Isn't this a happy quilt to look at? It makes me smile.
This type of quilt is made by people on the small and remote Caohagan Island in the Philippines. Quiltmaking was introduced to the island twenty years ago and now flourishes as an income producing and community building activity. Today about 100 of the island's 600 residents participate in making quilts which are sold primarily in Japan but increasingly in the United States. Half the profits go to the individual quilter while the other half goes to the communal Quilt House to buy fabric and other supplies, train quilters, and to improve life on the island. The sale of the quilts has greatly improved the island's standard of living.
The National Quilt Museum had an exhibition of Caohagan Island quilts this summer and my local quilt guild invited Dan Jones, author Small Miracle of a Southern Island: The Quilts and Quiltmakers of Caohagan Island to speak to the group about the exhibit and her research on the island. There was also a display of quilts for sale.
Caohagan Island quilts are made by hand and feature applique work, where images are made and then sewn to the quilt top. This little fish, for instance, was pieced by hand and will be sewn by hand to the quilt. Even with the edges still raw (not yet turned under and sewn down to the quilt top) he's mighty cute. The shapes used to make the fish are all free cut by hand, meaning that the shapes weren't drawn and then cut, they were just cut. The islanders don't use glue to turn under the edges and to hold the shapes together, practices which are common in modern quilting.
When I got home I tried my hand at making a little fish. I found I couldn't free cut my shapes and I certainly wasn't going to piece them together by hand. But I was able to make a fun little fellow and I'm enjoying having him on my design wall for a few days.
Caohagan Island quilts run from $400 to $100 depending on the size and are sold through the Caohagan online store.