African Dreams

I actually finished this quilt back in July, but it is a gift, and I didn’t want to take the chance of them seeing it before it was Christmas. They dream of going to Africa. It’s been a long time in the making; I started cutting for the quilt while I was still with the Q8Quilters, in Kuwait, gathered all the fabrics and pieces in the ubiquitous plastic bin, and hauled them to Qatar and then to Pensacola for more cutting and ultimately the piecing. This is one of those quilts that was a lot of fun to work on because I loved the fabrics so much.


(It looks lumpy because my trial wall hangs over my book/storage cases, and sometimes things from behind poke out and make the quilt bulge in some places)

Many of the fabrics are genuine fabrics I have found in Africa, have been given by people who lived in Africa, or were sold to me by Africans. Some batiks I found at a little shop in Edmonds, WA, where they sell objects made by African women as a means of supporting themselves. As I have less and less genuine African fabric left, the quilt pieces I use are smaller and smaller! I hate to waste a single fragment!

I tried some different kinds of quilting on this, and while it went together quickly and was fun to put together, at the end, you have all this bias edge and it is hard to make it all match up, or at least it was for me. I love the look, and one day I may try another, but I will be thinking how to avoid having that bias on the outside edges, hmmmmmmmm. . . . . (thinking)

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The Bag Lady

I’ve been having so much fun! Many I have already given, but here is a selection from the remaining thirty or so:

And more:

Of course, part of what I love is that these are made from remainders of favorite quilts, or even favorite clothing (the purple silk duppioni) or a treasured scrap. I use them to keep things together – battery chargers, sewing needs, cosmetics for the gym, my travel cosmetics (yes, I keep a separate set because I was going back and forth so often – and still do). They are small, but useful for keeping like things together.

My best story is I made one out of pink Eiffel Tower fabric for my best-friend-from-college-French-class, and it was tiny. She crowed “I know just what I will use it for!” and pulled out a plastic bag full of coins that she had been using. I don’t mind what people choose to use these bags for, like my quilts, I just want them to be used.

And I bless Alanna for teaching me how to make these treasures, such a fabulous gift to be able to make them in all different sizes. And I bless my friend Leslie for visiting the Taliban shop in Doha and sending me lots and lots and lots of really cheap zippers!

Flesh Tones

I have a lot less time for quilting, these months, with my husband retired and ready to play. When he worked long hours, I filled those long hours with my work – quilting. It takes focus, for me. When a quilt comes to mind, it is like a sort of engineering problem, and I am usually trying a new skill. I have a pretty clear idea where I am going but I need to work out how I am going to get there.

I have a great quilt in mind, I’m really excited about it. I am using some fabrics I bought at one of the European International Quilt Exhibits while I was living in Germany and going to European quilt exhibits :-). Different nationalities see colors, techniques and even traditional patterns very differently, so those exhibitions were always stimulating, and often even astonishing.

But I wander. The fabrics I bought are reproductions of very very old Dutch fabrics by Den Haag und Wagonmakers B.V, one including a tree of life panel, in which the fruit of the tree of life – or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – is the pomegranate, which just happens to be one of my very favorite all time fruits.

I am working out the composition, but am a little bit stuck on flesh tones. I know the tone I want, but the flesh tones look different under different lights. Can you see the difference?

I may have to tea-dye one of the fabrics just a little darker, a tiny bit browner . . . I don’t know. I am stuck. I’ve been stuck before. It will work out, but I wish it would work out sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, I have been burning the midnight oil working on little bags. But that’s another post, for when I have a photo of some of the bags I’ve made, at least the ones I have not yet given away!

Hand Dyeing Class

“Why would you want to dye your hands?” she asked, looking at my very purple fingers. Actually, I had been wearing gloves, but in the process of twisting and tying a piece of fabric, I had taken them off and forgotten to put them back on before plunging the fabric into the dye-bath.

This class was so much fun. If I had one complaint, it would be only that for all she taught, for all the supplies and for all the printouts and wisdom, she charged too little. She is an excellent teacher, and on top of the class, she fed us a delicious lunch. I would have paid much more. We had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot.

My gradations:

Aren’t they just yummy? If I were really going to get into dyeing, I would keep working to find that perfectly perfect blue purple; I love these colors, but they are just on the blue side of purple. I prefer being on the blue side to being on the red side, but I would love to achieve a more intense, deeper purple, just a shade less blue. . . That’s just me being me, wanting just a little more precision. I’ll know it when I see it.

This one is overdyes; the original was aqua/turquoise, and I overdyed with my purple. Because I couldn’t wash the dye out for a couple days (you know, life gets in the way, or maybe it was just bad planning on my part) it is probably more purple than it would otherwise have been . . .

