A Voynich Rag Quilt For Linnet Moss

voynich collage

Naked ladies in womb-like chambers and vessels! Very strange plants with spectacular blooms and unique root systems! Astrological diagrams and indecipherable script! What’s not to love about The Voynich Manuscript!?

I warned you, didn’t I, that I’ve been on a mad quilting spree lately? So here’s another OT post… though I think I’ll try to write up my impressions on RA’s narration of The Chimes later this week. Now… back to quilting! (Story of my life lately!!)

Probably about 8 years ago, I became interested in a relatively obscure and ancient text known as The Voynich Manuscript. I stumbled across it online while on one of those meandering rabbit hole experiences fighting pregnancy-induced insomnia browsing historical mysteries. The long and short of it is this: carbon dating indicates that the vellum parchment upon which the manuscript is written and illustrated is at least 600 years old, and historians, scholars, cryptographers and even an emperor down through the centuries have never yet deciphered the language or made any sense of its bizarre, but entertaining, illustrations. Countless individuals have devoted years upon years to understanding this manuscript, and continue to do so to this day! Some have concluded it is an elaborate hoax, while others believe it is written in some kind of code, and still others believe it is simply written in an ancient language lost to time. A decent summary of the manuscript’s history can be found here, and a library of HD images can be found here.

I think I really started following Linnet Moss, (who I consider to be sort of an honorary Armitage “appreciator” in that she doesn’t blog about him or obsess over him, but does seem to comment here and there on blogs of those of us who DO blog about and obsess over him)… when something caught my eye on her blog… it was a serialized romantic short fiction titled The Voynich Affair. Anything with the word “Voynich” was bound to catch my eye, and I was hooked after the first installment! I began leaving comments on her site, and pretty soon she came over and began leaving comments on this site, and she’s been a top commenter here ever since.

A couple of months ago, an idea popped into my head that I couldn’t ignore. I was admiring the wonderful illustrations of The Voynich Manuscript, puzzling about what in the world they could represent, and because I have been quilting like a maniac, I suddenly had the thought that these illustrations would make for a wonderfully interesting fabric. A Voynich quilt! I ran a few searches, not expecting to find any Voynich-themed fabric, since it’s a pretty obscure subject, and sure enough, I couldn’t find anything but a few t-shirts. I was familiar with a fabric site where you can design (and even sell) your own fabric called Spoonflower.com. I went over there just to be sure someone hadn’t already thought of this idea, but if they had, they hadn’t listed the fabric for others to browse and buy.

cover

The actual cover of The Voynich Manuscript, (color boosted for eye appeal!) I love the hide-pattern visible!

I downloaded HD images from the library, and as far as I could tell they weren’t copyrighted, so there should be no objection from Spoonflower about using them for a fabric design. I also downloaded a picture of the cover of the manuscript, boosted the color a bit, and used it as a background for actual pages of the manuscript that I wanted to include in the quilt. Hubby as usual helped me get all the pixels adjusted for good definition on a standard 42″ width cotton quilting fabric, and we worked out that we could fit about 6 pages per yard. I chose 36 pages, a selection of some of the most charming illustrations, including the far-fetched botanicals, some almost astrological charts, and some of the adorable naked ladies frolicking together in their strange pools and chambers!

Never having ordered from Spoonflower before, I didn’t know how legible the fabric would be, but it turns out that as long as you follow the pixel guidelines, the quality is spectacular! It’s perfectly legible! Or it would be, if anyone understood the language… LOL!

 

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Here’s one yard of “my” fabric… you can see the background is composed of the cover material, and each panel contains 6 big-ass Voynich pages! I intentionally made the pages large enough to read, just in case Linnet deciphers any of it! =)

The fabric is super-cool, at least for an amateur Voynich nerd like myself! Mom thought I should use it to piece a traditional quilt, but I had a different idea from the moment I conceived of the Voynich Quilt… I wanted to make a rag quilt out of it, which is a fun and super simple endeavor that I thought would make a charming quilt and add interest with all the ruffled/ragged borders between the blocks.

What is a rag quilt? I don’t know much about the history of the rag quilt, but I really love the simplicity of the quilt, and I’ve done one once before using minky/cuddle fabric as a baby shower gift. Rag quilts go together in a matter of hours, and I love the contrast between the front and the back of the quilt. The quilt is put together using a huge (~1″) seam allowance right on the front of the quilt, and all of those seams are later fringed and the quilt is washed to intentionally cause the fabric to fray and ruffle along the seams. The back of the quilt is smooth.

