Joan Brailsford – Country – Architecture

Stave church

Inspiration: the wooden stave churches of Norway and their decoration

Stave churches are made of wood and constructed with poles (the Norwegian word for pole is ‘staver’) and are considered an important example of medieval architecture. Once there were more than 1,000 in Norway but now only 28 remain. In Norway the tradition of using wood in artwork as well as construction is combined in these unique buildings and the decoration is a mix of both Christian and Viking symbolism.  The oldest stave church at Urnes is richly decorated, was built around 1130 and is on the UNESCO World heritage list.

I love the way that these wooden buildings seem to have been put together in a haphazard fashion, so that they look almost like fairytale castles. Rather than depicting a whole building I wanted to use the features of the construction and the decorations within the building as my design. I love the way that the roof tiles look like the scales  and the decoration at the end of the roof is a stylised dragon, and of course, I love the intrictae carvings on the columns within the buildings.

I used a hand dyed polycotton as a base and added columns of wax-resist dyed calicomto represent the decorated columns. I cut the animalistic designs from a batik and used raw-edged applique to attach it. I then used a kantha-type hand quilting all around the animal design to make it stand out as if it has been carved. I cut a darker batik into lines of overlapping ‘scales’ of two roof sections, and the same fabric for the ‘dragon’. I hand-stitched these again as raw-edge applique. I added more columns, rafter and roof shapes with machine quilting. Finally the quilt is bound with the darker wood colour.

Detail views:


Library pictures:

  1. So much information in one piece, I love the way that you have focussed on certain elements with great attention to detail and choice of colours.

  2. A Carthusian job, Joan. Well done! A great work related to the details of this fascinating medieval church.

  3. studiociboulette

    Beautiful Joan, I love all the woodwork and how you integrated the architecture in the quilting. Beautiful

  4. Maryte Collard

    Very interesting story beautifully told in such detailed work. You recreated the texture of wooden carvings so well, amazing.

  5. your description is excellent and you were able to do it with your fabric. I see in my imagination what the ancient churches look like. Also excellent use of color.

  6. Beautiful piece Joan ! I like how you focused on wooden carvings, leaving only quilting lines for the architecture itself. It gives to your piece a nicely balanced harmony.

  7. Very interesting and stylized interpretation of the Stave church’s arquitecture. Love all the appliqué wooden details and how your hand and machine quilting enhances it all. Well done!

  8. Lovely work. An interesting choice to use specific features of the building in your design. The appliqué and stitching add lots of detail to highlight the shapes you have used.

  9. Very interesting background story and a lovely quilt focusing on specific details. The hand stitching makes the shapes stand out beautifully. The quilting lines echo the shape of the building very well. Lovely choice of color and fabrics.

  10. The wax-resist dyed fabric looks like marble. I love the way you added just quilting lines to the roof parts to create the whole church. Very well done, Joan!

  11. I like that you emphasized the carved details of the staves, and your story behind this is quite interesting. The stitched lines and shadows draws one in for a closer examination.

  12. Such an interesting story, but most of all an awesome quilt. Love how you made up the design with all this beautiful carved additions. Composition, colors and quilting are all superb. Bravo!

  13. Love the use of colors and the history so intricately executed in fabric. Perfect!

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