Saturday, December 31, 2011

12/31/11 at least I'm updating ...

Heading into a new year in just a few hours, I have been thinking that I really need to update my blogging. Oh, I can't say that I have done nothing - on the contrary, I have been very busy - just not doing the things that I necessarily would like to do.

The main area of focus has been my work here in-country with Peace Corps. I have 2 distinct areas, post disaster response and a budding women's group. It is the women's group that has overwhelmed at times. This is a wonderful group of women in a town that was overwhelmed by flooding a year ago. Water still is found in many homes, in the fields, etc. These women of all ages recognize that they need something to keep their minds off, even if for only a short time, their difficulties and the possibility of it happening again this year. (All photos were taken by a 9y/o boy who loves to play with my camera).
This group of women wanted to learn "new things" and "to have a home business" that would provide employment for them and their families as well as to simply have a "get together" where they could chat and have fun. And what a time we have had - we have even managed to bring together groups that do not normally talk to one another with requests from other parts of town to do the same.

One of the things that all of the women wanted to do was to learn how to cross-stitch. So off I went scavenging for plastic canvas to teach them on. But they had to have a project that could be done with this canvas. So handbags, clutch bags, and purses were the order of the day for them. And produce they did. Once their stitching was learned, we went on to stitching on aida cloth. Aida is available here in white and cream and only 14-count. I found an old CD on the road, picked it up and challenged them - make an ornament using the CD inside for form and stability. Taking a folder, I add patterns that are
free online for them. 

We made bags, decorations, and anything else that they wanted. One of the things however, that I think would be a good "cottage industry" for them is making coiled fabric baskets. I made a small one up and  introduced them to it. Finding the cotton cording was somewhat of a challenge but once found, they were off and running. It is interesting because these women all know how to do things, they just need incentive and examples. I don't teach them step by step, but rather a general "this is how you do it", "these are the supplies", now use your imagination. And they do!

Along with the women came the proverbial niƱos or children. They accompany their mother wherever and whenever and as such we had to come up with activities for them. So, in essence, we are doing 2 distinct groups: women and children ranging in age from 3 to 15, all like sponges, soaking up whatever we have given them. We started with simple coloring and went on to making ornaments, FruitLoop jewelry, popsicle stick items, paper chains, hats and boats, to name a few. And of course, at the end of it all, certificates of attendance for all with potato salad with chicken, cake and soda. All held together with a promise that the "tallers" or workshops will continue in the new year. 

On the home front, I had to make demonstrations of all projects and that pretty much took up all the time that I had available for the last 4 months. For each idea I had to make a "show n tell" item plus a partially made one to show how it is done.

Just a few of the things that had to be made in many parts.

As a result, I still haven't finished the one quilt top that I pieced "Stairway to Dreams" as seen in the October 1 blog; nor have I finished the Enchanted Sleigh, nor the Santa ornaments, nor the Christmas blocks and definitely no the finishing touches to the Halloween blocks. Oh, I have made some progress, completing segments, but not finished. Then too I haven't done any traveling like I did in Panama.

So what does the new year bring? Why always, new projects, UFO's to complete and an attempt to find the time in between work and play, to get them done! Happy crafting everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas

I can not believe that so much time has gone by yet again. I can say that a few things have been accomplished but mostly in the Peace Corps mode, not the personal mode.

But today, I am here to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, joyful 2012. May all your wishes, hopes and dreams become reality. There are definitely miracles out there, albeit tiny all the way to gigando. For my husband, family and I the miracle of good health and the ability to enjoy life to the fullest is in the forefront.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Updating ...

These last few weeks have found me trying to implement projects that are the reason that I am here in Colombia. They are vast and time consuming. What I am finding however, is that the women's group in one of the communities keeps me pretty well occupied. In order to have a project for them on a weekly basis, I have to first do the project to ensure that it is easy enough to teach in a 2-hour spot and then have the project examples done in various stages of completion for demonstration. This takes a lot of time, especially when one is hand-sewing.

