Tag Archives: Quilts

Quilter’s UFO Solution

Some months ago, I started making a new quilt in the series called Redefinitions. This piece, made entirely from silk fabrics and a little synthetic lamé, had a title right from the beginning: Liquid Gold!

As the work progressed, I quickly fell OUT of love with this piece. In sheer desperation, I took it to a QuArKe (Quilt Artists of Kenya) meeting and shared with my quilt artist friends in Nairobi. Most of them were, of course, tactfully supportive, telling me it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, that maybe with a little tweak here or there I could salvage it. I received their great supportive vibes as well as I could and returned home with the quilt, never to touch it again!

That is, until today! This afternoon I went into my studio with an intention to make a small quilt top for the same series, something that would be fun and easy for me to do. The fabrics I reached for first were – guess what! – the same fabrics as those that were in Liquid Gold!

Well, I thought it rather silly to make a second quilt from the same fabrics, so I set those aside and reached for the original work. Suddenly, after months of percolating in the back of my brain, I had come up with a solution for what to do with this work in progress gone astray! I had to work through a technical solution, a method for sewing two sections of finished quilt together with a contrasting strip of fabric. That took me about 15 minutes to think it through and make sketches to illustrate the idea so I would not forget it.

Then I turned back to the quilt, by then hanging on the wall, finally understanding what was bothering me.

LIquid Gold, Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain

Original quilt gone bad


See all those lines that are not straight between the colored sections and the white silk? Curved seam lines between colored patches of fabric did not bother me because the patches blended and the curves gave a bit of added life to the piece.

What really bothered me was when a seam line between a colored section and a white patch was not straight. The high contrast showed very clearly that I had no control over the patches when I sewed them, and that read to me as generally sloppy construction, something I do not like.

My solution was simple: to cut apart the original quilt along all those curved lines where white met color, and to straighten those seams! Big difference!!

LIquid Gold, Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain

First mock-up


So, now all I have to do is to develop a final composition, knowing that each section will be bounded by an outline about 3/8″ wide, said outline to be made from a printed silk charmeuse, shades and tints of turquoise on a black ground.

LIquid Gold, Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain

Second mock-up


LIquid Gold, Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain

Third mock-up

Now all you have to do is to sign up for my newsletter or subscribe to this blog, so you get to see the finished piece when I’m done with it!!


Filed under Quilt Tips & Tutorials, Quilting Technology, Quilts

On the Subject of Solid Waste

Hemp plants

Concerned about the increase in solid waste in my community, I have a similar concern about the production, sale and use of ecologically damaging textiles. Textiles and apparel are a huge business, at one point touted to be the third largest industry in the world, beginning at the producer level and following through to the rubbish collection and disposal services that see textiles to their end, employing millions of people either directly or in related businesses.

Recent discussions in the Quilt Enthusiasts Group on LinkedIn (don’t know if that link will work, but you can find them if you want to) have focused on choices of batting (wadding) for patchwork quilts. The question that launched this discussion had to do with each member’s preferences, whether for cotton, polyester, silk, wool, bamboo or other fibers for the filler between patchwork top and the quilt backing.

Of course, several members reported a preference for bamboo fiber batts. This is a relatively new product, one which admittedly has desirable qualities, but is touted to be extremely toxic in its processing. Other fibers involve the use of child labor, heavy use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, synthetic and dangerous dyes and masses of water. Who knows if the water gets cleaned up afterwards, but I doubt it.

There are some interesting articles and reports online about the hazards of textile production. You can take a quick look at these two, and do some more googling on your own:

What I’ve learned so far, and with only minimal effort, is that of all the options, hemp is the fiber that is the most eco-friendly to produce. It also looks pretty and wonderful to wear! See, for example:

So come on, quilters!

Let’s make the jump to hemp!!

It seems a solid waste of a good plant not to!!!


Filed under Patchwork Quilting, Plants, Quilting Technology

QuiltEd Online: Crystal Quilts

Jewel of Africa, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

Jewel of Africa, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain


Check out the new course offering at QuiltEd Online! First take a peek at my gallery and enjoy seeing my Crystal Quilts. Then go to QuiltEd Online, read the blog post there, and have a look at the student work. Then, come join me for the course – Crystal Quilts!

In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy seeing my video, How to Make a Crystal Quilt!


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Filed under Online Quilt Classes, Patchwork Quilting, Quilt Workshops, Quilts

Work on Display in Nairobi

One of my pieces, along with others from QuArKe (Quilt Artists of Kenya) will be on display at the Friends of the Arts Exhibition at the International School of Kenya, April 11-16.

The piece I selected is an All-in-One Reverse Appliqué art quilt called Foreign Shores. Machine appliqué, hand painting and hand beading join forces in this experimental work focused on technique to create an original design.

Foreign Shores, an All-in-One Reverse Appliqué quilt by Dena Crain

Foreign Shores, an All-in-One Reverse Appliqué quilt by Dena Crain

Details about the show come from an email notice I received:

ISK Art Show 2014 dates and times

Dates: Friday April 11 until Wednesday April 16, 2014.

