Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Quilting favorites

Accepting the kindly invitation of Geta Grama, I decided to shake off the laziness and start to blog again: So, here are my answers to her questions:

List a few of your favorite quilting notions.

First of all, my Rotary cutter trio: mat, ruler and cutter. My favorite brand is Omnigrid.
Quilting pins – those loooong, thin with flat heads are the best!
And a seam ripper!

Any advice for a successful color scheme of a quilt ?

Personally, I love earth colors: greens, brilliant flower colors over a sand or beige background; anything resembling nature’s colors can’t fail. But I think it’s a personal taste, whatever color YOU love will work for you.

Some thoughts about thread and needles, batting, fabrics ?

Fabrics: I learned to prewash fabrics the wrong way… Although I’ve read opposite opinions about pre wash fabric or not, I had some bad, embarrassing experiences due to have not prewashed some intense color fabric. I made a very special tote bag as a present for a lovely lady, my daughter’s piano teacher.

A simple design with squares, combining a pretty music-notes white fabric, with yellow and red over black background, and quilted with gold metallic thread… At the first wash, the red fabric fade and stained the rest… Oh! I felt ashamed!
Then, my advice is: always prewash, at least intense color fabrics.

Batting: There are not a wide sort of different quality battings in my country, so I almost always use medium weight polyester batting. For some projects like placemats, I use felt or a very thin, felt-width batting I've found.

Thread: I use good quality cotton or cotton blend thread for piecing. For quilting, what I found here is Americana Quilting thread and Gutterman.

Tips for easy piecing

1. Cut your pieces the most accuracy possible.
2. Sew in order, and sew-press-sew-press. At least, finger press every seam.
3. When piecing strips with several seams to join, pin EACH SEAM to ensure they will match perfectly.

Hand quilting tips

I use a thimble in my left hand to guide the needle from the bottom up. It took a time to get accustomed, and sometimes I still “guide” the needle with another finger, but the pain of my sore fingers made me accept the thimble’s help.

Other tips related to quilting

Respect the rule: Always start from the center to the sides of the quilt. Otherwise, your quilt design might end “twisted” or with undesirable bubbles.

Do you have free tutorials on your blog?

Not yet. I’m just starting to deal with all that blogging mess… but it’s in my to-do list. Perhaps a tutorial of some projects I’ve made with recycled materials.

The sewing machine - share a few things you love at your sewing machine; what makes it special? What features do you think are the most important to a sewing machine used for quilting?

Nowadays, I’m the proud owner of two machines: My old Regina: I never liked it too much, is rough and noisy but strong. I can’t remember all the things I’ve made with it since 30 years ago, even large Spanish flamenco dance costumes…
Last year, my hubby gave me a Singer Brilliance: electronic, with 100 built-in stitches, including quilting stitch… a lovely, soft lady… I use it more for piecing due to the soft running and accuracy.

The features I would look for in a machine for quilting are: Soft running and accuracy for piecing, and strength for quilting. With a well focused light, to see clearly what I’m sewing.

What about modern quilting tools? Quilt software, die cutting systems, other tools? Why do you like them ?

What I know about:

Electric Quilt software: I’d love to have it, but it’s still out of my budget.
Accu-quilt Go: not for the small volume of quilting I do. I prefer to draw and cut my own pieces. Again, too expensive in my country.

Tips for organizing the sewing tools, the fabrics, the sewing studio?

Sewing tools: I have them at hand, in decorated fabric-covered tins or boxes that I made...
Fabric: carefully folded in appropriate size to keep them in translucent stackable plastic boxes, sorted by color.
Scraps: sorted by size and color, in plastic containers.
Strips: sorted by size, no matter color – and holded with a clothespin to hang them from a shelf.

Could you recommend a book to someone who just started quilting ? A quilting bible ?

The Quilting Bible – Creative Publishing International.

Rodale’s Successful quilting library collection.

List one or two of your favorite quilting techniques and a tutorial/pattern/book where you learned about them ?

