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.

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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? 🙂

Seaside Cottage 2

You probably think I have gone stale, but what the Colors of the Sea quilt was something I had promised my sister long ago, and this quilt is the quilt I had started when she first asked, and I cut enough for two, finished hers, and then mine languished – for years – before I got around to finishing it.

This was my sister’s quilt:

Size, fabrics – everything is identical, only the appliques and a little of the quilting differ:

Bottom left:

Bottom Right:

I stuffed the sand dollars and the scallop shells so the quilting would have more definition:

I wave quilted part of it, and shallow-water-swirl quilted the other part:

This is not an original quilt, but I used shells for the borders instead of flowers, and used my own quilting ideas. I believe the most of the fabrics and the pattern were from a collection called Seaside Cottage by Moda.

I cut and pieced the quilt in Kuwait, appliqued and quilted in Doha, and did the binding and finishing hand quilting in Pensacola. Whew! It’s finished!

Chained Islamic Stars

I actually started this quilt many many years ago, I believe while we still lived in Germany, and I got 37 squares finished and ran out of steam. It is a very fiddly design. I designed it myself. The finished square was 9 inches and the post and sashing was one inch, but it was all one inch, (cut 1.5″) and man, it was tiresome.

I also didn’t quite know how to make the chain work, but last week as I sorted in preparation for packing up the quilt room, I knew what to do. When I had a surprise and one morning of my week fell open, I was able to stitch 36 into a nice quilt top that I can use as a table cover – or something. I got to show it at the Qater Quilt Guild meeting yesterday, before it gets packed up. It will be months before I can get to it once more.

The truth is, even after 10 years, I love the intricately patterned fabrics I found for the stars. Ten years later, I rarely use white as a background – now, I am itching to try this same pattern (I can figure out now how to do it with less fuss) with a dark background. I love the way it has all gone together.

For my Kuwait friend – I don’t think you ever even saw this unfinished one, but slowly slowly I AM working on that pile of UFO’s you assigned me!

Tension

2010 will be another interesting year for us, a year full of changes on the Richter scale of 10, like a 10. We have a retirement, a move, a survey of all the household we have had in storage for 12 years, and a move from there. We have to buy a new house, and get it ready for our habitation. We have a grandson, and we will be living near family – that hasn’t happened for a long time.

We will no longer be living overseas. I cannot imagine.

So I am trying to finish up projects, eyeing shelves that need to be packed. NO. I am not leaving behind a lot of fabric. I will part with some, but I just did this, this packing out and moving in spring of last year and so no, I am not going to part with so much this time. Well, actually, I am.

I am looking at a quilt I started two years ago, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I know who it is for. The quilting went bad and as I fixed it, I just wasn’t happy, so I let it go for a while. Now it doesn’t look so bad, but when I look at the back of the quilt, I can see my tension on my machine was erratic. There is another major flaw that my sharp eyed quilting friends will spot, but this is a quilt meant for use on a boat, so even a major flaw won’t matter:

It always shows. When you do handwork, it always shows. If you cross stitch, the stitches are too tight, and it sort of buckles. If you knit, the scale is off, and it feels too tight when you finish, relaxed knitters knit some air into their works. When you quilt, it shows on the backside, even if it doesn’t show on the front. If you hand quilt, the stitches are too tiny, too tight, too perfect and you come out with a hard piece rather than one of those lovely soft hand quilted pieces. It shows. Your handwork shows your state of mind.

My problem is that often under pressure, I turn to my handwork! So I can look at pieces and know what I was going through. What makes me laugh is the pieces I work the hardest on, nobody cares. Nobody but me. Things that I design and toss off in a heartbeat – people love! Go figure.

Today I am putting the binding on the two little baby girl quilts. They don’t look so bad now that they are quilted, thanks be to God. I keep telling myself “this is a hobby! This is supposed to be fun!”