Are you familiar with the term “mola”? It’s an ancient Indian art form made like a reverse applique design. While in Maine, I visited the Hudson Museum on the grounds of the University of Maine. It features all Indian art forms. There are ancient examples as well as current examples from around the world, but the majority of the Hudson Museum features Maine Indian artwork.
Maine remains home to a number of Indian nations including Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac and Abenaki Indians. They are often grouped together as Wabanakis. More information can be found HERE. My maternal grandmother was a direct descendent from the Micmac tribe. I’ve been told my family has about 18% Indian blood which is not enough to be considered for inclusion in the tribes of Maine today, though I do have one niece that was accepted into the tribe about ten years ago. I have no idea how she managed to persuade them, but she did!
I saw the loveliest molas there and wanted to share them with you, my quilting friends. I can’t imagine anyone who quilts not enjoying these molas. These photos were all taken through glass so the colors, while still looking bright in the photos, were even brighter in person. Gorgeous, gorgeous colors.
This one is a funeral mola.
Here’s what Wikipedia states about molas:
“Molas are handmade using a reverse appliqué technique. Several layers (usually two to seven) of different-coloured cloth (usually cotton) are sewn together; the design is then formed by cutting away parts of each layer. The edges of the layers are then turned under and sewn down. Often, the stitches are nearly invisible. This is achieved by using a thread the same color as the layer being sewn, sewing blind stitches, and sewing tiny stitches. The finest molas have extremely fine stitching, made using tiny needles.
The largest pattern is typically cut from the top layer, and progressively smaller patterns from each subsequent layer, thus revealing the colours beneath in successive layers. This basic scheme can be varied by cutting through multiple layers at once, hence varying the sequence of colours; some molas also incorporate patches of contrasting colours, included in the design at certain points to introduce additional variations of colour.
Molas vary greatly in quality, and the pricing to buyers varies accordingly. A greater number of layers is generally a sign of higher quality; two-layer molas are common, but examples with four or more layers will demand a better price. The quality of stitching is also a factor, with the stitching on the best molas being close to invisible. Although some molas rely on embroidery to some degree to enhance the design, those which are made using only the pure reverse-appliqué technique (or nearly so) are considered better.
Molas will often be found for sale with signs of use, such as stitch marks around the edges; such imperfections indicate that the mola was made for use, and not simply for sale to tourists. A mola can take from two weeks to six months to make, depending on the complexity of the design.”
Here are some others shown at the Hudson.
It’s interesting to note that often molas found for sale were once part of a garment. Often the Indian women will cut up a blouse or shirt they are tired of and sell the molas individually to tourist to support themselves.
Besides molas, there was tremendous beadwork shown. We watched a video on a current-day Maine Indian explaining about her desire to continue on the beaded art her ancestors had done. This collar is one example.
This pincushion, also one of the fine examples of Indian artwork is beaded as well.
I had to include this darling berry basket, even though it’s not needlework.
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these molas. They fascinate me!
Keep on stitching, quilters! Non-quilters, keep on dreaming!