Cathedral windows: I learned it in an old magazine my aunt gave to me about 20 years ago… but there are too many tutorials in the web, like this from Angie Padilla.

Trapunto: I learned trapunto basics in a workshop. But I love and am about to try Shadow trapunto by Geta Grama…

Do you have a favorite quilt designer ?

The first quilt designer I met in the web was Angie Padilla. I admire her versatility. Although she works mainly appliqué, she makes wonders in almost any technique, and her webpage is one of the most complete I’ve seen.

Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr: Their management of color is really stunning, I do love their creations.

Geta Grama: This is not because you’re the host of this event. I’ve admired your work since the first time I saw it. I think you’re a truly artist and quilting is the way to show your artist side. Love the way you manage the color and shapes.

And last, but not least, I’d like to introduce you to Priscilla Bianchi, author of Caliente Quilts. For those of you who have never heard about her, she’s one of the first (if not the very first) quilter in Guatemala. As many of the quilters living in a non-quilting-tradition country, she’s a self-taught. Also a painter and color artist, she applied her skills to patchwork, making real masterpieces when working with our typical textiles combined with quilting cottons. Give her work a try browsing some pages of her book… and who knows? Perhaps some of you get in love with it...

Do you have a favorite quilt blogger?

Not a favorite. There are too many good quilting bloggers, although I enjoy too much what Archie, the wonder dog writes. But… who of you have seen a blogger dog?

Would you like to share one of your favorite quilts, made by you ?

I share two, for different reasons: This:

Is maybe the one I’ve made with more love and care.

And this:

is the last one I’ve made. It took 5 years since I bought this book to encourage me to face this technique, and now I can say: I love it! and have planned at least 5 or 6 more Bargello projects…

Do you have a favorite online quilt shops ? What makes it special ?

Annie’s. They sell everything, and have the most complete quilting library and patterns.

What would be the perfect gift for your best quilting friend ?

A gift certificate of a good SPA… who says we only enjoy quilting stuff?

Well, that's really what I would like to receive as a gift from my quilting friends, don't you?

Don't Do Like Me! (We all feel sometimes uninspired, or may have ideas which are not the best, and they may result in a lot of work for projects which we finally hate; or we may imagine shortcuts that finally give us only headaches instead of making our work easier.
If this happened to you, please share your failure lessons to encourage the rest of us that we're not alone and quilting is worth the hard lessons along the way).

Again… Always prewash your fabric! Or at least, test a small piece before use it. No matter if it’s 100% cotton, it might bleed.

If there is something else you would like to share with us, please do it. And please tell us a little about you, we would love to know you better.

There are not too many quilters in my country. A few years ago, it was an almost unknown craft in here, except for some retired foreigners that came to live in Antigua Guatemala. But soon this handwork has been known and loved for many people, although some of them just make one or two projects, because is an expensive craft for most people’s budgets.

I decided to splurge, and have invested in fabric and equipment more than I should… but it’s my retirement hobby and my family is glad to see me busy, doing beauties.

But the best thing for me at the present, is to teach others what I know. My small student group are mainly some of my elementary school classmates and other friends, who enjoy classes very much. I feel so proud when they tell me I’m a good teacher, and that they are learning and enjoying a lot.

Other things I'm really enjoying around this hobby are: meet people who share my passion around the world and make friends with them. Learning new things every day and share, as we are doing here. And develop new skills: I perfected my English, who hardly speak a few years ago, and now I learn to keep a blog ...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day and Fiambre

My post of today is not about patchwork, quilting or any other craft. Today I want to share with you a wonderful tradition and a food adventure!

There is in Guatemala a strong religious tradition by November 1st, the All Saints Day. Perhaps this tradition comes since the Mayan culture, based in their ancient spiritual believes, that have been mixed through the years with the Christian thoughts of the conquers, and so is by today.

By this day, the weather has turned windy and cold, properly to fly kites. But not any ordinary kite, no! There are some towns in my country like Santiago and Sumpango Sacatepequez, where people makes really Giant kites! Beautiful, vibrant of color, and really giant, they usually measure 4, 5 until 18, 20 meters of diameter! Groups of men meets usually once a week in the community hall to work together in order to create these stunning masterpieces.

