Friday, September 21, 2012

African fabric and quilts in the blogosphere!

One of my favorite African prints!

Last month I had the very great pleasure of being asked to write an article on African fabric as a guest blogger for the See How We Sew blog. This fun opportunity came up when I reconnected with my friend Jennifer Rounds who is one of the bloggers on the SHWS team. The first half of my article appeared in the blog Aug. 31st, and the second half will appear on Friday, September 28. This time, though, Jennifer plans to include an enticing gallery of African quilts/quilts made with African fabrics, not just the couple of photos I sent her. This virtual exhibition will be in a special SHWS gallery. I love to be a catalyst for increasing quilters' appreciation and understanding of African quilting!

To see the Gallery and read the article, you can find the See How We Sew blog here:

You'll have to scroll down a bit to find the first part of the African Fabric article, but I'm fairly sure you'll find interesting things to look at along the way! :)
I hope you enjoy the Gallery of African quilts!

Monday, September 10, 2012

SAQA Benefit Auction Begins Today!

The SAQA Benefit Auction offers us all the opportunity to bid on a wondrous selection of 12-inch square art quilts-----it's an annual exercise in art lust! :) The auction begins today, September 10th, at 2 pm Eastern Time, and can be found here:

The piece I donated is in the first group to be auctioned, so it's on the block in a matter of hours! Nail biting will commence forthwith!  Actually, the auction is a cause for celebration, because the variety of work is amazing, and even if we don't bid, we get to see it all!

 Since I've already posted a photo of my auction donation, I went looking for a quilt I haven't shown pictures of before.  Below are some photos of a baby quilt I made earlier this year.  Most of the fabrics on the front are Laurel Burch designs from her Jungle Songs line, and the back has a bunch of bright fabrics from my stash.  I used lots of different colors of thread for the quilting, and free-motioned designs whereever I found some space. I really enjoyed making this quilt, all the more because I could feel very thrifty----most of the blocks were left over from a larger baby quilt I made previously!

Jungle Baby
Jungle Baby back 
And here are a few detail photos, just to show how much fun I was having!

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 3

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Out of Africa" 2013: African Quilting comes to Canada

I'm thrilled to announce that I will be teaching at the London International Quilt Festival in London, Ontario, Canada next spring!  LIQF is an annual weeklong event which is featuring the quilts and quilters of Africa in next year's edition "Out of Africa" 2013.  As Garnet Smalley, the head of LIQF, wrote me, "we started this exhibit to bring together quilters to learn about different cultures through the wonderful works of art the quilters make."  Next year's festival runs from June 12 to 15, and promises to be a colorful and exciting safari! Besides the classes, there will be an exhibition featuring African quilts, a selection of vendors to satisfy our shopping instincts, and a Gala Evening on Saturday, June 15th, with cocktails, dinner and live entertainment.  I'm packing my bags now! :)

I'll be teaching two sessions of my favorite 2-day fabric stamping workshop.  In this class, I teach printing with the wonderful hand-carved wooden blocks from Oshiwa Designs in Namibia, one of my former homes in Africa, covering everything from choosing fabric paint, tackling different surface design techniques for preparing backgrounds, embossing velvet, and foiling with the blocks.

Information on these workshops and the other fabulous classes which will be offered at LIQF will soon be listed at
Info on the Oshiwa blocks used in the workshop and the artisans who carve them can be found at

I hope to see you in London in 2013!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The 2012 SAQA Benefit Auction Starts September 10

The SAQA Benefit Auction is an event I look forward to every year.  As the artists make their 12" x 12" donations and send them in, they're posted on the website ( for all of us to see and enjoy.  The variety is as impressive as the quality of the art on offer.  Here are great pieces we could actually buy! 
When I make my donation,  I usually can't decide on the design ahead of time, so I make several pieces and choose one to send.  I'm posting here photos of the quilt I donated, and also photos of two pieces that I made but didn't send, as SAQA only takes one per artist.
My auction piece "Around Africa" features a group of animals I printed with my Oshiwa blocks, all appliqued onto a background with lots of free-motion stitching.  I hand-printed several of the background fabrics as well, so this piece is a good example of my favorite printing and stitching techniques.
This detail photo shows more of the stitching on the hippo, as well as some of the printing on the background fabrics.
The two other quilts that I made also have printed elements, but in this next one, the African batiks surrounding the bird are arguably the real stars of the piece.

 Here's a detail shot of the bird and the stitching around him.  I don't know that this bird is male, but I've always talked about "him" not "her", so I'll go with that!!

