Friday, July 3, 2020

Thinking my way through every stitch I sew...

Two weeks after my fall, and I am still so sore and bruised. I’m still taking opioids.  With them my pain is less and I can do the prescribed movements/motions.   But I still have to think my way through every move I make.  With the brokeN wrist, it was a matter of finger dexterity and strength. This time I have the finger and wrist dexterity, but I can’t lift my arm.  Yet.  So I struggle through the day, balancing the drugs with the time of therapy movements.  And to keep sane, I sew.  I must.  The next project up is Brandon’s quilt, made from the set of fat quarters Melissa, Holly, and Sarah bought for me at QuiltCon .  I’m using a shadow box effect on a background that is grey-green-griege.  Cecilia cut fabric for me - for a non quilter she is very good with the rotary cutter, and she seemed to like doing it.  I need 3.5” strips of this griege- lots of them.  I hope she’ll come back.
These leftover strips and bits of peppered shot cottons are going to be a 12.5” by 24.5” block for @artgal53, fellow Chicago Modern Quilt Guildster Debbie.  She and 8 others, including me and spearheaded by @kiltedquilter67, are part of a bee, the #ChiModBee.  Debbie is the first “Queen” of this bee.  Can’t wait to see what comes from my block and the others she’ll receive!  If you look at the hashtag, be gentle - we’re just getting started.

While I can’t cut any significant size of fabric. I can cut small bits.  I had a whole pile of 2.5” squares already cut.  Sticking with greys and lower volume fabrics, I’m making 6.5” blocks.  I can do one at a time and these are perfect just to keep me feeling like I‘m  productive.  Below is an off-set pattern.  Sewing does help to chase the blues away....

Thursday, June 25, 2020

It’s Always Something....

My elastic came.  The elastic I was going to use to make a mask a day throughout July.  So now I have elastic but am back to being one-handed.

My sister sent flowers.  So nice.  I saw my wrist surgeon yesterday, and she was wearing a mask I made her.  I have some gentle therapy and exercises  to do while this humerus starts to heal.

I’m no longer in shock. And I just found out from a blog reader that quilter Pat Sloan broke both of her wrists!  The last picture?  Oddly enough it’s the only part of me that doesn’t hurt...

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Luckiest ot the Unlucky

Saturday June 20 was such a good day.  I was in the studio finishing this lovely 90 x 99 shot cotton quilt top.  I vacuumed, rejoicing in how easy this task is with 2 hands.  I even set out the fabrics for the next quilt I want to work on.  I want to finish this quilt top by July so that I can turn the entire month over to purses and masks.  One of each every day.  Piles of fabrics for both are set out.

But then I tripped on uneven sidewalk about a mile away from the house.  Nice ladies called 911.  ER took care of facial lacerations and made sure there were no brain bleeds.  I broke my proximal humerus and see my bone doc tomorrow.

Thankful I didn’t do more damage! But I’m incredibly sore - everything hurts.

I keep thinking of I Robert Burns and how the best-laid plans of mice and men “gang aft a-gley.”

Monday, June 15, 2020

Celebrating - Social Distancing Style

It's been difficult to shelter in place.  Not seeing family and friends has been hard.  For the first two months we exchanged food with 2 of the grandsons at the base of the driveway.  Then last month the 4 of us decided that the risks were minimal and we actually have had dinners at the dining room table.  Son Mark has been in the house a couple of times.  And like so many families, we are having discussions about whether to get together and how to get together.  This month marked three milestones - Sam Mo graduated from Northern Michigan State, Ben Mo graduated from high school, and Brandon turned 21.  Daughter Julie came in from Atlanta to celebrate with her son.  And we had to have some sort of party, right?

