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Having attended numerous classes and workshops, I became completely obsessed with quilting and teeny tiny pieces of various fabrics draped everywhere. I did not mean to wait two years for my next post, but somehow all that gorgeous fabric and the smell of machine oil did something to my willpower and I could not drag myself away from my sewing.
But, to start at the beginning: The beginner quilt class at Craftland was a revelation. The mathematical mysteries were revealed to me and I was hooked! The class required pre-cut squares of fabric. I had bought pink Dora print fabric for this quilt, but forgot to cut it before class. Instead, I grabbed a pre-cut pack off the shelf and followed the step by step instructions. A friend’s daughter fell in love with this little quilt, so I gave it to her. She called it “Quinn”.
Learning how to quilt was so much fun, that I rushed home after each class to do the exact same steps on the Dora quilt. I just added some wide rick-rack trim to the squares, but will not be doing that again. The rick rack’s edging unravels with each wash and it will need some serious repairs soon. Soon after finishing the classes, it was time for Craftland’s Quilt Exhibition. I was so proud to display my quilt among all the other talented quilters and art quilters’ work.
Thus encouraged by my five minutes of fame, I enrolled for the next class, involving jelly rolls (which are pre-cut strips of coordinating fabrics). During the DSF shopping festival, I had popped numerous balloons to win various prizes from the gift baskets. I chose a few packets of jelly roll strips that had crazy car designs on them. This would be the perfect quilt for my other daughter, she who loves Ferrari so much, she even calls ketchup “Ferrari Sauce”!
The design idea was to join strips together, cut them into squares, and then quilt the squares in an alternating pattern; with the squares on the diagonal, and triangle in-fill to square off the edges. The outer edge was done by joining many, many strips together and finally, adding my first star pattern blocks in the corners. Arranging all the squares to avoid eye strain and hallucinogenic triggers, was quite a challenge! I’m quite happy the way it turned out, and we named it “Traffic Jam”. It has help up well after numerous washes and snuggles.
My friend’s other daughter did not have a quilt, so I found some cute and colourful Love Bug fabric in my stash. I could not make up my mind what other fabric to use with it, so I designed a rainbow progression checkerboard pattern on my EQ7 quilting software. The software is a bit difficult for me to master, because I don’t spend enough time on it. I used a rainbow striped fabric for the outside borders and so “Beetlemania” was born.
A dear family friend was coming to visit me in Dubai and I wanted to surprise her with a special quilt. I had these two crazy cat prints in my stash, but one of the designs was a challenge to work with. Well, let’s just say that in my haste, I cut the black random print fabric into squares, and then discovered a huge problem. The cats were printed in broad rows, easily cut into squares, but if I cut them the same size as the black fabric, there would be a distracting row of cat feet from the next row floating aimlessly on top. I had to make the square a whole inch smaller to make it work. Then I added strips of yellow fabric to bring it back up to the correct size. This “Catty Quilt” was a happy accident, but I learned my lesson for sure: “Measure Twice, Cut Once.”
I enrolled for another workshop at Craftland, involving traditional quilt block designs. It was a massive effort to plan each block’s fabrics; cut the hundreds of little triangles, squares and strips and keeping them all in numbered plastic ziplock bags until needed. Thank goodness for Accuquilt! Their dies make it super easy to cut pieces in bulk. Each block was also a unique challenge and I felt an amazing sense of achievement at the completion of each block. My fabrics were various black prints, white prints and bright lime green to give it some pizzazz. I called this quilt “Moonlight Pina Colada”, but it isn’t completely finished yet. I still have to decide how I’m going to quilt this patchwork top. I may splash out and have it done on the long-arm quilting machine at Craftland.
Soon thereafter, another dear friend was coming to visit me in Dubai and I knew I had to work fast to complete a special quilt for her. She loves bright pinks and oranges and I had just purchased a new Accuquilt apple core die. This is a very challenging shape to quilt and there were times that I seriously had to walk way, calm down, drink a coffee and then jump right back in. This quilt gave me serious neck pain from bending over the finicky piecing for hours on end. The batik fabric was also a challenge. It was so strong, that I could not add any other kind of print. It took a few tries to get the colour balance just right.
