January has brought me a new commission.  The starting point is a collection of classic understated Hermes ties that belonged to a beloved husband and father, long stowed away by his wife, Ellen, who had lately come to a place where she felt ready to do something with them.  Luckily for me, her daughter is a friend who thinks well enough of my abilities to recommend me for the doing something part.

There were ten ties, which Ellen had given her husband for birthdays over the years:  mostly blues and reds, intricate designs on smooth matte silk.

It's amazing how much fabric is needed for one tie: the rug here is 71" wide.

And there were penguins, cavorting on a silver 11 x 8 upholstery sample (seen in the photo above just below the ties).  Of course there was a story.  When Ellen and her husband were young newlyweds keeping to a lean budget, outings to the Bronx Zoo became a favorite routine.  A transplanted Texan, Ellen was fascinated by the variety of animals and couldn’t get enough.  Her husband tired of viewing the mammalian standard bearers of the Northern Hemisphere, but would happily wait for her in the penguin house until she was ready to go, such was his interest in the flightless seabirds.  Their home filled with penguin mementos over the years, including a chair upholstered in this fabric.  Though at first glance this little piece of upholstery didn’t seem to fit with the refined Hermes ties, clearly it belonged in a quilt made to remember this wonderful man.

She also had two Chinese silks (one black, one gold), a rose colored Thai silk with a pattern that looks like lanterns, and a very bright fuchsia check.

Ursula, always a good girl, wisely stayed just off the fabrics.

Ellen had chosen Chinese Coin (see an example in this post) as the basic pattern for the quilt, which lends itself particularly well to ties.  The goal is a topper for her king size bed, about 76 x 80 inches.  This will be close to a Patwig record for size, and I’m feeling more than a little nervous about not screwing it up given the value of these ties.  Nevermind the fact that Ellen is an expert seamstress herself, having made custom crib bedding for all of her grandchildren.  I’ll admit to a little yikes moment before I started cutting.

The penguins determined the length of the coin strips — 11 inches — and each tie yielded about six strips.  The yellow Chinese silk and the rose Thai pattern offered the most yardage, and thus offered Ellen a choice for the sashing and border.

Because silk is so fine I press fusible interfacing onto every piece so they won’t run away while I’m trying to sew them.   Once that’s done it’s back to the floor to play around again.

Because all the "coins" are not sewn together yet, some length will be lost, but at present it measures about 65 inches without the outer border.

Now I just need to start sewing it all together!  But first, I’ll take it up before a kitty decides to rearrange it, like this one did on another project a few years ago:

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