Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bit by Bit, Putting It Together...

Sondheim, right?  When stuck for words, I go to Sondheim.  This particular song is from "Sunday in the Park with George" and refers to mounting an artist's exhibition.  In my case, the "bit by bit" is getting my life under control after a 13-day hospitalization involving a brutal but successful cardiovac (google only if you have a strong constitution) to get rid of systemic blood clots.  One bit is gaining stamina.  Today I am doing some driveway walking and marching.  Tomorrow I will do more than today, and  I may even drive!  

A second bit is what's on the design wall.  My Chicago Modern Quilt Guild is doing  a swap of mini quilts with the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt GuildThe Chicago minis were collected at the August meeting and sent to the Ann Arbor girls.    I want to get this mini-quilt finished in time for their September meeting.  All parts are ready for assembly.  I'm calling this "Woven Glass" because all the fabrics are by designer Alison Glass.  And tomorrow I will start to actually sew and begin quilting it.

The third bit is just regaining some normalcy despite a glut of tests and doctor appointments all through September.  I've been home from the hospital for three days and am just delighting in being in my house with John without an IV and without 8-hour blood draws.  Blood thinning medication is an absolute necessity, and I will keep it monitored closely.  Meanwhile John is still recuperating from his second vitrectomy on his left eye. 

Daily I will find joy, and daily I will do something purposeful.  And I am smiling.  A lot.  I'm a lucky girl with fabulous support from family, friends, and a great team of doctors. 
Out of all the patients at LaGrange and Hinsdale Hospitals, I know that I had the prettiest quilted bags.

This quilt was delivered in early August.  Mom Joan Walsh commissioned this for her daughter Caroline, a recent graduate of Lyons Township, and gave it to her for her late August birthday.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It's August for August!

Here's the back of the baby quilt for August, grandson of favorite client Roberta.  She buys the fabric, designs the layout, does the cutting, and then brings me the "kit."  She waits until her grandchildren are 2 or 3, which I think is pretty wise.  I love working with her.  Here's another quilt she designed.  There's another one, which I can't find right now.  I must get better at labelling.

I love how Roberta finds fabrics for what her grandchildren's parents want.  Waiting until the kids are a bit older makes these quilts special since they go with the child and the bedroom.  These quilts, including this one, are "draggers".  They are meant to be used and dragged around and washed a lot.

This lovely batik on the quilt back enhances the sea theme on the front of the quilt.

I don't know how Roberta found me, and she doesn't remember either.  All I know is that it's a good fit and I enjoy working with her! 

Here's a link to the first baby quilt I did for Roberta.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Working Inspiration Board

Without saying too much about what I'm working on, here's my palette.  The bottom left is the look I'm going for.  We'll see...  Meanwhile I'm working with one of my favorite clients - the grandmother who likes to buy fabric and create quilts for her grandchildren.  Except she doesn't want to sew.  She gives me a kit she's created.  And each time she's given me one of her kits, I bump her to the top of my queue because I like what she does.  And I love doing baby quilts.  Stay tuned for this quilt! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"But but but but but but but..."

"But what if I love this quilt and don't want to give it away?"  And that's when they whipped out this second quilt made for me to keep.  I was stunned - in the best possible way.  This quit - it is possible that it is prettier than the first one?  I see so many favorite fabrics.  Each block is beautiful.  Together they create a quilt that so appeals to my color and design anesthetic.  Melissa Bogusch, Debbie Bookman, Emily Bruzzini, Jennifer Benoit-Bryan, Mimi Djenno, Sarah Evans, Holly Harper, Beth Kovacic, Jennifer Lowe, Eileen O'Regan, Debbie Pine, Rachel Rivera, Tricia Royal, Wayne Rhodes, and Sarah Shulman are the makers of both of these quilts.  Frank Karls of T and F Studios did the quilting on both, and his quilting is flawless.

