Friday, May 23, 2014

Traditional Boutis meets FMQ

After I had completed the stitching and the cording of this small boutis project, (see previous post),  I was looking for a quick way to finish it. By setting it into a linen surround, lightened up with some white cotton,  my hope was that the piece could stand on it's own. The end result was a floppy, uninspiring octagonal shape that reminded me of a crokinole board.  Not quite what I had in mind!

Removing the boutis from the linen and finding a more appropriate setting was one consideration.
And, because of the strong tradition of hand work associated with boutis, I considered hand quilting the linen/cotton surround. As much as I enjoy hand quilting, I know that the project would languish in a cupboard for many years until the hand quilting priority list could accommodate this table topper. Therefore, the only legitimate solution I could sensibly consider was to machine quilt.

As I was working on the quilting design, it was important that the machine quilting should highlight the boutis with a complementary frame. I kept the design to rounded feathers and scroll shapes to imitate the rounded petals of the boutis flower.

In France, just as in North America, the debate between traditional methods versus contemporary methods is quite lively. There are some boutis artisans that hold fast to the premise that any idea or technique that does not adhere to the strict rules of the tradition of the craft, is not authentic boutis. I certainly agree with that, and I have a great respect and admiration for the beautiful, intricate hand work created, for which time and patience are a prerequisite. In fact, I have become quite enamoured with the tradition of boutis and have a great respect for it. However, I believe every age creates it's own traditions when we adapt these inherited crafts to our present day circumstances by using the new information and technology that is available to us. I believe it keeps the craft relevant and alive.

When "white corded quilting" (later referred to as boutis), first made it's way into France in the early 17th C, the artisans and craftsmen of the ateliers in and around Marseilles,  adopted the designs and ideas that they saw in the textiles imported from eastern countries like India, China, Persia, etc., and adapted them to their own circumstances. The designs created in these early boutis studios were inspired by ideas they had seen in imported textiles and then quite logically evolved them into symbols and motifs significant to their own world. The technique of corded whitework was first seen in these imported works, and then evolved into a technique very specific to the south of France.  Although they held onto the basic concept of "white corded quilting", they adapted it to their present day circumstances to keep it relevant.

Close-up of the machine stitching.
Respect for a tradition and it's historical significance does not have to be diminished by applying modern day technology. I am a firm believer that combining the two methods can enhance the beauty and significance of each. It's just a natural evolution for our time. In this table topper, the hand stitched boutis piece takes centre stage, while the FMQ forms the frame.

Fully quilted tabletopper, with a scalloped perimeter. (Remnants of crokinole board still visible, (sigh!) but somewhat softened.)

The backing fabric is a traditional blue toile de jouy cotton.

Mme. Born's approach to boutis honours the tradition of boutis, both in technique and design,  yet she allows for individual expression and this type of adaptation. I don't believe that she will be offended by my setting of her boutis design. (I will ask her opinion the next time I see her.)

All this having been said, I am not happy with the machine quilting on the linen.  Although my floppy little crokinole board is somewhat camouflaged, linen is not user friendly to machine quilting. More on that next time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Boutis Tabletopper: Assembly

Back in the summer of 2012 in Montpellier, in the south of France, it was my good fortune to participate in a series of classes in boutis with Madame Francine Born. (See my post of Sept. 9, 2012 "Backlit Boutis").

Below is one of her designs; the piece that we worked on in that course.  It is a fairly traditional design and uses a variety of traditional boutis stitches. Held up against the light, it's easy to see how light and shadow are integral to this particular style of needlework. In order to keep that translucent quality in the finished product, the finished boutis must be set into the surrounding fabric in a way that keeps both front and back of the boutis uncovered. Linen is a natural paring with the white boutis, so in keeping to a more traditional look,  I set my finished boutis piece into a linen and white cotton surround. At the time, I was uncertain as to how I wanted to continue from there, so it got packed away.
Previously, I had already set the boutis into the linen and cotton surround using reverse applique.

Recently, while reorganizing (yet again!), I kept it out and decided it was time to finish it. It will become a tabletopper, with the boutis medallion in the center and a quilted surround. Mme. Born sometimes combines quilting with boutis as well, so I assumed the "boutis police" would be OK with it.

When attaching the backing and the batting to the boutis, it's important to maintain it's translucent quality. Below I have outlined my method for doing this. (I had used the same method when attaching the boutis into the linen top.)
To find the exact location of the boutis medallion, I centered the wrong side of the backing fabric over the right side of the  boutis. Using a padded surface, such as an ironing board or "The Quilter's Cut and Press" board, I carefully placed pins flush with the edge of the boutis. Next, I drew a seam allowance line 1" inside the perimeter. (The 1" distance was just a safety measure in case I had goofed up on the placement.)

Next the center is cut out along that line. When ready to applique, it gets trimmed down to the normal 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Attaching the batting follows the same procedure, and then gets basted to the wrong side of the boutis/linen top. Once basted into place, all of the excess batting is trimmed away.

To complete the quilt sandwich, the prepped backing is centered over top of the batting and the boutis linen top and hand appliqued into place.

All 3 layers of the tabletopper are sandwiched, the boutis is still translucent, and it's ready to be quilted.