Category Archives: EC

Making a Few Fun items for Friends

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Making a Few Fun items for Friends

October in Cuenca, Ecuador has seemed more like Portland, Oregon in late October where I used to live for 35 years.  There is usually a lovely autumn but then late Oct into November, cold storms crash in from the Pacific and make you KNOW summer and the growing season are OVER for this year.  So Cuenca has been very chilly with wind and rain nearly every day for a couple of weeks – not seeming tropical at 8300 ft altitude.  Does Timberline Lodge ever seem tropical?  Well, it gets really sunny at times but not tropical, right?  It is nearly the same altitude here.

I received a wonderful gift from a lovely, generous woman named Gerry.  She brought a whole suitcase of stuff from my daughter’s, clearing out Tenley’s pile of my fabric and gluten free items.  What a thoughtful gift to offer someone in Ecuador!  Thank you Gerry!!! Hope you and Dave move here soon.

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From the fabric, I quickly made a couple pieces of Indonesian fabric art into 20″ x 20″ wall hangings  – both will be framed 20″ x 20″.  Now that I am very excited about!  I feel they look terrific.  Now to finish the back and hang them on either side of the bed in the emerging master bedroom decor.

Does anyone know a reasonable yet GOOD framer in Cuenca?

What is needed now is for me to finish that “quilt of the decade” for the room to be gently coordinated.  But that quilt will come in time.  Oh, and new curtains.

What are you doing as October comes to an end?

Do you make halloween costumes for your children or grandchildren, friends, neighbors? The coolest halloween costumes I ever made were when my children were about 7 and 12.  My daughter was a little fuzzy Panda and my 12 yr old son had a raccoon suit with a fantastic fluffy tail.  All the kids loved the costumes at school.  It makes me a little sad to see everyone buying not-so-cheap ready made identical costumes.  How does that help creative thinking? I understand that every one is busy, not everyone sews, buying is easier but money is tight.

I wish people would get more back to roots! I did not teach  my own daughter to sew.  I was one of those very busy moms…and on and on and on.

I had trouble sleeping last night, partly because a 12 pound cat flopped on me several times at 2 am to wake me.  Sheesh!  Butch is the culprit. Curry was happy to keep sleeping at the foot of the bed.

So I got up and decided to sew something.  I had some napkin sized snowmen riding motorcycles – I wanted to quilt a couple of those as small pieces for a friend in the Puget Sound.  Motorcycles have a special meaning for her these days.  She has been a great friend, recommending movies, books and ways to manage stress.  Thanks, J!  Something  playful coming your way. I will have someone heading back to the US carry it in their suitcase and drop the envelope in the mail to J.    Snowpeople??? We NEVER get snow in Cuenca but thoughts will soon turn to those places that do.

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After a couple of weeks of rain, this week has presented glorious days.  Flowers are blooming, birds are mating, life is moving right along here in Cuenca, Ecuadorphoto 3 (11).

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Here is my favorite shot this week of two of my favorite males, my husband and Butch.  Butch is the orange one.

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Have a super, unencumbered new week!

 

 

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A New Wall Quilt with Healing Purpose

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This week I plan to complete a new Laurel Burch wall panel to put up in the master bedroom where I now have my very first quilt hanging. My goal is to get the new quilt completed and UP on the wall in about a week.

My husband Lenny is suddenly facing delicate eye surgery, scheduled for later this month.  Not a fun thing!  This will be done in Cuenca – we have a great surgeon.  It will occupy quite a bit of energy and some luck for a good outcome and to have an excellent recovery.  I am throwing my energy into getting the wall hanging completed, adding a healing image to our bedroom.

 

I have slowly been making the master bedroom in our casa more to our liking.  I had help from Gina at Artex Decor (located on Moreno Mora just off Solano about 1/2 block from Ital Deli –  they do GREAT work!). I took in photos and she made a chocolate-colored upholstered headboard with the antique silver rivets marching around the high arch.  It made the room warmer.

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Also Artex/Gina made a lovely bench for the end of the bed where Len and I can sit to chat or put shoes on. (at the bottom)

I painted the room a delicate blue which contrasts nicely with the dark woodwork and the dark brown headboard and bench.  Added a new light fixture.

