Tag Archives: stitchery

Bold Move

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Bold Move
Be Bold

Be Bold

This month’s Sugar Block! It’s called Bold. I really like it, especially because it was my first block in the new house. It was very difficult to undertake, because the cords for the iron and the machine were in the air and the cutting board was taking up a lot of space, along with pencil crayons and felts strewn all over the place. We’ve been here for a week and I managed to squeeze some sewing in. I think that’s amazing.

empty apartment

empty apartment

Bronwen was the best at keeping the kitty company for the ferry ride and was great at getting him settled into the new house. My sister said this picture was a sad shot. Personally I think it was a crazy day and this was the calm before the storm.

The truck

The truck

This is the behemoth I drove from Victoria, onto the ferry (at the commercial rate because I was 13′ tall and 33′ long) and then through to the north of Surrey. (For those of you not from these parts, that means I drove for about 3 hours). I even managed a three-point-turn in this puppy with no help!

fish tank hilarity

fish tank hilarity

This was probably the most comedic aspect of the truck unload process. The classic joke “how many <insert person’s title here> does it take to <insert mundane task here> pops to mind. It really did take three full grown men to move one aquarium. Okay, I’ll stop ribbing them. My husband is bent over to help the other guy on the end to slow the tank down, and they had it balanced on two dollies. The tank is 120 US gallons and empty it weighs about 300 lbs.  Luckily there were no injuries or issues with it. (It’s in the carport now.)

coming together

coming together

We got to hang up a few things since we got here. First was my big collage. It’s 4’x4′. I think it looks wicked cool in our entryway. I love the house’s original “pendant” light there.

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This is a scrap fabric rug I’m making in the shape of a heart. I think it’s super cute and I look forward to finishing it.

craftsy inspired tool wall

craftsy inspired tool wall

Right before we left the island a lovely lady, Bonnie, who is a garment maker, gave me a big stash of quilter’s threads! Loads of aurifil, marathon metallic, and YLI polyesther! Perfect for embellishing!! I also thought I’d hang my rotary cutters and specialty rulers since in the old house they used to get lost under stuff all the time. I love the fact that most people would use my area as a dining room. In this house it’s a quilter’s den.

quilter's den

quilter’s den

As you can see the fabric has started bubbling out of the bins and I’ve configured things in a somewhat functional order. I was proud I managed to get the design wall batting up on my own!

pressing board

pressing board

My first official sewing project was to make a pressing board. The ironing board got trashed at the old dump. It was rusted and wobbly. I got a 2′ square piece of plywood, cotton batting (three layers), some strip yardage I made a while back that was simply taking up space, a staple gun, and duct tape. Layer all those together, staple, and cover the staples with the tape, and you have a killer pressing surface!

sooooo excited!

sooooo excited!

In other news, I  just treated myself to a mystery quilt workshop with my idol, Amy Gibson!!! This will be the first thing I get delivered to our new address! Way to start off on the right foot!!!

Scrap Happy block 1

Scrap Happy block 1

This is what I made today:  a 15″ square lone star as part of the 2013 Scrap Happy quilt along. I got my Y-seam skills on and made a truly scrappy block! This is the first time I’ve ever made a lone star that is not meant to have each row matching colours. I think I like this more random look. Suits me fine!

So now you all know what’s been going on in Handy Danielle land! I hope you are all doing well and I can’t wait to get back to regular updates!

Love,

Handy Danielle

A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move

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A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move
mighty bail of batiks

mighty bail of batiks

Remember these batiks I collected last week? Well, they’re part of my awesome-possom blossoms quilt. It’s definitely my very most expensive and labour intensive quilt top! I have made 90 10″ blocks for this oversized queen. It means an awful lot of applique. Too much applique for me to do in a reasonable way by hand. So. I collected the money I made from selling off some of my homemade jewelry and a quilt that had been commissioned and grabbed my new sewing machine!!

Who wouldn't want to be a quantum stylist?

Who wouldn’t want to be a quantum stylist?