To date we have done a make-up bag: this to see where their skills are and how they use their imagination; a purse: this provided instruction in various techniques; and now we are into learning cross stitching. All the members of the group wanted to learn how to cross stitch. We started with plastic rafia (easily obtained), plastic canvas and no pattern. I wanted them to learn the stitch first. This next class will have a small picture of balloons on strings to introduce the basic techniques to following a pattern. The young girls picked it up fast whereas the older ones took more patience and time. It turns out that there are women in the group who already know how and I tried valiantly to tap into their knowledge. They were, however, content to sit and listen, doing what I said and then completing the exercise quickly. I acknowledged that they already knew how to do it, asked if they would mind helping others with learning (NOT) and then explaining that I understood their desire for the patterns that we have talked about. Making them feel welcome I had hoped to utilize their skills - hopefully they made themselves available during the week when I wasn't in the community and some needed assistance. The next class will certainly show if it happened.

As a result of having to do all these projects, I have not had a lot of time for projects of my own, especially those Christmas presents that I wanted to do. With that in mind, I have been on the look out for a cheap utilitarian sewing machine to buy. Last week Saturday I discovered one in Pricesmart and quickly, without qualms, purchased it.

The following Sunday I was in heaven: I sat and sewed my project that was needed in, but a fraction of the time, and then pieced a lap quilt for us. I call it "Stairway to Dreams" as it is a nappy lap quilt for my hubby.

Now to use the wonderful find of polyfil batting (not the 80/20 that I like) and put a backing on it so that it can be used. A simple bit of hand quilting, then the binding, and it will be done. Maybe even a pillow case to go along with it, to use up the left over strips.

One of the projects that I wanted to do, as I thought that I could do it by hand while traveling, was a Rainbow Dear Jane quilt. To this I joined a BOM group and I faithfully order my monthly blocks. However, when I started to travel here I discovered that the bus traveling was definitely not conducive to handsewing. The buses are small and overpacked, with no room to maneuver let alone play with small pieces. So I decided to go with the flow and make the blocks as I did other things. That makes for a very long process sewing a piece at a time, between other sewing. This so that I only have to turn the iron once instead of 2 or 3 times. Hence, I have 3 separate things on the go and sew each until I need to iron and then turn it on. Working well, although, as I said, slow.

So today I finally finished my first Rainbow Jane block, A-1. I had read the book, tried to figure out the software, copied out the foundation piecing, and started. The software is complicated, but for now, I have learned how to print the foundation piece and I will learn how to update the photo on the right after each completed block. But to get back to the block. I got it all sewn together and pressed, and then ...

when I matched it up with the photo of the square within the quilt, mine looked different. Of course the colour is different but it was something else. What? Ah no, mine is turned around. Thinking through the process, I double checked the foundation piecing, yes it was correct. I double checked the way that I put it together, yes it was correct. So why is it turned around? Back to the book I go and to one of the websites with tutorials for the blocks ...
What is this? Mirror image? Mirror image of what? oh, somehow you are supposed to print a mirror image of the foundation piecing. So why isn't this already done in the software, it was expensive enough. I wonder if Jane would notice the difference, but for me, it will stay forever reversed. What is done, is done. Can't remember which culture it was, but in their culture you couldn't make anything perfect as only God is perfect. So a mistake must always be included in your work. Sounds good to me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Help, I am in withdrawal ...

Here I am now living in Barranquilla, Colombia, WITHOUT a sewing machine as originally planned. What? you say - you had one to travel with before.

So let me tell a tale of woe, a tale of disappointment, and then again, a tale of "perhaps something good will come out of it ..."

Knowing that I would be traveling to live in Colombia for only a short time, I had furnished myself with a small yet powerful Brother sewing machine. It was a great little machine. It sewed wonderfully.