When you first put two of the apple core shaped pieces together, they have nowhere to join, because they curve in opposite directions. You have to insert one pin in the middle, then pin the two outer corners, and curve the fabric in a cup shape up off the table, while pinning as many sections as you can.
Once pinned, I had to sew the two pieces together. A quick swoop with a hot iron relaxed the stitches enough to lie flat. Then I repeated this for the remainder of the loose pieces. After joining two double pieces together, I had four pieces, and so on. I had to find a large enough space to keep all the pieces in their correct positions while I worked. So I moved my study furniture to one side and avoided the vacuum cleaner for a few days!
The only way to add a border to the curved edges, is to cut them into a straight line. I added a contrasting turquoise border to off-set all the bright colours. When I finished this quilt, I was so relieved it was finally over! I will not attempt such a large surface area with the apple core pattern again.
I wanted to try something simple, yet elegant after the apple core challenge. I saw an interesting quilt on Pinterest and followed it back to a blog called Valentine Quiltworks, written by a talented quilter, Sue Wood. She made a stunning quilt with a technique called “Disappearing 9 Patch“. Her instructions made it look very easy, so I bravely took the plunge. I had a few pieces of music-themed fabric and this was the perfect technique to show little bits, repeating harmoniously. I liked the dash of red she introduced. I tried other colours with the black/cream/gold combinations, but in the end, red was the best choice. Since I had the famous Drinking Song from the opera La Traviata as an earworm while working on this quilt, I decided to call the quilt “La Traviata”. On the left, is my nine patch before cutting and on the right, is the configuration after rotating the individual pieces.
By now I was feeling very confident in my patchwork and quilting skills, so I started looking at other techniques. I liked the idea of a visual game of “spot the pattern”. I spent a bit of time on Google, looking for block ideas and came up with a workable design that would give the illusion of an additional pattern once the blocks were assembled. I assembled one block to see if it looked good enough to proceed. There were a few tweaks in my fabric choices before I settled on this design.
It started with the centre purple/black print. I only had a small piece of it, so I had to fussy-cut the squares exactly on the same section of pattern to have identical patterns on the squares. Why do I do these things to myself? But, this quilt is speaking to me and I must obey! The four corner squares are also the same fabric. When multiple blocks are assembled, these will become larger squares that dominate the pattern in an entirely new way. At the moment, this quilt is still in pieces, but I hope to get back to it soon. I think I’m on to an interesting piece with this one.
And that, my dear readers, is the end of this very long post. Thank you for staying with me to the end. I hope to post more regularly from now on, so the posts will be shorter, I promise!
On 19 October 2012 I attended the 24 Hour Sew-a-Thon for Breast Cancer charity event hosted by Craftland at Town Centre in Dubai. Before my scheduled time slot, I had a quick supper at Cafe Ceramique and painted this very expressive wall-climbing frog.
It was difficult to get all the details right with the thick, misshapen brushes they provide, but I was quite happy with my efforts. It was difficult to imagine the finished product as I was working. The staff reminded me to paint at least 3 coats on each section to ensure that the final colour would be rich and solid, otherwise it would come out looking like watercolour paints.
I had hoped the detailing on the back would show up well – it took a long time to draw on with the little squeeze bottles. The bottles themselves were very small, some of them were too thick and some would make an air bubble just as I was getting somewhere with the line work.
Painting done, I reported for duty at the charity event, worked from 8pm until 10pm and was able to help finish off the last pieces of the day. The next day (the second half of the 24 hour session), I worked from just after 7pm until 10pm. Like last year, I met some amazing ladies and even a few guys who were inspired to come and help with the assembly, stitching and filling of the under-arm cushions and drainage bag totes. These bags and cushions are distributed to breast cancer surgery patients to help with their post-operative care.