This machine, compared to my old one, can do basically everything except embroidery and all my housework. Otherwise it’s got 800 some stitches and came with 18 new feet! I bought nifty threads for applique and dove in to do really give machine applique a try. I know I’ve bad-mouthed this before, but I’ve seen it done so much and with such killer stitches that would be stronger than decorative hand stitches, so I leaped in. And I must say, with a machine that is nicely engineered and has a few extra niceties like needle down and better tension control, the process hasn’t been nearly so grueling. See, part of my issue before was that I would try the blanket stitch and because there was no speed control or needle down, I couldn’t effectively pivot around curves. It would take forever to get anywhere and the results would be better if I’d done them by hand! Here’s an example:

machines do not always make things easier...

machines do not always make things easier…

Look at that hilarious machine applique! hahaha! I learned that speed control is everything and also, for thinner fabrics like my batiks, tear away stabilizer, mi amigos and amigas! It will def make your life totes better.

The other trick I learned from one of my applique classes was to “window” your fusible web by tracing your design from your template onto the fusible’s paper side. Then cut on the inside of the line by the standard 1/4″.

windowing applique

windowing applique

I know it’s not totally clear on the white fabric, but I gotta work with what I have. The part that is bare fabric is the part that forms the design. The next step is to trim away the remaining fused fabric on the pencil line. Then you fuse it down to your background.

blossoms units

blossoms units

So what’s the big deal about all that? Well, as you can see from the dark batik background, it’s shadowing through the white blossom applique pretty harshly. That’s no good. So the reason it’s “windowed” is because the next step is to sneak in behind the white and trim away the dark stuff! It’s actually a brilliant idea, although a lot of work. But I think it will be worth it!

Oh, check out that hot pink blanket stitch!! I’m so pleased! The machine has a really great feel on the foot pedal so I can tell when it’s going to make a stitch. It also finishes a stitch in the needle down position when I lift my foot, so all I need to do is slightly lift the presser foot (I’m using an open toed satin stitch foot; works like a dream!) and pivot. It doesn’t get much nicer than that!

closeup blanket stitch

closeup blanket stitch

Also, today is my husband’s birthday! So to celebrate we got him an ice cream cake from the Marble Slab. It promises to be delish! It caps off a difficult couple months of job searching. He accepted a job on the mainland. So it’s across the Georgia Strait we go, back to the lower mainland where I spent many of my formative years. The only way we’re going to have any acceptable standard of living over there is because they’re a busy firm and my husband is finally going to be an associate, not just an articled student.

Right now he’s got our daughter in packing mode filling up today’s box. We tend to do one or two boxes a day when moving. That way there’s not a crazed packing binge the week before moving day. We’ll be leaving within the month. I get to drive the moving truck because I’m the only one licensed enough to do it. That will make for some awesome reportage! I promise to take pics of that for sure!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this rattling on. There’s loads going on, lots to do, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. But I’m using it as an excuse to finish all my quilting projects so that I can just slip all my tops into a bag and travel free of little bits and pieces. I will miss my island home.

Have a good week everyone!!

 

 

 

 

 

Borderline

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Borderline

Hi! Remember me? I blog here. It’s almost halfway through June and for those of you out there with kids, this is a CRAZY month for school! I have a preschooler who’s about to graduate to Kindergarten and even the preschool is hoppin’ with stuff to do. Every once in a while I’ll hear Bronwen singing a song to herself, under her breath, and when I ask what she’s singing, she says “mommy, it’s for school!” Not to mention all the stuff on the calendar that means alotting time on this day or that day for family BBQs and graduation day.

Talk about tired!

Talk about tired!

So I’ve been busy with that and also finishing the Dr. Who quilt. My friend Amanda has been waiting patiently for it and I’m in the home stretch to hand it over. It was one of the most advanced projects I’ve ever taken on–everything was paper foundation pieced, some of the sub-units had 50 pieces!! It was quite the exercise in patience. But at least I got all 20 blocks done and have completed the assembly.

