Tag Archives: quilts

A Straight-Forward-Appearing Pattern Proves Hard

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


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!



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




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?



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…



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.


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.


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!


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!

Gluten Free User’s Group is launched


A favorite building near Parque Calderon in El Centro

The first meeting of the Gluten Free User’s Group was on Tuesday, Aug 21, and was a great success.  8 people attended with varying degrees of needs.  Some are pondering switching to a gf (gluten free) lifestyle which means eating with no wheat, barley or rye and for some no oats.  Plans were made for future meetings to have guest speakers or to be a focus group.  It was a wonderful gathering of people who normally keep a low profile about food and health issues.  The next meeting will be the last Tuesday of next month, Sept 26. Please contact Sharon  nature93@gmail.com if you would like to attend. You are welcome to come.

Other future plans for the group may include a field trip to shops where gluten-free grains and products may be found.  Some people have celiac disease which is treated by eating a gluten free diet. Some have a sensitivity to wheat.  Some simply want to try living without wheat/barley/rye to see if their general well being improves.  Finding ready made gluten free products is difficult, such as pasta made from quinoa/corn/etc, , bread made from brown rice flour/garbanzo bean flour/teff flour, things of this nature.  One thing the group is seeking is to locate amaranth(either ground flour or whole) and to find if anyone carries xanthan gum which is used in gluten free baking to add elasticity similar to what the gluten in wheat does. Xanthan gum is necessary in tiny quantities to keep bread from collapsing and to add elasticity to gluten free flours.

Feisty, la gata

Now about another topic: my 17 year old cat is at the hospital today with kidney problems – perhaps kidney failure.  I was referred by another ex-pat, Karen, to a wonderful, compassionate vet who speaks English and explained everything as he did various tests – she is staying for at least one night to rehydrate and see if her kidneys will rev up in response to treatment.

Feisty has had a wonderful life – for the first 11 years she lived on a farm with us in Oregon where there were horses and alpacas and plenty of mice to hunt.  For the past 7 years she has been an inside cat.  She moved from the suburbs near Portland to Cuenca, Ec 15 months ago.  She adapted to life here like a champ.  I know that she may not live much longer but, wow, do I love that cat.  She is the best cat with the most personality – and I’ve had a lot of cats- ever since I was old enough to walk.  I’m hoping she will recover for at least a few more life experiences but will accept whatever seems best for her.  Thanks for listening on that.

A bright quilt that is very close to being all completed

And now a word about quilting, since this is primarily a  blog about Cuenca life, quilting and other issues, like gluten free life.    After we moved 3 wks ago, I organized my quilt studio up to a point and then got busy on the rest of the house.  Today, I got my sewing maching set up again on the cabinet HOORAYso I can now organize the cabinet drawers and start sewing again.  I have several quilts to complete.  A couple just need binding, a couple of quilt tops need to be layered and quilted.  And the king size bed quilt needs to be quilted and bound.  Of course what I want to do is start a new project.  I’ll get up there and get to work…and see what happens.

I hope all of your quilting goes smoothly.
I hope you who are animal lovers give your pets an extra hug tonight.

And I hope each of you readers has a marvelous day.

Thank you for reading my blog.


Stop quilting and pack up!


As I’ve mentioned before, we are moving to a house in another part of Cuenca in about 10 days.  I am wildly trying to complete some “almost finished” quilt tops before I have to pack up my machine, fabric and tools to move.  But every day I think “stop quilting and pack up, girl!”

But here are some nearly completed quilts:


We do not have that much stuff but enough that I need to get crackin’ on the tasks.  My husband is not good at packing – really good at a lot of things but not this so I coordinate with the mover and do all the packing.  We brought a little of our own stuff and have bought major furniture over the last few weeks.  The way we were able to do that is we met a wonderful couple who was leaving Portland, OR for Cuenca a couple of months ahead of us.

They offered to rent us a little space on their container so we shipped our tempurpedic bed, boxes of fabric, my sewing table and tools, a few beloved paintings and a recliner we both love.  The container came from Portland to Cuenca in about 18 days!  Much faster than expected.  They held our things until we got here.  So now 14 months later, we are moving those things.  I’m very excited about the new rental home.  Great neighborhood, closer to shopping, near a couple of friends I’ve made.  So it will all be good once it is done.

Here is what I worked on this week: a purple and pastels quilt for a little girl.  It turns out my daughter is expecting a baby BOY in a just over 3 months so…I will make a new little boy quilt and sell this one.  It will be the first quilt I’ve made to sell.  I had all the fabric and love it.  It has been fun to make and I know someone will really love it.  Here are some photos.  It needs one more border to complete the top.  Then layer and quilt it.

OK, now I really am going to pack another few boxes RIGHT NOW!

Hope you are having a fantastic week surrounded by things you cherish and friends & family who love you.

Buen dia!