A Re-telling of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" Through Quilting

A Closer Look at Sue McCarty's "Adventure Awaits" Wholecloth Quilt

Adventure Awaits (2010) by Sue McCartyThe National Quilt Museum

This quilt, made in 2012 by Sue McCarty of Roy, Utah, US, depicts the events of "The Hobbit" in fabric, thread, crystals, and paint, in incredible textured detail. The quilt's "foundation" is a large piece of black cotton sateen fabric, and most of the design work is created through Sue's stunning free-motion machine quilting stitches. Metallic paints and Swarovski crystals enhance and embellish the delicate stitching.

The story begins in the lower left corner of the quilt. Reluctant to trek a path filled with mad adventures, Bilbo stands before his bright green door with the wizard Gandolf about to scamper across Bywater Bridge into the unknown. The “mark” on the door is J.R.R. Tolkien’s initials, taken from the Wilderland map in the preface of the book.

Following the quilted path, the first adventure is an encounter with the monstrous trolls, William (Bill), Bert and Tom. Drunk and argumentative, the three are always ready to cook and eat anything that crosses their path.

That path continues to Rivendell, the home of Lord Elrond, an elf lord who will provide welcome and wisdom to the travelers. The map propped against his table represents Middle Earth.

Unfortunately, the pleasantness of Rivendell will be followed by capture in the Goblin cave. These goblins/orcs are masters of torture and their instruments litter the floor. Escape will come at a price.

Bilbo, separated from the rest, will find a magic gold ring and meet the creature Gollum.

Luck (and an aptitude for riddles) will help Bilbo rejoin the rest. Awaiting them are the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood. At this point in the quilting journey, artistic license was used to combine the adventures of mountain and forest. Wolves (aka wargs), spiders, flying deer, giant moths and bats are a few of the tribulations that await them before the Lord of the Eagles and his feathered companions fly to the rescue.

The path resumes with Beorn. A skin changer, he is represented in bear form, surrounded by some of the bees he keeps to provide him with honey which he will grudgingly share if tricked into it by a wizard with a gift for storytelling.

The next block on the path represents the elf-king standing before his magic doors. With a love of treasure, he is not opposed to locking dwarves in his dungeons to persuade them into revealing the whereabouts of even more gold, silver and jewels.

However, elf dungeons are not inescapable. A water-gate is used to transport barrels of wine and other goods along the Forest River. That river leads to a Lake-town, home of the men brave enough to dwell in the shadow of the distant dragon mountain.

In that mountain lives Smaug, a greedy dragon whose hoard is heaped into a sparkling bed of precious gems, gold and jewel encrusted treasure stolen from men, elves and dwarves. The most precious item is the Arkenstone; a hug gem shaped like a globe and considered the heart of the mountain. Smaug has one vulnerability; a small patch on the left side of his chest that is devoid of armor.

The final block depicts a thrush and raven, two birds that will reveal the dragon’s secret and aid in his ultimate demise.

This wholecloth quilt is my attempt to depict some of the events that await the unsuspecting hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.  Some of you may ask, “Where are the dwarves?”  Due to the limited space, I have chosen to represent them in three subtle ways.  First, there are thirteen musical instruments tangled among the floral vine which serves as a border between the blocks.  Second, there are thirteen barrels on the Lake-town dock, each the color of a dwarf cloak.  And third, there are fifteen crystals on the eagle’s saddle, thirteen of which are for the dwarves with one each for Gandalf and Bilbo.

Zoom In! Can you find:

Musical Instruments: two clarinets, two harps, two viols, two fiddles, one drum, and two flutes.

Birds: one eagle, one gull, one owl, one raven, one hummingbird, one thrush, and two cardinals.

Reptiles and Amphibians: two lizards, three snakes, one turtle, and one frog.

Insects: seven moths, 10 bees, two snails, two spiders, and six flying bugs.

Small Mammals: two rabbits, two mice, one squirrel, and five bats.

Other: two Dragons and three fish.

Credits: Story

"Adventure Awaits" is part of the Collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, United States.

This virtual exhibit was created by Laura Hendrickson, Registrar & Collections Manager on behalf of The National Quilt Museum.


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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