Els Mommers – Country – Emblems

Antique mola – Tribute

For me this series will be a tribute to the Guna Indians of the San Blas Islands.

Since 2011 their country is named Guna Yala  (before it was  Kuna Yala). It is an autonomous province in North East Panama. Between 1994 and 2013 I have been very fortunate to travel about 27 times to the island of Nalunega, spend lots of  time with the Indians, travelled by  boat with an Indian to several other islands and bought their molas to sell in my shop and different other places. I even had my own hut on the island and was often the only outsider.

It is my intention to incorporate a traditional piece of a mola in each quilt. This time it is an really antique piece and I spend a lot of time mending it a bit. It is adjusted to the left sight of the panel.

For the emblem I made a circle with 3 layers in the mola (reverse applique) technique and embellished it, just like they often do, with a piece of rick rack. The cotton fabric I am using is the same fabric that is used by the Indians. Inside the circle I made the original motifs that are very often used in their molas. I appliqued it all by hand and am happy I don’t have to show it to the Indians, because it does comes nowhere near their beautiful work.

Since it is a very matriarchal society I  choose a Guna lady as icon. I copied it from a mola that is in my possession, appliqued several layers and embroidered it just in the way they do with a very fine chain stitch and thin sewing thread. I even embroidered their “wini” bracelets , necklace and nose-ring.

Finally I added the batting and backing. The echo lines around the circle are machine quilted.

After working on this piece my admiration for their skills has become even a lot more than it was already before. It needs so much practice and patience to come to their level of professionalism.

I don’t have to mention anymore I guess that Panama is my chosen country.



Detail views: 

  1. What a beautiful emblem so rich with history and meanings. Love the colours and the use of mola, great work!

  2. HI was able to identify with your quilt. Lovely colours and beautiful stitching.

  3. Mola meant Els’ work! What better way to represent Panama and how lovely to be able to use your molas to tell the story of this country about which I know so little. I love the way that you have added hand stitch, great work, well done!

  4. Els, I remember you, in the midst of your wonderful Molas at BIAT. With this work and the series, you have paid a nice tribute to this population. A quilt perfectly made and embellished with the original Mola piece. Beautiful colours and meticulous hand stitching, Great work as usual!

  5. Els, you surprised me again with your creativity and workmanship. You are perfect in everything you touch. You really widened my horizon with the story about this nation and about their craft. Thank you!

  6. When I saw it I know it was you ! I admire all the work you have done on this piece and how you combined perfectly the antique piece and your work.
    I know so little about Panama that I look forward to seeing the next pieces !

  7. As soon as I saw this amazing and meticulous mola quilt I knew it was yours! You have blended the antique mola with your detailed and precise hand work seamlessly. A beautiful tribute to the Guna Indians!

  8. I love how you made the combination of your appliqué and the antique piece. The Guna Indians will be proud of you, otherwise they have a good laugh. Lovely design!

  9. Couldn’t guess the country but believed it had to be one in middle America. What a beautiful tribute to these people.I think your mola is perfect and the lady with al the chain stitches is beautiful. A lovely way to showcase your antique molas. Looking forward to learning much more about Panama and its people.

  10. You have truly created a wonderful tribute to the work of the Guna Indians. I love the way that yoou have combined the antique mola nd your own beautifully worked version. The colours are so lively against the dark background and the stitching is all worked to perfection. Wonderful

  11. What a bright and cheerful quilt. The colours are great and the inclusion of the antique piece adds authenticity. Your own stitching is beautiful and your decorated lady is a lovely tribute to the skills of her people.

  12. I love molas! We have traveled to Panama several times, and with each trip I carefully select another mola. I truly appreciate the older, antiques I find amongst the others and I stay away from the mostly tourist-themed shops. The ladies that sell these have wonderful stories to tell, even though my Spanish is muy mal! Els, your own handiwork is exquisite, matching that of the Guna women. Your little quilt is stunning!

  13. studiociboulette

    I love making molas and yours is beautiful. Thank you for all the history and the love for the Guna culture. Bravo.

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