Gift Kaleidoscope in Sea Colors

I am in the process of finishing up a number of quilts – not all, I still have a disgraceful number of quilts to be finished, many of which have been waiting more than ten years – oh no!

I have discovered I really love the look when the four corners that meet are all one color, forming one block; to me, it helps the flow into that swirling, interconnecting flow of sort-of-circles.

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This isn’t really finished, but I wanted to get it this far so I would have something for our upcoming “quiet day” for our bee. No class, no business, just handwork, chatting and having fun. 🙂

When I make a sea-color kaleidoscope, I often make double – or more – the blocks I need. Now I am using up some of those unused blocks to make up some gift quilts – you know, you never know when you are going to need to give away a quilt. I have a pretty good idea who this one is for . . .

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Kuwait Map Quilt

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There is a new Kuwait baby quickly approaching his birth date, and a baby for which a very special quilt needed to be made. His parents were instrumental in our having had such a good time in Kuwait. We were introduced by one of my Qatari friends who had spent time in Kuwait, and she was right – we were meant to be friends.

The first night we met, we started talking and never stopped. We explored restaurants together, strolled through the souks, and heard all kinds of stories of old Kuwait. Our time with them was – and is – priceless.

I like for a baby quilt to have legs – useful as a crawl pad, useful as a cover to sleep under, washable, washable, washable and in the end, able to be hung on the wall of an otherwish anonymous college dorm room. This one will do the trick, plus having lots and lots of patterns to keep a baby fascinated as he learns how to focus his eyes 🙂

I’d forgotten how much work a map quilt can be in the preparation stages. This relatively small quilt (60in x 60 inches until I washed it and it shrank about 2 inches in both directions; I’ve never had that happen before! It was noticeable!) has 900 pieces, and those 900 pieces had to include sea pieces, Kuwait pieces and Saudi and Iraq desert pieces (pale, pale, pale) Of course, there had to be a lot of variety.

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Seeking, planning and cutting took longer than assembly. The land portions are quilted in the ditch, a grid, and the Arabian Gulf segments have waves quilted in thin silver strands, so they glint like the sunlight on the Arabian Sea.

There are many many blocks made from fabric finds from the Kuwait souks, also a few with Kuwait memories. In Arabic, there are “sun” words and “moon words” so I found a sun and a moon. A family nearby us had a private zoo where, from time to time, a large cat would escape and put my village in a panic until it was recovered . . . so there is a large cat. In the end, this was one of the most fun and rewarding quilts I have made.

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Friendship Star

When we lived in Doha the first time, Desert Storm started, and a lot of Americans left, I didn’t know anyone, and I had a lot of quilting time. I decided I would make a lot of half-square triangles so I would always be able to whip up a baby quilt in a very short time, and I spent days cutting the fabrics, stitching the half-square triangles, ironing, sorting . . .

I made a couple baby blankets, but I still have a lot of half square triangles left. We moved to Kuwait, and I put a quilt together that I could hand quilt at our Tuesday Stitch Group, where I always liked to have hand work to do when I didn’t have a binding that needed stitching on or something.

For all those weeks . . . I didn’t get a lot done. Finally, I machine quilted in the white squares, and then I did some practicing for some new techniques in the star centers. It doesn’t make a lot of sense thematically, but the quilt is done, I’m giving it away and I don’t have to think about it any more.

Finished! Out! Out!

Happy Ending: Art Nouveau

Heidi Shelton taught Stack and Whack in Ramstein back in 1999, and I took her class, cut out these blocks, and stitched them together. She had advised us to use bright fabrics, but I just felt like this art nouveau fabric would make great blocks with graceful flowing patterns.

I love the blocks. I love the blue backgrounds. I could hardly wait to get it all together, which went very quickly.

But once I got the blocks together, and hung it up on the project wall, it was just . . . so . . . . BLAH. I was almost sick, I was so disappointed. I looked at it for about a week, at a total loss. I couldn’t think of how to fix it. I added a wide outer border with the original fabric – I like to do that with a Stack and Whack, because the inner blocks look so different from the original fabric. Then I looked at it for about a week, folded it up and put it away.

I pulled it out and looked at it every now and then, at a loss. It is rare that I am so stumped.

Maybe a couple years later I pulled it out. I knew it needed something red, so I put a narrow red band as an inner border, and added an outer border. I didn’t really add a lot of border because I didn’t want the quilt to get too big.

At least every time I moved I would pull it out and ponder what to do. I often pulled it out and asked my quilting friends what they would do. No one really had an idea. “Add an applique!” one friend suggested.

