Saturday, January 27, 2007

My landscape quilt

In my last post I mentioned that I had bought Landscape Quilts by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell. It is a wonderful book and I love the techniques. They have a series of quilts to make to help you learn the techniques. So far I have only managed to make one but I have a few quilts in my mind for the future. I thought I would share the one that I made:

landscape quilt

And some detail:
landscape quilt detail 2

landscape quilt detail


Thanks to everyone who made such encouraging comments about my Blue Marquee/Butterfly Trails quilt from WIP Wednesday. Joyce asked about the flowers and butterflies, and whether they were applique or embroidery or from existing fabrics. Actually, they are cut out from various fabrics I had on hand, so I believe that makes those bits broderie perse (?). Two summers ago when I was in the US, I got a copy of Landscape Quilts by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell. I absolutely fell in love with their quilts and determined to make one. Now, I am not really a floral fabric person, naturally leaning more to textures and batiks, but I bought a ton of floral FQs in preparation for future landscape quilts (despite the fact that what I really wanted to do was some forest scenes).

I used a variation on their landscape technique, basically cutting out the motifs from the fabrics and layering them on the quilt. They say not to use stablizer because in a landscape quilt you use a lot of layers, but I fused the stablizer to the fabric, cut out the motifs and then fused them to the quilt. It is great fun playing with the motifs and figuring where they will go. I then just straight stitched around the motifs in the closest thing I had to matching thread. Simple and fun!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Progress on the Blue Marquee

which, I think will be known as "Butterfly Trails" or "Butterflies in Flight" or something like that. I have been pretty busy this week so I haven't been able to do as much on it as I wanted, and the rest of the week is even busier, so I am posting my WIP first thing in the morning. Here is a picture to show a bit of the shape it is taking. I have a wonderful dragonfly stencil I wanted to use on this quilt, too, but now I can't seem to see where to use it. We'll see.

butterflies in flight

butterflies in flight

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Mastermind

Debra posted about the Myer-Briggs personality test, so I thought I would join in the fun. I have done a few online tests, and the result of this one was the same: iNTj -- the mastermind. Apparently it is a rare result, composing no more than 1% of the population. In one of the descriptions it said:

"When it comes to their own areas of expertise -- and INTJs can have several -- they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how. INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don't know. "

That fits exactly! If it is my area, I usually can see a solution or path immediately. Or, I can tell that what you need is not what I can provide. My job involves a lot of consulting and creating systems, helping organizations to get their systems working.

I am also 56% introverted. I am surprised it is not higher! I think as I get older I am becoming less and less social!

I saw a funny British show once in which they brought together a whole bunch of people to be tested, picked the individuals and who had the most classic results in each category, then gave them various tasks to do in teams while the psychologists predicted what would happen. It was hilarious, and the experts were right on more often than not.

Sally approves

of the flannel quilt backing. This is the first quilt that I have used flannel on, and I hung it on the Nordic Track last night so it did not get to wrinkled before the next time I got to work on it. Sally definitely approves of my fabric choice.

"I'm so cute, don't make me move!"

It is really a narrow space in there. I am glad she didn't end up getting stuck by the pins in it! Some of them have a tendency to pop open.Usually she stays off my quilts in progress, even when I have them out on the floor. had to force her to move so I could do my morning exercise.

"Okay, if I can't have the flannel one, I guess I can use this one." Please excuse the debris from DS getting ready for school.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Musings on Culture

This week, American Idol started to be shown here. Of course we don't get to vote, but my son and I usually enjoy seeing the different singers and deciding who should win. This time, DH was in the room for the first day's auditions, and he had to put on earphones and block it out, it bothered him so much. There did seem to be an abundance of poor singers this year. His comment, aside from expression of astonishment that DS and I could stand to listen to it, was that something must be seriously wrong with the culture to have so many people totally unaware of just how bad they are.

Granted, a tv show will tend to choose the most dramatic examples to entertain people. But still, just how is it that people can end up so unable to see themselves clearly. Did no one ever say, "honey, we love you and appreciate your singing, but you are simply not that good." Where does truthfulness come in?