One week later, Lumpy came back from his firing at the kiln and this is what he looked like:
What a transformation!
I am very glad I chose 2 shades of pink, it added some interest to his body. The gray was also a nice balance to help even out the contrast with the black. All in all, I think Lumpy would look great on some large tropical leaf in a jungle!
I love how the spots on the legs turned out:
Although I was a bit disappointed with the pink details on his back that ran together instead of staying as distinct as the white details:
Some lessons were learned for next time:
One, take my own brushes.
Two, have some idea beforehand of what I want to achieve and take some visual inspiration with me (another object, photograph or even cool printed fabric).
Three, don’t rush the design. Relax, drink a coffee, and enjoy creative time well spent.
This little Elnita was my 18th birthday gift. At the time, I remember being very upset at not getting something with a bigger engine and room for 4 passengers! However, she has served me well over many years. I have made curtains, belly dance costumes, table cloths and the odd bit of art sewing. I found that the space between the casing and the needle was too narrow for bigger projects and I wished really hard for a bigger quilting machine. The bigger machines, however, were completely out of my budget.
Fast forward to January 2012 and I enrolled at Craft Land (a sewing and needle craft shop in Town Centre, Dubai) for a class on free motion quilting. This was during the Dubai Shopping Festival, which happens every January. As I was preparing for the class, my eye wandered over to the machines and then I saw this beauty:
The discount was amazing and I persuaded my long-suffering husband to buy her for me for our 3 anniversaries: 20 years ago we met, 20 years ago we started dating and 16 years ago we were married. I also saw an overlocker at a bargain price and, well, you never know when you need to shorten a dress or finish off a project with a proper seam, so both machines came home with me.
I finished my free motion quilting class and decided to do the beginners, intermediate and advanced quilting classes as well (in the proper order, this time!). I tried quilting many years ago, without any assistance or classes, and it was a total disaster. You cannot teach yourself everything from books.
My new Mega Quilter worked like a fighter jet – fast, smooth and absolutely elegant. There was only one catch: she could only do straight stitching. My little old Elnita could not cope with anything bigger than a handkerchief anymore, so I started looking out for other options.
Craft Land had a quilt show in May 2012 where I entered my Dora quilt, I will talk about this in my next post. At the quilt show, they had make and take tables, where people could try out the Brother sewing machines. After the show, these demo machines were being sold off at a discount. I had seen some ladies at the quilting classes use the Brother machines and I liked the versatility of stitches and ease with which they learnt on these machines. Luckily for me, there was a Brother Innovis 600 among the demo models and I persuaded my (by now) very long-suffering husband that I needed to buy this machine too!
Having used this machine for a few months now, I can say that it is dreadfully SLOW compared to my Mega Quilter. It is like having two cars to drive each day, a sports car and a cheap bottom-of-the-range car. It requires a whole different mindset to not mess up anything when using these machines. With the Mega Quilter, I need to go softly on the pedal and feed the fabric at high speeds. With the Brother, I just about press the pedal through the floor and still sit and wait for it to stitch. The elaborate stitches would require some finesse, but the straight stitch should be faster. My other gripe with this machine, is with the quarter-inch foot. It curves outward from the front to the back, making it very difficult to judge where exactly the right width is located, with the result that my stitching feels as if I am constantly pulling the fabric left and right in order to hit the spot. It does redeem itself with the memory function: save your stitch design, length and width and then you don’t have to reset the machine in between changing stitches. Lastly, she also weighs much less than the Mega Quilter – and I attend classes and clinics at Craft Land on a regular basis, so my back is much happier carrying the Brother!
My daughters want to sew too, but since they are 3 and 5, they are incapable of working with the big machines. I found this mini Janome sewing machine at our electronics shop and bought two of them (one for each girl) that they can use while growing up. It has straight stitch and zigzag, but different lengths. There is no adjuster button for the stitches. The foot pedal is very small and perfect for the little ones. This is much better than a toy sewing machine, which is cheaply made and won’t even stitch properly for more than a few tries before breaking. And it only weighs 5 pounds (2 kg), so I can easily take one with me if I travel somewhere and want to do some light sewing.