 My quilt has 12 blocks on the front and 3 blocks on the back.  And like with my mom's quilt, I am determined to figure out who did which ones.  Some I know because they are signed.  And some I know because of fabrics.  Emily B gave me some of the wonderful black-white leafish fabric to the left.  I know that is her block.  The coolest moment was receiving this second quilt - I didn't ugly cry but I was teary and stunned.  But the second best moment?  Looking around and seeing the grinning, delighted faces of those makers who were present that night.  The looks on their faces of love and pride and obviously happiness at pulling off this surprise (although I am pretty oblivious and they really can't take too much credit for that) is a tableau that will stay in my heart forever.

Each maker deserves a paragraph on their importance in my life.  I have sewn, retreated, travelled, and shared special meals with them.  Our discussions range from the cosmic with life and death issues to the mundane of purse strap lengths and the use of invisible magnets and various interfacings and battings.   They are a community of great importance, and their spirit of generosity is enormous.
 Most special is my friend Wayne's participation in these - we have been QuiltFriendsForever ever since we picked each other up at a Fiber Arts Show at the Botannical Gardens in November 2007.

I love these quilts.  I love those who participated in them.  And I am so lucky and blessed to be a part of this community.  Appreciative?  Thankful?  Both don't seem strong enough.  Thrilled, pleased beyond pleased.  These quilts are indeed the most generous, nicest, and most beautiful gifts I have received.  Ever.

I wish it were cold so I could use mine.  Now.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Karma and My Mother's Altruism

My mother lived to serve others.  Not just family and friends but often strangers.  She once took in a woman who badly burned her hands and arms and was all bandaged from fingers to elbows.  Not only did my mom do all the personal care for this young woman, this woman had an infant who also needed tending to.  She did this for over 4 weeks. 

Have you heard of those long-married couples who die just days apart?  After my dad died last July, I kept looking at my mom.  Her Alzheimer's robbed her of all memories, and she was just mostly pleasantly blank.  When she died in December, we all felt a wonderful sense of relief.

My quilty friends have been with me for the past five years and through this journey with my folks.  After my mom died, I shared with them the family's request:  that acts of charity be done in my mom's honor.  I also apparently said (and I don't remember this but I'm sure it's true) to not make me a quilt.

This weekend I was with some of my quilty besties, and at dinner Friday night they presented me with this quilt.  And the proviso attached is that this quilt be given to someone or some organization in honor of my mom Joanne Marie Long White.  I am eager to talk with my sister and brothers and see what thoughts they have about to how best to gift this quilt. 

I think this quilt is beauitiful.  It is 12 blocks of 20" modern log cabins.  There is one red that contributors each used, which gives the quilt a wonderful unity.  Some signed their blocks, and some didn't.  I am determined to find out who made each block.  "I spy with my little eye" some of my favorite fabrics.  To see them in combination makes my heart smile.  I love this quilt.

When the girls told me I must give this away, I said, "But but but but but what if I love this and can't give it away?" They laughed - heartily, I might add - and said they knew I would say this.  And that's when they....

Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post.  My heart is too full to tell the rest of this story today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Disclaimer:  The following post is not about quilting and it's not about my health.  

Christmas 2008 John and I,  unbeknownst to one another, gave each other the same present:  a copy of Roz Chast's Theories of Everything, a collections of her cartoons.  Throughout our marriage we have always had a subscription to The New Yorker.  While John actually reads it, I skim for cartoons, and Roz Chast is simply brilliant.

Last year, as both of my parents were dying, this memoir of Roz Chast came out to great acclaim.  Best review? 
An achievement of dark humor that rings utterly true. (Washington Post)

So I bought copies for my sister, my brothers, and me.  And then I coudn't read it.  Until yesterday.  I needed a book for the train and for waiting in medical offices.  Something interesting which required little concentration.  And I grabbed this book.

It is the brutally honest memoir of her parents' decline and deaths.  And so much of what Chast writes about is exactly the path we too walked.  The big difference?  She is an only child, and my siblings and I had one another to bounce off of.  There's that golden age where all is well with both of them.  Then one incident happens.  Which triggers another incident.  The end of their independence signals the beginning of the loss of yours.  Here's one of my favorite pages:
I was the Gallant daughter trying very hard to keep the Goofus daughter hidden.  Usually I succeeded.  My siblings might disagree with this.

