The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is an old motif, dating back thousands of years in religion and philosophy, and hundreds of years to textiles from India. This quilt from the Smithsonian collection dates to around 1840. It was appliqued in the Broderie Perse style, popular at the time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.56.00 PM

A couple of years ago on an outing with my quilting small group, I was lucky to find a panel printed with a Tree of Life motif. It was designed by artist/illustrator Julie Paschkis. In fall 2013 I began a quilt with it, but I got bogged down with other projects and didn’t get very far. Still it called to me to come back, try again.

With my initial start, I created and attached side borders. I also made a bottom border of a completely different nature. My intention was to applique the first border on the top. But last week as I analyzed the work, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Asymmetrical borders don’t bother me at all. But I was intending to have 3 vastly different kinds of borders on 4 sides. They just didn’t seem cohesive, and the sizing would have been a problem, too.

Ultimately I removed the side borders and began again. This time I could visualize almost the whole quilt without struggle. Colors still confuse me some, but they will resolve as I proceed. This is what I have so far.

The picture is crooked but the panel is straight! 🙂 The original panel includes the center with black background. The first border is the narrow red strip surrounding it. (Actually, there is a very narrow black coping border at the top and bottom of the panel, both to finish framing it in black and to create a size that was easy to use.)

The second border is of half-square triangles, using pale caramel as the background color. This creates value contrast with the black-backgrounded center, but uses a color that appears in the tree and branches. While all 4 sides are the same width, I’ve maintained the non-square rectangle of the panel. I also set the triangles asymmetrically to keep the light-hearted tone of the panel.

You see black strips around that, which are not attached yet. They’ll create a narrow border, allowing an edge and repetition of the center’s black. And after that… you’ll need to wait and see!

I struggled with this project before and set it aside. Deciding to unstitch and restart was a good decision, and I’m having fun with it now.


22 thoughts on “The Tree of Life

  1. shoreacres

    I do like the Tree of Life motif, and this is an especially nice version. I enjoy see black in designs, too. Some of the Edwardian botanicals feature black, either as background or accent, and they’re among my favorites.

    I had meant to comment earlier, but got distracted until this post reminded me. Scroll down to about the fourth or fifth photo to see the most amazing “Tree of Life” door in Barcelona.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Doors are fascinating for a large number of reasons, and that’s a particularly fabulous one!

      Yes, the black outlining reminds me of Mackintosh and some other the others of the era, as you suggest. The artist who designed this panel takes a lot of inspiration from European folk art, so there is also the hint of carved block prints, as we’d see in the old folk tales’ illustrations.

      I’m making progress on the quilt, may post about it this week. My next border is “a celebration,” as Jim says. I’m naming the quilt “Garden Party” for that and other reasons. 🙂

  2. KerryCan

    Looking good! It would’ve been such a shame to let that panel go to waste–it’s fab! And I really like what you’ve done so far to enhance the panel and feature it. Looking forward to more!

  3. Dot

    I agree that the panel is fabulous…and I love the way you’ve chosen colours for your borders that reflect those in the panels and help them sing. poking forward to seeing your progress

  4. Quilt Musings

    I really like more graphic version of the tree of life (not sure if that is the way to express it) and how the red and the sawtooth border brings out the colors. It is looking great!

  5. allisonreidnem

    The panel is beautiful – and I agree with Kathy so good to see one which isn’t cute or wishy-washy! Your borders are really adding life to it and drawing attention to the lovely deep colours.

  6. Kathy Aho in MN

    I generally don’t like panels because they are so themey and usually too cutesy. But this one I like and I love how you are building it out. The folk art look of this panel is a plus in my book. Great job! Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Kathy. I can’t take much credit yet, because the panel is so great. She’s a wonderful artist. Click through her site and see what she does. And yes, I’ve not been attracted to panels to any extent. Got lucky with this one.

  7. BulgingButtons

    I had to go back for the asymmetry too, but now that I see it, I love it! I have so many projects that have languished for years, I wish I had your drive to dust one off and get back to work on it!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You have some other things going on in your life — work, son, etc… There will be a day when creative work besides your writing will rise up again. Be patient! Thanks for taking a look.

  8. Melanie McNeil Post author

    It is funny, isn’t it? I think on this one it’s less obvious because they are scrappy and multi-colored, so it is not as distinct as if the teeth were all one color. I like the way they sort of burst forth from the panel as if they were more leaves. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Looks like I missed in replying to you and put it out as a separate comment. I said this: It is funny, isn’t it? I think on this one it’s less obvious because they are scrappy and multi-colored, so it is not as distinct as if the teeth were all one color. I like the way they sort of burst forth from the panel as if they were more leaves. Thanks for the comment.


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