Monday, 28 February 2011

Marrakech Monday - Casa Botanica

Sometimes friends visiting Marrakech or clients coming to our guest house ask whether it`s a good place to bring children.  My answer is always an enthusiastic `yes!` With their sense of wonderment and natural curiosity, children love the colourful noisy streets, the donkeys and carts, the water sellers with their bright red costumes and pom pom hats, jugglers and musicians and of course the snake charmers in the main square Djem El Fna.  They love hearing the beat of the drums and the call to prayer.

However, living in Marrakech with a young child I sometimes miss more structured activities such as play groups, museums, libraries and playgrounds in the local park.  Having said that, things continue to pop up here all the time and one such thing is the wonderful Casa Botanica, which Zaki and I visited on Saturday.

On first impressions it looks like a huge nursery......and that`s because it is! We discovered that the huge greenhouses are great for running in.
And that there is so much more to do, like feeding the bunnies with leftover vegetable scraps from the organic cafe... 
playing in the bamboo play house...
 in the children`s garden...

checking out the hen house...
taking a donkey ride on `Reglisse` (`Liquorice`)...

or relaxing in the Flower Power Cafe...with perhaps a cup of Earl Grey tea and a dark chocolate chip and nut cookie...
The flower garnish is from the gardens (and is edible), as are the vegetables and herbs used in the delicious salads and tarts.  There are also fresh juices, and homemade cakes.  Because I was chobbling on all these goodies, I didn`t get images of the play `hanout` (small shop) or the sand box but you can see them if you`re lucky enough to visit this great place.  The children`s activities are free - you just pay for what you consume in the cafe!

The smell of the jasmine in the early evening was quite heavenly...what did you get up to this weekend?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

City Quilts

I love receiving brown packages in the post.  There is something uniquely exciting about seeing a parcel with your name on it. One of the many advantages of living here in Morocco is that there is little if any junk mail. Apart from the odd bank statement and utility bill, our postman has a fairly light load and for the most part, that suits me just fine.

About a week ago, I ordered City Quilts by Cherri House and it arrived yesterday- a book showcasing quilts designed and made by Cherri and inspired by the urban landscape.  I`ve never been able to decide whether I`m a city girl or a country girl.  Before I went to college, I grew up in the countryside in a Victorian farm workers` cottage in beautiful Warwickshire surrounded by cornfields, with a wood at the bottom of the garden and a spinney at the top of the drive.  If it sounds idyllic that`s because it was although of course I didn`t appreciate it at the time.  After college I moved to London and then on to Marrakech so for the second half of my life, I have lived in cities...and there is definitely something about the city.  Perhaps that`s why I was drawn to the title of this book.

Like The Gentle Art of Quilting by Jane Brocket, and Kaffe Fassett`s Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts, Cherri shows us how stunning quilts can be made using simple shapes with beautiful fabrics.  However, unlike the fabulously funky designs of Kaffe Fassett and the bold florals so often used by Jane Brocket, Cherri uses the best quality Kona cotton fabrics in solid colours by Robert Kaufman.

I had previously and foolishly dismissed solids for the quilts I plan to make, but after reading City Quilts, I have been googling Kona solids to find stockists who can dispatch fabrics to me as quickly as possible. Cherri often uses black in her quilts, not something I would necessarily have chosen, but it works - making the colours in the blocks truly pop.

One of my favourite quilts, City Tracks
By reading Cherri`s book, I have learned a lot about colour and how to use it to its best effect in quilt design and she has left me inspired. `Nature is the best teacher...take a walk and really see the colors around you...I say that if it works in nature, it will work in a quilt!`, which is what I guess I was trying to say in this post. Each quilt can be easily adapted to suit individual tastes and many of the quilts would be great presents for the men in our lives who may not appreciate Amy Butler and Kate Spain as much as we do!

City Bank quilt inspired by a building in the film The Bourne Supremacy
This is a lovely book.  If you`re looking for a book to explain quilt making in detail, this is not for you.  While Cherri gives lots of great advice on the basics and using tools and resources, this is really a book about inspiration -  and contains 12 fabulous projects for those of us dipping our toes into the world of solids.

You can buy or order City Quilts from your local book store or from here.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Bahia Quilt? Perhaps?

