A Workshop on Dyeing

“It’ll be fun!” my friend said, telling me about a class being taught through the Kuwait Textile Arts Association.

“Ummm. I don’t think so. I don’t like getting all messy,” I said, hating myself even as I said it for sounding so prissy.

“You know how much fabric we buy that she (the instructor) makes – we might as well learn how to do it ourselves,” she went on, encouraging me. She knows I will give in; sometimes my first response is just negative.

So there we were, in a sun-drenched location, on one of the prettiest days in Kuwait, four of us in our raggedy clothes because yes, it was going to get a little messy. The instructor made it all so easy – charts with exact measurements, equipment labled with how much to add of what . . . it was fun, and mostly, it was easy. We are all totally into color, and we got to do a little experimentation.

First, we chose one color and did gradations, six fabrics from very light to very dark. I asked if I could use two colors, blue-violet and a little black, because I wanted to end up with a very Dark Iris color, and I wanted cold icy blues to dark cold purples. The results exceeded my every expectation:


I wish you could see the entire pieces – they have so much flow, motion and texture. Perfect for a cold, wintery quilt with sparks of green, blue and even turquoise in the icy purple. I could see snow capped mountains, icy streams, distant mountains, rising mists . . . these are perfect Alaskan colors.

We worked in teams, and as we worked on my partner’s colors, a spoon flipped, and the cup full of dye spun out of her hand, spiralling the spatter on me, the wall, the table, the floor – it was everywhere, a brilliant sapphire blue. I was wearing my oldest jean skirt (I could barely zip it) so honestly, it just didn’t matter. It took us forever to clean it all up. My poor friend kept saying “Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry,” and finally, as we were both down on our hands and knees sopping up sapphire blue I started laughing and said “Friend, I am down here on my knees just thanking God it was YOU that did it and not me!” If we hadn’t been laughing so hard, we probably could have cleaned up faster, but even the spill was a lot of fun. I had blue toes when I got home! I looked like something out of Braveheart!


The next exercise we did had to do with color families, using two dyes, six fabrics, and varying the proportions from one end of the spectrum to the other. I chose yellow to fushia. The results totally wowed me:


And then – the grand finale – direct application dye. We had squirt bottles, and could apply the dye wherever and however we wanted. We could mix, we could scrunch, we could try anything. It was, it was like being a kid again. My result is like something out of the 1970’s – I totally love it!


I seem to do a lot of quilts with seas in them, and my hands are itching to get busy on another one. These fabrics are inspiration for both sea and sand . . . love those orangey sand colors, too.

If you have a chance to take this class, grab it and run! It is SO much fun!

Mystery Quilt Mayhem (Part 1)

I admit it. I am a control freak. I did a couple mystery quilts early on in my quilting life and found myself looking at those quilts critically ever after, wishing I had used a darker color here, a lighter color there, etc. I am choosy. I like making choices, and I like enough contrast in just the right places to make a quilt work.

So when our Q8 Quilters announced a mystery quilt, for me it was all like “Ho Hum” until she started telling us about it. 

Our first month, we have to make a 20 inch block (20 1/2 inches unfinished) that can be turned on point. We will need about 4 yards of one fabric for the background. We choose our own colors, our own theme – Hey! This sounds interesting, and as challenging as we want it to be. In spite of myself, I was already planning my 20″ block.

I did all the math. I drew it out on my squared paper. I gathered my fabrics and carefully decided where I wanted them to fall in the pattern. I chose a Lone Star Center, because I have all these beautiful snowflake patterns in blue and silver, and I am dying to use them in a very wintery quilt.

It went together fine, and then I placed the insets by machine. Hmmm. Not so good. I did a Lone Star as my second ever quilt (I know, I know, fools rush in) which was in Seminole Colors as a graduation quilt for my son and I remember piecing and repiecing to get all the diamonds to line up. I did all the inset squares and triangles by hand. Now I remember why.

When I finish, my heart sinks. No matter how careful I was, no matter how I planned and measured – the square is more like 24 inches than 20. I don’t know how that happened.

As I am looking at it, and it looks all wonky, I see that I scorched a section as I was ironing. I quickly call my friend who knows everything about home things, and she gave me several suggestions. I tried the baking soda suggestion, and then, as I was rinsing the baking powder out, further disaster struck – my focus fabric, an Alaska-at-midnight blue with silver stars ran all over the crystal pristine white and silver that was to work as a snowflake. Horrors!

