September 13, 2019

Blue and White free quilt patterns

Free pattern alert! Actually, I have two free patterns for you today - anything to make Friday the 13th more fun, right? I designed these two projects - Quilt 1 above and Quilt 2 below - for the beautiful Once in a Blue Mood fabric collection by Yolanda Fundora for Blank Quilting. Quilt 1 features a gorgeous floral panel...

... and Quilt 2 showcases all the other fabrics in this line in a chain design with dragonflies fluttering about on the center of the chains. The border has elongated scallops which are machine appliqued to the border - easy!

I loved working with Once in a Blue Mood because the fabrics have the perfect combination of textures and values in order for a quilter to create a project with lots of contrast and interest. Check them out and I am sure you will agree with me:

Such amazing prints! A two-color quilt can be full of movement and charm when the colors are expertly used on the fabric design as in this collection. Once in a Blue Mood is already shipping to stores so download the patterns, go to your local quilt store, and have a great time quilting this weekend.

On another note, I found this on Pinterest and decided to share here. Instead of carrying on your shoulders the mountain of stuff you went through during your lifetime, put them all aside and sew on. With blue and white - like the ocean waves with gentle crests...

Have a fantastic weekend,

September 5, 2019

The Algarve and Portugal's Cork

My previous post showed highlights of our first week in Portugal last month. Today's post is about our second week: what we saw in the Algarve region. How do you like the tile work in the hotel room? It gives a different meaning to the word 'headboard' and never let us forget where we were.

We stayed in Albufeira, where cliffs frame the beaches, the weather is dry and warm, and the evenings are fantastic!

Walking every day at the beach was such a treat, my eyes at times glued to the cliffs, at times searching the sand for shells, and all the while marveling at the clear and cool water. The warm current had not yet arrived from Northern Africa so the temperature of the ocean was a bit below normal.

We took a boat tour of the coastline and Benagil Caves. What a wonder!

One of the afternoons we drove to Vilamoura and strolled on the marina, switching our gaze from the beach to the boats and yachts, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and beautiful shops as we planned a future stay in this area.

Another day we drove to Tavira, a quaint town with cobbled streets, shops, restaurants, and remnants of Moorish buildings. On a Sunday Summer night, the town's people gather at the square for a light meal and a concert.

Those tiles!!!! Why is it we confine tiles to the indoors? It was as if the buildings' facade were draped with a waterproof quilt. With every step through the streets in Portugal, I understood the origin of many of the quilt blocks we use in our work.

Eager to explore, we went to Faro one afternoon after the Cork Factory Tour (read all about it below!). See that blue sky? The weather was clear and the sky that hue of blue the whole time we were in the Algarve, the perfect backdrop for the stone walls and whitewashed houses and churches.

 The Bishop's Palace displays intricate tile work in every room. Wallpaper is overrated...

This charming city, the Algarve gateway to many European destinations, harmoniously combines the old with the new (notice the huge bird nests on the rooftops of this cathedral). One day was not enough and our next trip will include the Bone Chapel and Faro's beaches.

What I loved most about our trip to the Algarve was the Cork Factory tour we took at Novacorti├ža. Florencia Laginha, with flawless English and congenial demeanor, was our tour guide. Her presentation was extremely informative, interesting, and illustrated with samples of the diverse textures, appearance, and applications of cork. Adults and teenagers alike were hanging by her every word, asking questions, handling the samples with curiosity, and engaged for the duration of the tour.

When you visit Portugal, you 'must' take this tour!

When we drove from Lisbon to the Algarve, we took a detour through Comporta. All along the road, there were these trees with what appeared to be painted trunks. During the presentation, we learned that those trunks were actually 'naked'! The core of the trees goes through a process of oxidation after harvest and the trunk changes hues as time goes by.

 The bark of the cork oak trees is carefully stripped by artisans (read all about it here).