About a year and a half ago, my cousin Sybella came to visit us here in Marrakech.  It was her first trip to Morocco and Marrakech can easily overwhelm with sensory overload.  She is an artist and she preferred the new to the old but not knowing this at first, I took her round the narrow streets of the medina (the old walled city) and souqs and we visited the Bahia Palace.

The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th Century and is full of small tiled rooms with painted ceilings and courtyard gardens with trickling fountains.  

Despite being closed  for extensive renovation, it still looks a little tired at the edges.  Ignoring conservation issues, this kind of adds to its charm.  There are tiled steps for unscheduled rests....
My son (who looks so young) sitting on tiled steps at the Bahia Palace

..and big mirrors...

 It was during this visit that I started snapping tile designs for quilt inspirations.
A typical Moroccan tile design
This could be a green quilt with blue hexagons and white applique
Applique ideas from intricate Islamic plasterwork

When I looked back over these photos, it is this painted ceiling that really caught my eye - I think it would make a great quilt top!

It reminds me of Jane Brocket`s Russian Shawl (Matryoshka) Quilt, which you can find in her wonderful book, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making - as she says, it is really only a large log cabin design and the beauty of it for me is that it grows quickly. I think some big Philip Jacob florals in yellows, greens and blues could look great and the centre could be appliqued.  What do you think?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Marrakech Monday

I decided today to blog each Monday about my life here in Marrakech.  It may simply be a photo and may sometimes be Morocco Monday if I`m out of town.

This morning, I had coffee (and some delicious almond cake)....
The salon at Dar Charkia
with my dear friend Lisa, who together with her lovely husband Michael are fellow riad owners.  They run Dar Charkia as a maison d`hote - a bed and breakfast - in the medina here in Marrakech.

Looking into the courtyard at Dar Charkia
We drank coffee, chewed the fat and I delivered the necklace that I finished making yesterday.

Detail of sterling silver granular Bali bead and CFW pearl Y necklace

Sterling silver Bali dangles and pearl detail
Biwa pearl and Bali daisy bead detail
Lisa commissioned me to make this necklace absolutely ages ago after seeing it in the fabulous book, Simply Pearls by Nancy Alden, which you can purchase here. It`s full to bursting with gorgeous designs which make pearls not only stylish but funky and modern too.  I have always loved pearls and if I was to concentrate on making jewelery, it would be to combine pearls with sterling silver and semi-precious stones.

The granular Bali beads and biwa pearls really make this look designer and I absolutely love it. Here is the finished product, hanging from a tadelakt egg in Dar Charkia`s salon.

Thanks to Lisa, I can now wire wrap - the process of using sterling silver wire (or any other metal)  to join beads by wrapping the wire around itself!  What`s next Lisa?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Disappearing Nine Patch

So over the last couple of days I`ve continued to play with the pink and green fabrics with which I made the Union flag cushion cover top  and after watching a funny (but informative) video on Youtube, I made a Disappearing Nine Patch sampler.  Since watching this, I have found a helpful tutorial at the very talented Cluck Cluck Sew`s blog, which you can see here.

Disappearing Nine Patch

A disappearing nine patch is where you piece together nine patches of equal sized fabric and then cut the block into quarters before rearranging them so that there are no matching seams... et voila! It`s cheating really as it makes it look like you`ve done a lot more work than you really have.

 Union flag Nine Patch and cushion cover tops

  It is a warm and sunny Sunday here in Marrakech...

...and so I`m going to sit and do some quilting on the balcony today.  As you can see from the toy cars, my son will play too.

Excited to be thinking about what I will do with the fabrics, which are winging their way from the States...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Monday, 14 February 2011

St. Valentine's

Much to my husband's obvious relief, I'm not really into February 14th and all it brings BUT...

Wooden hearts from Hus and Hem

..that doesn't mean I have a wooden heart.  Happy Valentine's Day!
*I bought these two wooden hearts for my husband and son a couple of years ago from here*

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Decisions, Decisions in The Land of Oz

My family is not known for its ability to make decisions....

... and when it comes to selecting fabric I am no exception.

With a diminishing stash (in fact it's more a stashette really) I spend hours and hours looking online. Site after site.  Filling my cart with swatches...sometimes in yards and sometimes in meters...perhaps some yellows and greens, sometimes blues and purples...fancying florals from Philip Jacobs on one day and  fun colourful designs from Jennifer Paganelli on another.

After carefully making my selection, I then decide to abandon my cart (like a supermarket trolley in a disused canal), believing that perhaps what I've chosen is not quite the right thing, colour, or design...and so the whole process starts all over again the next day.