Here, people, especially friends and teachers, can be very blunt and even harsh about your faults and weaknesses. While it took a bit of getting used to, and I can't say I always like to hear it, I have also found it freeing. I don't need to pretend to be someone I am not. My friends and colleagues like me even though they see my faults, and tell me they do. It seems to me that the "I don't care what you say, I believe I am great" attitude is really just the flipside of "I am terrible, I have no good points at all, I am worthless". Both lack an ability to see reality and are mainly focused on self.

We all have the experience of being discouraged by someone, and we probably try not to discourage others. At the same time, though, when does encouragement and support become a nurturing of blindness and a kind of lying to oneself and others? How do you avoid discouraging people, but at the same time, help them to see reality in a way that they can develop their potential?

Quilting Designs

This week I was in an older part of Macau that I don't often visit, and I came across what I think would make wonderful quilting designs. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I figured it out

I am so excited about my Blue Marquee quilt because I have figured out what to do with all that white. I found some fusible web, so I am going to be adding applique, but I will not reveal my design yet. I think it will be fun, though.

It is my first time using fusible web, so I did some experimenting on leftover scraps. The only problem is that my quilt is already basted. I have decided not to unbaste the whole thing but just to unbaste the borders when I am ready to fuse the applique pieces. I was so eager to try the applique that I did all the basic grid quilting at record pace. Then I unpinned the border, folded the backing and batting back and fused the applique to the border. I re-basted the border and free-motion stitched around the motif edges. Although there will be some fraying, it turned out pretty well and just looks like a quilting design on the back, so I think that is the way I will be going on this quilt.

I am not nearly as excited about my red Out of the Box quilt -- the evil Red Monster I posted about yesterday. I originally intended to hand quilt it with parallel lines in the background and motifs in the squares, and I got about 1/3 of the way through before abandoning hand quilting. Parallel lines have got to be the world's most boring motif to quilt by machine. They are also considerably more difficult to do well than I thought. My supposedly parallel lines seem to wander here and there. I have decided to throw in some random changes in direction and odd geometric motifs here and there to hide how awful my parallel lines are. I am thinking I should eventually give this quilt away, but I feel bad for whoever receives it!

I have -- or should I say had? -- a fantasy of doing an intricate whole-cloth wall hanging with very variations on traditional motifs including cross hatching -- that dream is now dead. I have no desire to do so many parallel lines again! I still may do my whole cloth quilt, but crosshatching and channels will be a very small part of it!

So, in all it's glory, the Red Monster. It has a lot of threads because of the basting for hand quilting, and you can't see the quilting (probably a good thing!). I can't wait for it to be done!

And its better loved brother, with my son's feet:
out of the box

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Am I attached to my quilts?

Forrest Jane asked the question about whether we are attached to our quilts, in the sense of whether it is easy to give them away or not. I think for me, I generally am attached to them. If I have made something with the idea from the beginning of giving it to someone, I have no difficulty giving it away even if I love the way it turned out. For the ones I have made for myself or my family, the thought of giving them away feels a bit like giving away one's children. They may not be perfect, but I learned something from them and there is something about them I love -- either the pattern itself, or the fabrics and colors I chose. I did give away three smaller quilts to friends this year, and while I think they liked them, I am not sure I really should have given them away.

The quilts I gave away were ones that I basically liked. Now, if I really don't like a quilt, or think the quality is just too poor, I can't imagine giving them to someone else! How could I foist something I don't even want myself onto an unsuspecting non-quilter?

There is one quilt in my collection that I wouldn't feel too bad about giving away -- it is one of only two true UFOs -- the one that sat on my bedroom table for a whole year trying to guilt me into working on it, the one I intended to hand quilt before finding out how much i love machine quilting. The one for which I chose an absolutely boring background quilting motif of parallel lines, got 1/3rd the way through and lost interest. It is also too small because I ran out of fabric and figured it was big enough for a lap quilt at least. The Little Red Monster. My red Out of the Box quilt.

