by Suzanne Labry
Game of Thrones Quilt
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you’ve likely at least heard of the wildly popular fantasy television series, Game of Thrones, based on a series of epic novels by George R.R. Martin.
Beginning in 2011 and set to conclude with its eighth season in 2018 or 2019, the
HBO drama has shattered viewing records worldwide (more than 25 million per episode); been acclaimed by critics; garnered a slew of honors (including 38 Emmy awards); caused parents to name their newborns after series characters (“Arya” has become one of the
most popular names for girls); inspired numerous scholarly essays and books; and
served as a recruitment tool for medieval studies courses at universities such as Harvard and UC Berkeley.
The show’s many serious fans are passionate, knowledgeable, and devoted, and it should come as no surprise that some of those fans are quilters. A line of “Game of Thrones” cotton fabrics designed by HBO has been licensed to Springs Creative Products and a quick search of Pinterest or Google produces pages of “Game of Thrones”-themed quilts.
At the 2017 International Quilt Festival in Houston, a prizewinner in the Innovative Appliqué category for members of the International Quilt Association was The Iron Throne, made by quilt artist and educator Candace West of Floral City, Florida. (For those non-“Game of Thrones” innocents out there, the Iron Throne refers to the physical seat of the monarchy—forged from the swords of vanquished enemies and fused by dragonfire—which all the different warring kingdoms in the television series aspire to obtain.)
The Iron Throne by Candace West. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Candace had been thinking of making of a pop culture quilt out of leather for some time, and she had also become intrigued with the possibility of incorporating chainmail in a quilt. She decided that making a “Game of Thrones” quilt would be the perfect project for carrying out the two ideas.
Candace’s finished 40” x 54” leather quilt is essentially comprised of 13 individual quilts because each block was quilted prior to being joined together. Nine intricately appliquéd and quilted diamond blocks (representing the seals of the nine rival families in the series and placed “in the same N/S/E/W position as their geographic location in the fantasy world they inhabit”) are set on point and sashed with chainmail that is laced with silver leather cord through grommets.
The heavily quilted background that depicts the throne is made up of four separate flange blocks also laced to the chainmail through grommets. The quilt is “bound” with 240 metal rivets and the edges of the central motif are finished with decorative conchos. It weighs seven pounds.
The appliquéd diamond blocks were made via a process that employs digital images cut out of heat transfer vinyl with a computerized cutting machine. The images are cut in mirror image and then the excess material is weeded away to reveal the design that was cut. Candace then heat-fused the vinyl to leather.
She quilted each block via an Innova 22” longarm machine equipped with special leather needles. She used upholstery weight décor print fabric as backing, Quilter’s Dream Poly
and blend batting, and Hobbs Wool batting for the trapunto under the appliquéd pieces. She chalked the sword designs on the throne blocks prior to quilting them with her
Candace made every one of the 3,530 aluminum chainmail rings used in the quilt by hand. She taught herself to do this by watching a YouTube video (is there a YouTube video for absolutely everything?). “The process is basically the same as that used in medieval times,” she says. “Chainmail has a bias. If it is woven straight, it hangs straight, but since I was using it as diagonal sashing, I wanted it to be more fluid so I wove in on the bias. It took me three weeks to weave it all.”
Candace enjoyed sharing her quilt with visitors to Quilt Festival in Houston. It was
especially fun for her to see the reactions of fans of the television series. “As soon as
they saw it, they immediately knew what it was,” she adds. “I didn’t have to explain any
of the imagery to them!”