The Road To Damascus

This is another of my playing around quilts. In order to do Annie’s quilt, I had to do a lot of squares. You really have be careful about gradations to make these quilts work, or at least work for me. I like things to shade from dark to light and from the purple reds to the lightest ash for desert quilts. As a result, I had a quilt’s worth of four patches left over, and a great idea for a Road to Damascus 🙂

 

As I worked on this quilt, I was listening to National Public Radio coverage of Syria, a place we have been blessed to visit often and thoroughly. While I cannot help but love Damascus the best, and visited it last in 2008, I have travelled Syria from the coastal city of Tartush to Palmyra and Tell Mari in the east, and all kinds of places in between with a Friends of Archaeology group I used to belong to out of Amman, Jordan. Syria was as close to biblical country as I have ever experienced. I learned so much. I met the nicest Syrians in the world.
 

So I finished the main part, and then as I showed it in my small group, the demo for the day was on curved piecing. I had seen demos on it before and it hadn’t interested me, but all of a sudden, Leni was demo’ing with two desert-y colors and the light went on – I could do a great curved border.

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Once I got started, the curved part was easy, like it took one half day. I had not accounted for how much more curves take out of the finished border, and I wanted more, like a purple dusk sky .  . . So I added that, too. Then I got bit by the nostalgia bug and I thought it would be fun to add some little villages, like we would pass along the roads. Well, impressions of those little villages; I am not a good person for portraying realism, but I like the charm of my little villages.

Note to self: curved borders are not such a good place to learn about curved piecing. Start with curved blocks, and give yourself extra fabric if you already have a set block size in mind. Because of the nature of curves, piecing curves results – at least for me – in sections that are off square. I love the piece of fabric I used as a final border, but it was driven less by art than by necessity – I had to have enough border and I needed to be able to trim so that the borders would be true. Curved pieces worked here, but I wouldn’t use them as a border again.

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This little piece is not from Damascus, or Syria, but is a quirky tower erected by the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam, in Doha. I never studied in this tower, but what Arabic I speak, I owe primarily to them and their patience with me as I struggled to speak, read and write in their language. As they taught me more about the Quran, and Islam, it illuminated our own Christian teachings. This was a never-ending wonder to me. These kind women did not proselytize, but they shared their lives with me, and through their eyes, I came to understand so much. This little tower is just a small homage to their patient teaching.

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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.

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? 🙂

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!

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!

Under The Sea / Colors of the Sea 2

I made my Mom a quilt around ten years ago, and my middle sister has told me several times since then that she wants one like it. I started cutting this one out while I was still in Doha, finished cutting, piecing, sandwiching and quilting here in Pensacola.

My Mom’s quilt:

It isn’t the same. No two quilts are ever the same. When I was back in Seattle, I took a look at the first quilt and saw that I had made all four corner pieces match where they came together, something I have never done since. I think/thought that the contrast in light and dark in the corner pieces helped the movement of the quilt, but I may have to rethink that. I have a large collection of ‘colors of the sea’ fabrics; when I see them, I can’t resist them. I wonder if I can use them up in my lifetime?

Several of the fabrics are from a hand-dye class I took in Kuwait, lovely Diana Hill, and I am still using up my hand dyes – and those of others – as I piece these quilts. Such wonderful, laughter-filled memories!

This is a larger quilt, large enough to cover a double bed but probably not large enough for two people to sleep under unless they are young and in love, LOL.

Can you see the fish I hand appliqued in the photo above? I wanted them to blend with their background, just as real fish do when you spot them in their habitat.

This school of fish (and the others) are from a wonderful fabric I bought in Doha, and from which my Doha Fish Quilt was made. I am a strange woman; I actually love to applique.

I gave the quilt to my niece to put on my sister’s bed, at their Seattle home. I am betting she doesn’t check this blog, so she will have a big surprise when she sees it. I bet she forgot she even asked for it. 🙂