The Hoffman Challenge: Sparkling Stained Glass Mandala

This year the Hoffman Fabric Challenge hits the big 3-0!  To celebrate this milestone, Hoffman featured two digital prints that are bursting with bling factor.  Challenge rules required at one or both challenge fabrics to be used in the body of the project in a clearly recognizable amount.  At least 75% of the quilt must be made using Hoffman fabrics from the Shine On! collection and/or stash.

When the fabrics became available, I purchased 1.5 yards of the Spectrum fabric (colorful jewels set against a black background) without any initial game plan.  As the deadline approached, I fused Pellon's Wonder Under 810 to the back of the challenge fabric and spent many hours cutting out each colorful gem stone.   
Hoffman Challenge Fabric Gems

Once all the gem stones were cut out, I sorted them by color and shape.  Some of the gems came in repeats of 8, 16, 24 or more.  Once all the jewels were cut and sorted, I assembled my quilt sandwich using an older Hoffman Challenge print for the backing, black felt in lieu of batting (as I was afraid of lighter color batting bearding or coming through the top during the quilting) and then a solid black Hoffman batik for the quilt top. 

With my sandwich in place, I began combining different jewel shapes and colors to create floral motifs and arcs to create a mandala design that sparkled against the black background.  Just like my quilted mandalas, I start in the very center and work on one ring at a time.  As each ring came together, I would step back to evaluate and finetune.  Once satisfied, I would start on the next ring and nestle shapes into any negative space created in prior rings.  You can see my mandala expand ring by ring below (clockwise starting with the top left picture). 
Mandala Bloom

My mandala was intentionally placed off center for a couple of reasons:

  • The center focal point aligned with the rule of thirds
  • As my rings grew larger, some would float off the edge of the background.  This meant I didn't necessarily need 8 repeats of each motif and it allowed me to create more intricate designs and not run out of fused/cut jewels. 

Once my mandala design was complete, I carefully fused everthing into place with a hot dry iron.  As I thought about quilting, I reflected on my experiences working on "Owl You Need Is Love," my first Hoffman Fabric challenge.  Each of the owls was created using raw edge fusing and quilting to secure each shape into place.  In the judges comments, they noted a little fraying along the edges and expressed concern about how the quilt would hold up during travel.  Note that "Owl You Need Is Love" was juried into the travelling collection and continues to travel with me to trunk shows without any signs of further fraying.  But I thought I would take an alternate approach to quilting this raw edge applique design.  Instead of quilting through each shape, I layered black tulle netting over the entire quilt top and quilted around each shape, thereby minimizing any chance of fraying.  A silver metallic thread was used to outline each motif, creating a pocket around each jewel motif while preventing any shifting or fraying.  Some scrollwork and leafy designs were added as a way for me to travel around the mandala design without having to break thread.  The background was densely quilted in a zig zag meander using Black (#2692) Aurifil 50 weight, which allowed the unquilted jewels to really pop off the surface. 
Quilting Details

Several different fabrics were auditioned for binding treatment:  yellow gold, black with some metallic accents, two different teal blues and two glittery ombres in the Shine On! collection:  Sunset featuring warm colors and Aurora in a cool colorway.
Binding Auditions

The challenge rules indicate that any shape is allowed but the perimeter must fall between 72" - 160".  I opted to trim the top and left sides square and straight, and trimmed along the outer ring as a way of enhancing the radiating mandala design.  I measured and marked the same distance out from each of the motifs and did my best to connect the dots as I carefully trimmed with my rotary cutter (with some fine tuning here and there!) 
Unconventional Shape

Of course, this required me to cut my binding strips on the bias, allowing me to travel around that curved edge.  And as you can see below, I chose the Aurora ombre fabric for my binding (many thanks to a nudge from my friend Sarah).  It adds a beautiful glow without detracting from the mandala design.
Sparkling Stained Glass Mandala, Finishes 32" x 33"

Sarah to the rescue again with the quilt title.  One of her relatives saw my in-progress shots and commented that it looked like stained glass.  Sparkly...Sparkling Stained Glass Mandala.

Oh in case you are like Sarah and wonder how many gem stones are included in my design?  I tallied them all up and 477 is the answer!! 

Here is my Artist Statement from the entry process:
This mosaic mandala shines with breathtaking brilliance as nearly 500 jewels sparkle against the solid black background.  Gemstones were combined to create colorful rings of flowers and arcs that radiate out from the center.  Metallic thread play adds an extra layer of embellishment to this ornate design.

Oh and I am proud to say that 100% of the quilting fabrics used are made by Hoffman Fabrics...even the back which may be familiar as it was the challenge fabric used on my very first foray into the Hoffman Fabric Challenge just 5 years ago!
WHOO Uses Another Hoffman Challenge Fabric On the Back?

I finished in time to enter a whopping 2.5 days early which is a pretty rare achievement for this procrastinator!!  And I received an email just yesterday that my quilt was chosen to move onto the next round of judging.  So I will be shipping it off to Hoffman Fabrics for judging!!


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  2. Congratulations! What a beautiful design concept, and the quilting makes it that much more exquisite.

    1. Thank you required some effort to fussy cut all those jewels...but once they were cut and sorted, the design evolved quickly. I am really pleased with the finished result and hope it fares well in the judging!

  3. Another innovative outstanding design! Congratulations, Mel! Just beautiful!

    1. Thank you Jackie. This was a fun quilt to create!! No planning just playing with color and shape!

  4. This is magnificent Mel! Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your process.

    1. Thank you Rebecca! I am so glad I remember to pause and take pictures along the way. I sometimes get so absorbed in a project that I forget to pause for pictures, food or sleep!


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