We took down the old accordian-looking vertical blinds and put up a cream colored lightweight blind that lets daylight pour into the room while keeping our privacy intact. I will make drapes later.

quilt in progress for master bed

The quilt that will top the king size bed will be my next BIG project to complete.  This began, as I have reported before, as a “quilt block a month” 5 years ago.  A relative in my family was injured and I dropped out to help with care.  However, I had all the material and directions, which has proven to be much more complicated to do by myself in Ecuador.  I have about 8 blocks done, using shades of blue, eggplant, rust and cream. Making it a king quilt, large enough to cover like an entire bedspread, is a huge undertaking. It seems like I run out of one color I need.  Then I make a different block and run out of another color.

Massive amounts of fabric are needed for the backing as well as the quilt top itself.  I keep working on this quilt top and then putting it aside for months at a time.  But I hope to complete the top, machine quilt it and bind it by next summer.

Did I say I am a slow quilter?  I get sidetracked by other projects, a grandchild needs a quilt, other projects like preserving lemons I got from a neighbor crowd in for my attention. Moroccan and Lebanese food to make with preserved lemons.

 

I am calling smaller wall hanging at the top the Healing Goddess. It is full of rich color and movement. It will spread beautiful light and energy around the room where Len will recuperate. A positive attitude makes a huge impact on surgery outcome so I’m being proactive.

Two 1 yr old rescue cats keep me company.

Curry, left, and Butch (Saffron) also help keep us happy.  They are on the old “bedspread” quilt I made 4 yrs ago.

I was just taking some photos of the bedroom, trying to show the bench.
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The cats are fascinated by the bench.  We have to keep it covered to protect it from claws.
They think it is a) a cat bed for two
b) a springboard for waking the parents up
c) a scratching post, even though there are several others nearby
d)a place to hide before leaping on the other cat
e) all of the above
you KNOW the correct answer

Have a terrific week!!!

A Straight-Forward-Appearing Pattern Proves Hard

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A Straight-Forward-Appearing Pattern Proves Hard

I recently bought a quilt pattern online.  It is a perfect solution for this US citizen living permanently in Ecuador.  The pattern appeared to be something I would enjoy making.  I even  had fabrics that look a lot like the pattern.  The pattern is fine.  My skills at matching approximately 20 junctures in each 9.5 inch block are not so great.  If several points match, still several do not.

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This is a lap quilt for me.  It does not have to be perfect.  The cats will sleep on my lap on top of this quilt.  Still, I have taken this as an opportunity to improve my skills.  So far, I have found that I sometimes stitch slightly wider than 1/4″.  Big problem! Even if only for 1/2 inch, it throws junctions off.  Of course.

I have discovered my attention span wanders frequently – maybe the music is great so I’m distracted for a moment.  You know how it can be, right?  So other points may be slightly off.  I have ripped out and re-sewn block after block.  Finally, I am doing the best I can but reminding myself CATS are going to sleep on this.  It will never be in a show.  For sure!!

I hope to keep improving my skills.  On other patterns, things come out just right so this one is simply not forgiving enough for a sometime-slacker.

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Still, I am mostly enjoying the process.  For one thing, I have HATED ripping things out since I first learned to sew.  With this project, I have found, with an ergo seam ripper, I can do it quickly and without drama.  All good!

I love the colors – not my usual choices – salmon, coral, orange, shades of brown, shades of gold and snowy white.

There are 30 blocks.  I have 22 completed.  On the final blocks, I am trying to learn all I can about what I’m doing to prevent perfect matching points. Sewing when I am tired is NOT successful.  Duh!  Lowered attention to detail, much less patience, mood turns to cranky, not the ideal conditions for piecing quilt blocks.

Quilting is a metaphor for life: luscious fabrics mixed in different ways make up a whole “item” in the world.  Learning new things keeps the brain sharp.  Patience can be learned in many ways. Quilting is one of them. Perseverance is rewarded at the end.

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What are you working on this week?

Back in Cuenca with new fabric!

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I returned from a wonderful visit to the familia and friends in the US – we were in San Diego, Idaho and Oregon.  It is great to see friends, catch up with extended family and have close time with each grandchild.

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I am glad to be back in Ecuador!  I really enjoyed visiting people I love but I also adore getting home to our adopted culture.  I came back with a couple of suitcases of new 100% quilting cotton. And a few new quilt patterns.

I need to be working on the king quilt for my bed, as photo above shows a few of the blocks.  However, I have been putting it off for a bit.  Instead, I’ve been pouring over which pattern would look good with which new fabrics.

