THE BIKINI QUILT: THE REST OF THE STORY

Some of you (if you're old enough) may recall that I've been working on patterning my Bikini Quilt (a.k.a. "Boobs & Bellybuttons") for some time now. I'm delighted to report that I'm finally finished. The pattern is born.

This one was a really long time coming. I wrote book #4 (Classic Quilts: Patchwork Designs From Ancient Rome) back in 1991 after a trip to Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome. (The one in Italy.) I tromped around the archaeological excavation one summer, photographing really old (4th century) marble floor tiles because they are incredibly quilty.

Two years after the book was published, I got to write an article on triangular patchwork for Threads Magazine. One of my favorite floor designs was the "Hourglass" pattern. When it came time to illustrate the pattern they naturally wanted a quilt. Well, I noticed that if you look at the Hourglass pattern sideways, the rounded triangle appliqués began to look like bikini tops. (The Romans, by the way, were the first to invent the bikinis. I'm serious. Click HERE if you don't believe me. Or, click HERE if your Italian is rusty.)

I thought it would be perfect to illustrate the pattern. I'd take the same block design from the book, turn it sideways, and entertain myself no end. Threads Magazine wasn't impressed. I wrote back and told them it would be totally tasteful, very cool, and the only cleavage would be quilted. No soap. I send fabric swatches, a sketch, and they said absolutely not. So, naturally, I made the quilt anyway. I think it was one of my best designs, mostly because I was told not to do it. Plus, I was procrastinating. I was hip-deep writing the next book, Creating Scrapbooks Quilts, and really should have been doing photo-quilts.

Anyway, the hourglass theme came up again. Around that time I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my face. (The "good" kind.) My dermatologist removed it easily and I learned about cumulative damage to skin from the sun. It all adds up. Every minute unprotected is like another sand through the….wait for it….HOURGLASS. It just all came together: the hourglass pattern morphing into the bikini shape, and then the hourglass as a measure of how we use our time. So I put a fabric hourglass at the bottom of the quilt and used this really cheesy novelty print of a couple sunbathing on the back. (Hum theme music from "The Twilight Zone" now.)

But wait. It gets better. Once Threads saw the quilt they decided to run it with the article after all!

Fast forward to 2002. David and Peter Mancuso asked if I had any quilts that would fit an exhibit of quilts with a seashore theme for their Quilt & Sewing Fest at Myrtle Beach in the spring of that year. I sent The Bikini Quilt. One thing led to another and my Bikini Quilt wound up in Cyndy Rymer's Shoreline Quilts (C & T Publishing, 2003) Down at the bottom of page 75 it says the pattern is available on my website. And, believe me it is NOW! Finally. (Hit your "back" arrow.)

Let me warn you. There is a reason it took me so long. This pattern is a real "beach," if you get my drift. I usually can't remember what I had for breakfast let a lone how I constructed a quilt a dozen years before. Besides, that was back in the Dark Ages when I was still making patchwork with ratty old cardboard templates and a dull chalk pencil. The entire pattern had to be updated for modern rotary cutting techniques. Never mind the fact that my original sketches, measurements, and notes on the project had disappeared. I just had the block out of the book and some feint memory of making up the waves on the left side and bottom of the quilt as I went.

Long story getting shorter: I dumped it all in Nanette Zeller's lap. She's been proofing patterns for me and is much smarter than I am. I shipped her the quilt, we coordinated drafting programs, I sent her a copy of the Threads article and a couple pages of notes, and we began a many-month long collaboration during which time she had ample cause to stick yet another pin into her bikini-clad Ami Voodoo Doll. Job had nothing on Nanette. Thanks to several gracious and talented volunteers who pattern-tested for me. It's a done deal. (NOW hit the back arrow!)