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 🙂

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Seminole Graduation Quilt

This was one of my very earliest quilts, and looking at it now, I am in total wonder at how carefully I worked on it.

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This pattern itself, sometimes called Bethlehem Star, sometimes called Lone Star (and more names, these are just the two I could remember!) is very complicated for a beginner. I used Quilts Quilts Quilts! one of my all time favorite books, to guide me in the making.

Then, I drew and quilted a Seminole in the bottom left quadrant, my son’s name, year of graduation and degrees in the bottom right quadrant, and some autumn leaves in the upper quadrants. Looking at it 8 years later, I am impressed at how hard it must have been for me, but I chose to do it. Woooo Hooooo on me! And hand quilting on black! Imagine!

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Bordered, of course, with my first efforts at Seminole piecing. It is at the same time attributable (I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of Quilts Quilts Quilts) and utterly original, with all the Seminole touches.

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My First Quilt

I had a dear friend at church who kept insisting I was a quilter.

“No!” I would disagree, thinking quilters were old women who wore glasses and didn’t have a life outside of quilting. And I was busy, taking classes in teaching English as a Foreign Language, and who had the time?

She talked me into taking one class . . .an introduction to hand piecing and hand quilting, six lessons at the local quilt shop.

I was a goner.

I have always loved fabrics, and putting fabrics together. Now, when I teach and people say “but how do you choose your colors?” I tell them the same thing the teacher told me:

“find a piece of fabric – it can be anything, even upholstery fabric – that thrills your soul. Look for photos whose colors you love, look at ads. That which you are drawn to are the colors you will want to use, because you love those colors.”

And that is just what I do. From time to time I make a quilt for someone, and they tell me what I need to use, and I might hate the colors, but I consider it an opportunity to grow a little.

The fabric I loved became the main fabric. I have never again worked with turquoise, pink and yellow, I have never made another pastel quilt, but I still love this quilt, and treasure the hours I spent working – and re-working – the blocks, hand quilting, putting on the binding – which, because I didn’t know anything, is just the back brought forward and folded over the front.

I tried to put it together in Saudi Arabia and discovered that the blocks bled right into the posts and sashes, so I had to run out to find cotton fabric and then had to make a small amount of fabric go a long way, so made this garden path setting . . .somehow, to me, it all worked.

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I started this quilt in 1997. I didn’t finish it until 1999m but there were two moves involved, one to Saudi Arabia and another to Germany, and getting a house ready to rent out and getting a son settled in law school . . . The others came more quickly.

That friend who had told me I was meant to be a quilter was right. She gave me two quilting books, no longer published, which were in the boxes of quilting books that got lost somewhere between Doha and Kuwait. Thousands of dollars worth of books, irreplacable – and my quilt journal, with records of all my projects. Thus, this online record.

My second quilt was a graduation quilt for my son, and his school colors were garnet and gold. I don’t really love working with either red or yellow, but when I put them with another color I never in a milliion years thought I would ever use – black – WOW. The quilt totally worked. I ended up loving it.

Emily’s Dragon Quilt

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This is one of my earliest quilts, made for my dear friend Barbara’s first grandchild. I wanted the quilt to give Emily a lot of power in her life, and I wanted it to be a blend of Chinese and American. And I wanted her to know that the world was hers for the taking.

The Chinese dragon with the ball that is the world is a very ancient motif, it’s rendition is totally my own.

I drew it out on freezer paper, then painfully hand appliqued it to the background, inserting prairie points as scales along the back and tail. I inserted seminole piecing as an inner border. I wanted the eyes to be intimidating, without scaring a sweet little girl.

The dragon itself is hand quilted, using a modified clamshell, which made great scales. The background is machine quilted, using long wavy vertical lines – it was one of my first forays into machine quilting.