Today, I found what looks to be a great site in the States, a wider selection of fabrics and cheaper by the yard than many of the UK sites, I acted out of character and decided to just go for it. I took the plunge.

I ordered this from Alexander Henry, a yard of this from Anna Maria Horner, some of this from Anthology, this from Amy Butler, this beauty from Kaffe Fassett and this from Jennifer Paganelli.  The fabrics are coming direct to Morocco - much to my mother's relief (who regularly hauls over my internet purchases leaving her just enough space for a shirt and a pair of jeans - thanks Ryanair).  When they arrive, or rather, if they arrive remains to be seen.  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Project

So this is 'the project' (aka Zaki's quilt top) - the thing that got me started on this mild obsession.

Zaki's quilt top

Here it is, all (artistically - well trying to be) squidged up as quilt tops can look a little sad until they're actually grown-up quilts with their batting in.  The truth actually being that I find them difficult to photograph. You can't really tell but each 10" block is made up of three equal rectangles and each block is set at right angles to the next one...if that makes sense. It's Moda's Arcadia and I love it - it's all blues, browns, yellows and oranges with circles and dragon flies, flowers, leaves, birds and butterflies. My mum says it reminds her of patterns from the '50s.

I'm still in two minds as it whether to put a border around it or not.  I go back and forth depending on my mood.  If I do, it will fit a single bed and if I don't, it will be Zaki's quilt until he outgrows it and will then be used as a throw or a lap quilt.  Whichever way, it will be a much loved quilt.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Enough is Enough

So today I finished the Union flag cushion cover front using the pink and green Rowan fabrics.  It measures 13"x13" and on the whole I'm pleased with how it's turned out.  I may put a border round it.  I may not. I do like the fact that it's not immediately obvious that's it's a flag design because the 3 fabrics used have such a similar colour palette.  It was a little fiddly though (for me) and I now know that I prefer larger and more gutsy pieces to work with.

Pastels Union flag block


Hmmm. I'm not entirely convinced that it will become a cushion cover.... I may just stick some glass over it and frame it! What I do know is that's it.  No more Union flag quilts, cushion covers, hangings....or anything - at least for the time being.  I'm moving on...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


I mentioned in my last post that my friend Deborah had visited me here in Marrakech.  Well one day, Deborah, her girlfriends, my son and I headed for the mountains - the Atlas mountains to be exact, and they looked just like this.

The snow-capped Mount Toubkal
This photo was taken from The Kasbah Toubkal in Imlil - possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth.  To access the kasbah, you have to walk up a fairly steep and rough path or if you're feeling less energetic, you can catch a ride on a donkey.

While the views are stunning, life isn't always easy for the people who live here.....

Sometimes, you just have to take a rest....and catch up on the local news.

It really is the most beautiful place, but if I lived at the top house, the hike up there may get me down...

Even in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, inspiration for quilting can be found.  These tiles at the kasbah remind me of the 3D quilts you see...

I found these beautiful tiles at Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson's swanky retreat in Asni - where we stopped, shopped and enjoyed a pot of tea in front of a roaring open fire in the library.

It really is a gorgeous spot where rose petals are scattered on courtyard pools...

and indulge a mother with this last photo...

My beautiful boy caught in the sunlight.  What beauty we saw that day.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


For the past week, my very old (we've known each other a long time) and dear friend Deborah has been here in Marrakech and it's been bliss! We have had such an amazing time - chatting, reminiscing about our days at law college together, laughing and plenty of crying (from laughing so much) - that I had no time to blog.  It was only yesterday that I was able to re-focus and sit down to do some patchwork.  I planned to make this from the amazing Anna Maria Horner with this lovely fabric from Amy Butler but my printer had other ideas and would only print out half a page of templates. Grrrr.

So instead, with the sun pouring in the window.....

I decided to get the graph paper out and plan out a Union flag cushion cover.

It was harder than I thought but I got there in the end. This morning, I went to the gym and on my return planned to cut out my fabrics and assemble said cushion cover.  Grrrr again.  I'd made the newbie's mistake of not pre-washing my fabric and so now I've washed it and it's drying in the sunlight.  One of the advantages of living in Marrakech is that things dry very quickly.  Perhaps I'll get it cut out this afternoon.  May be....

By the way, Deborah left me with quite a bit to think about but that's for a later post....may be...