My parents were wonderful people.  But my parents were both quirky.  This sort of wonderful quirkiness is something Chast captures in both of her parents as well.  I promise you that the following is actually a conversation my mom and I had when we were downsizing from their house in Chicago to "active senior living."

My parents were born in the 20's and lived through the Depression and World War II.  These events shaped them.  And Chast's parents too were a part of this generation.

It is no surprise that this book ends with the deaths of her parents. Chast is a sketcher, and she included sketches of her parents as they were actively dying.  Grief counselor buddy Cecilia, who is only too familiar with death, commented that actively dying people get a "pointy" look.  I was clueless until I saw this in my dad and then a few months later in my mom.  Chast's sketches capture this "pointiness."

Reading this book made me relive in a good way the path my siblings and I walked with my parents.  Like Chast, we are all so at peace with our parents' deaths.  And now I realize the responsibility we have to our own children.  We need to have these discussions about death and arrangements and finances and living wills and medical directives.

I think I am now ready to focus on sewing.  And maybe a batch of poppy seed fig jam thumbprint cookies.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

'Roid Rage

A tote bag with a vinyl bottom for my dear physical terrorist's daughter
Steroids.  Oy.  Up since two.  One more day.  Began to clean out my parents' papers and made small progress but progress.  And then, after starting a lovely book, "At The Water's Edge" by Sara Gruen, then ants in the pants happened and I had to head to the studio.  I need to made a med file for all the appointments coming up, and I have a slew of thank-you notes.  But just to keep me focused a bit here's a picture-heavy post of things on my immediate radar.  However, my definition of "immediate radar" seems to be changing. 
A Molly Market Tote Bag because I sold my last one but not without making sure I could duplicate it

Maybe something with these fabrics - a Hazel Hipster

A Trapezoid Tote all ready to assemble - I'm determined to make this one neater.  Current one to go the the wife of the fabulous Dr. Mike Dupont at the Family Medical Center of LaGrange.  I'd show you the invisible magnets that hold the bag together, but they are - well, difficult to see. 

Figuring out what to do with these Alison Glass fat quarters - something for the current swap project with the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild that is due in August

Moving these to my too ugly to live pile or swapping them for something.  What on earth was I thinking?

Putting these away - I don't know how this pile got started.       
Doing a bag or purse for my buddy Wayne's wife Wendy.  This black-and white comma fabric by Zen Chic in one of my favorites, and I know she will like this, too.  

Ok, ok.  Rage is too strong.  Let's just call this 'roid creativity...  Maybe I'll just sing "Back in the Saddle Again," which I think I actually have a recording of!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Another Blip in the Ryhthm of the Studio

All I have wanted to do is finish this purse - the Noodlehead Trail Tote in Carolyn Friedlander's Doe fabrics.  You can see that I changed the light piping and strap to black.  It is finally finished, and I am test driving it to the Goodman Theatre today.

But I have been in the hospital again.  Last month is was to go on blood thinners.  This month it was to stop the subdural hematomas and go off the blood thinners.  I have a huge list of specialists to see, and my brother-in-law the ENT surgeon gave me this wisdom:  See the specialists in the order of what you think is gonna kill you first.   So, neurosurgeon, hematologist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, and finally the interventional radiologists who put a little umbrella in my vena dava designed to catch any DVT's.   If necessary, I urge you to use this same advice

I feel great. I am under orders to walk but not lift weights.   And get this:  I can sew all I want to!  This second stay at LaGrange Hospital was another most positive experience.  I am feeling very lucky for the care I received from the medical community, my family, and my friends!

interior pockets

I don't know if this is fortunate or not.  The drug I'm taking to stop the brain bleeds is a steroid.  And I think I'm wired.  Tomorrow's post may be one of those listings of all the projects I have rolling around in my brain.  However, the steroids end Tuesday morning.  We'll see...