Mea culpa…I did have one mishap during the fringing process. I blame the Denver Broncos. Evidently at one point I snipped right through a seam and all the way through the quilt. Of course, I only discovered the “wound” I’d inflicted when I was at the office, ready to package it and send it off. This almost caused me to decide to keep this quilt and have another go at it with my extra fabric for Linnet, but then I realized I was just as likely to have a fringing misfortune on the next one. All my quilts have their little glitches, I fear. No worries… I sutured it there in my office using my veterinary equipment to prevent the wound from enlarging further, then took it back home and used the sewing machine for a more substantial repair, in case 5-0 silk sutures wouldn’t stand the test of time. And, well, maybe Linnet will get a smile when she sees the scar, knowing that both the craftswoman AND the veterinarian did a bit of work on this one.

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Voynich Rag Quilt, 2016

You can believe I ordered enough fabric to make two of these quilts, because I really think I need a Voynich rag quilt of my own! And one of these afternoons, I’ll be tackling that project! I’ve been eager to do another rag quilt… an adult version, for a couple of years… and I must admit that I love the way it turned out!

In the meantime, I certainly had fun putting this quirky thing together, Linnet, and hope you  will enjoy it as much I do! (((Hugs!)))

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36 comments

  1. Guylty · January 26, 2016

    This is stunning – what a great idea. And such a beautiful gesture, to make this quilt for Linnet, who so generously comments on RA-blogs even though her vested interest *ahem* lies somewhere else. The Voynich illustrations come out beautifully, and the rag effect give a whole lot of warmth and comfort to the quilt. And it couldn’t be a more fitting gift for Linnet, who is not only a great writer (the Voynich story is one of my favourites of her fictions) but also an academic who professionally deals with mysteries like the Voynich manuscript. You are wonderful, J, and I am sure that the love that went into the making of this quilt, will come back to you.
    PS: If I hadn’t already ingratiated myself to you, I now would 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • linnetmoss · January 26, 2016

      Guylty, I suspect you of involvement in this little operation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Guylty · January 26, 2016

        *coughs* ahem. Yes, I coordinated some important information in the background. I hope it was ok that I passed it on. I did it because I trust J – and because I *wanted* to play the mediator 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      • jholland · January 26, 2016

        Yes, Guylty is the “little bird”… busted! LOL

        Liked by 2 people

    • jholland · January 26, 2016

      Aw, thank you! As I told Linnet, every time I look at The Voynich Manuscript, I am automatically charmed to death… so working on this quilt was endlessly amusing. And yes, Linnet is such a bibliophile in general, I think she would have liked the concept even if she wasn’t already intrigued by the Voynich!

      Liked by 3 people

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  3. linnetmoss · January 26, 2016

    This was such a total surprise that I was truly left speechless when it arrived. J., your generosity and thoughtfulness are amazing. Somehow you dreamed up this gift which is more delightful to me than anything I could have imagined giving myself. I loved seeing the photos that show how it is constructed, and yes, I love the flannel on the back of it too. Like a seasoned old leather book cover! Jerome has colonized the quilt and is ensconced there now. I think I’m going to have to fight him for it…

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · January 26, 2016

      I just read your post, and LOVED seeing Jerome all happily situated… that’s pretty much exactly what I had imagined!! I love the fabric on the back, and mine will have that same fabric, though probably a different fabric for the middle layer since I couldn’t get enough yards of that one. So our two quilts will be alike yet slightly different… though both will no doubt be graced with a cat or 2 or 3!

      Liked by 2 people

      • linnetmoss · January 27, 2016

        Haha! He has totally colonized it now. It’s folded and I can’t unfold it because he’s sitting on top. Like the Princess and the Pea 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. June · January 26, 2016

    This is lovely! Both the quilt and the thought behind it.

    Like

    • jholland · January 26, 2016

      Thank you, June! It was really a fun project, and even more fun to up and surprise Linnet out-of-the-blue! =)

      Like

  5. obscura · January 26, 2016

    So beautiful…and such a wonderful synchronicity of subject!! The whole process is fascinating!!

