Monthly Archives: March 2014

Marvelous days for quilting, Cuenca, Ecuador

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

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!


My favorite “shop for fabric online” sites:    free shipping over $35. Great selections, good sales.       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.  A great variety of fabrics.  Check out their batiks.   Aurifil, Floriani, Gutermann, Sulky Robison Anton, Sulky, YLI   Great selection of brands and colors!



My Heart Lives in Many Places


“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


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.


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



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.  


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.