Friday, January 13, 2012

Alhambra Romance

Have you ever looked back at something you achieved and asked yourself “How did I ever do it?”

Yesterday my sister-in-law, Sheridan, currently wandering around Spain, sent me this photo she’d just taken of an intricately tiled wall at the Alhambra in Granada.

I’ve never stood in front of that wall, never even been to Spain - but ah, the memories!


Back in 2005 I offered to make a wedding quilt for my son and future daughter-in-law. They happily accepted and I slid a small pile of quilting magazines in their direction for them to choose a design.

“Not necessary!” they protested. What they would really love would be a quilt inspired by this wall in the Alhambra, because it was while they were on a holiday in Spain that they became officially engaged.



Oh, how I wished I’d paid more attention in maths at school as I scribbled and doodled, studied tessellations and lost a lot of sleep trying to draft a pattern. I was quite pleased with myself when I finally managed to reduce the tessellations to a grid of equilateral triangles, and draft the little curvy swoosh shapes.

I decided to make “tiles” of the positive shapes (chocolate, green, blue and rust) as well as the negative spaces (beige), and after marking my whole cloth background fabric with the triangle grid I planned to applique these “tiles” across the cloth leaving narrow spaces in between to represent the grouting. Using hand-dyes for my tiles gave them a more realistic appearance, I think.


But the challenge of creating the wedding quilt didn’t stop there. I pre-cut all the tiles, pressed them to cardboard templates using spray starch, and bagged them up. Then I took the whole kit in my cabin bag on a 3 month long service leave holiday my DH and I took across Europe and the Middle East.

“Alhambra Romance” was stitched in some amazing locations including a café beside the Grand Canal in Venice, a villa in the Tuscan countryside, the terrace of a hotel near Petra in Jordan - and a ward in a Cairo hospital where I was admitted (initially to intensive care) with severe dysentery.


If these two dear people had not given me a nudge I would never have ventured so far out of my quilt-making comfort zone, and I would never have experienced the absolute exhilaration of clearing those hurdles and finishing such a special quilt.

Have you ever made a quilt that took you totally out of your comfort zone? How did it feel?



  1. I bet if you'd seen that wall in person, and had a hint they'd want a quilt like that, you might never have offered to make them a quilt at all! No, I've never gone that far out of my comfort zone. Coming up with the design would be the most difficult part, I think. The actual doing of it might have been okay, but wouldn't have been accomplished with the dedication and speed you did. It really is a remarkable quilt, as is the person who made it.

  2. Wow! That is amazing! Stunning! Gorgeous!

    My first quilt (The Modern Sampler Quilt by Elizabeth Hartmann at Oh Fransson) scared me - so much to learn: rotary cutting, piecing, matching points, pressing, etc. - ah the joys of being a complete beginner (March 2010).

  3. That's a gorgeous quilt, Di - and a great story! Have you ever listened to the guitar piece "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" (Memories of the Alhambra) written by Francisco Tarrega?

  4. Great effort Di! What a good mum you are. The quilt is amazing.

  5. Oh my goodness. I'm speechless. What an incredible quilt - and what a wonderful gift for this young couple. blessings, marlene

  6. AMazing quilt, Di! It's a real work of art...and maths!

  7. That is quite an accomplishment. You really capture the look of the real tiled wall.

  8. Wow I am so impressed. What a wonderful memory quilt for them.
    You are so clever!

  9. You have created a master piece! what a wonderful gift! I'm amazed how you found your way to plan and accomplish this great work, so much patience and love for details.

  10. Bonjour
    I'm French so I hope you'll excuse my vague English :) My name is Cathy Picaut, you can see all the work I've done with my group about Alhambra quilts ... in English with an QNM article :
    And visit my website if you want to learn more ... in French !

  11. Hi! Beautiful quilt! I stumbled upon it because I am trying to find out more about the name of this tile pattern. My colleague, an Islamic art history specialist, told me the name of the pattern is "parcham," which is Persian for banners/ flags (flying in the wind.) Cool, huh?


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