Friday, September 18, 2020

Fabric & Sets for Flora Delanica Quilt BOM 2020-21

12 applique blocks drawn from cut-paper collages created in the late-18th century by Mary Granville Delany 

We're beginning a Block of the Month based on Mrs Delany's florals on October 15th. Here's planning information for fabric and setting ideas. 

For an idea of what's in store see the British Museum, which owns most of Mary Granville Delany's Flora Delanica collages, her "paper mosaiks" done in the 1770's and '80s. Here's a link to a search for Mary Delany: 1,005 hits.  Scroll around. You'll see our inspiration.

Mary who lived from 1700 to 1788 was an extraordinary woman who lived a fascinating life. She's often characterized as a remarkable old lady inspired to begin an artistic career at the advanced age of 72 (72!!!) but as you will see in the monthly stories she had a life-long interest in art and botany and hobnobbed with 18th-century's giants of botany, music and literature.

Backgrounds for the Applique
Mrs Delany’s flowers are rather long and narrow as flowers tend to be and the patterns fit well on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper you can print yourself. Applique these on the diagonal to a 10 inch finished square (or larger).

About 42" x 56-1/2"

The Official Set

Twelve blocks set on point: Each square in a square will finish to 14-1/8" (Sorry but that's American arithmetic for you.) 14.125 inches.

Cut those pink triangles by cutting squares 8" and then cutting each
in half diagonally, 2 squares per block---24 in all.

EQ8, which drew the pattern, says you'll need 1-1/8 yards of the pink (or whatever)
and 1-1/4 yards of the dark backgrounds.

36” x 48”
27" x 48
Another option is to applique them to rectangular blocks finishing to 9” x 12” and set them in strips.
(Maureen is better at arithmetic than I am.)

Background Colors 

Me: Auditioning backgrounds back in March.
 Browns out.
I used a variety of dark reds, blues, greens and purples.

We're NOT doing Mrs D's Poinciana---sticking with the somewhat
simpler collages.

Our inspiration florals are paper collages-- colored paper shapes glued to black backgrounds, which Mrs D. painted with India ink. To capture her dramatic effect you will want very dark backgrounds.

Denniele is using a wide stripe for background, inspired by
 a student's favorite fabrics.

She hasn't cut it up into rectangles but is using one piece of  stripe, marking off the rectangular boundaries with basting. Her background is width-of-fabric x about 72" to allow room for some applique that will be the "sashing" and an applique border.  "I imagine it will be shorter than the 72" but didn't want to make that final cut until I am finished."

You might want to just focus on the blocks and cut a single background piece 36-1/2" x 48-1/2".

Blocks will be effective on light backgrounds too.  

Inverting the color on Mrs. D.'s blocks in Photoshop
gives you ideas for a different look. Each month I'll
give you links to another of her 1,000 collages for inspiration.

Janet's thinking of a single variegated grunge ground. I think she
should save the bottom one for flowers and stick with
the darkest.

Be careful with medium value backgrounds as flowers and leaves may not show up. 

Becky Brown's appliqueing to 10" finished blocks (cut 10-1/2")  
of  dark blue.
Becky: "My blocks are 12", set on the diagonal. I keep the design inside a 9 x 12" area so design fits an 8.5 x 11" format....My background fabric is a deep navy blue, hand-dyed fabric from Vicki Welsh's Colorways. Her fabrics are wonderful - beautifully dyed and easy to needle."

You can squeeze 12 squares cut 10-1/2" out of a yard of background fabric but you might be happier with a yard and a half.

Fabric for the Applique
Mrs D.'s genius was using colored paper to get an accurate picture of the plant. She snipped from  a variety of paper, some like tissue paper, some from India and China. And she painted & dyed her own colored paper. Occasionally she added watercolor after she was finished gluing. (You could add detail with fabric markers and fabric pencils.)

Becky's using Vicki Welsh's "stash pack" fabrics.

One appealing idea is using batiks or hand-dyed variegated color fabrics to imitate detail as Becky is doing. The applique pattern shapes are simple. You could add complexity based on Mrs D's work or leave them simple relying on color.

Becky's using a lot of Vicki Welsh's Autumn Greens
and Spring Greens.

Much of Mrs D.'s foliage tends towards olive greens and almost browns
so batiks or hand-dyed olives would be good too

For florals: Reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, violets and a little blue plus a variety of almost whites that show up well on the dark backgrounds. How much? Scraps and snips will do but of course the bigger the piece the more you can fussy cut the details.

A second fabric suggestion:
Shapes cut from contemporary floral fabrics. 

I'm diving into my large supply of very splashy prints to imitate Mrs  D.'s shading and line. Sort of drawing with fabric, a contemporary Broderie Perse.

Broderie Perse (cut-out chintz applique) in a quilt dated 1829

Bet you have some of these.

We're all doing some Broderie Perse, particularly for the floral centers.

Denniele's center 

She's also added line & shading to plain colors with Derwent  Inktense pencils.


A more traditional approach: Use solids and then add details with embroidery as in the applique below by Deborah Kemball.

See her book from C&T.
Great style for botanicals.

The brilliant Sue Spargo is always inspirational.

Sue's Fresh Cut book

And speaking of embroidery:

Becky's friend Nancy Phillips has joined us. Nancy's appliqueing in wool on 9 x 12" blocks.

As Becky writes:
"Applique gives us each the freedom to make it our own, and we don't have to 'color within the lines' like piecing. Can't wait to see what everyone else will be creating. "
Mary Delany has been an inspiration to many artists, particularly in the last few years. Check out the Instagram page devoted to her.

Lots of pictures but very few textiles. We'll fix that.
We'll set up our own Instagram page and Facebook group in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Check out our Facebook Group: MARY DELANY QUILT

Post your favorite Mary Delany collages.


  1. How beautiful. I used to work near the British Museum and often mooched around in my lunchtime. I don't know how I missed those, but possibly the Vikings, Saxons, Romans and the Egyptians were my thing in those days!
    Thank you for the links and can't wait to see everyone's work.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Shouldn't the finished dimensions for the 9x12 block set be 27" x 48"?

  4. Thanks, Maureen, for doing the multiplication. Correctly.

  5. Gracias Barbara por este nuevo Boom, seguro que disfrutaremos mucho con él y conoceremos la historia de la Sra Delany. Un saludo