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?

If you are a long arm quilter about retirement age?

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the hippie bus

the hippie bus

One challenge in Cuenca, Ecuador is that there are no long arm quilters.  If you make a quilt, you will need to quilt it by hand or machine.  There are no wonderful long-arm experts around.

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So I thought I’d note that if you are a long arm quilter around retirement age, thinking of moving to another country for your retirement dollars to stretch much farther, then please consider moving to Cuenca, EC.  You can read tons of information by searching blogs about Ecuador and specifically Cuenca.

Cuenca, in a nutshell, is high in the Andes mountains, 8300 ft alt, but people here have never seen snow or walked on ice.  It does not get too cold or too hot.  But it is NOT tropical = humid and hot.  It rarely gets over 75 degrees.  It ALWAYS cools off at night.  The months of July-Aug are the coolest. We often get a little rain each day.  Sometimes we get a few days of rain.  But the climate is wonderful unless you are expecting white sand and hot breezes.  Cuenca is a world heritage city with many very old churches and neighborhoods.  The water in Cuenca specifically is safe to drink for most people.  A few people drink bottled water just to be safe – its all up to you.

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There is petty crime here – pick pockets, people who grab your phone if you have it out on the street, but remember there is petty crime wherever you are in the world.  The greater the poverty, the greater the liklihood that someone will grab your expensive phone or tablet.  And yet, I was more frightened of being harmed when I was in the Beaverton, OREGON social security office, waiting my turn.  Ironic, huh?

The US has a level of irritation, road rage, shootings that are not seen here.  People here ask me “How can your children be in a school and someone could shoot them?”   What do I answer?  It baffles me every time there is another shooting.  Remember when airliners were being highjacked often – probably in the early 1970’s I’m guessing.  Well, the US figured out how to manage that problem.  Come on, USA, you can find a way to resolve this excessive gun problem.  Pandora’s worries are out of the box but citizens must find a way to contain these huge problems.

Back to the long-arm quilter, there would be some work here for you.  It is not a large quilting community but you also could pull from Guayaquil (3 million people – some of them must quilt) and Quito (1.5 million people).

Please think about it.  It is an opportunity to live in another culture, learn another language or brush up on your Spanish, serve the ex-pat community which is mostly US and Canadians who quilt, and explore the most species-diverse country on the planet.

Starting a new quilt as a summer project

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When I visited the US recently, I had the joy of buying new fabric to bring back to Ecuador where there are virtually no 100% quilting cottons.

This week, I feel ready to start a new project.  I have plenty of quilts partly sewn.  But it is more fun to start something new right now.

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The fabric colors I’m using are salmon, bright white, taupe/gray/brown with other colors added for contrast.

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In the middle of the photo above, you can see the pattern and a photo of a quilt in similar colors. The pattern is a new one to me: Jumping Jacks.  I’m making a lap size 55 x 63 or so. You can download the pdf at connectingthreads.com   if you wish to buy the pattern.

Getting new patterns this way is wonderful for me since I live in Ecuador where it is challenging to get things shipped to you.  So anything that can be done on the computer with a good printer is a great thing.  My friend Judi printed out the pattern in color.  Much easier to work from than the black and white my printer does.

Speaking of Judi, a wonderful closed group developed here in Cuenca among some ex-pats who quilt.  We started a small group – not to sew together – too hard to move machines and no space easily available.  But to talk about quilting, share patterns, look for resources together, etc.  It is wonderful to see this group developing its own personality.  There are not many active quilters here so I really appreciate this development.

OK, its time to go cut more fabric.  This pattern uses about 2 million 3 1/2″ squares.  All for now!

Best place to hide for a nap!

Best place to hide for a nap!

 

 

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?

 

Saturday photos May 10th

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I love this time of year.  It has been chilly with lots of rain each day all week.  But there are almost always sun breaks.  Similar to Apring in the Northwest.I took time today to enjoy the sunshine both outside and in the sun room.

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I got a large stem of orchids on Wednesday at the organic market.  Today I rearranged them – kind of zen, isn’t it?

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This tiny decorative bird house was made by an 8 yr old friend of mine, Lily.

I started some tomato plants some time ago.  It is time to transfer them to larger pots.  Tomorrow may be a good day for that. what I really need is some sun.  Hot sun to get those tomatoes really growing.  But several have blossoms so it is hopeful.  I move them into my sunroom if it gets too chilly at night.

Hope you are having a terrific Month of May!

 

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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