Cosmatesque #1

OK, the name needs a bit of explanation.

According to Wikipedia:

Cosmatesque, or Cosmati, is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of the architecture of Medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings, and derived from that of the Byzantine Empire. It was used most extensively for the decoration of church floors, but was also used to decorate church walls, pulpits, and bishop’s thrones. The name derives from the Cosmati, the leading family workshop of marble craftsmen in Rome who created such geometrical decorations.

You’ll recall my post of a couple of days ago, talking about how today we are using the same patterns in patchwork as the Romans and Byzantines used in their mosaic floors. It seems Italy’s medieval craftsmen had the same idea for their own floors, and the style they developed has attained its own name. And I’m hijacking it.

If you Google the name Cosmatesque, you’ll be rewarded with multiple gorgeous images of fabulous geometric floors. I spent hours searching, clicking, pinning and printing. OK, I admit it. There’s another quilt in the pipeline.

cosmatesque planIt’s going to be fiendishly tricky; all those wedges, circles, intersecting lines and teeny weeny blocks are not my normal comfort zone, but it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. I need to find out how to do this stuff without the ease of copying someone else’s pattern, or using multiple expensive specialist rulers, or geometric formulae. Subject to the approval of its intended new owner, my colour palette will be simple: deep warm red, dark cobalt blue, granite grey, limestone beige, on a white background. I’m echoing the palette of the original floors. My fabric choices will be marbled batiks and textured solids; there’s not much room for patterns here.

cosmatesque design pageAnd it’s going to be small – for me, that is – at 48 inches square. It’s intended to be a piece of wall art to remind its owner of her ‘specialist subject’. It’s for my eldest niece, Lecturer in Medieval Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. For many years, she’s spent months every summer rootling around in archaeological digs, and has seen and uncovered more mosaic floors than you’d believe. It’s rare that our spheres of activity collide, and now that I have found a point of common interest, I intend to play with it!

So as usual, I’ll be recording my discoveries, my decisions and my progress as this quilt grows. I have a LOT to learn, and will have to attain a much more stringent level of accuracy than I normally get away with. I’ll have to decide on a section-by-section basis how I’m going to make each part (hand stitched, machine sewn, EPP, foundation paper piecing and appliqué are all possible/probable). Fortunately, due to its relatively small size, it’s not going to take me a tremendously long time, but I’m not going to skimp on attention to detail and accuracy. And then of course, there’s the decision on how to quilt it. Machine, or by hand? Invisible or feature? Dense or light? Well, you get the idea.

I think there’s another Book of the Quilt coming on…

47 thoughts on “Cosmatesque #1

  1. claire93 says:

    you certainly know how to set yourself a challenge ^^

  2. knettycraft says:

    Where do you get the power from to give yourself one challenge after another…. It will be a beautiful quilt with the perfect theme for your niece and I’m looking forward to following the sewing process.

    • katechiconi says:

      The ideas never start as a challenge, just a doodle, which grows. Then I realise I have no idea how to achieve it! If I love the idea enough, then I work out how to make it happen. I’m thinking a lot of EPP and paper piecing will be needed here, and I’ll probably use a lot of tear-away stabiliser to keep pieces in shape until it’s assembled.

      • knitnkwilt says:

        That is what the books all suggest: design first, then figure out how to make it–learn a new skill if necessary. I’ll admit to sneaking in the how-to as I design though. Cheers to you for not.

      • katechiconi says:

        I confess to contemplating a fair amount of EPP in order to achieve the circles, and foundation piecing for the curved geese, but I like the idea of a ‘multi-media’ quilt!

  3. Oh my word!! You do like to challenge yourself. It’s going to be interesting to watch the progression.

  4. dayphoto says:

    I always enjoy seeing what you are up to next!

  5. jmcheney says:

    An apt geometry to your whole enterprise.

  6. I think I know where this is coming from – our chat the other day? Rather you than me, but I know you will do it justice. About 20 years ago a group I was part of produced a knot garden quilt, with similar piecing difficult for an international exhibition.. The fact that there were lots of cotributors added to the problem of putting the whole thing together. I’ll see if I can find a photo.
    Anyway, bon courage and happy quilting.

  7. Kathy D says:

    I silently sit in the background on your post, but this has me totally intrigued! Looking forward to following how your amazing brain works this out. I thought the CofH quilt was so special ( which it is ) and I think that this one will be special also.

    • katechiconi says:

      Do comment! I really appreciate the encouragement, and think I shall need it with this project, which so far has me wondering whether I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!