And so ... Betsy was excited about her anticipated move to another wonderful country where she would learn different techniques and use different fabrics. She was lovingly packed with the accruements of sewing - thread, scissors, pins, cutters, ruler, markers, and a cutting mat. She had moved around the country tasting the thrill of sewing a carry-on bag that was a test of her capabilities, a bag that would accompany her on her journey. She hummed with satisfaction as she showed off her variety of stitches that was also part of a sewing challenge. Her owner, was thrilled - she was perfect.

Betsy arrived at the airport early, no, very early in the morning of the day of departure. She was accompanied by her new found friends, 2 large suitcase duffles, a small carry-on and a backpack. She didn't have a passport, she didn't need one. She did however, have a List of Contents readily visible on her side. Standing in line, waiting to check in, she tried a tumble or two, but she recovered nicely. It finally was her turn to check in. There was trouble right from the start.

it turns out that her flight was cancelled, without notification, due to the harsh weather in the East, not because of something she had done. The airline lady, who was trying to sort out the problem, looked at her gaily printed sox sitting amidst her new found friends and said, "You do know that there is an embargo on the amount of luggage that you can take with you, don't you?" Betsy quivered with a feeling of doom. "Why no, I didn't. I had no problems in June with much more than this ..." she heard. "Well I am sorry, you will have to get everything into just two bags, nothing more. If we let everyone carry a lot of luggage, we would have to hire another plane just for the baggage." "Can I pay the overcharge?' "it will be $300 per bag per leg of the journey for anything more than 1 bag."

Betsy was really afraid now because she knew that she wasn't worth anywhere near that amount and that another could be purchase for less where they were going. Sighing and frustrated, they all left the airport, to return the next morning to try again.

In the hotel room, the process began. What to discard, how to repack. A slow process ensued and finally everything was done. Betsy sat forlornly on the bed, her box open and bereft of all her accruement, waiting for what she knew was coming. It wasn't a question of when, just how and what. She wasn't going. But how to maximize her qualities was the question. Betsy wanted to do something worthwhile in her life, something that would distinguish her from all the other machines, something that would allow her to hold her head up high, albeit silently.

In the morning, they all piled into the taxi to return to the airport. Betsy too, but not put together for travel, she thought. She knew, but what? Suddenly her ears perked up - a conversation was going on and it was about her. Oh boy, maybe she could go after all. No, wait, she is going to a new home. There is this wonderful refuge group that helps single moms to become self-sufficient and they sure could use a sewing machine for the ladies to use and share. Oh boy, oh boy, she was going to a place where she could watch with pride as her new users made a difference in their lives and that of their children - she wasn't lost, nor discarded, no, she was wanted.

Yes, I had to leave Betsy behind, but it came with a sense of positiveness. She would help someone else out, maybe not me, but ... I can't help but wonder if Betsy ever thinks about me now? I know that I think of her often, wondering about the wondrous sights that she is seeing and things that she is producing .....sigh .......

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One does what one has to do ...

The urge to sew - no sewing room - staying with DS, DIL, and grands, all teens. No wait, the oldest is now 20 - the dining room table? no, very traditional and sits in all it's glory, unused. The kitchen table? no, the kids have their school books and school work out on it. The eating niche? no it is too high for me as they use bar stools to sit at it. Ok so where? Wait the oldest grand's computer desk, he has gone to college. Oops, online video game set-up here so ...
One does what one has to do ...
unplug the monitor, sew, plug monitor back in. Round and round we go. And don't bother sewing in the evening as the monitor is being used. Still I managed to get the second side of my bag and the bottom done and today I will be doing the sides and straps. Hopefully done by tomorrow night. This mixed in with all the other things that need to be done.
very traditional (except can you find the scraps?) which monikers needlework - precise and traditional - whereas the other side is for the wannabee liberated quilter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rainbow Jane

Yesterday my mail arrived and along with it was the first of many Rainbow Jane BOMs. The fabrics are wonderful and so bright. Oh my goodness. It really will be a rainbow of colours. Off I went to get the small needles that I read you need for hand-sewing. Got size10. They look awfully small - hopefully I will be able to manage them with hands that are definitely used to the bigger needles of needlepoint and cross-stitch.
Fabrics: [the white across the top is the background]
and first block - A-1, yellow - but which yellow? I guess I make the choice. So here goes ...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Needlework update ...

