few years ago; although we're not on Exmoor itself, we're quite close and we're very lucky that we have virtually no light pollution in the night sky either. We're also fortunate to have an amazing, panoramic view of the sky here. I couldn't catch it in a photo, unfortunately, so I can't share it with you, but after standing outside gazing upwards until I was far too cold, I came in singing Don McLean's 'Starry, Starry Night', a song I love anyway, and wanting to turn it into a mini quilt.

As well as loving the song, I also love the painting Starry, Starry Night.

Van Gogh is a character who's always fascinated me and I've had a love of so many of his paintings for a long, long time. After thinking about his Starry Night painting, I decided that I really didn't want to try and base my mini quilt around that, apart from it seeming ridiculously presumptuous and over ambitious, it just isn't how I perceive the night sky. (I think one of the things that fascinates me about Van Gogh is how he does see the world in a completely different way.)

I decided to make a very simple quilt using some fabric scraps that I bought at a quilt show a year or so ago - from The African Fabric Shop. The scraps were from this range of Shwe Shwe fabric.

They've been sitting, admired but untouched, in a pile of fabric for too long, this was the perfect opportunity to use them, with a few other blue scraps I unearthed.

When I was trying to decide how to quilt my pieced front, I started reading a bit more about Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night painting, wondering about maybe using his swirls as inspiration for the quilting. And I came across this clip on turbulence, and how Van Gogh managed to depict turbulence in his work artistically, but also very accurately from a scientific perspective, something that was way ahead of his time. Personally, I found it really interesting, it just added to my fascination with how he saw the world around him, so I'd definitely recommend a quick watch (it's only about 4 minutes long I think), but if Van Gogh does not interest you in the slightest then sorry for going on about him here!

Anyway, after finding out more about the swirls, I definitely wanted to try and use the idea in my quilting. As you know, my quilting is not great even on small pieces so don't look too closely, but it maybe gives a little bit of the effect I wanted.

I made this corner reach up higher to try and get a bit of a feel for the vastness of the sky above, but I don't think it worked!
I found a colouring page of the painting too (here), which was quite helpful visualising quilting lines.
As well as my special fabric, one thing I do really like about this Mini Quilt is the fact that I printed my words for it on to fabric, which I then just machine sewed on to the quilt...

I like this from a 'how it looks' perspective and also from a 'didn't have to sew the actual letters for a change' perspective! I've been wanting to do it this way for a while, but waiting for the right project. I'm sure I'll be doing it again soon (I experimented with printing on fabric, just in a normal pc printer, back in the Summer, this time I used a piece of bondaweb ironed on to my fabric and cut to A4 size, it worked really well).

I do also like my star gazing person, lying down, looking up at the sky...

This was exactly what I wanted to do to gaze up at the stars, but the ground was way too frosty and cold - I'll wait till the Summer for that!

So I have another mini quilt done, ready for my wall, that will remind me of a particular moment in my life, and that will make me sing a particular song whenever I look at it. It feels vaguely reminiscent of my 'Morning has broken' Mini Quilt in many ways, perhaps I'll hang them next to each other.

This one is a little smaller than 'Morning has broken', it's just 31cm by 28cm -ish!
And for anyone who is interested in Van Gogh, and in particular his Starry, Starry Night picture, here's a bit of a summary of some of the information I came across...

After mutilating his ear in 1889 (he didn't chop it all off, just a piece of the lobe), Van Gogh checked himself into an asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and during the year he stayed there, the heavy output of paintings he had begun in Arles continued, he produced some of the best-known works of his career. He painted Starry, Starry Night, in June 1889, from there, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room, just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village.

In early June Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, "This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." Two scholars, working independently of each other, have determined that Venus was visible in Provence in the spring of 1889. So the brightest "star" in the painting, just to the viewer's right of the cypress tree, is actually Venus.

Van Gogh had also written in another letter, "A starry sky is something I should like to try to do, just as in the daytime I am going to try to paint a green meadow spangled with dandelions." He compared the stars to dots on a map and mused that, as one takes a train to travel on earth, "we take death to reach a star." Although at this point in his life Van Gogh was disillusioned by religion, he appears not to have lost all hope for an afterlife. He voiced this ambivalence in a letter to his brother after having painted Starry Night Over the Rhone, confessing to a "tremendous need for, shall I say the word—for religion—so I go outside at night to paint the stars."

In a relatively short period of ten years, Van Gogh made approximately 900 paintings. He only sold one during his lifetime. Vincent’s brother’s wife collected Vincent’s paintings and letters after his death and dedicated herself to getting his work the recognition it deserved.

That's it for the Van Gogh tribute! Have you got any favourite artists whose work you love?



  1. I love it - especially your sky of blues and swirls which is just beautiful. I like the rising corner which stops the sky from feeling contained - I think it does just what you wanted it to!

  2. Gosh Sally, you are so talented, I love this.

  3. That is gorgeous! hat a tribute indeed.
    I have very eclectic tastes in art. Some of my favorites are JW Waterhouse, Georgia O'keefe, Ansel Adams (photography), Jean-Paul Lemieux, Riopelle... I think the ones that would make nice ispirations for quilts would be O'Keefe and Riopelle. Now you have me thinking...

  4. I really love this mini quilt, Sally! Starry Night is one of my favorite paintings. I don't know if I have a clear favorite artist, but there are things that speak to me and Starry Night is definitely one of them. I think your free motion quilted swirls and turbulence are perfect - there is nothing gentle or round about turbulence, honestly.

  5. This is really a wonderful expression of the night sky, and I think the raised corner works really well, hinting at further distances beyond. Love your stargazer too, and the printer banner. x

  6. Oh I love it - I love the Starry Night painting too - but it lacks your little person gazing up at the stars. While my bit of Devon isn't free of artificial light in quite the same way (we have a lighthouse) I still spent so many summer nights staring up at the sky and watching for shooting stars. We keep my husband's telescope at my Dad's house now because he has such a great horizon!

  7. I think is one of my favourite ever quilts :-)

  8. You've certainly captured the dreamy feeling of star gazing, and the swirly sky quilting is quite perfect. My neighbours think I'm nutty, I'm sure, but whenever cranes swirl overhead I lay on the ground, watching and listening. *happy sigh* Your quilt evokes lovely memories of cloud watching, too. :-)
    P.S. I quite like the corner reaching up and lifting us further into the universe.

  9. Awesome quilting, Sally, especially the stars. And a great idea to add the person gazing upwards at the stars. Love this quilt!!!


Please post a comment, I love to hear from you!