  8. Jule says:

    Oh, you’re a brave woman! 😉 I researched Cosmati work about twenty years ago and never dared to start such a project.

    • katechiconi says:

      Even a year ago, I would have not dared to consider it. But now, well, if I don’t try, I can’t succeed. Every time I make something work, it helps me believe I can tackle the next problem. This is not a true Cosmati design, it’s not nearly complex enough, but it’s perhaps a tribute to the style, and will make my niece happy!

  9. knitnkwilt says:

    The sketch is so appealing–enough repetition to unify, enough variation to maintain interest. And to be able to relate it to the recipient’s interest is an added bonus. Looking forward to following progress.

  10. Carine says:

    So I am a Very Lucky Niece, and yes, this project is a great honour and it indeed makes me very happy. I hereby de-lurkify myself and will follow the progress with great interest. Of course I have followed this blog for a while now with silent admiration – my end of the gene-pool prefers a stapler over a needle any day.

    So let me do something I am better at (i.e. talk, sitting in a comfy chair with a glass of something at my elbow) and tell you this: in a medieval cosmatesque floor, there can be up to two hundred different types of marble, and they each have their own specific colour and texture, provenance and often also symbolical meaning – all of which the playground of medieval floor-designers. I am sure this translates to fabrics and colours in one way or the other (do we know anything about this?) – and that adds yet another dimension to this wonderful project you are taking on.

    • katechiconi says:

      Domestic textiles have traditionally been the province of women, and for this reason and because of their more ephemeral nature, have not been as valued or survived as well down the ages as marble floors! The surviving remnants of patchwork, the cloth equivalent of opus sectile, date mostly from a much later period of history, while the process of quilting (stitching layers of cloth together to achieve a warm, thick result) can be seen in surviving Roman fragments.
      I think it’s unlikely I’ll be incorporating quite as many fabrics, but I do hope to achieve a satisfying result! I’m proposing to follow some of the colour schemes seen in your Spoleto floor photo, intensified a little for more visual interest, but the final result will be entirely dependent on what I can find in suitable fabrics. I don’t believe there is a direct equivalent in symbolic meanings of colour and texture in fabrics, except that colours followed fashion and what the technology of the time was able to achieve in terms of dyes.

  11. tialys says:

    You are a ‘Very Lucky Niece’. As I’ve said to Kate before – I’m pretty sure I’m actually related to her too but I don’t think she believes me? 😦

    • katechiconi says:

      By six degrees of separation at most! It seems to be the Time of the Nieces, since this is the third niece quilt in quick succession, and four great-nieces already have quilts too…

      • tialys says:

        I’m not young enough to be your niece but, let me know when it’s the Time of the Cousins and I might get away with it 😉

      • katechiconi says:

        You can be an honorary cousin… A bit like the Husband’s friend Brian, who invited himself to our wedding as my ‘Uncle Brian’ when he discovered I had only three family members and a friend attending, compared with the numerous Chiconi family and friends. Despite the fact that he’s a couple of years younger than me, he’s still called Uncle Brian whenever I see him. And no, I haven’t made him a quilt!

  12. Carole says:

    Wow, that is going to be amazing. Can’t wait to see it progress 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I think if I can achieve what I’m seeing inside my head, I’ll never avoid curves again. Originally, I was going for a much larger piece, and then I realised that that way lies madness! 48 inches square is quite enough!

  13. norma says:

    Looks very complicated but I am sure you will enjoy the process. I shall certainly enjoy reading about it.

  14. Kirsten says:

    The plan looks a little bit like a garden design . . . or is it just me?

  15. Lynda says:

    Kate, when I said I’d be waiting to see it I had no idea that you would be jumping right on it. This is going to be exciting to watch!

    • katechiconi says:

      I didn’t think so either, but the idea has taken hold in a big way, and I do at least want to make a large paper template of it, so I can see how tiny the smallest pieces are. I may need to do a spot of simplifying!

  16. rutigt says:

    Oh my God!!!!! I´m so impressed! it´s gonna be very exciting to follow this Book of the Quilt 🙂 Love the idea and your sketch!

  17. Debbierose says:

    Kate, your a legend. Looking forward to seeing this idea bloom

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve just spent HOURS working out the circles and shapes for the bottom left quarter. The prep work is going to be very laborious, but worth it in the end, I think.

  18. It looks like a fun project (I like challenges too), but please do not laugh at me when I confess that I keep misreading the name as comatose.

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