These are fine, as I use so many of these colors in star quilts and sea quilts. 🙂

Last, we did a jar with layers, mine were green, turquoise and purple, but again, I think leaving them for three days probably skewed the mix. Still, I love the results:

The truth is, I know what the layers were, but when I look at the results, the only one I am sure of is that the top one was the bottom, green, layer. I can’t be sure which is which of the middle and last.

Jewel Box Pieces

Here are the pieces for the Jewel Box:

Starring the half square triangle, which I chose to be 4″ finished:

The four patch, which I chose to be made of pieces cut 2 1/2 inches to total 4″ completed:

Each four patch is united with a half square triangle:

Completed component (1/4 of the finished block)

Completed block is composed of four component blocks, above, each rotated to complete the box:

My all time favorite quilt book is “It’s OK If You Sit on my Quilt” by Mary Ellen Hopkins, and I like it because it helped me quilt without having to follow someone else’s idea of how my quilt should be. When I found a jewel box pattern, it was bigger than I wanted, so I scaled it down. This jewel box pattern is a great practice for your first effort at changing scale, because the size you choose for your four patch and your half square triangle changes everything. You could use 1″ blocks, or you could use 12″ inch blocks, and the pattern would remain the same, only the scale would change.

I’ve seen this quilt done with a light background and with a dark background. I made one big mistake right at the beginning; I cut the half square triangle background out of a dark navy blue and the 2 1/2 inch background squares out of black. If I had it to do over again, they would be the same fabric.

If you want the variations in color, you will need small amounts of a LOT of fabrics; this is a great opportunity to ask for small donations from your quilting friends. What is fun is that you later can look at the quilt and remember who gave you that perfect shade of coral, or fuchsia, or pistachio, or parrot, that icy blue. I have a dress I love, ruined by a drop of bleach; a piece of that dress is in my quilt.

As I look at the completed top, below, I am reminded that classic patterns have their own timelessness and elegance, and can look totally different from one another, depending on fabric choices. I would do this one again in a heartbeat; I love the diagonal lines created by the half square triangles.

Jewel Box with Transitions

This is why I love quilting . . . for me, it is the challenge. I’ve always wanted to do a jewel box quilt, and I thought I was going to be making a scrap quilt. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that I wanted it to be a transition jewel box, with purple in one corner, red in another, yellow in another and green in the final corner. The borders will have transitions from corner to corner, and then the center will have cross-transitions.

It’s not so easy when you make rules. 😉 I had to dig through my stash to find just the right shades, it took me longer to find and cut than it takes to sew up the blocks. This is not going to be quick and easy, aarrgh. On the other hand, I am having a lot of fun with the progress.

This is the only row I have completed; I also completed the yellow block for the bottom right corner, but have not yet done the red-yellow transition:

It will be a while before I can get back to this, as I am traveling. It doesn’t keep me from thinking about where I will go next!

UPDATE

I was out of town for a week and lost a little time, but not momentum. 🙂 As soon as I got back, I started working on the Red to Yellow transition:

And the Yellow to Green transition:

Only six blocks left, all transitions! I have a busy week this week, don’t know if I will get it finished before Friday, but that is my goal. It’s not a hard quilt. It’s the color selection and cutting that takes the most time. I have to admit, there is something in me that loves this process; it’s not like just sewing the pieces together, you really have to think about it.

Final Update:

I love this quilt top. For one thing, it isn’t boring. I love watching the colors as they move across the quilt and change as they are influenced by other colors. It reminds me of my own life, all the different places I lived and how each place has had an impact on me, influenced how I perceived reality, grew in my spiritual life . . . It’s My Jewel Box Life.

I think I will quilt it by hand.

Kaleidoscope Transition Blocks

I love Kaleidoscope quilts (as you can see on this blog 🙂 ) and I particularly love ‘colors of the sea’ Kaleidoscopes because I think they capture – in a small way – the shifts and swirls of sea water. Having said that, the best one I made was the first one I made, and since then, I haven’t been so happy.

I have a whole bunch of sea blocks, and I’ve had them up on my project wall forever, trying to figure out why they weren’t working for me. One day, I was almost ready to put them together, and I got the big AHA.

It’s the transition blocks.

In my first quilt, I made a mistake, but I made it on purpose. Instead of making the corner blocks contrast, I made all the corners meeting together the same color. It takes more work, and it is slow and painstaking work, but – to me – what a difference.

A quilt with contrasting corner blocks (meaning the corner of each Kaleidoscope block):

A close up of contrasting corner blocks where they meet:

And now, the newest top, with all the corner blocks meeting up with the same color. To me, it makes a smoother transition, to me, it helps capture the swirling motion I am seeking:

I know this is all very personal, my preference may not be your preference. What do you think; do you think it makes a difference?