Tag Archives: quilting

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!

 

 

More Chickens Coming To Roost

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This is a very visual post with few words.

This is an update on the chicken wall hangings I’ve been making.  I’m going slowly but enjoying the process.  It is fun to see what emerges using fabric components in different arrangements.

Chicken or the Egg?

Chicken or the Egg?

 

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Have a terrfic new week as you more forward with your life!

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?

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!

 

 

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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?

Cuenca, Ecuador city bus

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!

 

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