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I love this quilt as you go method. I can more easily quilt each block in my machine and then assemble the top with little sashing strips. I sewed the front and backs with my walking foot and then sewed the front together by hand. I had a classic tv marathon while doing this–it was definitely Columbo time after being relegated to my sewing room for a month.

Time to go mobile

Time to go mobile

So I rolled up each row like cords of wood and took my show on the road…to the family room, anyway. Once I got each block sewn together and then each row, it was time for a border treatment that I’ve been dying to try! And I must say, for a first time effort, I think it came out pretty badass. I made a big border with two narrow strips of the same navy fabric that predominates the quilt and one wide white strip.

bare naked border

bare naked border

I took a tip from a Cindy Needham class and she said to ditch everything before quilting. I must say, I’ve not heard this bit of advice before, but I thought what the heck? It’s only a few long, straight seams down the border. So I did. Then she said to work your design from the big stuff to the small details. For me, that began with quilting the navy strips with these squares. The next step will be the feather structure.

A note about thread:

You know, I wondered for ages what everyone was talking about when they praised Aurifil thread. So I bought a spool of green 50 weight Aurifil thread from my quilt shop. It was expensive and they only carry a very select few colours. They carry lots of Sulky, YLR and Gutermann. I use those a lot–Sulky and YLR for the more novelty stuff or quilting, and Gutermann for piecing. So anyway I tried my green Aurifil in the bobbin and on top to piece something (I don’t remember what). And the jamming and breaking was absolutely crazy-making, as my mother in law would say. So I put the spool on my rack and would stare at it longingly. “Why won’t you sew? You’re such a pretty colour!”

So on a whim and taking a risk, I wanted green feathers on my border treatment for this quilt. I used lots of variegated polyester thread to quilt the blocks out and wanted the border to be just as awesome.

Anyway.

I wanted to take the opportunity to make a truly arresting border for this quilt as I haven’t really had much artistic license in making it because the patterns were all very specific. I was always of the belief that quilt borders were kinda like backs–just there to make the quilt larger. But not anymore!

I figured out what would make the Aurifil work in my machine, too, by the way.  It works only if I use Gutermann in the bobbin and the Aurifil through the needle. Weird, I know. But at least I will get use out of this Gucci thread that I likely won’t buy again. Here’s the Aurifil feathers:

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Along the navy strips I used an ivory Gutermann to do scribbling and cross hatching. The feathers were a blast! I used the same green thread to paint in the background. I found that it made the feathers stand out much more than if I’d left the background alone.

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See? It really pops the feathers out, which I figure is important, as I took the trouble to quilt them. As a last bit of awesomeness I thought I needed some sparkle, since this was all quilted with cotton thread. So I wanted to use my 14 weight polyester thread and do some bobbin painting.

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Check out that backbone on the feathers! I used that 14 weight variegated polyester in my bobbin and used a Sulky metallic thread in my needle. The trick to this technique is flipping your quilt upside down and delivering the heavy thread to the front! Now the spines of my feathers sparkle and I love them!

So here’s another word to the wise should you want to take on a border like this: make sure to stretch and walk around lots. I have serious body aches and sore hands from handing this quilt and all the thread painting. Honestly–it’s in my legs, hands, neck and arms. It’s a bummer. But the borders are almost done and this puppy will be ready for binding!

Have a good one and I’ll be back soon to update you on quilts and life in general.

Trying

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Trying
striking a pose

striking a pose

I alluded to this in last week’s entry–my husband went to work and found out he’d been laid off. Since then he’s been scouring our community for junior associate lawyer work. But the well is pretty dry, and I’m not overly surprised, as we were pretty desperate for his articling job that he just lost. So it might mean another move for us, even though we are terribly home oriented people and don’t like our place to be in upheaval.

Me and my husband have been trying for years–and I mean trying for a better life. I met him on our first day of college. I was searching for myself (I guess that’s pretty common for first years) and he was on the path to a law career. Now, 11 years later, he is about to finish articling, take the bar admission course, and become a bonafide lawyer! It was a long road. It has been a very tough road. And just when we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, poof! No more payroll.

