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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A Quilt for Naomi

My sweet little grand-daughter has arrived! Her quilt is ready!

When my husband saw it, he said, with an undeniable note of dismay in his voice “But that doesn’t look like a baby quilt!”

It doesn’t, if you think baby quilts have to look babyish. If you think they have to be all pink, or blue, or pastel yellow or green, or have little animals on them.

Babies love black and white. They love the patterns; black and white can mesmerize a baby. I wanted the quilt to be big enough and sophisticated enough that she could crawl on it as a baby and take it with her to college. I am happy with this quilt!

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Rhonda Blasingame’s Thread Painting Class

As I signed up for this class, I remembered a day-long class my friend Paramjeet Bawa did one March in her bright-with-natural-light basement, hours of instruction, a little bit of several techniques. I remember thread painting a tree – my first experience using zig-zag in quilting. The best part of that class was crossing the boundaries, stepping outside the rules; Paramjeet encouraged us to TRY NEW THINGS and not to be afraid of failure.

Rhonda Blasingame has the same grin; you can tell that she is never happier than when she is ‘working,’ and that she loves her work so much that much of it is play. She will jump into anything, and isn’t afraid to fail in search of something that will work.

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Sometimes when you take one of these classes, you learn something about yourself that you didn’t know. I learned that I don’t like branching out of colors I think go together. I didn’t know this! Rhonda looked at a piece I was ‘painting’ and suggested a color I would never have chosen. When I tried it, it was OK, but there is something in me that did not want that color there.

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What was very cool was that I saw beginners take what she had taught them and run with it. I could see the delight on their faces as they went beyond, as they added colors and ended up with a great product.

I admire Rhonda for her technical knowledge – and her ability to jump beyond. I love the way she sees things differently. I love the way she prevailed over our circumstances – we were in a indifferently lit room and – on one of the hottest days of summer – the air conditioner was struggling, and failing. We were a hot mess, but Rhonda soldiered on, and we learned.

Another cool thing about these classes, for people like me who are lacking creativity in some areas, was that I saw the lady next to me using a shiny lavender that looked metallic; it reminded me how much I liked silver, so I tried thread painting with a metallic and love the way it looks. I know Rhonda could take it to another level entirely, but knowing my own limitations, I am delighted with how this part is turning out.

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Lemonade

I made a quilt I loved, but I tried a new technique, I stitch-painted a section of a quilt to get the arm quilted, but also I wanted it to look realistic. I succeeded, I loved the look, but, horror of horrors, it distorted the quilt top. I mean really badly, it drew up the fabric tightly, so that around it, the fabric sagged.

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It was truly horrible.

I had also used really expensive fabric, fabric I bought from a historical reproduction producer at the World Quilt Show in Holland in 2003 or so, fabric I can’t replace.

I obsessed over how to fix it, and finally, I cut it up. My friends gasped in horror, but the truth is, it couldn’t be fixed.

I have saved the pieces, the arms I love, the pomegranate. I have some fabric left, and one day, maybe even one day soon, I will give it another try. I loved the idea. I had great fun working with transparent and translucent fabrics, and oh my, as much as I hate snakes, I loved working on this one; the fabric just made him so tempting and sparkly and I thought how perfectly analogous it is, that the symbol for the embodiment of sin is a snake and that the snake could look so alluring. If it’s not alluring, it’s not temptation, right?

The snake is gone, most of the snake, but a part of him I rescued, and he protects my iPad, which I also love in a metaphorical kind of way, as the gateway to the Internet can lead to good or to evil, depending on your choices and whether you can resist the allure of temptation. He is a reminder, with his open mouth, ready to strike, and his thin, venomous teeth, to monitor myself, my choices . . . And I do like it that he has been redeemed from a quilt that was a terrible failure 🙂

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(For my foreign quilting friends unfamiliar with American idioms and adages, the title is based on an old saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”)

Cindy Needham Workshops

In the midst of a crazy schedule full of house guests, I had signed up for two workshops with Cindy Needham, workshops I wanted to attend so badly that I abandoned my house guests to their own devices and attended.

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The first, on Antique Linens, showed many many ways of taking fragile old linens, cleaning them up, stabilizing them and underlining them to show them off to their best advantage. It was worth every minute.

The second workshop, another all day affair, was on Antique Feathers, but it was so much more. It was about creating heavily quilted backgrounds which allow the not-so-heavily quilted areas to pop out and catch the eye.

First, she gave us permission to make wonky feathers, and taught us several techniques for rescuing their wonkiness:

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Cindy had prepared batts using silk duppioni and a wool batting for us to work with to see how different textures and weights affect our look (remember this is a workshop, so I am showing you my very imperfect results knowing that mistakes are how we grow!)

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She gave us a lot of materials, and ideas for close quilting in the backgrounds using grids:

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A lot of times, you take a workshop and think “I spent a day of my time for this??” but I would take a Cindy Needham workshop again in a heartbeat. She taught more than I can absorb, gave us extra on extra, and I will have months of homework to even begin to master some of the techniques she taught. She is a GREAT instructor, and a lot of fun.

I told her if she ever gets an invitation to the Quilt Expo in Kuwait, to go! Kuwait would love her, and she would love Kuwait!