Solving Issues while Quilting in Cuenca, Ecuador

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There are some challenges that arise from quilting in a different country, along with many joys.  Ecuador is a country where very little is known of quilting.  It is not part of the culture here, even among those in the high Andes.  For one reason, wool from alpacas, llamas and sheep is plentiful and cheap so warm blankets are made from those natural fibers.  Polyester fleece type fabric is manufactured in Ecuador so that also provides an easy, inexpensive way make warm blankets.

I will briefly describe some of the issues I’ve bumped up against – what I see as challenges with some solutions I’ve tried.  Of course, there are many ways to solve any issue.  Please share some of your best solutions in the comment section. We learn from each other!

balconylen

OK, where do I store my fabric “stash” and my quilt kits?  I have the luxury of having a lovely sewing studio with great light.  It also has large built in closets.  Here are a couple of shots of ways I have found to organize fabric, battings, etc. for ease of use.

Always there is the “cat” factor.  I must find  ways to share my space with 2 “indoor only” young cats who feel most comfortable in the sewing room. It is where I feed them, it is where they sleep – its their home too. Keeping things clean and hair-free from my nosey, loving rescue kitties who are both about 1 year old now is impossible but I keep trying.

First issue, there is no 100% cotton in fabric shops in Cuenca, not what we in the US, Europe and Australia are used to.  Ecuador makes a lot of beautiful fabric but it seems, from my informal searches, that nearly all has some amount of polyester in it. Importing already expensive 100% cotton fabrics makes prices prohibitive to the populations here. Also, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, encourages Ecuadorians to use what is made in Ecuador as much as possible. I do this with most other areas of my life but fabric is my creativity, my art, my hold-out!

the balcony off the sewing room

the balcony off the sewing room

I was able to bring a few boxes of fabric, 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, often made in Brazil. My favorite remains Aurofil. No slubs and rare breaks.

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The boxes I brought contained a variety of battings.  Again I prefer all cotton or a blend.  One can buy 100% polyester batting here by the meter.  I have it in mind to to try on a small project and also to try using plain fleece that is so popular here to see how it performs in a wall hanging.  More on that later
Whenever I visit grandchildren, kids, friends, extended family in the US, I bring back to Ecuador a couple of 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 is 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 morph and change as I go along?  Sure.   One challenge is using what I have – as much as possible – or getting the fabric here from the US that is 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 on her lap with the flannel cuddled around them through the winter.  So I found some darling flannel for the backing and asked a friend Lenny and I made from Lenny’s IPad User’s Group if he might have room to bring a small package back from his October visit to the US.  We got to know him better because he had room to bring back this small package from the US. A huge favor I really appreciated. And someone we will do a similar favor for in the future.

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This is the fun flannel backing for my daughter’s lap quit which will be rather formal and elegant on the front… but fun and playful, as well as snuggly, on the back.

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I know there is 100% cotton grown in Peru.  I do not know why it is not imported but it must be lack of demand of Ecuadorians for it.  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 2.5 years living in Ecuador is that there is a huge pride of nationality and cultural differences exist between each country in South America.  Peru is very different from Ecuador, DUH!  But the potatoes they grow are different.  The foods they often eat are different. There is tremendous pride in one’s own country so do not assume that the country you visit will be like any other country in South America.  Sure, there are some similarities but many and large differences too.

Here is the general stash of fabric. I used sweater hangers and shoe organizers to hold fabric – found here at Kywi, Pyca and other mercados.   If I”m sewing, things get all askew as I race around searching for the best color for binding or whatever the current search is about.  One thing about being here where there are not luscious fabric stores we are used to in the US, is that I must “make do” with what I have much of the time.

Here is how I’ve organized batting, out of the way yet easy to grab. The climate here is cool – think of the nicest moderate spring day as the warmest it gets.  But think of the chilly fall evenings in the US upper regions where you definitely need something warm but not tons of blankets.  I am allergic to wool so I make quilts all of cotton, easy for me to use without itching.  I’ve been told that 100% polyester makes a bed quilt too warm for many in Cuenca.  It is easy to pile more blankets on a bed but hard to use a quilt that is just too warm for the climate in which it’s use is intended.

Here is a partial solution to thread storage.  Last year, I was given a beautiful collection of fancy threads of which I’ve barely scratched the surface.

I have a deep drawer full of “on sale” fabrics in 3-10 yard sizes to use as backing.  I also have some muslin for wall hanging backs.

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