I made masks for everyone, which we didn't wear.  Everyone brought their own drinks.  Appetizers were individual snack bags of various crunchies.  A Mediterranean feast was laid out buffet style, but Mark was the only one serving.  Cupcakes for dessert.  Seems safe, no?  But then the time for pictures came.  No masks, standing close to one another, some of us touching - ***eye roll***

Is this all part of the process of opening up?  Did we take a risk by getting together? be determined

Two sad notes:  Ben, the hs grad, just started a new job and couldn't come to his own party on top of not having a graduation ceremony or a prom.  And the girls were in an accident (absolutely not their fault) on their way home.  Both are ok (phew), but the car is totaled.

The next day I had coffee in person with quilties Eileen and Melissa.  Between seeing people and almost have full use of my rehabbed wrist, normalcy seems closer.  BUT we all know this is not a time to let down our Covid-19 guard.  Be careful out there!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Quest for the Perfect Mask

 We're now three months into Covid-19 and all that comes along with it.  Mask-making and mask-wearing is now just as important as it was in late March,  There are a zillion free masks patterns available.  But which one to use?  It's kind of like trying to find the hottest/steamiest iron or the quietest, best-stitching sewing machine.  I have a favorite iron (Oliso), a favorite sewing machine (my Brother 1500 straight stitch), and I now have a favorite mask pattern.  Ami Simms and Valli Schiller, both women I know, created a pattern with darts for the nose and chin as well as some pleats.
This mask pattern allows for a variety of way to fasten.  I'm out of elastic right now, so I am using home-made fabric straps.  This kind of mask goes over the head and then is tied behind the head.  It can easily be removed and yet still be attached.  There is also a huge discussion about filer vs non filter.  And here's what I am comfortable with:  using a batik which is very tightly woven for the outside and a soft cotton for the inside.

Two of the grandsons have graduated - one from hs and one from college.  Another grandson just turned 21.  We are having a socially-distancing get together.  14 people.  The party favor?  Yes!  A mask!

Saturday, June 6, 2020


In no particular order, I am very thankful for 

1.  my design wall
2.  John
3.  my sewing machine with the knee lift and automatic scissors
4.  my Vietnamese friends and their cooking know-how
5. drugs 
6. Quilty friends and Zooming
7.  John
8.  my sister Paula
9.  new Quilty friends
10.  Cristina and her sourdough bread sharing
11.  my hand surgeon Dr. Urbanowski and my occupational therapist Eileen
12.  being able to open jars and baggies again
13. my fabric stash and various supplies
14.  being excited about quilting after tamping that down during February and March
15.  an aura - albeit light - of political optimism about the possibility of political change this fall
16.  babies
17. my special WW buddy Cecilia
18.  my generous friend Sarah S
19. my grandchildren
20.  John
21.  being able to hand quilt again.  So soothing.
 22.  My friend Dorothy and what she passed along to me on FB

This might morph into a quilt...
23.  A summer day like today with the studio windows open, the gentle hum of cicadas in the background (this is just a renegade brood, not the real thing which comes in 2024).
24.  John
25.  Emerging from the Land of Broken Wrist into functionality.  

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Plan for some Fat Quarters

Remember when Melissa, Holly, and Sarah returned from QuiltCon and brought me presents?  (as if anything at that point would cheer me...)  There was an additional set of fat quarters, some terrific surface-print fabrics.  Special fabrics - the kind that are hard to find.  One day last week I unrolled the pack and ironed them.  And then I threw them down on the design floor.  10 fat quarters - each 18' x 22".  Here they are below:

By cutting each quarter in half, there are 20 blocks.  By using a wide sashing of maybe 4.5", each block will be set off nicely and create and great size - 80" x 98". And I found a wonderful grey linen-like cotton that will pair nicely.  I might even try a shadow box type of design.  I'll decide that later.  These blocks, my tentative layout, and the grey for sashing are tucked away on one of the shelves, ready for construction!