Life can take you on some strange paths sometimes, but even I could not have foreseen that 2012 would be the year of the sewing machine in our house, or rather, FIVE sewing machines!
What a crazy 2012 I have had so far.
In January we sold our villa a day before we actually meant to allow viewings. Two couples wanted urgent viewings and the first couple to walk through the door promptly put in an offer. Things sped up after that and suddenly we had 2 weeks to find a new villa to rent. We were fortunate enough to find a spacious villa at a reasonable price and then the real madness started.
I am very particular about packing and moving any of my art collections, books, art supplies, tools, furniture and antiques. So I ended up moving it all myself in my little car, over a 3 week period. Every morning I would load the car, drop the girls at school and unpack at the new villa. Then it was back for another full load, drop and unload, then rush to school to pick them up again. And did I mention that my new villa has 3 floors? Well, that plus the roof terrace makes 4 sets of stairs to climb with heavy boxes. But I did it and we finally moved the last pieces of bulky furniture… and then a huge sandstorm hit the area and I realised just how sandy a new villa becomes with improperly sealed window frames in the desert. Much DIY ensued then and our black marble stairs now stay black even during the fiercest sandstorms!
The only sad thing about leaving the old villa, is that we had to leave behind the growth chart we marked for each girl on the door frame leading to the study, and the beautiful flame tree that we planted for our wedding anniversary two years ago.
Life moves along, whether you like it or not. So, finally, the art collection is hanging on the walls. The furniture is mostly arranged to our liking and life can go on as normal.
So, apologies for the LONG delay in posting and watch this space!
I purchased this lovely coffee table from Ikea a few years ago (but I cannot remember the name, unfortunately). It is the perfect place to display all those little curiosities that I collected over the years and it keeps the dust away. The large drawer pulls out to either side, so that you can access the cubbies.
At the bottom of each cubby I placed a doily from my stash that I found at the Kloof SPCA in Durban, South Africa. These are such beautiful collectibles. Someone’s mom, aunt, grandma or sister spent HOURS making these dainty creations. Some were created by candlelight in the more rural districts of South Africa in the 1920’s and 1930’s before electricity became widely available. It is such a shame to see them being discarded like cheap Chinese imported mass-produced rubbish.
My own grandmother (Victoria Delport) crocheted a whole drawer-full of doilies for my trousseau when I was a very little girl. She only had 20% sight in her one eye, and was almost completely blind in the other. She would sit and crochet with her hands near her eyes just to see what she was doing. This kind of dedication is priceless and I hope to pass on some of my grandma’s doilies to my children one day.
In each cubby is a word made of wire – body, mind, joy and soul. I tried to group items together that illustrate my thoughts around each word.
The Body cubby contains various items: shells, coral that washed up on various beaches I’ve visited, a resin mannequin figurine, antique photo of people on a beach, my pieces of ammonite I bought at a rock and crystal shop in Clarens, Free State, South Africa. There are also little plates of food created by amazing artists in Thailand – miniatures that are perfect in every detail. The clay they used, is very flexible still and I would never be able to make something so intricate. Lastly, there is a porcelain lid of a Victorian toothpaste pot that I dug up with my grandparents and parents in Kimberley, South Africa, in the 1970’s. The Government allowed private persons to go and “dig for a day” and you could keep whatever treasures you found. The old miners in the diamond boom town used to throw out everything in their little shack when they found a big stone. Then they’d show off and buy everything new! There are amazing things waiting to be unearthed in those old dumps.
