Friday, 28 May 2010

Quilting and pondering

Quilting away at the crescents and stars - nothing revolutionary but I am enjoying it and liking how it looks. Pondering, however, what to do in the big white spaces in between... The crescents and stars are would not look good next to feathers or anything too complex or pictorial - the small blue crescents would get in the way even if I did want that. I have a couple of quilt books which show a spider web in this sort of situation but although I can see that it is simple and effective, I don't like the look of it and my daughter hates spiders anyway. I'm tempted to do rows of outline quilting 1" apart which would be simple but would emphasise the unusual shape of the white bits. Maybe I could stop this with, say a 3" circle at the middle, which could be the 'O' for Olivia and then wait until I finish to see how everything looks. If the middle needs something later, I could perhaps make some more fabric applique buttons and put one in each? Any opinions on that or other suggestions would be VERY WELCOME!

I'm very keen to get back to the Nearly Insane blocks but really need to push towards my deadline with Olivia's quilt as long as my fingers keep going. Having a most relaxing half term.

No quilting yesterday but Gay and I had lunch with Barbara, our new friend visiting from California. Our meeting with her a few weeks ago and this farewell lunch were like bookends around her trip with her husband. Again, we talked and talked (and ate, of course) and feel we have known her for much longer than two occasions would normally justify. It's good to know we have a quilting date with her when she visits again this time next year.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dancing and quilting!

As I'm on half term holiday this week and we're not going away, I've been starting the day with a dog walk, then 30 minutes on the balcony in the glorious sun (not to go brown but to take away the white!), then 30 minutes of Zumba dance/exercise, then shower, emails and coffee. Then an hour of chores and the rest of the day I can quilt to my heart's content - or at least until the ends of my fingers give way and I'm down to using the pinkie on my left hand, which is really going too far and even I couldn''t do that. The weather's lovely, the quilting looks good - photo tomorrow maybe - and I'm sleeping really well. Stuart, on the other hand, is working all hours on a new project and even when he is here, we are really only able to talk properly at dinner. So, a restful week for me and a tiring week for him; at least it is work that really interests him. We are going off to Brussels in a couple of weeks to spend a long weekend with old friends from England so he will get a nice break fairly soon.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Crescent and Star top finished

It's been very hot here the last two days and so I've been sunbathing, zumba dancing and reading instead of finishing the university graduation quilt-top for my youngest daughter, Olivia. This afternoon, though, I finished off the last 15 of the fabric 'button' circles and appliqued them on. Now I'm in the middle of sandwiching. Satisfied. But hungry. In the middle of the asparagus season here and we're having some organic green asparagus tonight with melted butter, some very good ham and steamed potatoes. Had late breakfast and no lunch, so I think this will not stay long on my plate...

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Got to the point yesterday evening where the quilt top had all the swags done except for the four corner ones - these are a different shape and couldn't go on until I'd mitred the corners of the border and could match the crescents exactly. Decided that they and the rest of the little button circles could wait until I'd sandwiched the quilt because the sandwiching was my goal for Saturday. I'd already washed and ironed all the backing fabric and got my batting ready. Oh, yes, really organised. Except that my batting was too small and it is the largest piece I have at the moment. I mean inches too small - really frustrating. And quilt shops aren't open on Sundays, hence the Grrrrr! I don't even think I'll be able to get any tomorrow as I'm working and have to rush back to walk the dog since my husband is not returning from Scotland until tomorrow evening. At this rate, I'm not going to get started with the quilting until Tuesday evening.

And so to bed...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Grey, damp Saturday - who cares?

Not me! Stuart has gone to visit family in Scotland for a few days so I am having one of those weekends when I have only myself to please as to when I eat, what I eat and what I do with the rest of the time. This does not mean that my husband is in any way obstructive or difficult - it's just that being totally alone has a potential for selfishness that isn't always there. Apart from walking the dog, I plan to sew, sew, sew and make real headway on Olivia's quilt, hoping I will be finished with the applique border and have it sandwiched and ready for quilting by the end of today.

