There are some challenges that arise from quilting in a different country, along with many joys. I’ll mention a few challenges as I move through the process of layering and quilting several small wall quilts. I am not complaining. Being in Ecuador, having time to quilt to my hearts content is
First of all, there is almost no 100% cotton in shops in Cuenca. None at all! That is the biggest challenge to me. We who live in the US, Europe or Australia are used to a stunning array of cotton fabrics from batiks to polka dots to elaborate florals in shops around every other corner in a metropolitan city or the suburbs.
Ecuador makes a lot of fabric within the country but it seems, from my informal searches, that it all has some amount of polyester in it. They make beautiful polar fleece, incredible wool , terry cloth and many other fabrics. But any cotton I have found has been imported from India or China and was thin, like shirting or very lightweight curtain material.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was able to bring a few boxes of fabric when I moved to Ecuador in 2011 by renting space on another couple’s container. So I arrived with 7 large boxes of all cotton fabric, threads I like - although there are many types of thread here, many made in Brazil. My favorite thread from the US - Aurofil – continues to be my favorite due to it is the easiest to use, least likely to break or have uneven tufts. I also brought several cutting tools, different sizes of rulers and large cutting mats. I packed a variety of battings. I prefer all cotton or a blend and size is important because it is so much easier if the batting is approximately the correct size for the project. There is no cotton batting here but one can buy 100% polyester batting in Cuenca. There are no pre-cut packages of batting. You select from an enormous roll and it creates a very hot quilt that does not breathe, too warm for many nights here… but welcome warmth in July and August when the nights are around 32-40 F.
On Friday, I bought some polar fleece to try on a small project to see how it performs in place of batting in a wall hanging. I have a quilt top ready to be layered – one that is going to be hung in the living room so I want it to look fabulous. I plan to test the fleece with scrap fabric first to see how it performs after it is washed, quilted and generally messed with.
When I visit the US, I bring back to Ecuador several quilt “kits” I’ve put together with a pattern, batting, backing. I have enough self-designed quilt “kits” here to make about 20 quilts of varying sizes… so there are no lack of projects stacked up, one behind another, waiting their turn to become a quilt.
Once I start a new project, I often adapt the pattern, change this or that element and find I need additional fabric – that’s the creative process, right? Do my ideas form and change as I go along? Sure. One challenge is using what I have as much as possible or getting the fabric brought here from the US - that is sometimes needed to make the next step in a quilt.
These are problems I solve as I’m working on an individual project. For instance, I decided I wanted flannel for the backing on my daughter’s purple lap quilt. Her children are young and will love sitting under that flannel on her lap. So I found some darling flannel for the backing and asked a dear new friend of Lenny’s if he might have room to bring it back from his October visit to the US. We got to know him better because he had room to bring back this small package in his suitcase. A huge favor I really appreciated! The flannel awaits the quilt top.
The front of my daughter’s quilt is rather formal and elegant – the fabric on the right side of photo – but the backing is fun and playful, as well as snuggly for my grandsons to cuddle on my daughter’s lap.
I know there is 100% cotton in Peru. I do not know why it is not imported to Ecuador but it must be lack of demand by Ecuadorians for 100% cotton fabric. Peru and Ecuador share a border. Someday, perhaps I will fly to Lima and look at their fabric stores, among other things there. They grow cotton but that does not mean they design cotton fabrics ideal for quilting. It is an unknown.
One thing I have learned in nearly 3 years living in Ecuador is that there are big cultural differences between SA countries. Peru is very different from Ecuador, DUH! An example: the potatoes they grow are different. The foods they eat are often different. The politics are different. The indigenous people are different. The type of music they like is different. The poverty is different in how it is addressed.
There is tremendous pride in one’s own country so do not assume that the country you might visit will be like any other country in South America. Sure, there are some similarities but many and large differences exist. People in North America are often in the dark about just what South America is like because the focus of US attention is rarely on South America. The focus is on Europe, from which many of us descended, and on whatever region in which the US is waging war. It seems to me, growing up in a Western state and living most of my adult life on the West Coast of the US, that South America is nearly invisible to many in the US.
STORAGE presents many opportunities to get chaotic or to be organized in your hobby. I fall somewhere on that scale but keep trying to develop better organization solutions. So, where do I store my “stash” and my quilt kits? I have the luxury of large built in closets.
I keep my general stash of fabric in a big closet, sorted by color. Hanging sweater holders make a great way to separate fabrics by color. Shoe holders also hold fat quarters and smaller pieces of fabric. Both are sold at places like Target and A large basket holds fabrics that are for an apron project. Other baskets hold fabric for specific quilt projects or “kits” as I call them. Patterns are stored in a hanging magazine rack behind the door.
Here are some photos. The top one is a drawer where I keep quilt backing . I buy sale fabrics to have on hand for whatever quilt project I think up.
The second photo is a blue and green wall quilt I am hanging in the sun room. It goes with the “sunbrella” type fabric on the cushions there. The sunroom is a whimsical, light place to spend time.
The third photo down shows my set up in the studio – great light, sewing machine angled so I can look outside. Ironing board is set on the right side, kept ready for action. The cats also have my studio as their “home base” so they are very comfortable taking charge of the room and any fabric they can plop on!
The 4th photo shows a cabinet I had built to store rulers, quilt books and thread collections. The side you cannot see has large baskets with current quilt projects and the fabric for the next project. It is kind of like in baseball: I have one quilt “at bat” – the one I’m sewing on, and I have one quilt “on deck” ready to start next. Sometimes I work on 2 or 3 quilts at one time, alternating according to how I feel. If I feel sharp and rested I will do the hardest tasks. If I feel kind of tired or not sharp-witted, I will sew simple blocks or cut fabric. Or put fabric away or something. I LOVE handling the fabric. It is calming and such a pleasant activity. I’m hooked!
Photo 4 in this set, (or 2 photos above) shows a partial solution to thread storage. Last year, I was given a beautiful collection of fancy threads most of which I’ve barely scratched the surface. But I just signed up for an online class through the site: http://www.craftsy.com “Stupendous Stitching”. If you have not tried a class at craftsy.com, give it a whirl. It is a great help for people who are not able to attend classes near their home. Classes go on sale often on holiday week ends. The videos are top quality, the information is helpful, you can ask questions of the teacher. And you can watch the lessons over and over. Or put off taking the class until it fits your schedule. In a lot of ways, it is perfect! They also sell fabric which goes on sale but the shipping is steep for US addresses. Still, I recommend you check it out. They offer other craft classes like cake decorating, jewelry making and weaving.
Photo 5, above shows the blocks I’ve completed for the new king quilt to be. A long way to go but it will be fabulous for us!
Have a really terrific week. Sharon
below is my latest quilt. Just about to hang it upstairs. 54″ wide X 38″ tall. My first attempt at machine quilting negative space was fun if not perfect. That’s life!