Neuleiningen Grapes

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(around 90″ x 90″)

So many times we were stationed near this castle; you can see it at the top of the hill in the right upper corner. It is called Neuleiningen Castle, and has a wonderful restaurant called the Burgschaenke. Just writing about it, I can still smell the smoke from the huge fireplace that you smell lingering as you walk in, even if there isn’t a fire burning. In all the years we’ve been going there, the menu hasn’t changed that much. It is rustic elegance. You can go there, have great wines, have a great meal, have a great dessert, you can spend hours there and at the end, you hate to leave, it is such a wonderful, fun, atmospheric restaurant.

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This is one of my earliest quilts. I had an idea about making a lot of different colored grapes with snowball-like blocks; I used corners I had cut off half-square triangles I was making for something else and just cobbled together rural looking fabrics to make the grapevine fields and plowed fields on the long slope leading up to the castle.

This area has some of the finest white wines, icy and dry, I have ever tasted. They live in my memory.

I finally finished the quilt, years and years after it was conceived. What held me up? I never could figure out what to do with the big borders I had put on it; I kept trying to do grape bunches but the chalk would wear off, it just never worked. Finally, I just figured “finished is better than great” (and it had been like 12 years since I started it) so I did straight rows, thinking it is a lot like furrows, so in touch with the feeling of the quilt. Whatever – it works. The quilt is finished. My husband loves it, and we really need a trip back to Neuleiningen and the Burgschaenke :-)

45 Minute Quilt and Machine Quilting Inspiration

It’s not that I haven’t been quilting, but November and December I spent my quilting time babysitting my sweet adorable endlessly fascinating grand-daughter, and now I am scrambling to catch up.

I’ve got two quilts promised next week for young men aging out of the foster care system, and I am down to the wire on the last one. I saw a video on making a quilt in 45 minutes. No, it is not possible, but I was intrigued by the technique. You take – in her case, I believe 33 width-of-fabric strips, connect them with diagonal joins (the kind you make for binding), then you start sewing by taking the end and stitching it to the beginning, lengthwise.

Strips

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That first seam is a doozy. You cut the fold when you reach the end. The second seam, when you take the end and start stitching it to the beginning, lengthwise, is only half as long :-). The third seam is only half the length of the second. In total, you sew like five long seams, because at the end of every seam, you cut the fold. You get 16 + 16 and you have a 32″ quilt wide, and maybe 47 inches long. I can’t tell you exactly, because of course, I didn’t do it the way she said. I threw in lots of scrap 2.5 inches here and there for visual interest, and then did a second one using 66 strips (around 1600 linear inches in the first strip).

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It is a fun and easy way to use up scraps, and the result doesn’t look like you just threw something together, it has visual interest. I shared it with my quilting buddies, and they have run away with it. We discovered that if you cut the strips 3.5 inches for a 3 inch strip, you end up with a 48″ wide quilt, which is closer to what we need for single bed sized quilts.

The problem – how to quilt. It stymied me for a while, and then I went to my notebook, where from time to time I draw designs I have seen that I want to think about using. There I found the perfect pattern for the African fabric quilt I am trying to finish:

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You see this everywhere in Africa. For some reason I think it is called squash blossom, but I do not know why I think that. It takes me a little longer, but I love the repetition, and I am nearing the end:

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Here are the quilts I have just about finished:

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And this is my experiment with 1600+ inches; it turns out vertical because I made it 64″ wide. When you are working with 2 1/2 inch strips, your finished strip piece will always be either 32 inches or 64 inches, adding strips just varies the other dimension. To get anything besides 32 or 64 inches, you have to vary the strip width.
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I realize this is not very clear.

This is actually called the Jelly Roll Race, by Jenny Doan. Here is the Jenny Doan video I watched.

Chained Islamic Stars

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While the previous quilt was just playing around, this quilt is the real thing. I’ve been involved with this quilt since I started quilting. I was so new! I made a lot of mistakes in my ambitiousness, and it took me about fourteen years to figure out how to get it right.

First, I designed it. I use graph paper when I am working out a design. I designed it and cut all the pieces. I pieced one and had a lot of trouble doing it. Then I moved to Saudi Arabia and all the pieces stayed in a box, which I would look through later as I moved again, to Germany, to Qatar and to Kuwait.

Upon my move back to Qatar, my angel friend who unpacked my quilt room because I was sick scolded me for all my unfinished projects and told me I had to finish them.

“Just make a list and do them,” she told me sternly, and every time I finish one, I think of her, and of her graciousness, her love of doing good for others.

So back the second time in Qatar, all my Qatar friends having zipped out for the summer, I pulled out the pieces and pieced the blocks. I was more experienced, more confidant, and the piecing went well. There were some problems, lots and lots of seam lines, like a pineapple quilt.

Several months ago . . . maybe a year ago (LOL) I made a back for it and sandwiched it. I still was at a loss as to how to quilt it, even after all these years. Finally, I said to myself “finished is better than perfect” and did diagonal lines. Then, taking a deep breath, I practiced some free form feathers on some practice battings, and then dove in. It went amazingly fast.

I did have to do a little picking out here and there, and re-doing. I’m still getting this feather-thing down, but I love feathers, and I love that once they are finished, most of the flaws disappear. After I washed the quilt and it shrank a little, the flaws were almost non-existentent.

So here is the irony. I love the quilt so much that I have re-graphed it in a more simple way and I think I will do it again in a bigger version. I guess I am just a glutton for punishment, but I love this pattern, complex fabrics, background so serene, so like Islamic tiles.

Pensacola Beach Quilt

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This year I have three bed sized charity quilts to do, no sense in waiting, just get it done. I had some fun this summer just playing around, and the result is a very playful quilt. I wanted to try something a little modern, with solids. I would do a little here, a little there, look at the colors and cut some more (this is my normal).

Yes, I do plan quilts. I often do my own designing, and from time to time, I even designate exactly where each color should go on the graph. Other times, I let the quilt tell me where it wants to go.

After a while . . . I am embarrassed to tell you this . . . I could tell that this quilt was just a flirtation, not the real thing, and it wanted to go out the door. I found fabric to make it long enough for the requirements, did the Pensacola Beach ball and quilted in some footprints along the surf line. Done! (Only two to go!)

Stars of Sossusvlei

I am not doing such a hot job of record-keeping here; I finish something and it is out the door before I enter it. Oh aarrgh.

I did another Sloppy Stars demo several months ago with African fabrics (I still have a lot in my stash, so you will probably see yet more . . . ) and had enough for two bed-sized quilts for one of our bee projects . . . I still have one more chance to photograph them before they disappear, but they are not with me.

Meanwhile, with the blocks I had left, I did a wall hanging quilt for us. I don’t do a lot of those, but this one contains some fabric I love and bought thirty-something years ago in Tunisia. I don’t even know if Tunisia even produces fabrics any more.

This is the hanging:

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Sossusvlei is an area in the Namibian desert, where the ambient light is non-existent and you can see the rings on Saturn, the red-ness of Mars, and a million stars you never even knew were there. The sight is awe-inspiring and breathtaking. We were at the CCAfrica Lodge, now called And Beyond; it was so much fun. One of my best memories was riding ATV’s to the top of a mountainous rust-red sand dune for sundowners. :-)

Update: Our bee has a project every year to benefit a local charity. This year we made quilts for one of the Waterfront Mission recovery houses. These are two more of the Sossussvlei quilts made for them. Actually, these are the original quilts and the one I am keeping for us is made with left over blocks from these. One of these is made with “light” background and one with “dark” background, all things being relative :-)

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This is my backing on the dark Sossussvlei Stars quilt”

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