What might interfere with this progress is that I also want to watch Series 5 of The Wire at the same time. Stuart and I have been thoroughly enjoying this series but he has opted out of Series 5 because he's too depressed about the corruption and negativity in it. So this is the perfect time for me to watch it and hand it back to the friend who lent it to me. I already cooked a lamb pilaff yesterday evening and there's plenty left over for dinner tonight, so I don't even have to cook. The appartment is clean, too. Of course, there is the little matter of the ironing but as it's behind the laundry cupboard doors I can allow myself to forget that's there until tomorrow...

So away with the internet and off to my one person quilt retreat!

Friday, 14 May 2010

New Face

Some weeks ago I received an email from Barbara, an artist and art quilter living in Santa Barbara, who had found my blog when researching 'quilting' and 'Bonn' online. She was accompanying her husband to Bonn on a business trip and wanted to contact some quilters. We invited her to our group 'stitch and lunch'.

By the time the date arrived, our group of six had dwindled to two of us - our Thursday was a public holiday; one was in the US, another in Switzerland and two had other commitments. When I collected Barbara, we drove to the ferry, parked the car and went across the Rhine as foot passengers as my friend only lives 100 metres from the ferry on the other side. But we two (complete strangers) were chatting so vigorously and happily that when the ferry slowed down and we prepared to get off, I realised that we had talked right through the landing on the other side and had arrived back at our beginning again - we skulked in the little cabin and went across again. By the time we came back to the car we had done four crossings instead of two!

That really was the tone of our session - Gay provided a delicious lunch (I even managed a piece of cheesecake, which I usually hate) and the talk didn't stop. Was it the quilting link, the fact that we were women of approximately the same age or just plain luck - no idea, but the three of us got along famously and we would really like to see Barbara again when she returns with her husband this time next year. Thank you, Internet!

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Just back from two days in England, visiting my mother and very sick father. Came back emotionally exhausted having felt the full weight of love and fear. We are awaiting the results of an MRI but the outlook is depressing.

Came home to a lovely welcome from my husband. Stuart had done the laundry, ironed his shirts, cleaned the appartment, bought me fresh flowers and chocolates for German Mother's Day and has cooked me a big English breakfast today (not counting the calories) and will do dinner later. My youngest daughter had sent me a dvd of 'Cranford' and my eldest daughter sent silver earrings and necklace - lovely gifts and here on the day! I'm feeling thoroughly spoilt and after my emails I'm going to spend the day quilting as I've got a 20 July deadline for my daughter's graduation quilt. Oh, and bond again with our loving little border terrier. Happy Muttertag, everyone!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Deceptive Day

Well, it's blue skies and bright sun outside but only 11 degrees with a cold wind - such a disappointment to have last week's warmth disappear again. Fighting a very bad head/neckache I woke up with - have tried a dog walk to loosen up and get rid of it and I've had a sensible breakfast; next comes a hot shower to ease the muscles and last of all will be a tablet as a very last resort (I hate taking any drugs if I can help it, although when I do feel it is necessary, I have no qualms about gobbling one as quickly as possible - just like putting it off in the hope I won't need it). But before I go, I'll put up a few photos.Today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition are:This one really needs a close up of some of the details but I didn't take one for some reason. It was an impressive piece, very Japanese in feeling.
I am not one for pictorial quilts - I've just never seen the point. This was one of the quilts I walked past and dismissed, having learnt from experience that when there are thousands to look at you have to skim quickly through or you don't make it to the end and therefore miss some good ones. I was drawn, though, to the beautiful border on this and the vivid jewel colours. I wouldn't want it on my wall because it's just not my thing but I can still honestly say I really like it. Isn't it strange that we can like something very much and yet still not want it in our home?
This one I would like in my home. It is in the same colours as my Japanese taupes log cabin and would look really good on another wall. I love the balance of the design, love the spaces in it where the wall behind can show through, love the change in texture from cloth to threads, from solid to fragile, concrete to abstract. Everything about it works and it makes me feel good to look at it. Unfortunately, one of my quilting companions would fight me in the gutters for it, so it's a good thing it wasn't available!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hitting the Past

Yesterday was my youngest daughter's 21st birthday. Unfortunately, she is in the middle of her degree dissertation so we did not go to England to celebrate as she wanted to 'keep it low profile'. Fortunately, she has a great boyfriend who organised some surprises. Her sister and boyfriend travelled up to Sheffield for the weekend and gave her a lunchtime surprise, then they all had a lovely dinner followed by a surprise party in a local bar, where a roomful of her friends were waiting. I had supplied some old photos of my daughter growing up and boyfriend had them enlarged and put into an album for her. We had sent our gift in advance and my eldest daughter delivered some champagne and flowers for us on the day. She was a very happy girl.