The Little Red Monster is acutally one of a pair. It uses wonderful batik fabrics I had on hand, against a bright red background. It's colors are...jarring. The other one of the pair uses the same batiks against a blue background. It is soothing and calm, and somehow refreshing. It was the first quilt I attempted free-motion quilting on. The free motion quilting could use some work, but I love the quilt with all its faults. It hangs on a decorative ladder in my bedroom because no one in the family will use it because it, too, is too small (this time because I was so happy cutting that I didn't realize I had cut far too many pieces and used up all the fabric that should have been for the borders). It will probably never be used at my house, and it would make a great gift for a child, but I doubt I will be giving it away. Maybe I need to work more on generosity.

I did post a picture last Wednesday of the Little Red Monster sitting on my sewing table waiting for quilting. It is probably going to be a major theme of tomorrow's post as well. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures handy of its current state or its more attractive twin. Hopefully, tomorrow I can remedy that situation!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday Already?

I am surprised to find that it is already WIP Wednesday. Where did this week go? Right now I am doing two things. I have finished basting the Blue Marquee quilt (it is in process in the pictures). Looking at the quilt now, I wish I had put a blue inner border on as well as the outer border. There is too much white! I may have to put some applique on the white border, or come up with some really interesting quilting.

The other work in process is one of my two true UFOs -- the kind you haven't worked on in ages, in which you have totally lost interest. I started this quilt a year ago, as one of a pair. I ended up short of fabric on both of them, so they are too small. I intended to hand quilt this one, and machine quilt its brother. I discovered I loved machine quilting and got no joy in hand quilting, so this one sat on a table in my bedroom for months and months, until I finally put it away. Now I have decided to do it by machine, regardless of how it ends up looking. It is funny because even though the other one is too small and was my first attempt at free motion quilting, I really like how it turned out. But I really have no desire to even look at this one. I hope I come to like it again by the time I have finished quilting it. It is now on my sewing machine ready to start quilting. DS has exams this week so I haven't managed to actually start, but it is ready to go.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Dog's Life

Since finishing the Blue Marquee quilt top, I haven't done much of anything productive. I am rather dreading the sandwiching of the top, one of my least favorite parts of quilting. I made two charms, which were a hit with DS -- he was even offering my services to friends so that they could have one! I also pulled out my Red Out of the Box UFO, got it on the machine ready to quilt, and then had a guest arrive, so aside from putting the right color thread in the machine, nothing has actually been done.

So, in lieu of quilting: our dog.

Our dog, Sally, is very attuned to me (provider of food and walks). Usually when I wake up in the morning, Sally is waiting outside my bedroom door. All it takes is me breathing like I am awake to have her stationed outside the door, waiting for me to get up. On the rare occasion that I am up before her, I hear sudden scrambling sounds while she rushes to greet me. Accompanying the sound of her nails on the wooden floor, there is sometimes a muffled sound of on furniture. I have wondered if she was getting on the furniture while we are asleep, but usually the beanbag is under the table and the other chairs showed no obvious proof of dog use.

Yesterday, though, there was proof positive:

sleepy sally 001

Monday, January 8, 2007

A break from our regularly scheduled programming: a matter close to my heart

Terri at StegArt asked me about the Baha'i Faith, and I realized some people reading may not be familiar with the Faith. The short answer is that the Baha'i Faith is a world-wide religion that began in 1844. Baha'is follow the teachings of Baha'u'llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith. Baha'u'llah's teachings are vast and touch upon many aspects of human life, both spiritual and practical (though that does not seem to be the right word since spiritual things are also practical).

What seems to me to be a key element of the Baha'i Faith, however, is Baha'u'llah's explanation that throughout history, humanity has developed through various stages. Different Prophets or Teachers (such as Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Baha'u'llah himself) have guided and stimulated the advancement of human civilization, and all the religions of the world are fundamentally part of one civilizing process. Humanity is now on the threshold of a new stage in its development, the stage of maturation. The new stage of human development brings both new powers and new responsibilities. But, like the stage of adolescence for individuals, it is a stage with many upheavals. If we are to reach maturity, we need to change patterns of behavior developed in childhood but no longer appropriate to either our capacity or our goals, and to understand new principles that were previously beyond our capacity to recognize. And, we will have to learn to apply those new and renewed teachings both in our personal lives and in the organization of society. Baha'u'llah explains that at this stage in human history, the most fundamental challenge is our recognition of the unity of humankind. Only when the oneness of humankind is fully recognized can humanity hope to establish a harmonious and peaceful world civilization.

