Umm Al Tawaman (Mother of Twins)

Even as I write, my niece is in labor, about to give birth to TWINS. We are all wild and dancing for joy! I reminded her she will now have to use the dual form in Arabic, and she groaned. Such are the jokes we tell one another in my family.

Baby girl’s quilt is called Desert Rose:

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Baby boy’s is called Interconnected:

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Each quilt is about 54″ square

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 🙂

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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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.”)

Kuwait Map Quilt

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There is a new Kuwait baby quickly approaching his birth date, and a baby for which a very special quilt needed to be made. His parents were instrumental in our having had such a good time in Kuwait. We were introduced by one of my Qatari friends who had spent time in Kuwait, and she was right – we were meant to be friends.

The first night we met, we started talking and never stopped. We explored restaurants together, strolled through the souks, and heard all kinds of stories of old Kuwait. Our time with them was – and is – priceless.

I like for a baby quilt to have legs – useful as a crawl pad, useful as a cover to sleep under, washable, washable, washable and in the end, able to be hung on the wall of an otherwish anonymous college dorm room. This one will do the trick, plus having lots and lots of patterns to keep a baby fascinated as he learns how to focus his eyes 🙂

I’d forgotten how much work a map quilt can be in the preparation stages. This relatively small quilt (60in x 60 inches until I washed it and it shrank about 2 inches in both directions; I’ve never had that happen before! It was noticeable!) has 900 pieces, and those 900 pieces had to include sea pieces, Kuwait pieces and Saudi and Iraq desert pieces (pale, pale, pale) Of course, there had to be a lot of variety.

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Seeking, planning and cutting took longer than assembly. The land portions are quilted in the ditch, a grid, and the Arabian Gulf segments have waves quilted in thin silver strands, so they glint like the sunlight on the Arabian Sea.

There are many many blocks made from fabric finds from the Kuwait souks, also a few with Kuwait memories. In Arabic, there are “sun” words and “moon words” so I found a sun and a moon. A family nearby us had a private zoo where, from time to time, a large cat would escape and put my village in a panic until it was recovered . . . so there is a large cat. In the end, this was one of the most fun and rewarding quilts I have made.

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Sheherazade: Magic Carpet

I don’t finish quilts as quickly as I once did, and I’ve been working for a while on this one, but oh, what fun. I loved choosing the fabrics, I loved designing it, and I loved figuring out the quilting motifs for all the borders.

I had a conversation with a quilter in our small group who quilts exquisitely, both by hand and machine. I told her I was giving up on machine quilting. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I found myself thinking that all I needed to do was to slow down and practice. I hated machine quilting when I started, but I got so it became acceptable. Taking it to another level is going to take some commitment. I’m no where near where I want to be, but I’m working on it, practicing, trying some new things, and there are elements that make me really happy.

This is the finished quilt:

Here are some close-ups. My favorite element is the paisley that turned into a minaret top in the purple hand-dye border.

I modified a technique my friend Paramjeet taught me. She encouraged us to go outside the lines, to try new things, anything we could think of. Nothing is out of bounds. The minaret tops have bands of zig-zag quilting, using a Coats and Clark metallic. I know there are people who say Coats and Clark is trash thread, but I have tried a lot of metallics, and the Coats and Clark metallics seem to break a lot less frequently than others.

For the yellow segment above, I made an iris template from some Indian design books I have. I really love it, and used it again in the fuchsia border, which is supposed to carry a carpet-border sort of feeling. I used a contrasting thread and went over designs more than once.

The quilt is designed for a baby girl coming who is very special to me; I want her to grow to be a strong and clever woman, so I made her a strong quilt.