The third quilt I made for the auction this year stars a hand-stamped elephant, and as many bits of African fabrics as i could fit into the 12" square.  The free-motion quilting is a bit wild too, just like the elephant.
Here's a detail shot of the elephant:

And here's a detail shot of the quilting and the raw-edge binding:

I hope you have a chance to take a look at the wonderful pieces on the SAQA website, and think about taking part in the auction starting on September 10th!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Over-stamping African Fabrics

One of the techniques I like to do is over-stamping African fabrics with my Oshiwa blocks to add a design element and make them even more "African" if that's possible! In these photos, you can see a group of four African fabrics as they were when I bought them, and then photos of how I used them as backgrounds for the over-stamped images.  The over-stamped hexagons are in a quilt that I haven't quite finished yet....sound familiar? :) In class, I show the students a few examples like these, then I get to see what they decide to do with the technique.

One of the students in Kenya brought an African fabric with white shapes on a blue background to class.  She used one Oshiwa block to stamp with blue paint in the white areas and white paint in the blue areas.  She created a lovely design unique to her.  Isn't it well done?  I just had to show you! Beautiful!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Susuwe II is done!

I've been finishing up some projects recently, so will post a few photos.  This is Susuwe II, which stars some stamped fabrics I made with my Oshiwa blocks.  I love using fabric paint and blocks to make my focal points, and then doing threadwork on African batiks especially!  Susuwe II finished at 25 3/4 " X 51", and has more stitching than it's predecessor.  I'm happy with it! 
Most of the fabrics I used are batiks and prints from Ghana and Ivory Coast which I bought while living in Burkina Faso and Canada.  I was incrediblylucky to find Michelle Dunn of Kallisti Quilts vending at a quilt show in Ottawa.  She had some gorgeous batiks and prints from Ghana in her booth, and many of them are now in this quilt.  Thanks Michelle!  If you'd like to see her beautiful fabrics, have a look at her website:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Teaching in Kenya - Part 2

No blog posting about my visit to Nairobi would be complete if I didn't include some photos of two wonderful places to get "up close and personal" with animals. Gill took me to Giraffe Manor, where I actually got to pet and feed giraffes! I've lived in various countries in Africa for a long time, and I've seen giraffes on numerous game drives, but these giraffes were the first that I could touch. How can you be ho-hum about that? They're charming!

Dena took me to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to see the morning baby elephant feeding. Most of the baby elephants you see there are orphans of the ivory trade-- their family members having been killed by poachers who then sell the tusks. To me it's horrifying to think about the tragedy of the many, many elephant deaths that poaching causes every year. Elephants are intelligent, caring beings who inspire in me a great deal of respect. The Sheldrick Trust is doing an amazing job in attempting to right the balance, and show that human beings can be companions to elephants, instead of their worst enemies. Their program of fostering orphaned elephants is remarkable for it's constancy, it's caring, and it's demonstration of the ability to form ties of love between our two species.

The photos here show the intimate and loving relationship between many of these orphans and their keepers. It is unbelievably touching to see the way the babies twine their trunks around the keepers' necks, follow them around, and nudge them pretty determinedly when they're ready for their second bottle of milk! To see these relationships between people and elephants gives me a sense of hope for the future.

Teaching in Kenya---last fall!

I have a lot of catching up to do on the blog, so let me begin with a wonderful two-week stay in Nairobi. I had the very great pleasure of being invited to visit the Kenya Quilt Guild in Nairobi to teach several classes and speak to their guild meeting. What a pleasure it was to fly over to East Africa and spend time in the company of a group of dynamic and creative quilters! I was incredibly lucky to meet new friends like my hostess Gill Rebelo, who is a wonderful cook as well as a very skilled quilter! She has an amazing collection of fabric pieces, many of which came from clothing she bought at the second-hand clothing market in downtown Nairobi. Making her quilts with the nice bits from these used blouses, shirts and so on puts Gill very much in the quilting tradition of recycling lovely fabrics while creating beauty---and gives her a huge "fabric shop" to hunt for bargains in!

I was also able to reconnect with Dena Crain, an immensely talented quilting teacher I first met online while I lived in Namibia! She teaches regularly online at Quilt, which is how we "met" so I was happy to meet her in person in Canada a couple of years ago. Her blog is great---lots of quilts and tips, but also great photos of her life in the bush. You can find it at:

While in Nairobi I taugh Doodle Quilting, Fabric Stamping with Oshiwa blocks, and Try it Now! - a workshop on using lutradur, paintstiks, Angelina and other interesting materials in quilts. I'm posting a couple of photos from the classes, as well as a photo of Dena and me while we visited Karen Blixen's home. I'd wanted to see her farm and house ever since I saw Out of Africa, so it was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Gill and Dena took me around Nairobi to see all the important sights, which was terrific, but the best thing about going there was the experience of spending time with the ladies of the Kenya Quilt Guild. I can't thank them enough for taking me into their midst and treating me to two weeks of vibrant, stimulating, creative fervor! It was an absolute pleasure!