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.”)

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? 🙂

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:

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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.

Lenten Cross

I’ve been thinking our church needed a new hanging for Lent. We meet in the basement of a church that is not our own, and we don’t have a lot of things to make it our own. Lent this year is particularly somber, and as I am experimenting with low contrast (because I really love high contrast and I need to challenge myself) I envisioned a lighter purple with texture on a darker purple.

I went straight home from church, pulled out the fabrics and started cutting. After I got the main parts assembled, I needed to let it hang a little bit so I could percolate how I was going to finish it.

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The lighter purple is an Italian textured silk I just love. The center is cut from quilter’s plastic, covered with the darker purple and then with the silver fishnet, an effect I just love and reflects Kuwait’s fishing and pearling history.

The priest blessed the cross today, and it can be hung tomorrow.

Farewell Block

This isn’t utterly original. I found a camel in a coloring book and copied it. I love the batik fabric, with it’s mottled variations, and I love the background fabric, which was probably an upholstery fabric (I found it in Qatar and loved it’s desert coloring).

As I stitched it, I found myself thinking how very much I love hand applique.

The friend I made it for has a soul for adventure. I travelled with her once, and learned to admire her steadfast calm, her utter sang froid, and her ability to manage people without ever once appearing bossy. We will all miss her presence, and her invaluable role-model.

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Whirling Tulips

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The Center medallion for Whirling Tulips was designed as the world was whirling, September 11, 2001. Although glued to the TV, I couldn’t bear all the grey and all the despair, and I countered it with a bright fuschia/orange batik and deep green leaves, whiriling around a center left blank for some hand quilting. I used freezer paper to get exactly the curl and bend I wanted the leaves to have, and a very stylized tulip form.

I loved working on it. I use it for a card table tablecloth.

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As I unfolded this to photograph for this blog/journal/record, I reminded myself to fold at angles, and never the same way twice, to avoid those deep folds that are forming from storing too long folded one way.

12 Days Applique

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My friend Shirley and I were bored, and we challenged one another to this quilt. We had the patternm by Mimi Shimp, but we both changed it dramatically – I wanted the blocks in the order they were sung, so enlarged them all to 18 x 18. We also used the beautiful duppioni silks readily available in Doha, and other more difficult fabrics.

The main motif was totally hand appliqued, but the minor motifs were machine appliqued.

We had given ourself 6 months to get the blocks finished, and another year to hand quilt the resulting top. The reality – after 2 1/2 years, I machine quilted the finished top just to get it done. I am not unhappy. I love this quilt, and I will hang it for one month every year, from December 6th – the Feast of St. Nicholas – until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.