Machine Quilting on an Unfamiliar Machine – My Heart is With My Pfaff!

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I’m starting a new addition to this blog: a photo of the week on Fridays.

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This Friday’s photo is from last evening.  I asked my husband to take a photo of me with the quilt rolled and wrapped over my shoulder to allow me to work directly on the actual machine quilting.  As you can see, I was working HARD on the machine quilting. Honestly, there are so many steps to create and complete a quilt!

This is a gift quilt about the size of a twin bed.  This purple and teal quilt is a” slightly late” birthday gift for my daughter Tenley. She is a wonderful 35 year old now with two darling little boys. a job, a home to care for  and a cool husband. Tenley is brave and strong and funny and loving.  She and her husband Todd work hard with their little family in a small community east of Portland, Oregon.

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Recently my beloved Pfaff sewing machine developed a problem that is going to be repaired in about a month when I see my Pfaff technician.  In the meantime, a quilting friend loaned me her back-up machine.  A very kind thing to do.  Thank you Lorraine.

In the photo above, the comical owls you can see on the far left – well, that is really soft flannel backing which the grandchildren will love.  The front is more elegant and structured.  All of my love being poured into this quilt will be on Tenley’s lap through future winters, wrapped around her with the boys on her lap.  How better could a grandmother show that her love is constant from Ecuador, just as it was in Oregon?

 I am taking this quilt on an airplane when I go to visit in a few weeks.  

 

 

 

my heart lives in two places – more

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my heart lives in two places – more

I wrote a few weeks ago about the interesting split I feel after choosing to leave my country of birth (the USA) for an exciting, new experience in my retirement years in Cuenca, Ecuador.  Well, I have a few more thoughts to share. My husband and I launched ourselves on an incredible cultural journey about 3 years ago. We live permanently in Cuenca, Ecuador.  We visit the US every 6 – 12 months to see family and friends.  We also stock up on a few things important to us that are not available in Ecuador.  What, you ask?  Things like all cotton quilting fabric, gluten-free products, new hi tech products, good socks, yeah, just little stuff important in our daily lives.

I continue to feel strongly supportive of the US, although I am very disillusioned to the point of desperation about the intractable problems with things like:  how to get the elected officials to work together as adults instead of viscious bickering . There need to be real answers for the BIG issues: homeless children who go to sleep hungry every night, not enough jobs, rebuilding infrastructure to keep the country “running” properly, stop the favors to medical drug companies and encourage real healing among the population in a way that does not create drug-dependency.

Let me be clear: I love the beliefs of the US that I grew up with, ideas like:  you can be anything you want to be if you work hard, for example.  The US is one place people used to get ahead without stomping on others as you “climb up” to be solidly middle class.

Use just what you need

replace yourself and then stop – the world population is staggering

I raised my children with these goals as well: reuse, recycle, replace

 

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do NOT just think of yourself!

look for the best in each person you meet

treasure the earth

quilt in progress for master bed

The US financial “down spiral” of the past few years left many who had been solidly middle class in a terrible fix – loss of home, loss of job, horrendous stresses on family as their hold on a common lifestyle slipped out of their grasp, causing health problems, battered self-confidence, hopelessness, etc.

My heart aches for solutions to be found.

My current country of residence, Ecuador, has a high rate of poverty, a definite class division, “favors” may be paid (bribery) to get things done but this is no longer the preferred way. Ecuador stands with a foot in the “old ways” of priviledge, wealth and class difference, but with the other foot in a new place.  The second foot rests, teetering among growing equality, increasing minimum wage, social security benefits for working citizens, attempts to ban money laundering, and successful exports of bananas (if you are eating a banana, it probably was grown in Ecudor!), among a few other successful exports.

There has been a disappointingly low national effort in Ecuador to preserve endangered species and protect the environment… and some dawning awareness of what it might take to move the country into an improved global vision.

I love the tenative steps Ecuador is taking toward parity for all citizens, a growing attempt to create a livable wage for people, which is still a way off but at least it is on the agenda. Also the focus on improving roads and services within the country, taking a tough stance on drug smugglers who bring drugs into Ecuador from Columbia and Peru across shared borders and by sea. These illegal drugs are on their way to the US.  Because of demand in the US.   Stop the demand for cocaine, for example, by US users and Columbia’s drug business would be severely wounded.

So every nation has problems.

 

Where is my heart, really?  Both places!  I love visits back to magestic Oregon, rustic Idaho and fast-paced California. Holding a young grandchild or talking with the two older grandchildren is priceless.  I catch up.  My heart nestles, creating memories.  The relationship with each of the 4 grandchildren blossoms and stretches.  But at the same time, I am ripped apart because I leave soon.  So soon.

