Quilt Gallery

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Star Quilts

I have been on a roll at the quilt studio lately, finally finishing up quilts that I pieced during Covid. The first of these was a very late wedding gift for my niece and her husband. 

I completed the top nearly three years ago, but Covid closed the quilt studio and when it re-opened I thought I was too out of practice at free-hand quilting to risk working on such an important quilt. When I learned that QuiltPath had implemented a new feature, called "Eclipse," which allows you to pick an overall pattern but define areas to leave unquilted, I realized I had a solution. I excluded the star points and instructed QuiltPath to quilt the background with simple wavy lines. I finished by hand quilting the star points with light grey pearl cotton.

I chose a pretty floral for the backing and a modern gray for the binding.

I am quite pleased with how it turned out and hope the not so newly-wed couple will enjoy it for years to come.

I finished another quilt in time to give to my best running buddy and dear friend for Christmas. Though it is also a star quilt, with its dozens of stars and a decidedly feminine feel, it is as different as could be from the wedding quilt. 

I alternated quarter square triangles, made with mostly small scale florals, with low volume squares. I quilted this one using QuiltPath's "multi-placement" function which allows you to specify multiple blocks to be quilted in one pass, each with the same design.

I really like this style of quilting as the quilt design follows the pieced design and results in interesting secondary patterns. It has become my signature style of quilting.

Many thanks go to Susan and Chris at Over the Top Quilting in Cedar Park, Texas, for their guidance and encouragement. It is always a joy to spend time in their studio!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

A New Quilt for the Sleeping Porch

I've written about Thanksgiving in the Texas Hill Country before, noting that we enjoy sleeping outdoors in one of our little screened cabins or on the sleeping porch. This year was no different in spite of unusually rainy weather.  Thanks to deep eaves and minimal wind the sleeping porch stayed nice and dry. Piled with flannel sheets, a heavy wool blanket and three quilts my bed was cozy as could be. I slept incredibly well! These are all quilts that I have made over the years, with the top one completed the weekend before Thanksgiving.

It's such a cheerful quilt. I think it looks terrific on the bed! 

The quilt is made entirely of "Economy Blocks," which are just squares in a square, in this case four progressively larger squares. I used darker blocks on the outside to make a wide border then added smaller on-point squares for an outer border.

Except for the solids the fabrics are from my seemingly endless stash of vintage fabrics acquired years ago at the Austin Quilt Guild show. Most are florals, but there are also quite a few with fun and quirky designs, such as umbrellas, police cars, and landscapes.

I used a multi-colored southwestern design fabric (also from the vintage stash) for the border. This might seem like an odd choice, but the quilt was incredibly busy already so I figured I'd go all in with the busyness.

I quilted it (on an APQS long arm machine at Over the Top Quilting in Cedar Park) block by block using two very simple designs and the handy QuiltPath feature that allows you to set up sewing of multiple blocks at once. 

I've been busy in the quilt studio this fall so I'll try to come back here soon with details on some of the other quilts I've recently completed.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Stopover in London

En route to South Africa last summer (more about that in subsequent posts) we stopped for two nights in London, using the time to acclimate to a new time zone and to wander around London, stopping as we came upon places that interested us (and weren't too crowded). 

One stop was Sir John Soane's Museum on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, London's largest public square. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a renowned neo-classical architect and collector, amassing a trove of sculptures, paintings, architectural remnants, and more, which he artfully arranged and cleverly stored in his home, itself a collection of three residences. Today's visitors see the home largely as it looked upon Sir John's death. Just about every surface is covered, every nook and cranny stuffed with treasures. Here is just a small sample. 

Outside of the museum, we strolled through Lincoln's Inns Fields, stopped at the Seven Stars for lunch,

and explored the weekend-quiet streets, including Serle Street, adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice. 

Coming out on Chancery Lane, 

we eventually made our way south to the Strand and crossed the Thames to the Southbank boardwalk. Seeing St. Paul's Cathedral (dating from the 17th century), modern financial district towers, and construction cranes in a single frame reminds me of London's long-standing vibrance and continued renewal.  

We also took in Big Ben, newly and brilliantly emerged from a renovation that kept it encased in scaffolding for five years.

The Houses of Parliament were equally brilliant.

While we walked most places, we did use the tube to get to and from Heathrow Airport, as well as around town. I love the older stations for their beautiful tile work and fun graphics.

One of our stops was the Old Brompton Road in South Kensington, home of Shaukat Fabrics, an amazing fabric store that carries an enormous selection of wools, silks and cottons, and notably, a wider collection of Liberty fabrics than Liberty of London just a few miles away. 

Their prices are quite competitive, and they ship so I picked up several yards of tana lawn, 

including one version of the Betsy print so that I could incorporate it into my Sew.be sew along Betsy nine-patch quilt. As you can see, I used other prints for some, actually most, of the blocks because I just didn't have enough different Betsy fabrics in my stash. Out of 144 blocks, I think I have four Betsy prints, so maybe I should name the finished quilt "Betsy Comes for a Visit." Anyway, I have completed all 144 blocks and assembled them into a top, so it is now in the queue to be quilted and bound. 

I have a small but precious stash of Liberty tana lawn and I credit this project with forcing me to actually cut into it. Thank you to Bec Brennan for getting me over that hurdle! I'm already planning my next quilt using Liberty fabric!