With a strong but lightweight skeleton made with bamboo sticks, they make beautiful round, octagon or similar designs plenty of color, with tissue paper glued on a lightweight background. The day when they go to collect the bamboo sticks from the forest, is almost a holiday in the town: when the truck with the sticks enters in the town, people burn firecrackers and incense to bless the sticks in a very solemn ceremony, as the kites are their sacred way to communicate with their deads. These kites are released at the town cemetery, where people meets to celebrate the memories of their loved deads.

The tradition says that the kites are a way to send a message of love to the souls or spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of my own, so I share these for you to see the stunning, marvelous kites

More pictures here:

Don't you think they are an inspiration perfect for a quilt? I truly think so!

But I told you about a "food adventure", remember? That's another thing! Another tradition for this day.

Related with this custom of visiting the cemeteries and the relatives' tombs, arises the habit of this strange, but delicious food almost every family has for this day. It's called "Fiambre" that means "cold meat". The word "Fiambre" is related to any kind of cold meat, sausages, ham or similar that you can use for a salad or sandwich. And that is exactly what this is: A very large amount of salad with a wide variety of meats and pickled or canned vegetables.

There are so many stories about the origin of this meal, but all agree in the fact that it merged from the mixture of cold meals families brought to the visit of their dead.
Although the base is the same: some pickled vegetables, and some traditional sausages that are made only for this season, the taste is as different as every cooks' taste is.

Each family has their favorite meats and vegetables, so here are mine:

From left to right: shredded cabbage, beets, diced carrots, green peas, cut green beans, and cauliflower, ready to be carefully boiled until still firm. After that, this vegetables are mixed in a large (very large) bowl, and add: pickled small onions, olives, capers, baby corn, and any other vegetable to the cook's taste! Marinated with some good vinegar -I like a mixture of white and apple cider- salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. I usually boil the vinegar with spices for a couple of minutes, to mix the flavor. After that, mine looks like this:

That "strings" spreaded over are not noodles, no! It's "pacayas", a not very common vegetable but easily found in here, is slightly bitter but pickled tastes good.
Then, here comes the meats. Again, these are to the cook's taste, but the basic are shredded boiled chicken, roast beef, "Butifarra" "Black chorizo" "Red chorizo" "Extremenio chorizo" and "Longaniza", I added pepperoni and salame, all cooked and chopped,

then mixed with another vinegarete made liquefying the chicken broth -defatted- more vinegar -if needed- salt, parsley, mustard and the juices of some canned vegetables you will use for decoration, like asparagus, red peppers... the meal is looking something like this:

The green bowl is before mixing, the white at left is already mixed, and the small amount in the red bowl has only chicken, for my hubby who doesn't eat pork or sausages...

And the -almost- final product:

An individual serving will be about two cups of this strange but unvelievable very goooood mixture, over lettuce and covered with: small pieces of a variety of hams, cheeses, asparagus, radish slices, red pepper, slices of hard-boiled egg , and sprinkled with a special hard dry cheese, from the town of Zacapa. This cheese tastes like feta cheese, but dry.

The garnishes I used:

And this is how my dish looks:

Of course it is like a bomb, but believe me, it's DE..LI..CI...OUS!!! After all, it's eaten only once a year, for a couple of days. Or more, depends on the amount you made and how many family comes to dinner!

A beer or a cup of wine and "Salud" (Cheers!)

Happy All Saints day!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A handsome guy, a lazy girl and a flower

It's been a long time from my last post, but as I told, blogging is not my favorite activity. If I'm blogging, I'm not sewing, so what will I blog about?

Among other projects, I've finished and sent the blocks for two of my partners in Star of Africa bee.
Jen, our Queen Mum of August, and who blogs at Quilter in the closet asked for animal themed blocks, because she wants to make a quilted book for her young children. As the main proposal of the bee is to share representative things from our countries, I sent her nothing less than our beautiful, awesome national bird, the Quetzal.

