Neuleiningen Grapes

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(around 90″ x 90″)

So many times we were stationed near this castle; you can see it at the top of the hill in the right upper corner. It is called Neuleiningen Castle, and has a wonderful restaurant called the Burgschaenke. Just writing about it, I can still smell the smoke from the huge fireplace that you smell lingering as you walk in, even if there isn’t a fire burning. In all the years we’ve been going there, the menu hasn’t changed that much. It is rustic elegance. You can go there, have great wines, have a great meal, have a great dessert, you can spend hours there and at the end, you hate to leave, it is such a wonderful, fun, atmospheric restaurant.

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This is one of my earliest quilts. I had an idea about making a lot of different colored grapes with snowball-like blocks; I used corners I had cut off half-square triangles I was making for something else and just cobbled together rural looking fabrics to make the grapevine fields and plowed fields on the long slope leading up to the castle.

This area has some of the finest white wines, icy and dry, I have ever tasted. They live in my memory.

I finally finished the quilt, years and years after it was conceived. What held me up? I never could figure out what to do with the big borders I had put on it; I kept trying to do grape bunches but the chalk would wear off, it just never worked. Finally, I just figured “finished is better than great” (and it had been like 12 years since I started it) so I did straight rows, thinking it is a lot like furrows, so in touch with the feeling of the quilt. Whatever – it works. The quilt is finished. My husband loves it, and we really need a trip back to Neuleiningen and the Burgschaenke 🙂

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? 🙂

Pensacola Quilt Show 2012

Today we did the intake for the Pensacola Quilt Show, and after that, I had lunch with my husband and took a long nap, the first one I can remember taking in months. Every afternoon I have had to make the best use of time during prime-time light!

I’ve hated leaving you for this long period, but I was working industriously to have entries worthy of the show!

Here are my entries.

The End of Innocence

I loved working on this quilt. It took a lot of hand work, appliqueing that snake and making sure the gauzy snakey net had bends at the right places, but it was so much fun! I also, for the first time, tried an art quilting technique on the arms and hands, and learned a whole lot about how to do it better – next time 🙂

Originally, the focus of this quilt was intended to be the pomegranate, and the tree of life. It was supposed to be a serious quilt, serious like the Dutch masters, but little Eve kept popping in, fresh, innocent, full of questions, and then that snake kept winding his way in and out, from his own depths into our own reality . . . and finding great snake-y fabrics provided a whole world of new learning experiences, LOL.

I actually hand quilted even more after I shot the photos, espeially in the center where the Tree of Life panel was. The fabric was so soft, and quilting it by hand was pure joy.

The quilt took forever, and I didn’t mind. I tried a lot of new things. I know where I need to improve. Meanwhile, it was fun taking an idea, letting it macerate and percolate, and then challenging myself to use some slithery fabrics for the execution. No regrets. 🙂

Tick Tack Tails

I love doing baby quilts, and I love the way little babies are mesmerized by black and white patterns. Our little grandbaby would stop crying to gaze at black and white zebra patterns and try to fathom their meaning.

Seaside Cottage

When I was still living in Kuwait, I was cutting out this quilt – or one just like it – when my sister called. As we talked, I described the quilt I was making and she loved it and asked me to make her one like it. Instead, I quickly cut out another, but finished the one I was making and sent it to her.

It took me five years to get around to finishing my own. I finished it the year we moved to Pensacola, but my husband kept going back. I quilted it during a bathroom renovation; it kept me sane. I appliqued it during the long evenings when I wished my husband was here in Pensacola. It is similar to my sister’s, but different. The central panels are made with the same fabrics, but I did different quilting and appliques for the seashells, etc.

The last entry is one you’ve seen before.

Jewel Box Life of Transitions

I was able to work on intake today, and was delighted to find that my quilts sink into the ‘filler’ category; there are some amazing quilts entered, and if you are any where near Pensacola, I urge you to make it a point to see this show.

Friday, March 16
Saturday, March 17
Pensacola Fairgrounds

Quilt Show Dilemma

Every quilter is different. I know many quilters make quilts exactly as the instructions say, some even buy quilts with all the fabrics provided. I’m just not wired that way. Sometimes I will see something I like, but I don’t want THAT exact quilt, I like some of the ideas, so I let it simmer for a while, and then incorporate an idea into something I want to do.

So I get inspiration from quilts. Right now, I am simmering a cheddar quilt. I’ll know it when I see it. I want to do a Hunter’s Star. I want to do several more quilts in blue and white; they soothe my soul.

Right now, I am readying quilts for a Pensacola quilt guild show coming up in Pensacola March 16 and 17 (9 am to 5 pm); the quilts are due on March 10th.

Two are finished. One top of the two remaining is finished, just needs to be sandwiched and quilted. One top I am still working on.

The one I am working on is not the quilt I planned. I have some gorgeous fabrics I bought years ago; they have been simmering. The are from Den Haan and Wagenmaker and I thought I was going to do a traditional Tree of Life quilt, but things have worked out very differently.

My problem is that I am having a lot of fun working on the quilt, and I have a deadline. What I know about myself is that I am not a person who works well under pressure. Yes, I can do it. No, I don’t like to do that to myself, and I don’t feel I do my best work that way. When I hurry, I make mistakes. I am having a great time, and I love what is coming out of all this, but lurking in the back of my mind is that I really, really, need to get these two quilts done.

I am doing some applique. I really love applique. I love it a lot more than I love quilting. I haven’t been in Pensacola long enough to know anyone I want to quilt my quilts for me, and I guess it is a little anal but there is a part of me that really won’t like what someone else does. I don’t always like what I do, and I can read my own mind! So part of what worries me is that while I am having fun with the applique part, I have the stinky quilting part in front of me, and it isn’t a quilt until it’s quilted.

I need to take a few days from the quilt I am having so much fun with and quilt the other top; that way I will have three quilts of the four I have promised. I keep meaning to do that. . . but I see a space I could work on, you know, the light is perfect, I’ll just take a few minutes . . . and another day and the good light for quilting is gone.

I still have a month. A month and a couple days. That’s a lot of time, if I use it wisely . . .

Finishing White Ties and Tails

Well, life intruded, like visitors and Thanksgiving and Christmas and other obligations. I was also trying to figure out where I wanted to go with the quilt; there was a lot of bare space.

Finally I made some decisions, a little at a time. I wanted to add some color in the center, and I wanted to add the ties and hearts to the cats:

I wanted something to give the quilt a little directionality, so that if it were hung, there would be a top and a bottom:

And I found a backing I love; a Javanese Bali print my Grammy friend and I found in the small dark Souk al Ahmad, in Doha. I bought like eight of them – they are wonderful for backings, maybe not wide enough but I cut and pasted:

And this is the finished quilt, made for the New Year’s baby who actually showed up the 5th of January:

And, LOL, I notice I have seem to be attracted to doing black and white quilts when the weather gets cold. I wonder if I will be doing a floral quilt around April?

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!