    (incidently…there are some hidden gem needlework shops in Greece)

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · January 26, 2016

      Yes, and I get a grin thinking about the author of that mysterious manuscript… whatever the hell he (most likely a he, though we’ll never know for sure) was thinking… I bet it wasn’t that his work would end up featured on a quilt top, centuries later… LOL! And oh, dear… better pack an extra suitcase in case I need to load up on fabric from Greece!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Perry · January 26, 2016

    The story and the finished product is out of sight. JHolland – you’re creativity has like, no bounds. Super.

    Like

    • jholland · January 26, 2016

      Thank you! This is definitely a one-of-a-kind quilting concept, no doubt. Except, well, there will soon be two of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Herba · January 27, 2016

    Our fandom master quilter striked again 🙂 What a beautiful idea ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. linnetmoss · January 27, 2016

    J., did you learn to use a sewing machine from your mom? My mother tried (and failed) to teach me, but she still loves to sew. For my part, I can sew on a button or mend a seam that has come loose, but that’s about it!

    Like

    • jholland · January 27, 2016

      Then you’re ahead of me in that respect. I have never once adjusted a seam, sewn on a button, or taken any kind of needle and thread to a piece of clothing! But yes, my mom did teach me how to use a sewing machine in 2013 when I decided to make my first quilt. I had been hoarding old scrub tops with cute patterns and planning to eventually make some kind of crazy quilt. Mom rolled her eyes, thinking I should just get fabric, but I insisted on using the scrub tops, so she went along with it. Once I realized how easy it was to use the sewing machine, which had previously held a horror for me, I was hooked! You might be a redneck if… you hang your first quilt on the back of your flatbed trailer for photography:

      Liked by 2 people

      • linnetmoss · January 27, 2016

        LOL. I never dreamed that using a sewing machine could be “easy.” Maybe there is hope for me yet 🙂

        Like

        • jholland · January 28, 2016

          Well, I suppose it depends on the sewing machine. I wouldn’t want to use an old-fashioned one. They’re so computerized and automated these days that I think they’re easy… push a button and it threads the needle for you, push another button and it cuts the thread, choose what kind of stitch you want from a touch screen… even Hubby knows the basics!

          Liked by 1 person

        • linnetmoss · January 28, 2016

          I had no idea! But I suspect there’s a learning curve for those who have trouble getting their iPhones to work…

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Hariclea · January 27, 2016

    Honestly you are a genius! What a fabulous idea and what amazing execution love the detail and the fringes! Have to say I was horrified by the idea of sticking something so beautiful in the washer! ! But seems to be sturdy too 😊 I love it and so does she 😀you’ve got amazing hands and creative juices 👏👏👏

    Like

    • jholland · January 27, 2016

      Aw, thanks, Hari! Yes, I was a little scared to put it into the washing machine, too… but it’s part of the process in a rag quilt! I don’t know about amazing hands, but my creative juices are flowing just fine! =)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. suzy · January 28, 2016

    What a great work! You are the Mistress of the creative Quilt working! Wonderful motif! ❤

    Like

    • jholland · January 28, 2016

      Thank you, Suzy! I tend to throw myself into my “interests” completely! (RA included!)

      Like

  11. Esther · January 30, 2016

    I’m totally floored by this, so generous and kind of you. And so very beautiful too! Your quilting is just exquisite. It’s not something people do here or that you see a lot of here and I just love seeing yours. I always love reading how quilts are supposed to mean something, and this one certainly does as well. Wow!

    Like

    • jholland · January 30, 2016

      That’s interesting… I don’t know a whole lot of other quilters aside from members of my own family… but it is at least popular enough to support at a good dozen independent fabric stores in this metro area (and more if you count large national chains stores that cater to multiple sewing-related hobbies!) But you’re right… the possibilities are endless. I have so many ideas about various types of quilts I’d like to try. =)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Esther · January 31, 2016

        I look forward to seeing more of your quilts! I think they are seriously good, you could go into business or something!

        Like

        • jholland · January 31, 2016

          Aw, high compliments! I’m very serious when I say I am an amateur, though! However if I keep at it, maybe an idea for my retirement years… lol!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Esther · February 1, 2016

          Well, what do I know… 🙂 But yes, to me it looks fantastic.

          Like

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  13. Chhavi Arora · March 17, 2016

    Awesome! This quilt design is amazing. You have describe the method of making quilt in very easy way. I will try it but i can not make it same.

    Like

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