I've recently shown the red/grey/black quilt for grandson Jack.  Sam, Nikki, Ryan, and Natalie have had recent quilts.  Now it's Brandon's turn, and  I think these fabrics are perfect for him.  Then on  to Benjamin!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Those All-So Useful Sew-a-Longs

Look at the hashtag #100dayproject.  Or #100blocks100days.  Or in the case of this quilt #52blocks52weeks. A quilter who has lost her mojo finds these useful - just something every day or every week to get things going.

The Canadian Quilters Association began this sew-a-long in January 2019, and I learned of this through one of my Canadian quilter friends.  Each Tuesday of the year directions for a 6.5" block were released and shown in grey scale, one of my favorite palettes.  Looking at my immense scrap collection, I thought it would be fun to work on this project, using only scraps.

By using 3" sashing, this quilt is a useable size 65" x 75".   It just needs quilting!  I auditioned a lighter background for these blocks but am happier with the darker background.

I enjoyed this little project and it's fun to have an almost-finished project.  The overall look is one I don't treasure despite all my favorite little bits of grey and backs.  This quilt will start looking for its owner soon.  

One note:  a friend pointed out to me that one of the blocks had a definite Swastika look.  That block was immediately removed and replaced with one of my own invention. 

Another note:  Having two hands is terrific. The stitches come out today from the pin removal two weeks ago. Then real rehab begin to restore wrist flexion.  My hand is sore - parts of it are waking up and all soft tissue needs intense stretching as the muscles develop.  But I'm so happy to have both hands again!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Mask-Making Guilt and Mother's Day

 Just as I was getting into my whole one-handed, broken-waisted rhythm of physical therapy and figuring out what sewing tasks I could do, the Covid-19 virus hit.  "Lockdown" started March 21.  And cottage-industries of mask-making began.  If there is one glittering generality about quilters  it is that they are very quick to respond to a need they can fulfill.

The Internet was immediately full of mask patterns.  Some of my Quilty friends have made hundreds.  HUNDREDS!
I had elastic, I had fabric, and I could handle a rotary cutter with my left hand (well, I am left-handed...).  So I tried making masks.

 And I could sort of do it.  But it hurt and took me all morning to make one. Kind of like trying to find an iron that is the hottest and steamiest, I was looking for mask patterns that were easier than the one I am wearing here.

I did find ones that were easier to cut.  But then they had to be pleated, a manipulation that was almost beyond me.

Like so many others, I ran out of elastic. Everything was on backorder.  So I found and tried this pattern.  It was fairly easy.
Here my friend Cecilia models hers.  But personally, I don't like to tie things behind my head - it's a hair thing.

My shipment of elastic came in just as I realized that mask-making just wasn't something I could do.  And of course I felt a bit guilty,

But then something happened to assuage my guilt.

About this time my friend Jenny and I were out walking, with our masks on, when she mentioned she was thinking about a sewing machine so that she could make masks but the time just wasn't right to buy one. I offered her the most reliable and lendable machine I have - my mom's 1948 Singer Featherweight.  I also sent over fabrics I new I would never us.    And Jenny has gone to town making masks. She is one of the 400+ makers. I loaned her a second machine, a White/Singer that John's mom bought for me in 1982. A friend of the family's is working with Jenny making masks. They have even made masks for children!  Here's Jenny's grandson modeling his.

Normally I spend Mother's Day sewing on  my mom's Featherweight.  This year my mom, and John's as well, spent the day in the most noble of  company.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

An Unmetered Ode to PreCuts

I love PreCuts.  I LOVE them.  Buying fabric is expensive.  Finding a fabric line by a designer might mean hundreds of dollars.  But what if you really love the designer and the fabric line?  Then PreCuts are the answer.  There are Layer Cakes - a stack of forty 10" x 10" fabrics from the same collection - see above left, Chalk & Charcoal by Jennifer Sampou for Robert Kaufman.  There are Charm Packs, a stack of forty 5" squares - see above bottom right, Modern Backgrounds More Paper by Zen Chic.  There are even MiniCharm Packs, forty 2.5" squares.  Hiding in the upper right corner is. Jelly Roll, 42 fabrics that are 2.5" x 42".  I love Janet Clare's aesthetic and her fabric collections. This one is Weather Permitting.  

