In Gina’s Footsteps

By: Dana Jones
Gilpin County, Colorado

From 2012, when I met the quilts and quiltmakers of Caohagan Island, a 13-acre Philippine island, through 2017, their story consumed hours of my time. I spent a month on the island researching my book, six months writing, and more than three years telling the story and demonstrating the island’s quilting techniques. Gina Abayan’s Flood of Colors was among quilts in the trunk show I presented at guilds and shops. It always drew spontaneous “ahs.” I was asked if Gina had seen Nancy Crow or Valori Wells’ quilts. The answer: No.

I know Gina only through her quilt, because she died before I visited Caohagan. I was told she saw neighbors making money through quilting and wanted in on the action. When she came to the Quilt House for fabric from the community stash, there were only solid-color fabrics. Someone convinced Gina to quilt with those fabrics, a Caohagan first. When she returned with her quilt top, she spread it on the floor and disgusted said, “It’s nothing but a flood of colors.”

Other Caohagan quilters later made solid-color quilts, but Gina’s remains a unique design. My quilt is not a replica because no two Caohagan quilts are the same. I studied Gina’s use of color and line. Like Gina, I worked with stash fabric, a challenge since I rarely use solids. It was difficult to not plan too much and to set my rotary cutter and ruler aside. I had to accept that fiber differences meant I couldn’t match her colors. I did seek Gina’s color balance that leans green more than any other color. I pieced by machine but followed the island’s hand quilting style. I felt the Caohagan quilters’ presence as I worked, a rewarding finale to four years of sharing their art.