It was late in the day. I know there is too much wrong here to salvage, and, thankfully, I have a lot of the fabric; I can do it again.

The next day I started again, using a half inche less in every diamond measurement. I changed a couple fabrics, and I think I like the result. I also set in the setting triangles and squares by hand. Piece of cake.

I had to add a frame to bring it to 20 inches, but I was pleased to come as close as I did, working with so many seams, diagonals and a fixed block size. If anyone knows where there is a chart to tell you what size diamonds to use to get size X Lone Star block, please let me know.

Here are the results:

The one on the top is the one I will use as the Mystery Quilt center. The one on the bottom . . . it needs a little work. I don’t think I will trash it, but I need to think about it for a while.

Animal Friends League Charity Bazaar

“Where’ve you been?” my friends are asking, “you haven’t posted anything for ages!”

I’ve been having too much fun.

Mostly I have five or six or seven quilts going all at once, a hand applique, a quilt or two that needs some piecing, or needs some quilting designs chalked on, or some quilting done . . . but the last few months, I got busy on a lot of smaller stuff, things which will go into a much larger pile of hand made items for the Animal Friends League Charity Bazaar.

Several people have been working on this annual fund-raising effort to help support the Animal Friend’s League efforts to rehome abandoned, mistreated and homeless pets in Kuwait. This is just a small sample of some really fun, unique, and beautifully crafted stuff:

There will be many other vendors with unique items to help you solve your Christmas shopping dilemmas, AND . . . there will be a baked / home made goodies table, with famous salsa, famous mince pies and assorted delectables for your enjoyment.

See you there!

I’ve Got a Secret . . .

but I had better tell you all about it now, because soon it is not going to be a secret anymore!

First, I apologize for not writing for such a long time. I’ve been busy – quilting, sewing, my days are full with workshops and with projects. My good friend and quilter, Coeurcountry is hosting a bazaar to benefit the Animal Friends League in Kuwait, and I am proud to be a small part of the good work she is doing. It will be held October 25th, for those of you in Kuwait, and will have really really cool things you can’t find in other places, many hand made items, a home-made bake sale, and some specialized vendors.

OK, now – the secret.

I have a friend who owns a quilt shop – and it is a quilt shop I love, clean and airy, always full of people with new ideas and inspirations – Quilting by the Bay in Panama City, Florida.

Her shop has been selected for the Better Homes and Gardens Special Quilt Shop edition, coming out soon!

And, if you are really lucky, you can order some of the fabulous batik fabric specially designed to celebrate this honor:

Isn’t it gorgeous? You can only order it from Quilting By the Bay – it’s an exclusive.

Sandy, my heart sings at your success. (We were in the same quilt guild in Germany.)

Pacific Northwest Quiltfest 2008

Oh what joy! I met up for the weekend with an old quilting buddy from the Rheinland-Pfalz Quilt Guild, where we met, and we went to the Pacific Northwest Quiltfest, sponsored by the Association of Pacific Northwest Quilters.

Going to a quilt show is an art in itself; the secret is to find someone else whose style and timing is close to your own. This friend and I have been to numerous quilt shows together, mostly the European Quilt Shows because one or the other of us was living there at the time. My all time favorite quilt show has got to be the one at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, which will take place this year September 16 – 21, 2008.

My friend and I are systematic. She ordered the tickets ahead of time, so when we got to the show we cruised right up to Will Call and straight into the exhibit, which was held at the Seattle Convention Center. Oh! Nice, roomy location!

We start at the left, and go up and down each aisle, never skipping a quilt. I stopped photographing when I realized I could buy a complete collection CD, so I only have a few of my favorites to show to you. What a show!

These (mostly women) quilters are SO amazing. So creative. So inventive. It is simply awe inspiring to attend these shows.

Church Banner: Nestorian Cross

Our priest asked me to create a banner for the church, and provided some examples of a Nestorian cross, examples of which have been found in the Gulf, and since our church is a church in the Gulf, he thought it would be fitting.

I really wrestled with it for over a year. I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Finally, I threw up my hands, prayed for God to use my hands, and just got started. Honestly, I had no idea when I began how it would finish up.