For last winter's retreat I grabbed my charm packs of red, greys, and blacks, thinking that to make half-square triangle blocks would be some nice simple sewing, a necessaty for retreats.   And typical of returning home from a retreat, I tucked this bundle away.  Late February and early March, as I was beginning to heal from my broken wrist, when standing at a design wall was all I could handle, I got out these blocks and began to play on the design wall. Some of my Quilty friends have made wonderful projects out of HST's!

But this layout wasn't anything I remotely liked.  And sometime in the past few months I began to realize this quilt would be for grandson Jack Mo, now a senior at U of I.  So I had to find something I would like working on and be proud to give.

I then started to play with making blocks from the various half-square triangles.  Very traditional but my eye was liking this much better.  And then the brainstorm struck:  put these blocks on point and think about adding sashing:

I found the perfect background for these blocks, this terrific deep red from the first fabric collection mentioned in this post. Jack's quilt will be 89" x 112" - he's a tall guy so this size will be perfect for him. It is currently in my long-armer's queue.  

All because of these wonderful simple PreCuts.  

Note:  my favorite PreCut enabler is Green Fairy Quilts.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Sewing Disconnect

I define myself, especially since my retirement from teaching in 2005, as a quilter, a sewist, a sewer.  Sewing is what I do.  Sewing is why we used the entire upstairs space as my studio.  This is where I work daily.  Daily.  DAILY.

For 2 weeks after the February 18 surgery, I had to wear leg pumps full time for two weeks (it's for the blood-clotting disorder I have).  That meant house-lockdown.  In early March I started Occupational Therapy 3 times a week.  I learned I could drive one-handed and would hit the local grocery in the same strip mall as my therapy.  I still couldn't cook, but we did have our grandsons over for dinner on March 17.  And then Illinois went on lockdown March 21.

This sheltering-in-place has not been about the virus for me.  It's been about my wrist and my inability to use two hands.  Having to shelter in my home is a quilter's dream come true - if she can sew.  But I did learn that I could do minor sewing, thanks to a machine with a knee-life and automatic scissors.  One of the first things I did were these kiss blocks a guild sister was collecting for a charity project.  How satisfying to make something!  I also learned I couldn't hand-quilt.  I kept picking up the project only to discover that it just hurt too much.

Being in the studio allows John to do what he wants and explore his music.  When I'm on the first floor, that doesn't happen.   My being in the studio restores balance to the house.  And it's only recently that I've been here for more than an hour or two and that I can hand-quilt for an hour or so.

Someone suggested to me in early March that this might be a good time to explore things I might do instead of sewing.  Uh, no.  Just no.  There may be a point when I can't sew.  I talked with a dear cousin of John's who has lost her ability to do handwork because of Parkinson's.  I'm sad for her - she too is sad but has come to grips with its. Putting eggs into one basket is danger, but...that's what I do.

Daily I am able to do more - in the kitchen, in the studio, in the bathroom.  Even blogging and using two hands? ah.......   slouching towards normalcy.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Happy and Cheery!

I know I'm getting better.  I am in love with my current project.  Since it requires minimal cutting and simple sewing, I can do it.  Throughout the years I've seen various posts/projects using the selvages of fabrics.  They are interesting, tightly bound, and provide info for reordering.  One of my Sew Powerful buddies, Shirley Utz,  posted a picture of making fabric from selvages just I was cutting selvages to make a quilt backing.  So I've been going through my stash - under the guise of reorganizagting - and cutting off the selvages.  This picture shows the 12" blocks jammed up next to one another.  But I think I'll space them out.  To be determined...    I will finish the remaining blocks and then go back to the simpler projects I need to be working on.