It takes 25 years from the time the acorn is planted until the first harvest where the cork looks like the number 1 above. Nine years later, the cork extracted will be a bit smoother (number 2), and every harvest thereafter (every 9-12 years) yields a much smoother bark (number 3). Every bit of the cork is used...

... whether in granules of varying sizes and density...

 ... as circles of varying porosity levels...

... or in sheets, cubes, or thinly sliced.

 It was fantastic to learn how the corks go from this...

 ... to bottle stoppers...

... or to furniture and other luxury items! I love my new cork bag! In fact, one of the owners of this business, Sandra Correia, was the brains behind the usage of cork in luxury items.

After all the traveling we did in Portugal, the food we ate, the inspiring sites, and all the learning, it took me quite a while to adjust back to my daily life. Portugal is famous for its maritime discoveries of long ago; now, it is our turn to discover Portugal and its attractions. You will not be disappointed if you include this destination on your next European vacation. On our list for the future is to explore the northern part of the country. But it may take a little while before that happens.

Until then, I hope to infuse my quilt designs with elements borrowed from all I saw in Portugal.

Have a fun day,

September 4, 2019

Portugal's Allure

My husband and I spent two weeks in Portugal this August. What a fantastic time we had as we feasted on history, amazing food, and the country's natural beauty. You know I am Brazilian. I grew up immersed in Portuguese food, music, and literature; yet, this trip highlighted all those influences and left an indelible impression on me.

Of course, we study the Portuguese discovery of Brazil, its settlement of the country, our eventual independence and becoming a Republic. But that is high school stuff! So, I found this Audible book - Conquerors by Roger Crowley, about Portugal's navigational skills and maritime supremacy in the XVI century. Both my husband and I listened with curiosity and attention to this book prior to our trip. Then, when we arrived in Lisbon, we experienced first hand Portugal's magnificence as we visited a few of the sites mentioned in the book.

As I walked at the Commerce Square, I imagined the bustle, the pride, and the work as the crew unloaded from ships anchored at the Tejo River the spices and other goods they brought from Africa and India. Those round trips lasted 18 months or more! Today, the bustle is of the tourist type but its grandeur is not lost to us, particularly as we contemplate the monuments to the conquerors.

In nearby Ribeira Market, Lisbon's Time Out Market provides a plethora of gourmet choices allowing your feet a break from walking the city's cobblestones... 

... and your palate the opportunity to sample the many chef's interpretations of the country's famous Bacalhau (codfish) and mouth-watering pastries.

Speaking of cobblestones, we averaged 9 miles per day of walking and gawking! So... all the pastries, desserts, and delicious food we ate did not add one ounce to our fit (right!) bodies. It also made for a sound sleep!

We visited the Monastery of the Jeronimos with its insanely ornate arches and ceilings and colorful tiles.

One evening we went to the Casa de Linhares, a restaurant renowned for its superb food and service, as well as live music.

The Fado singers performed with elegance, expressiveness, and melancholy characteristic of this genre. Above is a snippet of one of the three singers who performed that evening.

Another day in Lisbon included more sightseeing, fabric and other shopping, and ended with a sunset cruise along the Tejo River.

During the first week, our home base was in Sintra, from where we drove to Lisbon almost every day. However, we absolutely loved Sintra's downtown, cooler weather, and the two places we visited:

The Pena Palace was incredible with its colorful architecture, the many rooms displaying period furnishings, its terraces, and its location with sweeping views of the city below and the ocean afar.

We climbed the endless steps of the Moors Castle and were rewarded with beautiful views. Its construction is awe-inspiring...

We drove to Carcavelos Beach for lunch one day, located in the Lisbon-Estoril-Cascais coastline. Dreamy!

I am glad we did not rush to see the entire country during this trip - it would have been impossible to appreciate Portugal's history and charm. We spent our second week in the Algarve region. Wait till you see it in tomorrow's post!

Stay tuned for part 2. Until then,


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