I started by drafting a very large circle on freezerpaper. I found a piece of fabric that made my heart sing for the background – a sea-life batik, and it was perfect for Kuwait, with the ancient traditions of fishing and pearling. I added a layer of net that catches the light here and there, like the sparkle of the sun on the waves.

Then, I segmented the circle, and gathered up all my neutral silks and beaded and embroidered neutrals, hoping to get a stone mosaic effect for the circle around the cross, and I liked the effect so much, I decided to mosaic the cross, too, to get a more elemental and carved feeling.

While in the original, the circle around the cross comes out from the cross, in my version, the circle is separate.

For something that took me so long . . . meaning the thinking about it took so long – I actually had a lot of fun when I started working on it.

For me, the richness and textures of the fabrics bring to mind the richness and infinite variety of the population here, the rich brew that develops when cultures cross, mix, trans-pollinate – isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?

Duffle Bag Special

In the midst of utter chaos, I had an opportunity to take a class I’d really wanted to take. I had no time to take it. I had several other significant and compelling obligations.

Of course, I took the class.

I am so glad I did. No regrets, not one. I loved every minute of it.

The class was taught by one of the most feyly creative women I have met in the quilting world. She sees a new technique, and she grasps it intuitively. She makes gifted fabric choices, she is quick and capable, and she keeps working on variations of a pattern until she moves on to something else. She never does exactly the same thing twice. I am in total awe of her.

On top of all her talents, she is also very kind and very funny – what an amazing combination.

And look what I made. Yeh, it’s “only” a duffel bag! Yeah, right!

God Provides

OK quilters, back me up here. When you walk into a store and all the batiks are on sale at 50% off, isn’t that a sign? Isn’t that God saying “buy batiks?” You know how expensive they always are, right? So when you don’t even know there is a sale and you walk in and see 50% off, it would be like spitting in the eye of a blessing NOT to buy, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?

I was not greedy, nor unreasonable, but joyfully accepted the blessing for what it was. Here is the result:

Are they not beautiful? Wouldn’t you have done the same?

KTAA Show Unveiling

Today was a day we wait for all year long in the Q8Quilters Quilt Guild. We have the big Kuwait Textile Arts Association Show coming up this weekend, so today everybody gathered to share what we have been working on this year.

It’s mostly the quilters gathering, but quilters are often craftswomen in other areas, too. We had some Sadu woven pieces show up, and many bags, thanks to several workshops, and some cross stitch and some embroidered pieces.

The challenge catagories this year are Quilting Motion and Quilting Emotion, and there were some magnificent pieces that showed up. Everyone has been busy finishing up projects to be ready for this weekend.

This is a quilt I made for a very good friend’s newest grandchild. I call it Spring Chaos, because of the lifely, whirling hormonal activity going on. I can hardly wait to give it to her.

This quilt is called Black and White and Blood all over. It has to do with Beirut, and Kenya, and Zimbabwe, it has to do with man-made disasters and natural disasters. It has to do with what happens when we see things in black and white, and are willing to spill blood over the differences. I made it to celebrate a significant graduation. I can hardly wait to give it to my niece.

This last one is for my sister, a sophisticate who loves black and white. I love the way the 8 pointed star fits exactly with the cross. It’s called Reciprocals.

Minutes to Spare

I can’t tell you off the top of my head the number of times I have moved. I guess I don’t want to think about it. It is always massive, lots of lists of things to do, lots to go through, chuck out, sell, pack up . . . I always think about the old joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” (Answer) One bite at a time.

With quilting, one bite at a time works, too. It’s how you actually get things finished. Here is just a short list of things you can do when you have ten minutes before you have to be out the door:

• design a block in your ever-present squared notebook

• figure out fabric requirements for the quilt size you want

• figure out how many strips of binding you will need for the quilt you need to get finished

• spin bobbins for your current project

• prepare some practice quilt bats for warming up before you quilt

• Practice a new quilting motif 🙂

• computer design a label for your quilt

• print off the label for copying later on the light table

• cut a binding

• attach a binding (be sure to wear an apron if you are already dressed for something special)

• clear off your sewing table

• sort your threads

• organize your needles (machine / metallic, hand quilting, embroidery)

• cut scraps into usable squares

• put away some fabrics

(DO NOT get started looking for just the right fabric! You can lose hours that way!)

Please! This list is not complete! Add YOUR suggestions for how a quilter can use ten extra minutes to make life easier and more organized!