There is a link on my sidebar to The Baha'is Website for those who want a more extensive (and more elegant!) introduction, but I also want to share some recent events in Egypt affecting Baha'is that have been on my mind in recent weeks since mid December. There are no quilts or quilting in this, but I hope you will indulge me a bit and allow me to share something that troubles my deeply. To understand the situation and my feelings, though, you may need a bit more background.

Since its beginnings, the Baha'is have been persecuted in many Islamic countries including Egypt. One reason is that Baha'is are considered heretics because they follow the teachings of Baha'u'llah, while Muslims believe that Mohammed was the final prophet and that God will send no more Teachers for mankind. But further reasons are that there are no clergy in the Baha'i Faith, and those religious leaders who are attached to their name and position see the Faith as a threat to their own power. Further, Baha'i teachings such as the equality of men and women are not easily accepted and are sometimes seen as a threat to the social order.

In Egypt, the Baha'i Faith is not one of the recognized religions. However, identifying your religion is required for all government documents such as national IDs, passports, marriage and birth certificates. Last year, an Egyptian Baha'i went to the court to ask, not for recognition of the Baha'i Faith in Egypt, but just for the right to put "other" or leave the religion space blank on documents asking for religion. In a recent high-court ruling, that request has been denied.

What does this ruling mean? It hits me particularly close to home as I have recently visited with an Egyptian Baha'i friend living abroad. Her passport will soon expire, but despite official policy being that passports can be renewed within 6 months of expiration, each time she goes to the embassy, she is told, "Come back in a month or two." They will not renew her passport without her putting either Muslim, Jew or Christian (the three recognized religions) in the place for religion on the application. Since they already know she is a Baha'i, they will not refuse to help her outright for fear of criticism for violation of human rights, but will delay and obstruct until she is forced to return to Egypt to try to get a new passport there. When in Egypt, she will face the same runaround, with barrier after barrier being presented unless she is willing to lie about her religion. But the Baha'i Writings explain that "Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and success, in all the worlds of God, is impossible for any soul." How can she be asked to deny her religion, something so significant to her own identity and purpose?

From one perspective, return to Egypt shouldn't be a big problem for my friend -- at least she has family and friends there. But she will have to break up her family, and she has a small son, only about 3 years old. My friend was married in Hong Kong and has a valid marriage license, but the Egyptian government will not recognize it as is. Instead she must have the marriage certificate re-issued from Egypt -- again, something that cannot be done without lying about her religion. By law, her son should have the right to an Egyptian passport since his mother is Egyptian, but again, he cannot get a passport without his mother declaring him to be a Muslim, Christian or Jew. This means that her son may very well be denied a visa to Egypt when she must return home to renew her passport.

One solution would be for her to change citizenship, but her husband is Iraqi, and getting Iraqi citizenship is not an easy matter at this time. Because of the overall disorder in the country, no simple administrative procedures work as intended, and she would have to be in Iraq in person to follow the entire process. The dangers in Iraq make that too great a risk. And anyway, why should she have to change her citizenship in the first place?

Baha'u'llah has explained that the most pressing issue facing humankind at this time is unity. The unity of humankind seems such a simple statement, but its implications are profound and in many cases beyond our current vision. One thing is clear, though. Justice is indispensable to the establishment and maintenance of unity. "The purpose of justice is the establishment of unity amongst men" In perpetuating a system of such gross injustice to the followers of the Baha'i Faith and other unrecognized religions in Egypt, the Egyptian government both goes against the Human Rights conventions it has itself signed, and turns its back on the teachings of Islam, which call for justice and fairmindedness. Further, in this ruling Egypt aligns itself with the destructive forces in the world that are placing themselves as barriers to world unity rather than supporters of it. My heart goes out to my friend who must suffer through this period of uncertainty and face the possibility of being separated from her son and husband, and it is filled with admiration for all those Egyptian Baha'is who, through their quiet, steadfast adherence to their beliefs and to the principle of truthfulness, strive to advance the forces for unity and peace in this world.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Thanks, Becky and Sophie!