I LOVE putting fabrics together to make a quilt.  I wish I could do this for others and be paid for it.  I now have enough fabric to keep me busy for quite awhile so I told my husband (again!) that I have stopped buying fabric.  Done, fine, terminado!!!

I know you are laughing – stop that!

Another fact: I took my Pfaff sewing machine back to Oregon as luggage (very well padded and packed).  I had it repaired in Portland where I bought it, by Montavilla’s Steve – a great repair tech there.  My Pfaff is a computerized machine.  The feed dogs had locked up.  The tension was off. It was sewing zillions of tiny stitches no matter where I set it. Inside, around the motor – beyond where I can safely clean, –  it was crowded with fuzz from batting and fabric of the many quilts I made the past 3 years.  No one here is authorized to work on a computerized Pfaff machine.  So, right now, it looks like I will be taking my machine back and forth to the US every couple of years for a proper cleaning.

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Maybe a Pfaff authorized/trained repair person will materialize to live here but for now…this is the best solution.

Isn’t the “hippie bus” in the photo cute?  I plan to make a wall hanging incorporating this for someone else.

What project(s) are you  doing this summer?  Do you sew more in the summer because it is hot outside?  Or do you sew less because you are busy enjoying summer weatherd or going to the beach…or exploring local parks, or having the kids home from school makes sewing impossible, or…???

I’ll be back soon with some photos of new fabric “kits” I put together from my stash with a few new fabrics.

I want to invite anyone who is a long arm quilter to consider moving to Cuenca, Ecuador in South America.  There are not a lot of quilters here but there are some in the ex-pat group of about 4500.  A few of us started a small closed group to discuss resources, share ideas and patterns. There is no one who does professional long-arm quilting in Cuenca!  So if you are a long-arm quilter, there would be some business here, quilting for other people.  Living high in the Andes where it is cool, never humid but flowers bloom all year long.  I have no idea how many people would take advantage of professionally quilted finishes to their quilts.  I know 3 – 4 people who would for sure!

Have a great week!

Sharon

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons I am Glad I Learned to Quilt

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Top 10 Reasons I am Glad I Learned to Quilt

Quilting can be challenging. It can be a daunting hobby to learn.  It can be expensive to buy tools, fabric, batting.  But for certain people, it can be a joyous hobby, a creative way to earn a living, a resource of personal growth and artistic expression.

 

In the photo below, I am machine quilting with the quilt rolled up and draped over my shoulder to allow me to work on the few inches right at the area near the needle.photo (50)

 

What are my top 10 reasons to quilt?  This list will help you think about your top ten reasons.

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1. The entire process of quilting provides me with an active meditation.

2. To design a new quilt absorbs me. I love the struggle of figuring out which fabrics look good together and what quilt design will be the best to expresses a desired artistic concept.

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3. This news just in from studies concluded in the UK: quilting is better than brain training for holding off memory problems.  Quilting is a way to keep learning new things, techniques, short cuts, new patterns, different blocks, all of this is making new pathways in the brain, which has been found to be an effective proactive way to hedge against Alzheimer’s dementia.

4. I like the math involved in figuring yardage, backing, borders.  It is straight-forward math.  I love doing it myself, only using a calculator to check my work.  (And sometimes I figure wrong)

5. I adore the variety, textures, colors, style found  in all cotton fabrics,  love the feel of a new yard of fabric, the drape and heft in my hand.

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6. I love the incredible sense of accomplishment I feel when I create something. Where there was a blank wall or a bed without character, there is now a new creation.

7. It is a great feeling to have good tools – the correct ruler, the sharp rotary cutting blade, the right height cutting table and mat, a sewing machine that does a great job, munching its way through 3 layers of the quilt “sandwich”  when machine quilting.  Hey ~  Chicas like great tools too!

8. Completing a project.  Unlike personal growth, which goes on and on throughout life, a quilt has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Although I am the first to admit I put off completing binding as long as I can.  (Yeah, yeah, yeah, lets don’t psychoanalyze that to death!)

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9. The weight of a personally made quilt is a comforting feeling to pull over oneself on a chilly night.  Several may be even better for a very cold night!

10. To design a new quilt absorbs me. I love the challenge of figuring out which fabrics look good together and what quilt design will be the best to expresses that concept.

 

AND A SPECIAL BONUS:

11.  At it’s best, quilting feels like artistic expression and I LOVE that! What is not to love?

 

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Be Who You Are

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch

 

 

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How do we embellish our lives? It is a luxury to think of that question.  The very question means the asker is a person of some means: enough to have food, shelter and basic needs covered.  And time to think of ways to enrich one’s daily existence.