And yet… when I return to Ecuador, I know I am “home”.  My heart lives with my children and grandchildren in Oregon and California.  I think of each of my loved ones, friends and family members, every day.  But my husband Lenny and I are happy to have joined a small community of like-minded people in Cuenca and reside in their midst. We cherish this opportunity to learn about a very different culture.  The few Cuencano friends we have made are cherished. They share time, interests, family with us and seem pleased that we love the city of Cuenca and Ecuadorians in general.

My cats and Spanish studies, the quilts and exercise are all ongoing, absorbing activities.  Lenny pursues interests he never had enough time to improve, such as Spanish, duplicate bridge and photography. Our plans to explore other parts or South America shimmer on the horizon.

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Yes, my heart lives in more than one place, never to be completely grounded in just one country again. And it is really ok.  One’s heart expands to accomodate the demand and opportunities life lays in our path.

What is your journey?  Enjoy where you are today.

Sharon

One goal: live freshly and simply

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One goal: live freshly and simply

Quote by

  • Eleanor Roosevelt
    “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

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At the age of 64, my goal became more clearly: to prepare fresh, natural foods in my own home.  No packaged stuff.  Go to restaurants rarely. I feel better if I eat a little fish or chicken, lots of fresh vegetables, small amounts of a great variety of fruits. I make almost everything I eat myself, leaving out the things that cause inflammation and irritates arthritis/fibromyalgia, such as wheat sugar or caffeine.  ~~~Good goal.~~~  Sometimes hard to achieve.

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Things are not very difficult here: organic markets offer cheaper, fresher produce,

I am retired so I have time to prepare healthy food,

but of course planning, planning, planning is required all the time.

Another “fresh and simple lifestyle” goal is to interrupt the “consume-consume-consume” obsession that is a way of life in the US. People LOVE to buy cosas – things – whether they are really needed or not.  Ask yourself: do I really need this?  Wait 24-48 hours and see if you still need it so badly.

A women who writes on another blog  radicalfarmwives.com  shared this:

“People’s lives get woven together.  The influence of our parents, partners, children, and friends all get bound, tight or loose, smooth or bumpy, together into the fabric that becomes our life.”

I love those thoughts.  Life is fluid, changing, moving like a river.  You can stand on the side and passively watch the river flow …or you can jump into the swirling current and swim with the whole experience.  What’s it going to be?  What do you feel like doing today?  Keep things simple.  Pare down and trim to your most important, treasured activities.  Make strokes to simplify your life while treasuring each moment you can.  Each interaction.  Each glimpse of nature or art.  Experience your world!

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Move!

Sing.

Dance by yourself in the moonlight!

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One of my treasured activities has become “an active meditation “for me: quilting.

The process of laying out a piece of fabric, smoothing out the folds, cutting off the edges, trimming to create, pinning to sew, seeing each small creation and happily anticipating what the whole will look like. Sure, some days the thread tension is off on my borrowed machine, there are times when a block I make looks crooked and I have to rip the seams out – I HATE that.  But ripping seams is part of the rhythm of live.  Breathe.  Resew straight seams and accept some crooked ones.  Move on in the process of  your life.  You get a chance to “do over” the things you don’t feel good about, if you have the courage to take it.

Quilt

Quilt

LIVE each day, even in quiet, simple ways. A deep breath exhaled slowly.  A moment to admire the texture of a flower.  The feel of warm water streaming over your hands.

Have a great new week!

Marvelous days for quilting, Cuenca, Ecuador

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Marvelous days for quilting, Cuenca, Ecuador

Cups Cups Cups!Queen size quilt topLast week was a wonderful week for me!  I invited people I know to an open house to see the quilts I have made recently.  My friend, Teresa D., hung them with me.  We worked HARD getting this ready.  We put up 11 quilts .

Since several people are not quilters, I also created several steps demonstrating how a quilt is made, using projects that are “in the works” laid out on different small tables. Over two afternoons, about 45 people came by to take a look and offer opinions and encouragement.  Voted most popular quilt was “Crazy Cats”, a whimsical paper-pieced wall hanging I completed summer of 2013.

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The house looks wonderful with these creations warming the walls. Teresa is also the friend who loaned me her machine when my Pfaff broke.  I continue to borrow her machine until May, when I am taking the Pfaff to the US to be cleaned and repaired. I have not found a trained technician here to work on a Pfaff.  Living in Cuenca has a couple of downsides.  A trained Pfaff technician is a hard thing to find in Ecuador!

Here are some photos of the quilts hanging in the home I share with my wonderful husband, Lenny. Life is good!

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Thanks for reading my blog!

Happy quilting!

