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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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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Some Updated Thoughts on Sloppy Stars

I’ve done a lot of different kinds of quilts, but there are some quilt patterns I am drawn back to doing, maybe doing in new ways, maybe refining. I always love quilts with motion, like Kaleidoscope (click on Kaleidoscope in Categories to see instructions and variations) and another is Sloppy Stars.

 

It’s the hot, humid steamy season in Pensacola. It’s like winter in Alaska, it’s a good time to stay inside with your sewing machine and fabric except for when you need groceries, or to meet up with friends, or go to church, or even exercise – those are the exceptions. When it is steamy, it’s a great time to quilt.

 

One reason I love Sloppy Stars is that it makes such economical use of fabrics. You cut fat quarters – actually I cut mine to something like 18 inches square now – and slice, and then seam – no excess, except at the end when you trim as little as you have to on the outside, to make the blocks a uniform size. My goal is 15″ finished squares and now I am pretty good at getting them. My favorite part is picking out the fabrics. I don’t know exactly how they will look in the end, but that is part of the fun – getting fabrics that will jive and thrive, with a little bit of drama ๐Ÿ™‚

The original instructions for Sloppy Stars are here; these are just refinements I have come up with after doing so many of them. My stars have gotten bigger and bigger; it’s a dramatic cut and I like the efficiency of using a 15″ block. I have two different patterns I use, one is fairly straight, and one is very slanted and wonky. I find I am more drawn to the wonky one, guess I am a wonky one, too. These are drafted on 16″ graph paper I find in books at JoAnne Fabrics.

 

Because I ran short on freezer paper, I only had enough for two identical copies instead of four. I should’ve gone to the store for freezer paper – cutting 25 layers of fabric was more than my cutter could handle. I got some truly jaggy edges. If you are going for the 50 blocks (25 light 25 dark), do two cuts for each set; 12/13 is enough of a challenge for your rotary cutter. I will never try to cut 25 layers again. Never.

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I never string piece this block. I have learned from BAD experiences! I keep all the pieces flat; and the two sets (I do one with dark background light stars and one with light background dark stars) are kept separate. I always do one block at a time; each block takes about 12 minutes, I take it slow. It goes together fast, so it pays to go slow so you don’t mix up pieces. Keep away from cats! If a cat jumps up and upsets your pieces, you are out of luck! (Or maybe you will have a highly original quilt ๐Ÿ™‚ ย )

 

Although the instructions tell you which pieces to put together, I have my own way of doing it (LOL, I no longer follow my own instructions!) and I tend to start with the bottom three pieces in the photo below – star point to the left piece, and then to the right. I then go to the two pieces in the upper right sector, sewing from the straight line to the outer edge.

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By taking your time and lining things up (it comes easier with practice) you get the interior lines to match up and end up with a fairly straight line. The fairly straight line makes joining the components easier when you sew the major three blocks together.00StarsFirstSection

 

Next, I do the central three blocks, and when I finish them, I line up the star point seams and sew the small sector to the larger central sector. With any luck at all, you’ll have a nice join and the appearance of a straight line. Then you sew the last three pieces (upper left sector) together, focusing on making the interior seam the straight seam.

 

Because of the way these stars are cut, you are only very rarely ever going to get the last piece to line up at both parts of the center star, so focus on lining up the seam so that you get one straight seam with the join giving you a straight line at the upper right.

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Things don’t always work out. Don’t worry. Wonky blocks are part of the charm of this technique. Two straight lines is great; three straight lines are awesome but all in all – are you having fun? No one is going to nit-pick this quilt, there are too many distractions! (Below is a wonky block I will truly use, but I wanted to show you that no matter how hard I try to be perfect, I am a miserable failure who sometimes doesn’t even manage two straight lines. I am a miserable failure who is having a lot of fun putting these stars together, though ๐Ÿ™‚

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This star comes pretty close to the goal – Fourย pretty good straight lines, almost five. That fifth just isn’t ever going to happen.

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But, even though they are all cut the same way, and I do my best to stitch them the same way, for no apparent reason, now and then one star goes wild. The truth is, no one but you will ever know, but this is why I save my leftover strips after I have trimmed the stars down before slicing.

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I even took this one apart and restitched it, but no matter what I did, it was dangerously out of whack. I added a one inch strip to the wackiest side, and was able to even everything up within reason, but this will never be a star that gives me satisfaction. It may, however, be one of those blocks that gives a quilt “character.” (When the blocks are sewn together, that addition will disappear . . . you just don’t see it in the wildness of all the diferent patterns and shapes.)

 

There are a lot of different ways to quilt these stars. In the African series, I used more angular quilting, and I liked it, it looked good with the African fabrics. In some of these quilts, I use a spiral out of the center block, and then elongated squiggles from the central star piece radiating out to the star tips. The background I stipple.

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.

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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“It’s Just a Quilt”

“It’s just a quilt!” I told myself. It’s a quilt I’ve been working on for about six years, and it isn’t even that big. I was going to hand quilt it all, then I machine quilted part of it, but couldn’t think of what to do in the large star centers.

Today, I knew just what to do. There is a wonderful article by Lea Day in the new Quilter’s Newsletter which I have to admit is my favorite quilting mag of all) on machine quilting.

I know how to machine quilt. I also know that there is a lot I don’t know, and that I can do better if I practice. Lea Day gives us challenges, she shows us exactly hot to do it and then tells us to just get started. The first ones won’t be so hot, she tells us, but by the end of your practicing, you’ll definitely see signs of improvement and increased confidence.

No, no, those aren’t all from Leah Day, but Lea Day’s article got me started. There are some ideas I’ve been playing around with and this rainy day and her article gave me the idea to play around. Play is learning for a quilter, so my results aren’t perfect but this is “just a quilt,” and it’s a great place to play with some new quilting techniques and work on some ideas for the important quilts I am making for a couple young women having babies. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s Been a While . . .

Oops! How could I not post a think since the Quilt Show? Maybe because I have barely quilted anything since the quilt show.

Retirement is different. I no longer have long hours to myself while my husband is working. I have a husband at home – and a playmate who distracts me (happily) from the quilting I would otherwise do.

But now, I have three babies coming (No! No! Not MY babies, but friend and family babies!) and quilts due for my bee’s charitable outreach, and quilts to do just because I want to (I don’t let myself do them until I finish the must-do quilts).

The weather is hot, humid and occasionally rainy in Pensacola, perfect weather to stay inside and quilt up a storm. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 . . .