The Soul cubby has a brass chain necklace of interlocking rings draped over the doily. Sprinkled all over, are my dice collection. I have various novelty dice, role-playing dice and odd dice that have escaped their board games over the years. The little broken porcelain doll on the left is another treasure I found in the mine dumps at Kimberley. She had porcelain lace over her skirt (now only bits remain) and her head is missing. She is wearing fashionable black stockings and showing a lot of leg! There are a few antique photos of random children, as well as beaded flowers. The tiny plastic dolls belonged to my mother and date back from the 1960’s. I played with them when I was a little girl. I love their over-sized heads. The dice represent the astronomical odds of incarnating in a body with a specific family and soul purpose. I believe in reincarnation and the chain necklace represents the interlocking lifetimes that we inhabit with our loved ones in varying cycles. There is also a little opium pipe that I found in a vintage shop (apparently belonging to another artist), but to me, it represents the human search to reconnect with our spirit and to leave our bodies behind. Souls inhabit bodies and discard them when they no longer serve their purpose. We are always near our loved ones, whether in spirit or human form, and I take comfort from knowing that we are never truly alone.
The Mind cubby is full of curiosities that display the creativity of the mind and the things that stimulate the mind. There are a few hollow duck eggs from the little ducks that lived on the pond outside my villa in Springs 10, Dubai. Some mornings I’d find the eggs already broken by the children and dogs roaming around the area. So I picked up as many as I’d find, hollow them out and save them. Some managed to hatch, but the crows in the neighborhood would peck the ducklings to death and fly off with the carcasses. It was very sad to see mother nature in action, but there was nothing we could do for them. There is also a Rubik’s cube – a puzzle I have never managed to solve! Some functional tools and interesting gadgets (goodness knows what they were used for!), as well as an ivory button hook from the early 1900’s. The pewter heads were all that remained of some decorative/patriotic statues and the bases had long disintegrated in some moldy box in a storeroom. I’d like to think that philosophy won’t disintegrate so easily, but continues to grow with modern thinking. The animal horns, quills, shells, eggs and mineral slices are all things that humans like to study and represent intellectual thought.
Lastly, we have the Joy cubby. The bottom has a crocheted doily oven glove – how cool is that? Somewhere, a lady actually made this pretty thing to be messed up in the kitchen. It has a few stains on, but that just shows that it was used and much loved. There is also a miniature tarot deck (they are in the tiny box attached to the little book). I love tarot decks and collect them – they are beautifully illustrated and are miniature works of art in themselves. There is also a rubber mold of a wooden hand. I made the rubber mold myself, so that I could reproduce the hand in other materials. But I was a bit too enthusiastic with the rubber and it is very thick and difficult to work with as a mold. Still, it makes for a pretty odd ornament! There are more beaded flowers – beads are a source of joy and I love looking at them and making things with them. The palmistry book cover and brass palmistry model represent hands and the magic of creating something with my own hands. I become totally immersed in crafts and arts using my hands and they bring me much joy as well. The antique photo is of a lady riding an elephant in a circus, wearing an extravagant beaded costume. I love making costumes (again, handiwork!) and all things creative. There are also 5 carved wooden Netsuke beads that I bought in Thailand. These are Japanese beads used as toggles for a pouch that hung over the belt of the kimono. They are very decorative and can fetch high prices in the antiques market. Mine are all little faces, modern, but very intricately carved and beautiful little works of art. The glass bottle stopper was a gift from my dear friend, that she bought for me in Venice. I love glass and beads and glass sculptures. I think if I ever went to Venice, I’d bankrupt myself just to buy glass! Lastly, there is a little set of antique lace gloves. It is hard to think that ladies had such little hands and were only allowed to do needlepoint and sewing. Thank goodness women now have more freedom to choose their artistic pursuits.
My autographed photo of Daenerys Targaryen, one of the major characters in the Game of Thrones series of books (played by British actress, Emilia Clarke) finally arrived from the collectibles dealer in France. I am now reading book 5 and have watched the first season of the HBO adaptation. I’ve loved the sci-fi and fantasy genre since I was 11 years old and after more than 25 years of reading good/bad and downright boring books, I am really impressed by the detailed portrayal of characters in the series.