Sophie shared the photo of sidewalk tiles from yesterday's post over at the quilting forum at About, and Becky (Rabidquilter) actually drafted some blocks based on the tile. They are wonderful! Check them out in this thread at About. Now I will really have to try making the block! But not until I finish the other works in progress!

Here is a quick picture of the top I finished up yesterday. I didn't get any time for quilting beyond piecing the back for the quilt. I am rather uninspired on the quilting at this point. In my recent quilts I have used a lot of freehand "background motifs" and my version of McTavishing, so that the quilts are quite densely quilted. I am thinking of leaving the blue parts unquilted because there are so many seam allowances, and possibly using different block motifs in each of the smaller and larger plain squares. It would look great with trapunto in each of the larger white squares, but I am not sure that I am up for so much trapunto, especially as I don't have any water soluble thread and have to pick out all my basting stitches. Any ideas for quilting would be very welcome!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

It arrived! This time it really did.

My Kona Snow order arrived! I wasn't able to do much with it during the week because of work, but today I have been able to work on my Blue Marquee quilt. I now have a finished top, after only a little work last night and most of the day today. DS and DH were both out, so I had no distractions from quilting. There was a bit of a delay and a near disaster on this quilt. As I was putting on the borders, our helper (one of the benefits of living in this part of the world is being able to have help for cleaning and ironing) offered to iron the border I had just put on. That allowed me to work on the next border, which still required some piecing. But she burned it! She felt really bad, and so did I. I am glad I still had plenty of fabric left, though. I took off the border and cut off the burned part. There is still a smaller burn on one of the plain blocks, but we used bleach on the cut off piece of border and it turned out fine, so I will bleach the spot on the block as well.

This has got to be one of the best scrap-busting quilts around. It goes together so quickly, and you don't really have to worry much about accuracy. I found a white and green stripped flannel fabric here for the backing. It is not a fabric I would normally have chosen, but it fits the spring feeling I want for the quilt and it is soo soft! I think this will turn out to be one of the family's favorite quilts to snuggle under. I don't have a picture of the top yet, but I do have a few pictures of life in Macau.

The picture at the top of the post is of tiling on the one of the sidewalks downtown. Wouldn't it make a great quilt block? Perhaps because of the Portuguese influence in Macau, there are a lot of tiled areas. Buildings use a lot of marble and granite for flooring, and they can be a great source for ideas for quilt blocks, too.

The two other pictures are of shops. See the birds hanging in the one on the left? People still take their birds out for walks and keep them at the store with them, then take them home at night. You can hear the birds singing as you shop.

Then there is this shop. What can I say? Would you buy anything from this shop?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It's Wednesday!

There has been mighty little quilting going on at my house over the last few days. The main work in progress has been my office. I have just begun working at home instead of at the office, so this week has been spent making the workspace more efficient and effective. This seemed to mainly consist of taking everything out of my work cabinet, putting it into different piles and moving the piles to other parts of the house, which in turn necessitated taking more things off of their shelves, putting them in piles, and moving them again. But I am now about 90% done and can take a break for some quilting and blogging.

The little quilting I have done has been piecing for my Single Wedding Ring quilt. I am still waiting for the Kona Snow to arrive, so my Blue Marquee is exactly as I posted it last Wednesday. My Single Wedding Ring now has 8 completed blocks! I usually like to use a variety of fabrics in my quilts, and but this quilt uses only two. I am using a McKenna Ryan fabric I found in Thailand a few months ago. I absolutely fell in love with the fabric, and the variation in the fabric gives the blocks the depth I usually get from using more fabrics.

The quilt is based on the Single Wedding Ring quilt featured in Quilting Makes the Quilt. I love that book, and this quilt especially appeals to me. I can already see how I will quilt it -- with wild Victorian feathers in all the plain blocks. I think this will be the quilt for me to learn to do freehand feathers, though I do have one feather stencil as a starting point if I want it.

Joyce asked earlier if I am in China. I am in Macau, a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong and now part of China, but my work takes me to China frequently. Macau is a very, very small place and quite easy to live in. I will try to post some pictures in later posts so you can see what it is like.