All this sent me in a remembering mood - while I was at work yesterday I couldn't help thinking back over those 21 years to her birth and the lovely childhood she and my other daughter had here in Bonn. The only thing missing was not seeing their grandparents (in England and Scotland) enough through those years. What was also pushing my mind back is that I was going to have coffee yesterday with an old friend I had known here when my daughters were small - she was also an expat in Bonn and had daughters the same ages, same class at school, sleepovers, parties, etc. She and her family left Bonn 13 years ago and she had not been back since. She had done a little work here for the first Oxfam charity shop in Germany and they had invited all the people on their books for a 25th anniversary celebration. I only got an emailed request to meet on the Sunday, so my thoughts were naturally focussed on our shared time here, our daughters, reinforced by my daughter's 21st.

Well, we met and hugged and got very emotional - although we had been friends, after a few years' Christmas cards with notes inside, we had lost touch. The expat world is one of constant comings and goings - life has changed very much here in Bonn since the capital moved back to Berlin and the diplomats left Bonn; the expats here now stay longer and the population is more stable because of it. Back then, however, it simply wasn't possible to stay in contact with everyone who crossed your path. It didn't matter, though - we sat and drank coffee and talked non-stop for two hours and had a wonderful, if emotional, time. Thirteen years contained many divorces, infidelities, deaths, illnesses, joys and sadnesses among the group of people we knew and we couldn't catch up on everything. What was wonderful is a very simple thing - that we are both still here, fit, healthy, active and hopefully a little wiser. We felt as though we had only seen each other the week before and both knew that if it is another 13 years before we meet again (I hope this won't be the case), that won't really matter either.

Anyway, I need to get back into the present today and get moving with my quilting before I go to work for the afternoon. Here are today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition. Firstly, two very traditional quilts with perfect workmanship:

And as a contrast, here is another astonishing art quilt:
This one was so exciting to see. I almost walked past it but something drew me back and the more I looked the more fascinated I became. The coloured diagonals that look like sticks ARE sticks covered with fabric and they give the most subtle but effective 3D touch to the geometry of this quilt. The connection between the colour points, the effect of the diagonals all seemed to be a growing coherent wholeness that only appeared the more you looked at it. I could have been tempted to steal this by the end of the day when I had criss-crossed in front of it visiting the quilt stalls for the umpteenth time. By the time I left I felt I knew this piece and wanted it badly. I just don't think I have the ingenuity to be able to copy it, sadly.

Right, hoover, change bedding, put some laundry on, then an hour's sewing till I go to work!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Not ready for Monday...

The last few days seem to have gone very fast. I only work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and so have, effectively, a four-day weekend. Thursday I was in Holland for the quilt exhibition, Friday seemed to be totally taken up with finding out that our dog has epilepsy and getting the right medication, etc, Saturday was Rhein in Flammen and yesterday seemed to disappear in a puff of smoke (I actually worked on a quilt for hours but it never seems that long, does it?).

Anyway, I wasn't ready for Monday morning but have caught up with myself now. Later this afternoon I'm going to meet someone for coffee who I haven't seen for 13/14 years (she was another British expat in Germany who had daughters the same age as mine but they went back to the UK all those years ago). Surprisingly, she has never returned to Bonn in all that time. I wonder if we will still recognise each other?

Here are today's quilts from the European Quilting Championships Exhibition. First, a Baltimore album:
I've just bought an Ellie Sienkiewicz pattern book for blocks like these and one day in the distant future I might actually get around to doing one like this.

And this is one of the art quilts that I really liked. Art quilts are never 'okay' with me; they are either fantastic or bog-ugly and I've never yet seen one that falls in the middle. The maker of this one wrote that she was inspired by seeing the Chinese Terracotta Army and was fascinated by their armour made up of small pieces like this. There is something of Gustav Klimt also, I think, in her colours and the overall look. Very successful - I would love this on my wall even though the rest of our house is probably not 'cool' enough to match it...