One thing we’ve worked hard at the past five years has been raising our daughter. Now that she’s five she has shown an interest in quilting and hand embroidery, as you see in the picture. I gave her a swatch of my fine even weave Irish linen and she has picked up on a basic running stitch. Seeing that makes me forget the peril we’re in. Seeing her play with her friends on the farm field trip we went to is also a nice way of dealing with things. 20140515-174211.jpg

Bronwen saw me piecing the present big project together last night and said she’s interested in learning how to use the machine. I told her she’s a little small yet but she’s more than welcome to learn on the machine I’m using now. It’s getting a bit old and let’s face it. for the amount of sewing I do, I need more features! Let’s settle for the easy stuff, like, say, needle down! The women at the store were aghast that my machine is that basic!

My latest quilt project is a science fiction classic quilt: Dr. Who!

sonic screwdriver with nifty free motion

sonic screwdriver with nifty free motion

Lately sitting down after some intense paper piecing, making a mini sandwich out of the block, and free motion or walking foot quilting is really soothing. I never liked machine quilting in the past. Too annoying on a small machine like mine. But I’m getting some good results, finally!

weeping angel

weeping angel

The weeping angel had to be the hardest block I’ve run into thus far. So many little seams, holy!! But, again, worth it. I stitched some snowflakes with variegated thread. I think it turned out okay.

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Cyber Man was fun! I got to do some pulley stitching. Although I like to call it “tape drive.”

Every day I’m sitting down to piece, quilt, and press fabrics into shape. I’m trying very hard sometimes. Other times not.

anniversary candles

anniversary candles

So please, do take time to celebrate the small things that make the big problems dissipate. These are our anniversary candles that we light every year. On the 13th we celebrated our eighth anniversary! Anyone who’s married out there knows you have to try each day to keep your marriage healthy and happy, as though it’s human. We are all human. We need to help each other.

Joy

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Joy sugar block

Joy sugar block

“Oh joy! Love you bring! Oh joy! Make my heart sing!”– Joy from Mick Jagger’s album Goddess in the Doorway

This is the May Sugar Block. I think it came out cute. It was simple paper piecing. Right now I’m doing a Dr. Who quilt for a friend of mine and it is totally the opposite: paper piecing in the extreme! But I am still joyous in the process of making it because I have finally figured out how to free motion quilt normal looking stitches! No more long stitches and short stitches and eyelashes on the back. Just normal looking machine stitching. I am so happy about that.

Another bit of loveliness is that I am a featured artist for Jennibellie’s TAT (Tell all Tuesday) on her blog, jennibelliestudio.blogspot.co.uk. Here’s the link to the article (with pics of my office in a clean, rare state):  http://jennibelliestudio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/tell-all-tuesday-featured-artist.html. I would be so honoured if you took a read and a look at the fun pics.

The comments the post generated are lovely; apparently many people live with the same or similar obstacles that I do. It is nice to read that. Not that I enjoy knowing other people suffer, wow, that came out totally wrong! But we all seem to think “I’m alone in my pain.” We’re not. It’s just so hard to keep focused on the positive, the eyes on the prize.

My husband just got his two week notice this morning. Too much expansion in the firm he has articled at has caused a financial strain. Many support staff are leaving, and other lawyers. Even one of the partners is leaving. So that’s heart breaking. Just when things are looking up, the pit shows up. It will be a very rough time for me and my family for the next while, so be forewarned if my posts are a little less, well, joyful.

I leave you with the first block I made for my friend’s quilt. It is heavy duty paper piecing. I’ve made six blocks so far in the sampler series and they’re all turning out superb. I’m doing a quilt as you go method, so it’s been nice to make a block from start to finish in a day, ready for sashing.

Tardis

Tardis

Have a good week everyone. I know I’ll be trying.

Applique is okay!

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Applique is okay!