The one type of project that has worked well with my being "homeless" is needlework. As you all know, I currently am working on Santa ornaments, Christmas Blocks, and a cross-stitch Enchanted Sleigh.

The Christmas blocks were somehow routed to the back of the pile as I had left some of the necessary threads packed in storage. But I have them now - found them yesterday, so I can once again go to work on them. I am working on the A; have the embellishments for the M coming in on Monday; and still have the S, Santa, and Happy left to do. They will be finished, hopefully well before Christmas so that I can get them in to the finishers.

And then there are the Santa Ornaments, which are coming along nicely, thank you. I continue to work on them a section at a time. However, I am finding that the ones that aren't painted could have probably used more threads for coverage. White does show through at time. They look good however, and I think that I will have them finished with a red fabric behind them to try and minimize the white. They definitely will be finished, hopefully before I leave for Colombia so that I can send them off to the finishers from the USA. When sending things such as this from foreign countries, it is sometimes hard to guarantee delivery.

As for the Enchanted Sleigh, nothing new since the last update. It too has been regulated to the bottom of the pile. But I will be flying on Monday week, all day, so more will definitely get done.

I have also mounted my Wild Woman now on stretcher bars. I also picked up some threads the last visit to The French Knot in Ft Worth. I have strong loyalty attachments to places that I gone the extra mile for me, and these ladies have done that.
She won't get started until I am in Colombia and finished the Santa ornaments.
And now you know about as much as I do ...

Just had to do it ...

Since leaving Quilter's Connection in Dallas, I simply couldn't get one of the panels that she had hanging on the wall out of my mind. I kept going back and back and back to it. How could this be? I have enough and more to keep me busy for the next few months. Does one's mind play games with you? Mine sure is and I have learned to listen up.

So off I go, on my way out of town, on a re-routing that the GPS must think "you are crazy" for. I return to the shop, an hours drive out of the way, but hey, it doesn't add any more time onto the rest of the trip. During the visit, I learn that this frequently occurs to the stores customers as well a the owner. [ah ha, I am not going crazy!] I walk out with the fabric on my mind. IT took all of about 30 minutes from start to finish and, to boot, I added another prepackaged table runner. Help, I don't have a place to live, but my stash continues to grow!
Laurel Burch's Holiday fabric, but only select pieces:

As I rumble around the hotel room, trying to decide what will go and what won't go with me to Colombia, I keep wanting to go back to the sewing machine and get started on my carry-on bag.
So far, I have:
a. framed the wonderful Alma Lynn squares that I received:
The quilting one will be liberated a little while the needlework one will be regimented, at least that is how I see it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting down to the nitty gritty here...

And so it begins ... took my DH to the airport real early this morning and he is now off and running in his new position in Colombia. He officially starts on Monday and the rest of the week before, he will get to know the area and perhaps look at some apartments. Still again, maybe not ...

And, you might ask, what does this have to do with my creative side? Well, it leaves me here in the US with lots, and I mean lots of time on my hands. First thing right out of the box - what am I going to take with me to Colombia? Ahhhh, how about a sewing machine? Yes, went out and bought a basic machine that will do the job just fine. Now I have to take it out of the box and ensure that it actually works. (this is a hotel, no less) :)
Brother SQ9000 -

Next up? Quilting shops, of course. So a list is compiled of the Dallas/Ft Worth area and off I go. It is such a joy to be in these shops that I manage only 2 today, but there are more days to come.
#1 - JoAnn's for the basic supplies - pins, needles, interfacing, blenders, insul-brite, and so the list goes. As I wander the store, I keep remembering things that I need that are in the motorhome in storage. Down on the list they go! I have to take the car back before I leave, so I can pick these things up.