Grand opening on Friday April 11 from 18.00 hrs until 21.00 hrs.

 at the ISK School – Commons Multi Purpose Room.

Art Show Times:

Friday: opening from 18:00 – 21.00 hrs.

Saturday 10:00  –  14:00 hrs.

Sunday:   12:00  – 16.00 hrs.

Monday & Tuesday: 9.00 – 16.00 hrs.

This is a special show held annually, I believe, to feature some of the best artistic talent in Kenya. This is the first time ever that the show has included patchwork quilts as works of art. If you are in Nairobi next weekend, I hope you will make time to see the show and help promote the arts in Africa!



Filed under Art, Art in Kenya

QuArKe at Manyika House Retreat

Last week, seven members of QuArKe, the Quilt Artists of Kenya, traveled upcountry on the new Thika Superhighway, a four or six-lane expressway, to Manyika House for their first ever art quilt retreat. We traveled in three cars with at least eight sewing machines, rotary cutting equipment, food and drinking water supplies to last at least a month (!), and a few items of clothing to enjoy three days of being away from it all and with time to work on patchwork quilts as art. What fun we had!

Manyika House is an old colonial settler home, probably built to house the owner of a coffee plantation and his family sometime when the British Government was doling out Kenyans’ lands to returning military who came home to not much of anything else after World War I.

Manyika House, Thika, Kenya

Manyika House, Thika, Kenya

It’s a beautiful home, prime for its style, with a raised ceiling over the sitting room to cool the house, hardwood parquet floors, built-in shelves and cupboards, moldings around the tops of the walls for hanging pictures and casement windows. It boasts three large bedrooms, two full baths and two half-baths plus two smaller bedrooms all on one end of the house, separated from the main living area by a generous foyer that leads into a large L-shaped sitting room.

Manyika House sitting room

The sitting room opens onto the dining room beyond, and it features a huge fireplace and storage/bench seating that wraps around the end of the room below large windows that open onto a lovely garden. The benches are covered with wonderful patchwork cushions from India!

Manyika House sitting room

A large and comfortable kitchen lies just off the dining room and opens onto a paved utility courtyard behind the house. Jasvinder and Charu, working with Joel, made themselves right at home there.


The garden is home to a couple of mature palm trees that set off the front verandah which looks out at Mt. Kenya, often visible on cloudless days. Walk off the verandah and a small pool full of bullrushes lies ahead; beyond that a paved circle that hosts a round table and six chairs with a huge umbrella to cover all. Of course, flame trees predominate in the community!


Manyika House

The house immediately captured my heart, for it was full of the romance of an earlier time in this remarkable country. It is rumored, but not yet established, that Beryl Markham once owned the house. It is highly likely that she might at least have been a guest there, as the owners were not far removed from the Happy Valley Set.

We arrived about 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday and by lunchtime had unpacked our cars, set up our equipment, spread out our fabrics and chosen our beds–we were ready for lunch and then WORK!

We had earlier agreed on a vegetarian menu that would suit all, and a couple of our members had worked together to organize all the food. The house has a cook in residence. Actually, Joel is more like a majordomo, the man in charge of everything!

Manyika House

He made coffee and tea and served them beautifully, prepared and cooked our food as needed and instructed, cleaned the house and made our beds, and generally supervised the property. John is the shamba-man, the gardener and dishwasher who was ever-present as well, and there’s a nighttime askari, the best kind, I never saw him! We were well looked after and made to feel right at home at Manyika House!



It was great to have this time to work, to relax and to get to know one another better. Gretchen and Patty worked in the dining room, and there was a great guffaw from that part of the house about every fifteen minutes.


Bibiana spent the first day on the sitting room floor, working out plans for a new design on paper, then moved the next day to a table in the sitting room to begin the sewing on that project.


Charu, Jasvinder, and Raji worked in the open area of the sitting room and there was plenty of laughter from that quarter. Raji, who enjoyed the peace of the verandah, got the giggles on Thursday afternoon and could not stop!!


I set up around the corner in the sitting room, near the foyer, to have a design wall behind me (I ended up using the floor instead as I needed more space), and got back to art quilting in a big way!



We carried on like this until Friday morning, all of us sorry we had not planned to stay longer. We had booked during the week for a lower rate, given that the house is usually booked over weekends by families and other groups who can meet only on weekends. If you’re in Kenya and looking for a wonderful experience and a delightful place to stay, check out Manyika House. It’s truly special!! If you’re not on Facebook, google it and find local tour operators who can put you in touch with Markus Dierling, the owner/manager.

It seems QuArKe, the Quilt Artists of Kenya, have established a new tradition–an annual retreat at Manyika House. Gretchen now reports a tentative booking for next year that will include an extra night–yippee!! And if you’re interested in our work, the art quilts we are making, they will be on display at the Friends of the Arts Exhibition at the International School of Kenya, over the weekend of April 11. I know, the ads all say April 5-8, but I have it on good authority that the show opens April 11–ring the School to find out for sure. See you there!

Oh, and be sure to visit Gretchen’s blog–too cool!! She’s soooo talented, our Gretchen!


Filed under Art, Art in Kenya, Patchwork Quilting, Quilt Groups, Tourism