Applique. This word alone can cause anxiety for quilters. But before you grab a dose of Ativan, check out the prescription-free ways of alleviating that feeling–there are fusible web products that can hold the fabric down while you machine stitch it to the quilt. Here’s my example of the first time I ever attempted applique by machine. It was done on a Dresden plate and is a totally laughable piece of work! I made sure to add lots more interest by hand with some embroidery and hand quilting. I think the block is still cute, but I learned that I am just not a machine applique person. I see some people out there online who are just amazing at it but I…well…produce some interesting results, shall we say.

machines do not always make things easier...

machines do not always make things easier…

Okay, so I’m not so hot with the machine. But anyone who knows me can likely understand that. I’m just better when stuff is done with my kinetic senses. So needle turn applique it is! This is the only way I’ve gotten good results–invisible stitching (or barely visible).  And I have a nifty secret: I don’t use an iron and seldom need those tiny applique pins. As you can see in the image below, my petal has a crease where it will fold. The trick to getting this crease is to simply pinch it in your fingers. It’s just like any other finger pressing, only you’re pinching your seam allowance. Then you have your line to follow. Oh, and to hold the fabric in place I use Roxanne’s applique/basting glue. It comes out in the wash and is it ever strong! Don’t bother with glue sticks!

needle turning a petal

needle turning a petal

Now how to make a nice pointed petal. Simply stitch to the very end of your crease (where it crosses over with the crease for the other side). Then take your needle (be sure to use a straw/milliner’s needle for applique–much easier) and stick it in the end of your fabric and with a circular motion twist the fabric down and under itself. Make sure your doubled-up seam allowances are seated on top of each other and give the corner a slight tug to bring the point out more. Take a stitch to hold it in place and carry on down the other side! I want to make a video of how to do this so it’s as easy to grasp as possible. I promise to post that as soon as I can.

turning a corner

turning a corner

petals for spring!

petals for spring!

I am doing hand applique for a quilt pattern called “tuilleries.” The pattern calls for machine work but I’m just not fond of it, so here I am doing it like Frank Sinatra: “my way!” Therefore I’m not doing all the panels the same with three sets of these petals, as the pattern calls for. I am including things like butterflies, flowers, and sweet little birds. I will keep you posted on this quilt’s progress!

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Who could resist this sweet little bird?! I love him!

Major!

Major!

Good thing I used glue drops to hold things together or Major would have ruined everything by his sitting on the applique pile.

I know this post was sort of short, but lots of pictures makes up for it, I think. If you like the idea of any sort of applique let me know! If you have machine secrets, I’d be more than happy to hear them because even though I’ve seen it done, and even tried it a few times, I can never get it to work as well as I can by hand. Comments are welcome!!

Have a good week everyone!

Forgiving your Mengele

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Forgiving your Mengele

Don’t get me wrong–I’m no revisionist claiming that the atrocious acts that this notorious doctor perpetrated didn’t happen or were less disgusting and assaulting to the human beings it was done to. No. I watched a film on Youtube called Forgiving Mengele. At first I thought that this incredibly noble woman was alone with her plight, as are all Holocaust survivors. But then I got to thinking all survivors of any abuse have our own suffering, often inflicted by a kind of Mengele in our lives. For me that’s the hardest aspect of living now–finding ways to stop hurting.

According to Eva Kor (the focus of the film) the only way to heal one’s self is to forgive your worst enemy. In her experience, carrying all that hate was toxic and making the rest of her life excruciatingly difficult.

What blew me away was that other survivors in this film disagreed with her concept of forgiveness, saying that to simply say she forgave Mengele for the murder of her twin sister (he conducted unconscionable experiments on twin children, often dissecting them alive after injecting chemicals just to see how they affected the body) was hollow and impossible for them. Some of the victims even raised their voices to her saying that she was wrong to feel the way she felt! It was very powerful.

As a youngster when I was being sexually abused it was so easy to hate. Therefore I thought it was the correct way of feeling! I hated everything and everyone, reserving my most acerbic disposition for men. I hated my father, male teachers, even any male friends I had in school. They were all evil. That is until I felt the security of a man who got in my corner and said “If I ever find that guy, I’m going to nail his nuts to a post and kick him over.”  That’s a direct quote from my very first boyfriend. He loved me and was appalled at how nothing was truly done to mitigate all of the insidious abuses done.