Emilia Clarke is also becoming one of my favorite actresses. It takes some guts to do some of the scenes she did for the role, but mostly I like the gentle way she portrays the character and also how she subtly displays the maturity of Daenerys’s spirit. I’m looking forward to seeing the next few seasons of the show!
I found a lovely deep beaten aluminium frame at a French decor shop in Mall of the Emirates which was the perfect size for her photograph. I like the colour of the photo itself, and this is one where her autograph is properly visible (unlike some of the other websites I viewed).
There is something undeniably exciting about moving to a new house. The possibilities of colours, arranging furniture, admiring new views from the windows. I had already planned the layout in the new villa. But alas, my sale fell through and I am still living in my old villa. That was a waste of a few weeks of negotiation, discussions, planning, house-hunting and excitement.
Nevertheless, I have some pictures to share of other, more interesting and fulfilling things in my life:
Here is my little Yamaha Arius YDP-140. I found her second-hand on Dubizzle (naturally!) for a very good price. The lady had bought her with the intention of taking piano lessons, but after two years she gave up, and sold the piano in mint condition. She takes up much less wall-space than an upright piano would, but she has a full keyboard and plays 50 demo songs too. The 50 songs came with the piano in sheet music form as well. And the best part: volume control! I can still play some of the pieces I learnt when I was 12 – wow – all that practice sure paid off.
My set of 30 encyclopedias are now used in a tiny corner, as a “book” shelf. This is a perfect spot for them, because the kids cannot knock them over. On top is a tiny work of art I bought years ago, and a piece of coral that washed up in Dubai after they started constructing the large Deira Palm (and as yet unfinished). It looks like a brain and the encylopedias just add to the visual pun. I’ve seen some amazing book sculptures and have some ideas floating around in my head, but for now, the encyclopedias are going to stay put in their corner.
Some more progress on the blue pentaptych: we have now hung it on the wall in the living room. It looks great and allows me to see it at different times of day (and light conditions) as well as saving space in my studio. I can also take one canvas down to work on it, and replace it easily. The white buttons are all sewn onto the white band (shaped like a U) that flows over the three right-hand panels (not really visible in this photo). I am now planning the design for one of the teal bands. I’m going to incorporate teal-coloured pearls that I found at Dragon Mart. They’re only cheap cultured pearls, but they are still heavy. I want to combine some embroidery stitches with the pearls to fill up the area without overloading the canvas.
On 21 October 2011, I attended a 24-hour sew-a-thon for breast cancer awareness, sponsored by Craftland and held at the Town Centre Mall in Dubai. We made loads of under-arm cushions and shoulderbags to hold the drainage bags after surgery. The event took place for 12 hours on the Friday and 12 hours on the Saturday. Sewing for 10 hours straight is quite a challenge, and on hard chairs it became even more so. I had to spend the rest of the weekend recovering from back pain. I met some wonderful ladies and it was very heart-warming to share this experience with ladies from so many different cultures and age groups.
The rest of my time was spent on Halloween, children’s parties and some pretty weird medical stuff. But more on that later!
This layout of my daughter, myself, my mom and my grandmother (4 generations of eldest daughter of an eldest daughter) is going to DUCTAC to be exhibited in their upstairs gallery, seeing as my student hasn’t completed her work yet and we have nothing to show the public on Open Day what my class is about. The background was made with instant coffee (about 5 years ago!) and was just perfect for this photo. I spraypainted the edges black and stamped platinum, bronze and gold ink with various flourish stamps. The photo and lettering were sewn by hand, and I glued the corner scrolls with Diamond Glaze (I just love that stuff). The little key belonged to someone’s little cupboard somewhere and ended up in my stash of goodies. I already have had some more enquiries about new enrolments, and hopefully this piece will show the public that they can also make something beautiful for their homes. UPDATE: Turns out my piece wasn’t hung – and let’s rather leave it at that, folks.