September 2002, 42" wide by 42" high, © 2002, Maria Elkins, All Rights Reserved.

Teacup by Maria Elkins
I love responding to challenges because they stretch me and force me to try new techniques. For 2002, my quilt guild gave us the challenge of creating a quilt using only the colors blue and white and there was one blue and white fabric that everyone had to use.

Blue is my favorite color, so I was looking forward to participating in this challenge. Not surprisingly, more than half my fabric stash is blue and white so I began by thinking of traditional blocks that would be effective in just two colors and that could make use of my abundant supply. I ended up with way too many blue and white quilts that I wanted to make! I was overwhelmed, but that led me to think of other things I like that are blue and white.

I collect blue and white, antique calico buttons so I tried to come up with a way to display them, but I didn’t like the ideas I came up with. Then I thought of my blue and white teacup collection. I thought of rows of teacups and saucers sitting on shelves. Next I thought of a tea party scene, complete with blue teddy bears but that would be too complicated for my time constraints. I decided I needed to simplify my life and just make one teacup. I did a series of thumbnail sketches of teacups from various viewpoints and I tried cropping the sketches in different ways. I chose this sketch because it was simple and the teacup was not immediately obvious.

The simple teacup sketch evolved into a study of repeated shapes and curves. I wanted to add something inside the teacup to eliminate having a big white void. Flowers seemed to be an obvious solution so I asked the QuiltArt list for suggestions of blue flowers and then I did an internet search for pictures. I ended up choosing hepaticas. I had never heard of them before and I have never seen one in real life, but I like the contrast between the simple, oval petals and the weird, spiky centers.

The curves of the cup and saucer are machine pieced. The challenge fabric is the tiny print behind the saucer (upper corners). The scallops on the saucer are made from a print of blue and white plates. These were selectively cut out, fused and machine appliqued. The flowers and the water surface were hand painted with Setacolor fabric paint and machine appliqued to the cup and saucer. The scrollwork was stenciled using Setacolor and Lumiere paints. The piece was quilted with metallic, rayon and invisible threads. The centers of the flowers are made by looping and couching rayon rattail cording.

In many ways, this quilt is a tribute to the many special tea parties I had with my daughters during their teen years. Monday afternoons were our special day and I tried to have tea waiting for them when they got home from school. We talked and laughed and giggled. Sometimes they dressed up in old prom dresses we had rescued from the thrift store. I usually tried to have some exotic cookie or candy to serve with our flavored teas. Lydia’s favorite tea was always strawberry-kiwi. Bethany and I loved chai tea with cream and honey. Sometimes we would invite friends to join us. But the times that were the most memorable for me were when it was just the three of us.