Quilt Design and Buying Fabric

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Quilt Design and Buying Fabric
Purple/teal quilt

Purple/teal quilt

I ADORE fabric.  100% cotton quilting fabric especially but I enjoy all types of fabric.  It is eye candy to me.  Luscious colors, sophisticated neutrals, stark solids, and many different patterns – like fabric that looks like granite or tree trunks or feathers.

I also love going on the hunt for a quilt design to suit a particular fabric. And I”m crazy about the magic of zillions of fabric choices: colors, textures, depth, the style of the fabric such as batik or floral, satin smooth or burlap-like.

Fabric is quite addictive to the person who loves sewing and design.  The on-line hunt for a fabric that speaks to me is a guilty pleasure.  Yes, I buy my fabrics online. When I lived in the US, I supported several quilt shops in the Portland, Oregon area.  But now I live in Ecuador where there is virtually no true cotton quilting fabric.  So I have developed a few favorite online fabric shops.  I have fabric delivered to my daughter in Oregon and pick the fabric up when I visit her, about once or twice a year.  This year, that visit is only 10 weeks away. Hooray!

As a quilter, I love the terrific variety of fabrics offered in the US.  There is beginning to be just a little 100% cotton in Cuenca. It seems to be shirting weight, pretty thin for great quilting material. But it’s a start.  More could follow, although the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, is very interested in importing less and less , to force the purchase of Ecuadorian products.

So I have a pile of fabric and other items accumulating  right now in Oregon. Thank you to my wonderful daughter for receiving all my orders at her house!  A big thank you to my son-in-law too! And sometimes things go to my darling daughter-in-law, who also graciously holds things for me until I visit them in California. In the past, things were also delivered to my friend Cindy or to Tania’s house. And people like David H. who brought some fabric back to Cuenca for me when he visited the US around the holidays. What he brought allows me to complete my daughter’s 35th birthday present!   All of these wonderful people help me keep quilting in Cuenca. My heart warms whenever I think of each of you.

owls for tenley

How do you shop for fabric?  Do you go to a particular store or do you like a resource online? Do you scout a lot of stores, like Cindy and I used to do on week ends?  How long can you go without looking at fabric or buying fabric?

When planning a new quilt, do you pick a design first or spy a fabric that speaks to you first and then figure out the design? Do you ever take classes online or in person at a local quilt shop?  Do you teach classes?  I love community quilt shops and support them in every way I can when I am in the US.

In my last post, I imagined the pioneer women in the 1840′s US, bumping along for weeks in a covered wagon on a frightening journey to live in some rugged part of the West.  No “Big Box” stores, no Starbucks and definitely no fabric stores in the West back then.  So for me, unlike the pioneer women who could not shop for fabric at all on the trail West, I can sit in the comfort of my living room and explore color and design on my computer screen.

Happy quilting. Do what you love. If the money does not follow, you are still doing what you love.  Those are the riches!

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My favorite “shop for fabric online” sites:

http://www.fabric.com    free shipping over $35. Great selections, good sales.

http://www.equilter.com       The image of the fabric on my monitor exactly matches the fabric when I buy something from them. Drawback: rarely is shipping free. Service is excellent and orders ship quickly.

http://www.fabricdepot.com  A great variety of fabrics.  Check out their batiks.

http://www.redrockthreads.com   Aurifil, Floriani, Gutermann, Sulky Robison Anton, Sulky, YLI   Great selection of brands and colors!

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Thread

My Heart Lives in Many Places

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“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart. ”   Washington Irving

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I often think about what impact it has when people move away from family and community, especially because I have done so many times. I now live permanently in Cuenca, Ecuador after living in the United States for 62 years.  The reasons are not important today. That is to ponder another time. But the impact continues to unfold.

A huge effect is that my grandchildren are growing up a half a world away.  That, for me, is the hardest thing about living in another country, roughly 4500 miles from my children’s families.  If I am brutally honest, we saw the two precious children who live in San Diego about two times a year before leaving the US.  The grandson who lived 90 minutes from us – well we saw him more often but not every month.  People have busy lives, other committments and priorities of their own. 

 

I grew up with parents who had left Nebraska with two babies, a new tractor and two cows, to farm in Idaho, leaving their mid-West family and friends for the adventure of their lives.  Two of my uncles and one aunt left Nebraska as young adults to perform as muscians on Broadway in New York.  They continued to live there for some years, swinging from “nearly starving” to great joyous times when they had work.  These people were among my role models. Staying within 30 miles of my childhood home was not ever on my menu.

