Our Surprise: Sylvia Pippen’s Exquisite Quilt!

An unexpected gift for Tina and myself manifested in yesterday’s mail, all the way from the coast south of Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island — one of Sylvia Pippen’s flower quilts, arriving unannounced and without any special occasion to justify it.

The three blossoms on this 1 1/2 by 2 foot quilt are Rocky Mountain columbine, a reminder of Sylvia’s more than four decades of deep friendship with us, and of the love all three us of share for the high mountains.

I’d bet my bottom dollar Sylvia was remembering as she stiched the very stand of columbine that rose instantly to mind from my own forty-year-old memory: Not far from the summit of Wheeler Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico is a hidden dell, its walls a wild tumble of talus boulders; each year in August, masses of white-and-blue columbine — hundreds upon hundreds of glorious blossoms — fountain from every crevice in this tiny place, their colors mirroring the cumulus-dotted alpine sky.

I marvel the quality and precision of Sylvia’s work. Everything you see is hand-stitched. The stamens of the flowers — each stamen separately — is embroidered with two or three colors, topped by bright yellow, pollen-heavy anthers. And look in the detail below at the quilting itself.

Sylvia and her near-ninety-year-old mother, Kitty (who still quilts and teaches), are among the Olympians of North American quilt-making. You can see more of their master craft at http://sylviapippendesigns.com/

And you can find their books at Amazon:

Paradise Stitched: Sashiko & Applique Quilts. Sylvia Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Paradise-Stitched-Sashiko-Applique-Quilts-Sylvia/dp/1571206175/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-1

Asian Elegance: Quilting with Japanese Fabrics and More.  Kitty & Sylvia Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Asian-Elegance-Quilting-Japanese-Patchwork/dp/156477483X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-3

Quilting with Japanese Fabrics. Kitty Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Quilting-Japanese-Fabrics-Kitty-Pippen/dp/1564772977/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-2

We’re on our way to the hardware store right now to get a dowel and wooden brackets to give this marvel its place of honor on our living room wall.


  1. Dorothy Cox said,

    June 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    thanks for sharing this amazing quilt with us. I never would have thought such a quilt was possible- it is so intricate. dorothy

    • Bill Noble said,

      June 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      I find Sylvia and Kitty’s quilting just as amazing as you do, Dorothy. I can’t quite imagine how someone does that kind of sustained precision, wedded to such an extraordinary aesthetic.

      Some years ago, I saw one of Kitty’s shows at a gallery in Berkeley. It was almost entirely miniature quilts, some just a few inches square, but with as much detail and craft as this one. Boggles the mind.

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