Monday, July 25, 2022

Uganda Women's Collective

My trip to Uganda last fall focused on wildlife, but I still had a chance to see some of the beautiful countryside outside of the national parks 

as well as small slices of daily life in the many villages we passed through.

In Buhoma, just down the road from one of our lodges, Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, is an impressive organization focused on empowering local women, Ride 4 A Woman. We first visited to shop for African fabrics and crafts and were enchanted by their handmade products, from baskets to clothing to accessories and housewares. Naturally we all found things to bring home.

We made several more excursions to their workshop and store, getting to know some of the women and learning about the role of the collective. The collective was founded in 2009 by Evelyn Habana and her husband Denis Rubalema to support women struggling with issues such as poverty, HIV, and domestic violence by teaching skills and offering micro-financing that enable women to support themselves and their children.

On the left side of this photo is Winnie, who made the bathrobe I commissioned for my husband. I chose the fabric from among their collection and then we measured someone from our group who was about the right size.

Baskets are another key product for these ladies. They use a wide variety of plant materials to die the grasses in gorgeous shades. 

Then they work their magic to make baskets and bowls in stunning designs.

In addition to selling their wares, the collective offers accommodation, which you can learn about and book through their website linked above. They can also be reached at ride4awoman@gmail.com.

Throughout my trip in Uganda I noticed so many women wearing clothing made of the most beautiful boldly patterned fabric and was very keen to bring some home. I'll finish this post with what I purchased - they had so many fabulous designs that it was hard to narrow it down. Fortunately they let me rummage through their scrap bin so I was able to get a wide selection in addition to some fat quarters and some yardage.

Here is the progress on the first quilt top I have made using my purchases. I used solid black as a contrast to showcase the dramatic patterns and colors of the African prints.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Safari Lodges and Camps in Uganda

In my last three posts I highlighted some of Uganda's amazing wildlife, from chimpanzees and mountain gorillas to lions, elephants, and hippos. To see some of these animals required some effort on our part, trudging through dense forests and up and down steep, slippery slopes. At the end of each day we were happy to be welcomed back to the comforts of our various lodges and camps, each with its own character and charm, but all offering excellent food, hot showers, comfortable beds, and best of all, kind and helpful staff.

Ndali Lodge, less than 10 miles from Kibali National Park, sets a very high standard for luxury. Located on a 1920s era tea plantation on the rim of Nyinambuga Crater Lake, the lodge offers stunning views in all directions.

Every morning we were treated to an al fresco breakfast (featuring many choices, from avocado toast to meusli and yogurt to a full English breakfast) with views of the lake.

The lodge was built in the 1990s by the current proprietor's father and has been lovingly maintained -- the original thatch roofs remain. 

The decor has a strong colonial flavor which made me feel as though I was in the movie "Out of Africa." Note the fire place at the end of the main sitting room. We were certainly glad of its warmth and light one night when a fierce thunderstorm blew through the area.

The cottages are spaced well apart and separated by dense vegetation, making each one a private retreat.

With a wonderful view of the Rowenzori Mountains to the west, I found the entry patio a lovely spot to sit and read, or just to stop to remove my muddy boots.

Inside it was comfortably furnished. Each night a staff member put the mosquito nets down around the bed, and each morning I was awakened by a gentle tapping on the window when another staff member brought me coffee along with warmed milk. It was the gentlest of ways to start the day! The cottages have electricity for lighting, but are also well supplied with candles in case of outages, or in case you would like the ambiance of candles, which I highly recommend!

Hot water for the cottages is provided by wood-fired water heaters. I had my first shower by candlelight and it took me a few minutes to realize that the smell of smoke was from the water and not from having accidentally set my cottage on fire.

Since the lodge is so close to the equator, night falls around 6:00 p.m. year round. Consequently, it was dark by the time we were seated for dinner and the meal was served by candlelight. I found the food quite delicious and wonderfully fresh. 

Ndali Lodge is truly a special place to stay. Although the location and the lodge itself are beautiful, the magic ingredient is the staff. They were unfailingly kind and attentive. I especially appreciated being led on a walking tour of the 2.5 mile trail around the lake.

Our next stop was the Ishasha Wildnerness Camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

Since this camp is in the park, and right along the Ntungwe River one must be wary of wild animals, especially at night. In fact, once it was dark we were required to have staff escort us between our tents and the main lodge.

Ishasha offers accommodation in permanent, spacious tents which look rustic from the outside (note the yellow jerry can which is filled with hot water for showers), but they are nicely furnished inside. Definitely glamping!

The bed was fitted out nightly with mosquito netting and staff brought me coffee each morning. It was rather thrilling to be awakened several times by sounds of wildlife so close that I wondered if I would be staring straight into a pair of gleaming eyes should I be brave enough to pull open the curtains.

When the animals quieted down I could hear the rush of water in the river just outside the back of my tent.

On our final morning, having made an early start in hopes of spotting wildlife, the staff set up a full breakfast  for us on the edge of a bluff. We all appreciated it immensely!

Our final stay was at Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Like Ishasha, this camp has a comfortable open air lodge for meals and lounging.

Accommodation is in nicely appointed tents.

Staff delivered hot coffee (and tasty butter cookies) each morning. And after our last trek to see gorillas they cleaned our muddy boots so they didn't soil the rest of our belongings when we packed for our return home.

As elsewhere, I found the staff was wonderful, the food fresh, and the overall atmosphere welcoming and relaxing. Kudos to Cheeseman's Ecology Safaris for making this trip as comfortable as it was thrilling!