Don't you think he's a very handsome guy? Lovely, they are. Quetzals live in the tropical rain forest of Central and South America. They are in danger of extintion, and it's told that can't live in captivity.

Males have a long, beautiful tail, that looks majestic when flying. They live in tall trees and trunks with holes deeply enough to stay inside, but leaving the long tail outside to prevent it from hurt. If you want to know them better, click here:

There is also another animal in my country that I really love: turtles. They are not representative from here, but we have two or three refuges in the Pacific shore where they are protected in order to let them grow up enough to live by themselves.

The staff of these refuges helped by some volunteers, watch at night for the adult turtles when they come out from the sea to spawn in the beach sand. Carefully, they pick up the eggs and have them kept at the refuge in a similar and properly environment, where the breeding is safe until they are born and grow up enough to be released in the sea.

At that time, these refuges organizes a funny activity: people can be the sponsor of a small turtle, and at sunset they form in a row at the beach for a race. At the voice of "Ready, Set, Go" the tiny turtles are placed on the sand and everyone cheers while they are running to the sea... No prizes, no medals... just the freedom!

Here, my tribute to these kindly, beautiful, tiny creatures:

Slightly delayed -after all, she's a turtle- this cute girl was ready to be sent to Jen. By mail, not swimming...

It was then time to work in the block for Benta, our Quenn mum of september, who blogs at SLIKstitches. She asked for five blocks: a central one, with anything we like to represent our culture, and four blocks to form a wonky star on a gray background. She's going to make a quilt for her silver wedding anniversary, so I decided to send her a white flower, one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. Our Monja Blanca (White Nun), a stunning orchid that grows in the same environment as the Quetzal, the tropical rain forest. Let me introduce the Lycaste skinneri alba:

Copyright of this picture:

And this is the block I made:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wish you were here...

This is my second block for the "Star of Africa" Quilting bee. It pretends to be a relaxing view of Lake of Atitlan, maybe from the window of one of the few "eco-hotels" sited in the mountains that surround this beautiful lake.
May, our Queen Mum of july, had asked for blocks representing something in our countries of what we surely would take a picture. Blocks of almost any size or shape. A lot of freedom to create, except for one thing: she wanted pink or pastel colors.
Well, I don't think a pink lake could show exactly what I wished, so I decided to use the more soft colored fabrics I found, and enclave the sight through a window... with pink curtains. Hope she likes it!

To enhance it a little, I embroidered a rose garden under a tree... Would you like to be there?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Every Quilt has a story...

Yes, not only every Quilt have their own story of creation, but most of them also have "a Tale to tell..."

When we start a Quilt, from the simple beginning of an idea flowing from our mind, through the whole - and sometimes complicated- process of drawing our idea. To find and get the best fabrics, those that will show most properly the quilt sense. The best design. The careful process of sewing to get an accuracy, well done top.
The selection of an appropiate quilting design, then the quilting process, and finish. All this process has a story of motivation, commitment, or the only desire to please a loved person with a special gift, made with our hands and love.

That's why most quilts also, have a Tale to tell... the story coming out of our mind to materialize into a work of art made with our hands.

As my "Enjoying together" quilt is:

It was at a workshop, when our teacher gave us this pattern to make, and told us the "story" behind the quilt, which I don't remember anymore. She encouraged us to make a table mat -with just the houses and trees- or a larger squared tablecloth -adding the fence border- or, if we want to, a bed-sized quilt, adding another border with squares and a final border.

The theme of the quilt was something about Christmas Night, using a starry dark fabric for the center. I found this lovely fabric, with all-colored stars over black background, that makes me remind the fireworks we use to play in my country for Christmas Night.

When I finished the top and showed it to the teacher, she told me "but... (there was always a "but...") in the sample, all the squares at the corners below the houses are from the same fabric, and also the outer border was only from 2 fabrics. You used too many fabrics"

I answered "Yes, but you also told us that the quilt tells a story. So, I made my own story".

