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.


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!



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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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!)))