See, it didn’t start out with a full on sexual assault. No no. It was much sneakier than that. Much more devious. I was in the kitchen in one of our family homes that we had over the years. He had asked me for a drink of Coke. Being a nice little Italian girl hostess I jumped up to get it. I got a glass for myself as well. He drank his fast. It was a hot day. I drank mine as well. The glasses were sweaty. So was he. I kept moving away from him on the couch, but he kept squeezing closer. He said that my bum was big enough and I didn’t need more pop as I got up to get more. He forced me to sit back down because he was so close to me now. He kept telling me to sit. Bear in mind that I was 13 years old, maybe 120 pounds and he was the same age but well over 200 pounds. He easily intimidated and kept me sitting, sweating. I remember needing to go to the bathroom so bad. I waited until he was gone before I got up. That was the first time I ever felt so trapped and afraid. It would become familiar for two years while the violence and intimidation escalated.

After everything came out–all the gruesome details about what happened to me and I was still reeling from how to deal with what happened, I found out another interesting piece of the puzzle. My abuser had been forced to watch pornography and the actual sex act between his parents. This had been going on since he was about five years old. Knowing that, it made it a little easier to understand why he might choose to act the way he did. Don’t misunderstand–it was his choice to do what he did. He didn’t have to. He could have chosen to find out that what had been done to him by his father was also wrong. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. It just passed through him onto me like an electrical current.

Of course, I’m at that point in my life where I’m interminably frustrated, even tormented with the concept of forgiveness. I’d love to forgive. But knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally. I tell this to my psychiatrist every time I see him. “How’s it going?” “Intellectually? Fine. Emotionally? Shit.”

I think that’s why I love hand quilting so much. Every stitch, especially in an echo pattern around a Dresden plate, gets you further and further away from the centre. It’s like drinking scotch. “Forget the pain for now.” I want the pain to be forever gone, but this is all I have for now. I do believe that forgiveness can help someone’s recovery, but so far I’m just not that noble. I would, if called upon, go to court and testify against this guy with a vengeance. They’d have to pry me off of the witness stand. I can only hope that he gets caught taking his violence too far. I believe it will happen. I hate knowing it but it seems likely. He’s a Mengele. He seems possessed by his need to hurt women.

They say Mengele used to shout for twins when cattle cars were unloaded at Auschwitz. Every train load “Zwillinge! Zwillinge!” Only my Mengele didn’t shout for me or for any other victims. He simply found us and used us up.

Stitches are steps

Stitches are steps

Explore with me

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Explore with me

 

 

 

 

explore sugar block

I think it’s very interesting that this month’s Sugar block (a fun BOM over on Amy Gibson’s sweet little blog) was an elaborate pinwheel which even included some paper piecing.  She called the block “explore.”

Now in her post about this theme she mentions how we all tend to be creatures of habit and want to do the same things. I’m so there! Like she said, I like to eat the same foods, watch the same tv shows, pick Bronwen up, or conversely drop her off at her scheduled places (I am the proud owner of a solar powered key chain that flashes “Mom’s Taxi.”) I just generally go about my day and do the same things.

Yesterday was my birthday. This year was that fun year where I got the terrific birthday gift of needing to renew my driver’s license. That was amusing. But I got a lovely ice cream cake and an enthusiastic daughter who insisted on putting all the candles around it. We had to convince her that daddy would light them, though.

Ice cream cake!!

 

Just to save you the trouble of counting the candles, I am 33 years old now. I have lived longer than many friends ever thought possible. This is one of the things me and the psych talk about all the time–living as long as I have is an accomplishment.  At least, to him it is. For me, not really. Like eating the same foods or taking the same route home from work, I’ve tried to get people to understand how it bothers me that life is so much like one of those punch card machines in a workplace. Wake up. Punch in. Have lunch. Punch out. Back to work. Punch in. Go to bed. Punch out. What’s truly depressing about this analogy is that even my doctor who sits and listens to this often agrees with me. He’s admitted to me that he feels like that a lot too. Well that’s no good! It feels like I’m preaching to the choir!