By 2009, back in Doha, I had some time. I had decided on an applique pattern; I designed it myself. Yes, it took me a while, but that is because I wanted it to be consistent with the Art Nouveau feel of the fabric. I love irises, and I had this great hand-dye fabric, not my favorite color, but a color which would brighten the somber mood of the quilt. I used freezer paper and hand appliqued the iris.

Once again, it didn’t do it for me. I love the irises. Somehow, to me, they are not what this quilt needs, but I don’t know what is. And 13 years is long enough, time, I figured, to just get on with my life. I need to get this quilt finished and OUT.

Here is the hilarious part. I ended up teaching Stack and Whack when we started the Qatar Quilt Guild in Doha. It was quick, it thrilled the beginners, and gave me a chance to teach a lot of skills (rotary cutting, the 1/4 inch seam, chain piecing, etc.) and technique while they produced a quick, usable quilt. Every time I taught it, I ended up with another stack and whack for myself, so I ended up with a lot of them – while the first one I ever learned, this one, languished, unfinished, on a shelf in many quilt rooms as I tried to figure out what to do to make it work.

Finally, I just decided to finish it, unsatisfactory as it may be. Even finishing it was a problem for me, tension problems in the quilting of the border, lots of “unstitching” and restitching to get it right . . . will this never end??

Now the good part. I had my daughter-in-law in my quilt room to show her Sheherazade, but she couldn’t keep her eyes off the stack n whack.

“I love it!” she exclaimed. “It’s Art Nouveau!”

I thought of explaining all the things that made this an unsatisfactory quilt – to me – but then I shut my mouth and thought – one look, and she got it. She got the fabric, she got the iris applique, she totally got it. Guess who gets the quilt, thirteen years after I started it? 🙂

Sheherazade: Magic Carpet

I don’t finish quilts as quickly as I once did, and I’ve been working for a while on this one, but oh, what fun. I loved choosing the fabrics, I loved designing it, and I loved figuring out the quilting motifs for all the borders.

I had a conversation with a quilter in our small group who quilts exquisitely, both by hand and machine. I told her I was giving up on machine quilting. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I found myself thinking that all I needed to do was to slow down and practice. I hated machine quilting when I started, but I got so it became acceptable. Taking it to another level is going to take some commitment. I’m no where near where I want to be, but I’m working on it, practicing, trying some new things, and there are elements that make me really happy.

This is the finished quilt:

Here are some close-ups. My favorite element is the paisley that turned into a minaret top in the purple hand-dye border.

I modified a technique my friend Paramjeet taught me. She encouraged us to go outside the lines, to try new things, anything we could think of. Nothing is out of bounds. The minaret tops have bands of zig-zag quilting, using a Coats and Clark metallic. I know there are people who say Coats and Clark is trash thread, but I have tried a lot of metallics, and the Coats and Clark metallics seem to break a lot less frequently than others.

For the yellow segment above, I made an iris template from some Indian design books I have. I really love it, and used it again in the fuchsia border, which is supposed to carry a carpet-border sort of feeling. I used a contrasting thread and went over designs more than once.

The quilt is designed for a baby girl coming who is very special to me; I want her to grow to be a strong and clever woman, so I made her a strong quilt.

Razan’s Stars

My sweet friend was having a baby and would not tell me if it was a boy or a girl! I had some lushious saturated fuschias I was dying to use, but it’s a good thing I went with a neutral-gender palate – she had a healthy baby boy!

This is the baby quilt I made for Razan:

Razan's Stars

Star Quilt for Razan’s Baby

The squares are eight inch squares, the stars a little irregular, but stitched on tightly so that the quilt can be washed. 🙂 Finished size 52 1/2″ square.

“It’s Just a Quilt”

“It’s just a quilt!” I told myself. It’s a quilt I’ve been working on for about six years, and it isn’t even that big. I was going to hand quilt it all, then I machine quilted part of it, but couldn’t think of what to do in the large star centers.

Today, I knew just what to do. There is a wonderful article by Lea Day in the new Quilter’s Newsletter which I have to admit is my favorite quilting mag of all) on machine quilting.

I know how to machine quilt. I also know that there is a lot I don’t know, and that I can do better if I practice. Lea Day gives us challenges, she shows us exactly hot to do it and then tells us to just get started. The first ones won’t be so hot, she tells us, but by the end of your practicing, you’ll definitely see signs of improvement and increased confidence.

No, no, those aren’t all from Leah Day, but Lea Day’s article got me started. There are some ideas I’ve been playing around with and this rainy day and her article gave me the idea to play around. Play is learning for a quilter, so my results aren’t perfect but this is “just a quilt,” and it’s a great place to play with some new quilting techniques and work on some ideas for the important quilts I am making for a couple young women having babies. 🙂