#2 - Quilter's Connection in Dallas. I was salivating in here. One of the owners was very helpful in trying to put together some fabrics for children's quilts. She appears to specialize in a very basic quilt using a feature focal panel in the middle and coordinating it with 4-5 inch squares. The packet is sold as a beginner's quilt and includes long-arm quilting of the quilt. Didn't get a price as I am not interested in them quilt the quilt for me but the idea for give-away children's quilts is a good one. So I picked up 3 different focal fabrics, some coordinates, flannel for backing, and of course, some 80/20 batting. Could have spent more time and more $$$$ but hey, one has to draw the line somewhere and leave more for other places.

Ordered the delivery of my mail - yes, along with it will come my first Rainbow Jane BOM installment. To be delivered early next week. I now have the CD and the template, but can't fin the book. I wonder where I left that? No matter, I have the wonderful help of the a couple of blogs that I have joined. Can't wait to get started. Keep checking back for updates.

Lastly, on one of the online groups that I belong to, a mention was made of an interesting blog: This was described as: "...each month at the block lotto there is a new set challenge block directions posted. We make them, take a photo and post on the site and earn a chance to win enough blocks to make a quilt. " Something to check out and think about.

That's it for the quilting ... more updates coming.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

They arrived ...

I am so excited - when our mail came in yesterday (we only get mail every so often) my Halloween squares were there. They are a monthly club from Pocketfull of Stitches, and represent the many, many hours of bus riding both in Panama and on our holidays to Colombia, Spain, Canada, and the US over 2 years. Finished with faith on both sides, [I sent them with faith, she finished them with faith, I paid with faith], they are absolutely perfect.

Now all that is left is to decide how to make them into a mobile. Marlene [the finisher] of Marlene's Custom Pillows of San Francisco, did exactly as I requested - all by email - right down to the wonkily placed miniature cup holders to attach each unit to the mobile. I wanted them to hang wonky, as befitting a Halloween motif. They are also flat on the bottom to enable me to line them up, say on a mantle piece, as well. Thank you Marlene.

Unfortunately they will remain in the box for this October as I won't have the space to take things like this with me. They will join my witch and table runner [UFO] decorating stash. I am currently collecting a Hallowe'en village monthly series from Chandail Needlework in Houston that I want to do when I am back in the US.
They are pretty big and need to be put on stretcher bars which disallows accompanying me on most of my travels. Also, the canvas only has the front of the house so I will need to design and add the side walls onto the canvas, as seen in the photo.

I had wanted to design a North Pole village but that will no longer be a viable project for this year, now that I have taken on another Peace Corps assignment: one that will no doubt keep me busy most of every day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

only those that travel well ...

We have spent the last few weeks traveling while waiting for the arrival of the required papers for re-entry into Peace Corps. My craft room goes with me in the car, but alas on a much smaller scale
no sewing machine, only those items that can be done by hand. [Hopefully I will be getting the first of my BOM for Rainbow Jane in a week or so.] When we actually fly even this is reduced.

Part of the fun of traveling, time permitting, is stopping and visiting various shops. I still am having trouble when I go into a quilting shop with the choices. There are simply too many things to choose from and make decisions about. I did go into one in St Charles, MO and all I walked out with was a cutesy pattern and my name on the list for the fabric.
Ok, so now I have 2 different patterns that I thought my DGD would like. hmmmm This one where I have not, as yet, bought the fabric ... or this one [sorry, is hard to see] which has these fabrics
and I already have the fabrics. hmmm guess I will send pix to her and let her choose.
Basically, I am leaving quilting alone until I make the decision as to what I will be taking with me to Colombia.