"The fact is that I have 4 children. All are grown up, and is not usual that they join for a meeting during the year. Just a few times, for birthdays or so. But Christmas Eve is another thing... it's a tradition.
And for me, there's not better time than this, when I see the four enjoy setting off fireworks in the front yard, laughing and joking together as if they were again little kids".

So, the story behind this quilt is: "May the joy of Christmas, that makes my children forget all kind of troubles they might have, and play happily together as in their childhood, remains with them during the whole year" Each house represents the place of each one of them, with their favorite things:

Music, for the oldest boy;

Medicine, scouting and nature, for the second.

Children and Teddy bears for my oldest daughter, who is a Teacher;

Animals and Japanese culture for my youngest girl.

And of course, every house has its "puppy dog" appliqued in a window...

The outer border is not only made with scrappy squares, but selected from fabrics that represent the 4 seasons. Thus, one line is for winter, that slowly turns into spring, this in summer, and for last, the autumn.

Then the teacher and my classmates expressed "ooooohhh" and one of my friends asked me, And who among the four will be the heir to the quilt? You may have to do another 3 ... LOL!

At this point of construction, I measured the top on my bed and it was exactly the size to cover it, so my husband asked me to attach a final border, just to make it larger... "enough to cover us both, and not only you, when you turn around and you pull the quilt, and leave me shivering..." Ooops! :0)

Well, I bought the fabric he liked for the outer border, and that was the point where this beautiful Quilt became an UFO! As it was a workshop project, at that moment we started another project and I set this aside "to be finished later", until now!

Thanks to the initiative of my friend May who, with the aim to motivate us to finish all those unfinished projects that have been forgotten at the bottom of a shelf or a box, started the group "Lazy bums" to which I have joined with enthusiasm. I also encourage all of you who want to get rid of all your hidden, forgotten UFO's, to join too!

Star of Africa

I'd love to finish at least half of the 24 projects I have chosen to work over a year, and this quilt is one of the most important for me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Antigua Guatemala, my first "bee block"

Here is my first patchwork block, for the Star of Africa bee. In this block, I tried to represent a street of Antigua Guatemala, one of the most iconic touristic places of my country.
The streets of this wonderful city are straight, with a traditional stone pavement, as it has been since the Colonial age. On both sides of the street, the houses are all of similar construction, all of them respecting the codes of the Colonial architecture. Is almost a tradition to put flower pots in the window sills, and also is very common to see large bouganvileas falling by the outer walls, spreading its perennial, bright purple flowers, to your eye's delight.
The blue peak at the end of the street, represents the "Volcan de Agua" (Water Volcano) which is named like this because is a non-active volcano, with a large pond of water in its top. Very close to it, are the "Fire" and "Acatenango" volcanoes. Contrasting with the calm of Volcan de Agua, the Fuego is always in activity.
Searching for more information and pictures to share, I found an excellent website, owned by Rudy Giron,a photographer who has posted hundreds of photos, and explained Antigua life in a very clear and amusing way. I truly recommend you to make a tour by his site, Antigua Daily Photo.

I'm sure you'll be delighted.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quilter's horoscope

I've just read a post in my friend Leanne's blog, referring to the quilter's horoscope. Funny, but not totally wrong, I found mine very close to my way of being...

Libra - September 23 to October 23
Easygoing and sociable Libra’s are great fun to have in patchwork and quilting classes and workshops. They enjoy helping others and never turn down a request to lend a hand to pin a quilt top. Friends are very important to Libra, and they don’t mind sharing their stash or tools. Unfortunately helpful Libra rarely will ask for help. They think that if they wait long enough for a problem to go away it will. Thus they end up with unfinished quilts when they do run into difficulty. Instead of finding a solution for the glitch they put it aside and move on to another project. They believe that they will be able to return to the project later and the predicament will have fixed itself. Funnily this sometimes works. You will find that a quilt designed by a Libra is always perfectly balanced.