So okay. I keep myself busy. But I try to find different ways of quilting that teach me new techniques and keep my hands busy. Just last week I finished a mystery quilt that was a terrific Kimberly Einmo design called chain of stars:

Chain of stars quilt top

 

I did it all in batik fabrics that were on sale at the Cloth Castle. I’ve never worked solely with batiks like this before. I consider this a bit of a stretch for me–it’s a traditional, yet modified block placement of a Jacob’s ladder quilt. I don’t do a ton of traditional stuff, so making this was interesting. (Although I did end up ordering her flying geese ruler and jelly roll ruler because they look like they’re pretty awesome and I think I will be making more flying geese.) Now to do this quilt required some planning. I had to number the fabrics and make sure they all coordinated just so. I think it turned out great!

But sometimes it’s just as fun and gives the same feeling of accomplishment when one gets to just play at the machine. So I found another pattern I liked that was in Jenny Doan’s “Quilting Quickly 2” class on Craftsy that was a prism quilt made of two jelly rolls (I used one jelly roll called “flirt” and extra yardage but you get the idea). Straight line sewing, and minimal crucial match points. I even had enough left over to make an oversized saw tooth border:

Flirt prism quilt

 

The next truly traditional quilt I’m going to tackle (after I’m done all the other things I long to make, haha!) is the double wedding ring. The class is available finally on Craftsy. If you’re an addict like me, it is a very helpful class. But I digress.

Quilting makes me feel warm, both literally and figuratively. The iron and sitting under a quilt sandwich while stitching it does work up a sweat on hot days. Figuratively it makes my heart feel like I’m connected to my Auntie (in Italian, Zia) over in Italy who had to be the best with an iron that I’ve ever seen. She introduced me to the power of a pressure steam iron. I have a Rowenta just like her old one now and I wouldn’t trade it for any other wimpy iron! I think of her all the time when I’m pressing.

I think of my grand mother (in Italian, Nonna) who lives in Canada but in the Kootenays, which is far enough away from me that I only see her once or twice a year. She is an avid crocheter, knitter, and can make her 1960s Singer, well, sing! She’s one of those lucky people who can see an image on a pattern or walk up to any doily and figure out how it was made and replicate it. She and I are quite alike. She has always lived her life on her terms (although we suspect that she and my grand father, who is almost 11 years older, were arranged to be married. She won’t admit to this.) and I think she’s fairly satisfied with what she was delivered. She’s recently suffered a stroke which has shaken her sense of mortality loose a bit.

I remember when she had her first mastectomy about 12 years ago. We went to visit because we were worried for her and wanted to be there. I remember leaning in to give her a hug and kind of making it a side-lean so that I wouldn’t brush up against her prosthetic. I was afraid of it. A part of my unbreakable Nonna had been cut away, just like any other mortal. But she took my other side and pulled it in tightly, saying “You’re not going to break me!” in her typical irreverent tone. She had kicked cancer’s ass by going full boar and having the breast removed when she didn’t have to. Removal of the tumor and radiation was an option but she didn’t want the suffering just to save her boob. I admired that then and still do.

My iron wielding Zia in Italy passed away from cancer about three years ago. I saw her last in 1995. She too lived as she wanted, but within the parameters of her generation’s tolerance. Meaning, she had an elementary school education only; she was a wife and mother. That was her lot and she accepted that. However she had the loudest voice at the table and was large and in charge. Man she fought her illness. But I never had the money to get over to her in time before it killed her. Something invisible to the naked eye killed her. It was an impossibility to me. I was in the hospital after a suicide attempt when she died. I had to borrow the common area phone and talk with Nonna, numb the both of us, saying how hard she fought.

And that’s what life seems to be for people like me. Sure, I am not ill with cancer or some other horrible affliction. But I do have a host of psychiatric problems that date back almost 20 years. Just like me, each morning they’re there to greet me. Punch in. Punch out. The best I can do is keep stitching and keep one foot in front of the other, just like everyone else.

Brownen's embroidered feet