European Inspiration

On our recent trip to Europe, I was fascinated by all the patterns in the architecture.  They were absolutely everywhere.

For example, here in the cathedral in Seville – from the floor, to the wooden doors, to the stone around the doors – everything is full of beautiful designs.  (Not to mention the fact that that box contains Christopher Columbus’s remains)

This floor can also be found in that cathedral.  Maybe a new take on a drunkard’s path?  Or shall I say an old take on a drunkard’s path?

Here is one of the rooms within that cathedral.  Again,  look at all the cool patterns.  I love that starburst type design on the far wall.

and these designs above the benches along the left wall

and this beautiful floor.

This cool design was on one of the sidewalks in Seville

These intricate tile patterns were on the floors in the Vatican museum.

Each room that we went into had a different pattern.

The ceiling designs in St. Peter’s cathedral were just stunning too-

Check out the design carved into the fabric on this statue (Also found in St. Peter’s)

Here’s a close-up.  This workmanship is just unbelievable to me.  I wonder how long it took this person to do this?

These cool designs can be found on the front of the cathedral in Barcelona

These are the front doors.  Another possible quilt pattern?

These next two shots are taken at the Leaning Tower of Pisa – Again, more quilty looking designs.

More beautiful designs can be found on the church in Florence.  Again, I love that starburst design

and the little pink and green flowers running along the sides.

I think my favorite designs can be found at the Alhambra in Grenada (Spain).  This was a castle built by the Moors, who ruled Spain during this time.

I think the Moors were quilting with stone, not fabric.  The next pictures will show why –

No plain sidewalks there!  Just look at these beautiful patterns, enticing you to follow along to the next intersection,

Where you can see designs like this:

And this.

One of the gifts shops had this show-stopper on the floor.

I wish I had more pictures to show you, but we didn’t get into all the areas of the Alhambra.  Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was sold out for the day.  So check out this link to see more of what I’m talking about.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

All of these patterns got me thinking – If this is what the men (masons, tile layers, builders, etc) were doing, what were the women of that time doing?  Were they also incorporating intricate designs into their work?  Maybe their gardens, embroidery, or possibly quilting?  Seeing all of these things made me want to know more about the history of these designs.  It also made me want to learn more about this obsession of mine – and not just the history of quilting in the States, but in areas like Spain and Italy.  It was so hot while we were there, that I can’t even imagine quilting, so maybe they never even did quilting.  So this leads me all to ask a question of you – Do any of you have any recommendations for some good sources for me to read up on some of this history?  I think that it would be fascinating to learn about. . .

About Heather Peterson

Quilt pattern designer
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11 Responses to European Inspiration

  1. Hey Heather, have you read Bella Bella Quilts by Norah McMeeking? Here is her website:
    The book has the pictures from Italy that she based her quilts on. I made the Cosmati II quilt and it’s on my blog.
    It’s just what you are talking about in this bost.

  2. Kari says:

    You could make a road trip to Lincoln, NE, to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. I’ve been wanting to stop there. There is also a Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, CO. Not sure how much that one has of international quilts but their website has an index of their quilts–fun browsing if nothing else.

  3. AnnieO says:

    Thank you for all the terrific photos of patterns! I personally love the geometrics especially. The lace on the garment worn by the figure in St. Peter’s was amazing. I can only imagine how long that, plus all the mosaic flooring, took to create. The ornamentation everywhere was fantastic. Can’t help you with historic info on fabric crafts, but surely there was similar type of ornamentation going on those many centuries ago.

  4. Jessica says:

    The starburst windows are actually called “rose windows”. Usually found in Gothic architecture. And they are gorgeous! Thought you would like to know.

  5. Leslie Schmidt says:

    I can’t help you with any leads, but I want to thank you for showing those wonderful photos. It’s as close as I’m ever going to get to Europe!

  6. sewjournal says:

    Heather thanks for all the wonderful pictures. That stone lace work is just stunning. I too get inspiration from tile patterns. I posted a pic on my blog of one that is on the floor of the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney which would make great appliqué . You can see it here if you are interested:

    I am also in the process of hand quilting a quilt I designed myself and hand pieced that is based on Andalusian tiles from southern Spain. It is a pattern that is also used not just by the Moors but throughout the Islamic world. You can see it here if you would care to take a look:

    If you are interested in these tessellated patterns there are many books on Arabic All-over patterns and Islamic Patterns, but a cheap and easy one to start with that tells you how to draw these is “Islamic Design – a Genius for Geometry” by Daud Sutton. You can get it quite cheaply (US$10.06) with free postage here: This a link to the Book Depository. I made it a tinyurl because it is so long.

    Also Jinny Beyer has a book on tessellations which is hard to find but is called : Designing Tessellations: The Secrets of Interlocking Patterns. If you can find a copy it’s well worth buying.

    I really enjoy your blog. I subscribe to your RSS feed and really look forward to your posts. Thanks again Heather.

  7. Linda P. says:

    Woweee, Heather – that was wonderful photographs. Don’t have a suggestion, but sure enjoyed this blog post!!! Thanks!!

  8. Elizabeth E. says:

    I like Ruth McDowell’s tesselation book (I think it preceded the Byer book and I find it easier to follow–I have both). Great suggestions.

    I also have collected lots of photos of quilt patterns found on floors, walls, etc. I think the Alhambra has to be the pinnacle of this sort of thing, though.

    Great photos–hope you had a good time!

  9. Pingback: Islamic patterns « Sewjournal

  10. A Betty says:

    Wow those are pretty. Now I see how your mind gathers inspiration. I don’t think I would have noticed half of those details. The cathedral ceiling pattern reminds me of the free pattern you had (that I have used twice) in a magazine about 2 years ago.

  11. Montse says:

    Hola, pues la verdad que en nuestro país tenemos mucha variedad de “patchwork” en monumentos e incluso en suelos de nuestras casas. Yo soy de Barcelona y si pasaste por mi ciudad también te enseñarían la maravillosa obra de Gaudí, al menos La Sagrada Familia, pero también está La Casa Batllo, Parc Güell, La Pedrera, Colonia Güell, etc…
    Otros lugares de interes como Los Yacimientos Arqueológicos de Empurias con un sinfín de mosaicos griegos y romanos. También muy importante las Baldosas Antiguas de Catalunya, que aún se pueden ver en palacios y casas de Catalunya.

    También en España sobre todo en La Rioja se hace Patchwork desde muy antiguo, pero no le llaman patchwork le llaman “Almazuelas” que viene de influencias árabes.

    Otra de las costumbres que también hacían las mujeres por ejemplo en zonas pesqueras, eran los Bolillos, arte que ahora tiene muchas escuelas y que cada vez más mujeres e incluso hombres vuelven a realizar.
    Como no, aqui gozamos de una rica cultura en Ganchillo o como lo llaman ahora “Croche”, quizás porque antiguamente era lo más barato y lo que podías encontrar en cualquier tienda. Ah! se me olvidaba los bordados y el punto o Knitting también tienen mucha tradición.
    Te añado algunos links abajo. Un saludo y me alegro que te gustara todo.


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