I always wanted to live in a Latin culture, to learn Spanish from native speakers, to be a minority after being part of the privileged baby boomers in the US coming of age in the 1960′s. So here I am with a wonderful, huge retirement adventure I share with my husband, Lenny.  Learning Spanish is much more difficult than I had imagined but I keep plugging along slowly.  Eventually…I will do better if I keep working at it.  I am proud of how well I do at markets and in taxis and restaurants but have so much to learn.

It can be challenging to keep a friendship vibrant from a long distance. But today contact is accessorized by Skype calls and e-cards and frequent emails, making connection much easier than earlier times.  Imagine for a moment the US pioneers who bravely travelled West in covered wagons.  If a letter was ever sent back by the pioneer woman, she would not know if it reached her loved ones.  She could not see the computer pixel version of her father’s face or chat with a girlhood pal. We have it easy, comparatively.

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So what does all of that have to do with Cuenca or quilting?  Cuenca is a popular retirement destination for many people in the US seeking a way to stretch their retirement dollar and experience a charming new culture.  BUT, it is not for everyone.  It is important to do a lot of research and come with the right mind set – there is an array of other blogs that detail that. Please read those if you are thinking of coming here because about 30% of the people who come, leave for various reasons.

 Here are the top 3 reasons people leave Cuenca, in my unofficial, observant opinion:

1) it is not as cheap to live here as some publications would have you believe;

2) People miss their grandchildren, family, friends or Starbucks – ok the last one is kidding.

 

3)if a couple is moving here, they must be in agreement about this adventure or the relationship will fail – or they will be moving back with a new rift the experience has opened;  

4) health care is easier when you speak the language and understand the procedures that pop up as one ages.  The healthcare here is good but it is not always what people in the US are accustomed to.  In some ways, it is better, more accessible, cheaper.  In other ways, it is an unknown and that can be frightening – just like none of us knows how we will age or what care we will need.

 

So quilting…it does not interest many people in the slightest but for me it is an active meditation.  It is a stable, rewarding task whether I am in Oregon or Ecuador.  That continuity helped me transition in our move to Ecuador.  So much was different.  So much was confusing. And a lot in the move was breath-takingly exciting too!  

Quilting helped me feel productive in early retirement. It makes me feel the excitement of creating a new pattern and the hunt for fabric that would look fabulous in that design. Most people experience some surprises in adjusting to retirement.  It is easier if you have new hobbies or old ones to continue.

My sewing machine broke last week. Yikes! I described this in the last post. Today, I sew with a machine a good friend brought over when my Pfaff decided it needed a serious consult with a professional.  That will not happen until June when I visit the US because it appears there are no Pfaff repair people in Cuenca or Guayaquil. Another of Life’s Lessons on Patience. But for today,  I have time to think about friendship, family and the ways in which we communicate.

Have a terrific week, whatever you choose to do. Notice how you connect with people.  Thank the people who connect with you.  Appreciating other humans is a great place to live.

 

A New Dreaded Wrinkle

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I signed up for my first quilting class in 2009, just after buying a Pfaff sewing machine.  I had not sewed for 30 years but I got the BUG!  I took every class I could from Victoria Jones in the Portland, Oregon area.  She is a great teacher – patient, resourceful and always kind.

When I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador 3 years ago, an important part of my retirement plan was that I would have time to quilt all I want.  I brought my relative new Pfaff sewing machine, all tuned up and ready to go.  Extra needles, extra cutting tools, lots of rotary blades, rulers – you know, TOOLS!  I was all set.  And for about 3 years, I have happily quilted, sewed, cut fabric and generally had a great time.  

So great, in fact, that in 2012, I sold 7 quilts to Cuencanas who were interested.  But then I had nothing to hang on my walls – and this house has LOTS of great walls for quilts.  So in 2013, I vowed to keep everything I make for awhile to get quilts warming not only the beds but bare walls too.  This month, I decided to have an open house for close friends to show my newly hung quilts.  But a wrinkle popped up in this plan in the past few days.  My sewing machine is not behaving correctly. I’ve talked with the tech in Portland, OR where I bought the machine. Yes, I love Magic Jack!  He helped me trouble-shoot but the outcome was that it needs a repair shop visit.  

He tried to locate a Pfaff “agent” in Ecuador but when I called the guy, he reported he had never seen a Pfaff in 15 years.  So I’m stranded.

Well, not quite.  A good friend offered to lend me her older machine.  All I need to complete the last 3 quilts I want to hang before the open house is a straight stitch so I may make it.  If not, I will have just a few new quilts to show but several nearly done laid out.  It will all turn out fine.  

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And when I return to visit the US, I will take my Pfaff with me for its overhaul and bring it back happy to sew again.  In the mean time, a shout out to Teresa who loaned me her machine.  And another big one to Lenny, my loving esposo, who is amazingly supportive of my craft.

I’m here just livin’ the dream, high in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.