I'm sure I'll go back to some whining with tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Missing Quilt Con

The only ones who felt worse that I did about missing QuiltCon were my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild buddies.  a some of them came to visit after QuiltCon and bought me some goodies.  That rolled-up set is one of the things that I've been petting.  While I was so sad and drugged as QuiltCon began, I kept it together until...

My guild mates posed in Austin with our charity quit.  This picture undid me.

This one had me shedding tears - my quilties at Midway on their way to Austin, February 20.

But here is when I absolutely lost it.  I had been hoping to do a repeat trip to the Salt Lick BBQ outside of Austin.  Melissa, when she arrived in Austin, ordered this at the airport and shipped it here.  When I opened it, I cried.  I cried for the deliciousness that was to be.  I cried for the lovely memory of being their during the first QuiltCon.  I cried for the one-handed and drugged state I was in.
So I've been mourning.  And I'm just about over it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What Happened?

Seriously.  How can it be almost the end of May?  I was shoveling snow February 13 and broke my distal radius.  A three-hour plus operation on February 18 fixed it with a place, screws, and internal pins.  For almost 90 days John has done everything from shoe-tying to meal prep and cleanup.

Staying in place?  Absolutely.  But it's been all about the wrist, not about Covid-19.  I've done some minor sewing, thanks to a machine with a knee-lift and automatic scissors.  Mostly I've been sad because I haven't been able to sew.  I missed QuiltCon in  Austin and was very sulky about that.  Because I couldn't sew, I avoided FB and Instagram and quilt magazines.

Now?  I will resume PT as soon as I heal from last week's surgery to remove the pins.  For the first time in three months I can type with 2 hands.  I am seeing a light at the end of this odd tunnel.  And - best progress of all - I have a list of things I want to say.  Maybe I'll try for an entry a day...  Wow, this is the most chipper I've been in 3 months!

February 20, 2020

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Finished UFO: A Deconstruction

In trying to make room in my cabinets for piles on the floor, I found this sort of completed quilt. It's from my Jinny Beyer/batik period, probably 2012-ish. Jinny Beyer is a genius with texture, color, and light; I have learned much from her. But then I get cheap about buying kits for patterns. So this quilt is her pattern but from my stash. And I love it. But as I was quilting it, frustration set in. Let me sing this quilt's praises but also point out its issues and what I intend to do.    
I practiced my stippling technique, working with thread color that blended right in.

But since I quit stippling, this quilt still needed quilting.  So I got out my No 5 Milliner's needles and my No 8 Perle cotton

The stippling and machine quilting look great from the front.
But look at the back.  I don't mind the stippling but the tension for my straight-line quilting was obviously off.

So the stippling and hand stitched will live side by side.

Should I take out these icky stitches or just call it finished?  All I know is that its out of the cabinet and looking for an owner.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Baby Quilts: Get Happy! and Two Little Koalas and Bright and Sunny

Baby quilts are one of my favorite things to do.  They are small, fairly easy to quilt, and - most importantly - keep me focused on possibilities of the future. My nephew Chris and his wife are having a little girl pretty soon.  Pink was the color of choice.  Guildmate and current Chicago Modern Quilt Guilt president Laura McDowell Hopper posted this quilt, "Get Happy!" on the We All Sew website.  There's a second Get Happy! quilt in the works for my niece who is having her baby a month later!

Two Koalas, an Elizabeth Hartman pattern, is complete.  I struggled with how to quilt this and finally took a tip from Lady Macbeth:  be bloody, bold, and resolute.  I dropped the feed dogs and free motioned the background.  And I must say it is spectacular.  The wool batting makes the quilting pop.  A word about Elizabeth Hartman patterns:  they are terrific.  I was a bit taken aback when friends with a pregnant daughter in Perth, Australia, asked for a quilt with an animal on it.  I wanted to say, "Wait, I don't do cute."  But then I found this pattern and have fallen in love with the cuteness.  So I guess I do do cute!

Evenings I am working on this beautiful log cabin.

And another baby quilt!  I'm quilting it right now - it will be for Helios's new little sibling.