Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crystal Blue Persuasion

Quilt No. 68
August 2009

It was 1969 when my best friend Jane and I first heard the song. We were sun tanning at the cottage, accompanied by the ever-present A.M. radio. Since that day I’ve always loved Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells. It’s not only a great tune, it has a wonderful message of hope – perhaps there is still a chance for “peace and good brotherhood” among nations. My dear friend Jane is no longer with us, but when I hear the song I am transported back to those sunny days.

This song is one of those exceptional pieces of music that has the power to create superb visual images. The first image that emerges is, of course, that of blue crystals. I looked at pictures of crystals until I thought my eyes would turn to quartz. I drew gawky clumps of crystals for several weeks before I came up with a configuration that pleased me. These were then used as patterns. The fabric was dyed with Setacolor fabric dyes, including Shimmer Pearl, which added sparkle. The crystals were hand appliqu├ęd onto the quilt, and the facets were outlined with embroidery in metallic thread.

But the crystals needed to look worldly. When discussing this feature with my friend Ruth, she suggested adding a globe of the Earth. I thought of adding a series of different phases of the Earth on to the crystals, but this proved too challenging. The crystals looked liked they’d lost in a marble swallowing contest. Eventually I decided that a map of the world spread over the crystals would give the effect I wanted. To add this feature, I traced a map onto the crystals. One at a time, I painted the continents with Elmer’s School Glue (Blue No Run Gel). This glue penetrates fabric and is very precise – it doesn’t wander into areas beyond where it’s been painted. I sprinkled Trichem Downyfleece (it looks like loose powdered fleece) over the glue and let it dry for several hours, then dumped off the excess. The fleece adheres only to the glue-painted areas and forms a very durable bond with a clean edge. Where did I find this product? Ironically, I’ve had it in my craft stash for over 25 years – ever since I got it from my friend Jane.

The words “crystal blue persuasion” always suggest great expanses of blue water to me – or maybe that’s just latent heatstroke from listening to the song in the hot sun. I wanted a visual element of the Earth as a globe, so ocean seemed the natural choice. Dolphins, killer whales, and other marine life were added to take advantage of the crystal blue water.

The lyrics called for “children of every nation.” This seemed like a pretty tall order, especially the “every” part, so I settled for only a few representative children. I drew the figures, transferred the drawings onto cotton, and embroidered them by hand in satin stitch. Each child took a few hours to complete. Each figure was then fused to another layer of fabric, and then fused onto the quilt.

The waves and the quilt binding were dyed in various blues to finish off the quilt. Small music symbols are featured on the binding fabric. The song lyrics are reprinted as part of the label on the back of the quilt. As a final touch, clear beads were added to the stars on the background. A new day is dawning – but not quite yet.

I think Jane would have liked this quilt.

To read the lyrics to Crystal Blue Persuasion, check the sidebar on the righthand side of the page.

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