And there was this charming pot plant quilt with some very inventive applique/embroidery effects. This is not normally my cup of tea but it was interesting seeing how each one had been done. I know my mother would love this one as she loves gardening. Not sure if I would want it hanging up all the time but I do think it's cute.

Off to walk the dog before meeting my long-lost friend.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Rainy/sunny Sunday - more EQC photos

Here's a very lovely sashiko quilt from the exhibition. It was hard to capture in a photo the subtle changes in colour and tone that are going on here. The quilting is gorgeous but the soft greys and sea-greens have a magically peaceful effect when you look at the whole quilt. Loved it.

I really like the above quilt from the exhibition - it is deceptively simple. I dread to think how long the colour placement of these squares took to get it looking this good. It's a beautiful quilt.

Enjoyed the fireworks last night - we had three goes on the dodgems (or bumper cars, I think they are called if you are in the US) dined on barbecue pork and 'gebrannte Mandeln' (literally, 'burnt almonds' - almonds in a burnt sugar crackle coat, very German) and beer. The fireworks were much noisier than the ones last year but not so pretty or colourful but last year's were very special, I thought.

Off to sew - more photos tomorrow. I've just had an email from a friend who I haven't seen or heard from for about 14 years - visiting Bonn at very short notice so we are meeting for lunch. I wonder if we will recognise each other?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

European Quilt Championships Exhibition 2010

I went to Veldhoven (near Eindhoven) in Holland for the day on Thursday where the European Quilt Championships Exhibition was being held. I went with two friends from our quilt group (thanks for driving, Elena!) and we had a lovely time. The above photos are of a quilt that we saw right at the beginning of the exhibition and despite all the wonderful things we saw that day, brilliant designs and workmanship, this remains my favourite. I think a quilt should lift the spirits and this one made me very happy. I love the way the paler border pattern fabric echoes and shadows the darker one. It's a simple idea and they are often the best.

I took lots of photos and cannot upload them all now but will show a few each day until I'm done. Here's one that was astonishingly beautiful (my 2nd favourite), a very cleverly planned Cathedral Stars:

This quilt was just so pretty! The colour choices were very subtle and beautifully placed. I couldn't work out at first how the stars were constructed and started by thinking that the framing circles had been fussy cut from patterned fabric. Then I realised that carefully planned pieces of colour and pattern had been sewn to the frames before the windows were made - in other words, the frame circles had been pieced rather than just cut. A terrific amount of work had gone into this but it was a work of art and the maker should feel very proud.

What did I buy there? Well, I was looking for a mini-iron and bought the new Clover adaptor iron with the safety cage round the metal stem and the optional narrow iron shoe in case I want to do some quilting using lots of bias strip. I also bought a lovely book of Delft block patterns in reverse applique - very expensive but lovely - I'll take a photo tomorrow, some red and white fat quarters to add to my Nearly Insane fabrics, a sweet little embroidery pattern and some other bits and bobs, including a quilting lucky bag which was a fun idea.

There will be many thousands of people in the park today because it is Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) today. This is a May Day celebration that happens between Bonn and Koblenz - funfairs and big live music stages in the park, smaller festivities all along this stretch of the river and then this evening there will be a massive firework display carefully orchestrated to music at 11p.m. The reason it is called Rhine in Flames is because a flotilla of boats travel from Koblenz to Bonn when it gets dark and as they pass along the river huge red flares are set off on either side so that the river looks fiery red - all quite pagan, really, and exciting. We've never been interested in seeing things from the boats, so have never bought tickets but I suppose we ought to try it one year. All the smaller communities let off their fireworks but the ones in the park are the biggest and most exciting. We used to take our children into the park for an afternoon picnic and spend the time with friends waiting for the darkness to come and the fireworks to start. Now it's just the two of us we usually go in for a beer or two and soak up the atmosphere in the afternoon and then, much later, put the dog in our bedroom with the radio on loudly (he is terrified of fireworks) and we sneak back into the park just for the display. If the weather is good it is a wonderful day because it always feels like the beginning of summer.

Off to sew now for an hour or two. More exhibition photos tomorrow.