Friday, July 5, 2013

Mola Pinwheel Quilt

After sorting through many of her mother's possessions, my MIL had set aside thirteen Molas for me. When I saw them, I offered to put them together into a quilt. I had not seen something like them before and was very impressed with the design and skill involved in creating them. It wasn't until I began asking around and researching that I discovered what Molas actually were.

Molas are hand made works of art made in Panama by the Kuna people.  Molas are panels worked into blouses and also sold to tourists. The motifs in the Molas are often taken from nature. Fabrics are layered and much of the designs are done in a reverse appliqué pattern. 

After seeing how amazing these little panels are, I wanted to make sure I had a careful plan to make a quilt that complemented them nicely. 

Buying coordinated solids was the easy part. I laid out the panels in a nine patch and reserved some for the back, after looking at some Google images, I changed up the design in a way to incorporate all the Molas on the front and decided to add pinwheels. 

My quilts to date involved many squares or rectangles and strips. It was interesting to learn about patterns using triangles and the many tricks that can be used. Using a variety of tutorials and guidelines for sizing, I chose to start with a six inch square of black and another color.  Here's a tutorial of what I did. One tutorial recommended cutting this sizing down to a 6.5" block, but I found the 7" pinwheel blocks to work well. 

I ended up using a lot of black in the borders and making some of the Molas bigger, so much that it required two extra trips to the store!
This quilt gave me an opportunity to try wonky stars on the pieced back.  I followed this wonky star tutorial and liked the result.  I typically have done all over free motion quilting lately and a pieced back looks fine with that. After quilting this quilt, it might have looked better with the one print all over.  

After having my 7" pinwheels, and figuring the best size for the center square, I finally settled on 10.5" blocks to surround the center. I bordered some with all the same color and two with four different colors. There seemed to be a decent amount of figuring for the borders and choosing the block sizes.

 I wanted the quilting to complement the Molas. My specialty seems to be all over squiggles, but I was up for a new challenge. After practicing some triangles and square spirals, I learned that doing straight lines and corners takes a little more skill and pausing at the corners helps. My test squares also made me weary to quilt the whole thing in a veriegated thread. I started with black thread on the center area and fell back to my favorite squiggles. 
Next, I gathered confidence to try square and rectangle spirals for the inside border. While they are not perfect, they do compliment the Molas and are similar in style. I added color to the pinwheels also with two triangles in each part. Bordering the Molas came next. Because some borders are narrower than others I decided on a snakelike wiggle. I did the same thing in black bordering the outside pinwheels. Deciding to go bold again, I made wavelike spirals on the outside border. 

When I first read about the Molas and how they are created, I was curious to try the reverse appliqué technique. The label seemed like a good place. It is tricky, but about halfway through the heart, I seemed to really get it.

This quilt gave me many opportunities to try new things and learn about Molas. It was a great project.  

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