Good to be alive and walking and looking for daily joy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Proud Maker

Things in the Mo House are returning to some kind of normal.  While John went to the Elkhart, IN Jazz Festival, I attended a couple of artsy events.  One was at Lill Street Art Center.  A Maker's Salon featured a sketch artist, a miniature mosaic artist, a quilter, and a potter.  I went to hear my fellow guildster Tricia talk about her quilts.  She has a loud, colorful aesthetic and brings a sense of pragmatism to her quilts.  She has repurposed clothing for quilts, found and used vintage fabrics, and creates like no one else in our guild.  The following day several in my guild and I drove to Park Forest to the Tall Grass Arts Association where one of my blogging heroes, Chawne Kimber of Completely Cauchy, had a small exhibit of her quilts.  She and a metal sculptor were featured. 

There was so much talk about art and the artist and would would the audience like to see and how to help the audience understand the art.  I kept thinking about Kafka's "The Hunger Artist" which deals with the artist's dilemma of following her art or pandering to the masses.  But what I really kept going back to - and what separates quilting from some of the other arts - is that quilts are pretty AND pragmatic.  They are a combination of form and function.  So many of Chawne's quilts are political and thoughtful.  She is a genius at word play, as evidenced by her quilt "In essence, I am a cotton picker," a nod to both her heritage and her avocation.   Yet, they still are quilts. Here is a link to just some of her quilts.

I am a proud maker.  I love that some of my friends spent the night at my house and slept under my quilts/craft/work.  I love that my grandson will take one of my quilts back to college with him.  I love that John and I, regardless of season, sleep under quilts I have made.   And I love that people like Tricia and Chawne and others in my guild and in the blogging world inform and inspire my quilting.

These days I am calm.  My to-do list is long, but I am not frantic.  I will just plug away and enjoy each day of craft as it come.  Tomorrow?  Getting back to a t-shirt quilt.  The mom spent an hour on her hands and knees creating the layout for this quilt.  This photo is to help me reproduce her layout because it's not on the floor anymore.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lesson Learned ... Again

After being in the hospital for three days, I came home to this lovely reorder of an Art Gallery fabric in the Hello, Bear line by designer Bonnie Christine.  This fabric is my new crush, and I cannot cut into it unless I know I have more coming. 
But that's not the lesson.  (Note:  stop reading if you don't want the details...)  Last Tuesday I had an upper GI scope to see what's up with a recurring issue with my esophagus.  I came home that same morning, but later in the day my throat began to rage.  We called the doctor; he sent us to the ER and called the ER to explain what I needed.  A CT scan was performed, I think to make sure that there wasn't any damage done during the dilation.  The ER doc gave me the good news - my throat was fine.  But the bad news - pulmonary embolisms in both lungs.  And so I was admitted to LaGrange that evening (and I was just thinking I would go to the ER and get some good pain drugs).  A venous Doplar that same evening revealed blood clots in my legs.  My fabulous doctor Prachi Patel came to the ER and has helped navigate my way with the GI and pulmonologist.   IV Heparin to thin my blood, Lovanox injections for the next two weeks, and an oral regimin of Warfarin.  And I am home and able to resume my normal activities (and when I am doing a lot of sitting, I must put on compression stockings - lovely white open-toed thigh-high stockings).  I'll see Dr. Patel Monday morning. 

So, the lesson?  I had to ask John to go into my closet and get some pj's and t-shirts and various toiletries.  He found what I needed, but I could see the judgment in his eyes about what a mess I function in.  Last New Year's I was going to spent 10 minutes a day in my closet.  That lasted three days.  And so now I am horrified by how I have been ignoring something I tried to help my mom with the last 15 years of her life:  if you bring something in the house, then something else has to leave. 

In the past two hours I've been on a tear and will continue over the next few days to be ruthless.  I either wear it or it goes out.  I'm feeling lighter already...  Below are two Hazel Hipsters I finished last Monday and a new t-shirt quilt in the making.  Back to my closet!