I was once friends with an artist in Oakland, California.  She made a habit of looking at the simple ways in which people add a little richness to their life.  It might be an antique shawl passed down from a favorite great aunt, now hung proudly in a window.  It might be a bold red pillow from Target on sale.  A set of woodworking tools treasured formerly by a man from 1901 but discovered at an estate sale in 2014 could bring the new owner joy over and over.

A bright quilt that is very close to being all completed

A bright quilt that is a happy addition to our home

Today’s economy in the United States is very driven by people buying buying buying far more than they need.  It has become an obsession with many to constantly buy more stuff.  Advertising feeds this obsession. Possessions are king!  Many people are caught in this emotionally unfullfilling cycle. It can be hard to see a way off this mirthless merry-go-round. Many have fallen into a habit of THINKING they NEED more things.  It can get a little crazy.

I know a man  of modest means who owns 38 pair of jeans.  They are all blue.  They are mostly unworn.  He agrees that he can only wear one pair at a time….and yet he told me he would buy more if it looked like a deep sale because “I might NEED them.”  Can there be much emotional fulfillment in this stark approach to life? In the richness of his many purchases, he isolates himself because he does not want anyone to know this about him.  No one is invited to his home because he knows his hoarding might be uncovered.  His life is quite spare regarding social contact and yet he shops more. Where is there space for spiritual connection in this cycle?

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There is really very little that we actually need beyond basics like food, water, shelter, and respect. The rest is all frosting.  And, although frosting is a lot of fun, it is not required for daily life. I admit, frosting can make one’s daily life a lot more comfortable. But take a minute to imagine what basics you actually require for your day-to-day existence.

Many people who elect to retire in a different country, such as Ecuador, have gone through every single item they own and made a decision to toss it, give it away, sell it or pack it.  That process is exhausting and repetitive, arriving in layers for most of us – we pare down, saving things, we pare down again, letting more go, we get tougher and leaner as we go through this process. It requires a harsh frugality to do this.  And yet in the end, it is, for many, an incredibly exhilirating achievement  –   that moment when you face the freedom of having few worldly goods weigh you down. For the lightness of being “without” while still having life’s basic needs covered.

Gluten free cheese puffs

Gluten free cheese puffs

Where do quilts fit in with all of these thoughts?  One reason I love making a quilt is that I can dive into a carefully selected pile of fabric and come out with a new quilt. This quilt will have a unique life with its new owner.  An example: I am about to sew a quilt for my grandson Andrew who is 8 years old.  What will a quilt from Gramma do for him?  That remains to be seen… but it could warm him on cool San Diego nights.  It could comfort him when he is sad.  It could accompany him as he goes to a friend’s overnight party.  It could color his room a bit, which is his safe, comfortable retreat zone where he recharges his “energizer-Bunny-like” enthusiasm for life.  It could help his sister get comfy when a grandparent is about to read a story in Andrew’s room and she joins in. Oh…and best of all, it will warm my heart to see Andrew use the quilt in whatever way works for him over the upcoming years as he develops into manhood.

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Buying more stuff may not make you happy.  Try this: pare your life down, right now in your head, to what you feel are most essential to your daily existence. Then embellish with a few things you hold most dear.  Do we really need a constant renewal of “stuff”. Would it work as well to clearly see ways to cherish…and embellish… what we have.  A comfortable chair, a walk along the river with the breeze lifting your hair, an incredibly soft scarf, the rich variety and depth of flavors in a well made Indian dish, a pot holder made by your grand-niece. These are all embellishments.

What small things enrich your life?

Be Who You Are

Cats LOVE Quilts – What’s Up With That?

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Other readers send comments comfirming that their cats seem to “own” any quilt their humans work on.  Here are Curry and Saffron/Butch perched on a newly completed wall hanging I had folded and placed on my cutting table the night before.

Why do you think cats love quilts?

Well, quilts are warm…

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quilts are soft.

 

The quilt may have been hair-free until the cats discovered it so its their job to make it look broken in.

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And best of all, it is where the human(s) put a lot of energy, time and value so it is the best place for a cat to seek attention.

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And the fabric stash is a GREAT place to hide for a secluded nap.

Best of all for this human is that the cats are a lot of company on my quilting journey.

Do you have pet helpers?

~~~Have a terrific week!