On the other hand, however, "don't put me in the briar patch" when it comes to needlework places. While in Tulsa I found a small shop and was able to get some of the fibres for a belt that I want to make as well patterns for small Christmas ornaments.
The fabric is 28 ct white with silver metallic in it. Of course, can't start these as I do not have my thread stash with me and I am NOT going to buy more.

Of course, traveling in the car allows me a little leeway as to using a frame. So I have been working a little on the Santa ornaments. All three at the same time. Do one section on the pattern, then follow it with the same section on the other 2. Slow going but then I haven't done a lot either. [I do a lot of the car driving].

And then there is the airplane riding. This really limits what one can do, so here I simply take a cross stitch project as I don't use a hoop or frame for these. I took my Santa and Sleigh with me and then all I did was read on the plane. How lame is that? But I did do some work on it as I sat with my parents, usually in the early mornings and evenings. The fabric has a opal metallic through it which really doesn't show up. And all the gold leaf, well it really doesn't show the fact that I am using metallics throughout to give it the gold-leaf effect. Not much more to do and then I can start on Santa.
While in Edmonton my mother took me to her favourite needlework shop. Here I discovered how wonderful it is to actually see the colours of the fibres first hand and not on a computer screen. Of course, I had to purchase some.
And then I found the Nora Corbett patterns for all the reindeer that I had been wanting. Not sure yet as to what I am going to do with them, but ...

And last but not least, I have bought the wonderful canvas, and starter fibres, that I call "Wild Thing" that I read about on another blog. I have to mount it before I take a photo of it as it is currently rolled up inside my traveling craft room. This beautiful lady is going to be made into a handbag at some point.

I have been truly on a stash building jaunt along with the visiting. Now I have to decide what I want to take along with me to Colombia, besides my Rainbow Jane quilting squares BOM. I wonder how much I will be able to stash into one suitcase as that is ALL that I am allowed this go around. Even that will cost a fortune. I also have to take into account just how much time I think I will have for these loves. Working, studying Spanish, staff wifey things, and loves ... hmmmmm could be a tight schedule.

And so the saga continues ...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too busy to ...

These last couple of weeks have found me too busy to even keep my head on straight let alone making any noticeable headway on any project. I have managed a few stitches here and there on the 3xSantas and I made a list of the items needed to continue with my Christmas letters. My bag follows me everywhere in the car - sometimes a project comes out, but mostly not.

On our travels in St Charles, MO on Saturday I found a wonderful little quilting shop and a pattern to die for. Rats - they didn't have the fabrics in yet, only the pattern. Oh well, I my name on the list. I don't have time anyways to sew. In fact, I don't even have my sewing machine with me in the car to use in the hotels... and yes, I would if I could!

Oh yes, I got my invite for Peace Corps Response in Colombia last week. Now I am embroiled in the paper work that is needed to continue with this process. Tomorrow a phone call before I continue with any more as I need some more information. Danny, my husband, is scheduled out to Colombia on the 17th of August. I probably won't get there then - Maybe a week or two later, I expect.

And so life continues, new experiences every day and old ones rearing their beautiful memories. A visit tomorrow with my grandkids, son and DIL. A trip to Canada to visit my parents on Wednesday. What more can one want???

Monday, July 11, 2011

Molas, a new quilting endeavor

Today I received my mail that has been waiting for me. And yes, there were my two mola books that I had ordered from Amazon:
1. "Mola Making" by Charlotte Patera (Jul 1994)
2. "Mola Techniques for Today's Quilter" by Charlotte Patera (Apr 1995)

So now I can start to learn how to make molas. Oh I will never have the quality that I found on some of the molas in Panama, but I sure will have fun learning. I am going to make small 6"x6" "learner" molas as I want some to put into the corners of my Panama PC quilt that I am going to make someday. (I have the t-shirts and the photo that I want in the middle already, as well as a choice of molas)

For now, I have to decide on the patterns for my "learners", buy the fabrics, and start. Updates to follow.