Sunday, June 30, 2013

Personal Retreat Results

I have my sewing supplies all packed up, as we leave San Diego in the morning. Here is a photo of what I got done here, while I sewed and DH went to the scooter rally.

A pretty nice stack of blocks I think! Granted, it's not the same blocks I had planned on working on, but it is some great progress on using up some scraps and getting them into a quilt.

Tomorrow should be a good day, I have plans to meet up with an online friend I've never seen in person. I'm excited!

This is the beginning of "our vacation" for DH and I to spend time together, now that the scooter rally is over. It will be an adventure, because we are winging it, no more reservations or firm plans. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sewing on the Go!

I am on vacation, currently in San Diego. DH is attending a scooter rally, Amerivespa, and I have been sewing in our hotel room. Things started out fairly contained.

Our hotel room has a kitchen in it, thus we have a dining table. I set my folding table from home up in between the dresser and dining table, so I could have my quilt pieces nearby.This is when I first set things up, and I had my bin of quilt pieces on the dresser, and the pile of squares I needed to draw lines on, my laptop computer, and a couple other projects on the back of the table. My sewing machine and light were set up. I am so glad for the light. What is it about hotel lighting that is so bad?

Here is a good look at my bin with quilt pieces in it, Pieces for the Pineapple Blossom quilts I am making, as well as a bunch of 2" squares I brought "just in case".

I wasn't too far in to making Pineapple Blossom blocks, before I decided I would do best sorting my strips by color. I am using everything in these blocks, and I wanted the colors in the blocks pretty balanced. It took two or three hours, but I sorted all my pieces by color, including my 2" squares while I was at it.

 Here are 8 Pineapple Blossom blocks done. I made nine before I opted to stop working on them. At home I usually sew on machines that are in cabinets. I rarely pin anything, but everything is lying flat when it goes in the machine. Since I'm sewing on a portable machine, the blocks are coming up over the edge, and I was having a hard time getting the corners to stay straight while I sewed them on. If I had brought pins, I would have been fine, and I could have pinned the corners and sewn away. Since I rarely pin, guess who didn't bring any? Stuff like this is why I always bring multiple projects. I put the Pineapple Blossom pieces away, with the exception of the squares I need to draw diagonal lines on, and now I'm working with those 2" squares.

I started piecing nine patches from my squares. I think this is a good beginning to a baby quilt!

These are some happy accident blocks. When I was cutting the strip sets for the Twice broken dishes quilt I am making, sometimes the strip sets had too little left for another cut with the Companion Angle, but they had too much left to toss. I used my Easy Angle ruler and got another cut. I have to unsew them top and bottom, but then I can sew them into HST's and I can make these pinwheel-esque blocks. Three of these spin one direction, five the other, but I think if I use sashing I could set them together. I have more pieces to unsew, (which I'll do in the car on our vacation), then I can make more of these blocks. This is really an extra quilt out of the leftovers of another. I have no idea what size it will end up, I haven't counted the extra pieces I have.

Now that I'm working with the two inch squares, things are more contained again, not quite so spread out. I just took a break and lounged in the recliner chair and drew lines on a bunch of squares. This hotel room is pretty sweet!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Purists Shouldn't Look

If you are a vintage sewing machine purist, and don't like seeing them altered, stop here and look elsewhere. If you are OK with taking a machine with ratty paint, and giving it a whole new look, here's something to see.

A new to me Singer 301a longbed! I'm calling it my birthday present, since that's in 10 days. I already had a 301, a shortbed, and I LOVE it! When I saw this one come up for sale on ebay, I just had to bid, and I got for a very good deal. I am so excited! Most of my vintage machines are as original as I can get them, but to have one really sweet custom machine, yeah, baby!

The color just doesn't show true in photos, it looks much better in person. I was amazed when it got here this afternoon. It has a burgundy undercoat, a carbon fiber treatment over that, and aeronautics grade clear coat over that. It is gorgeous!!! I was so excited to blog about it, I haven't even sewn with it yet, but the sewing sample sent with it looks great!

As far as what I have been sewing, I ended up with 614 white/black 3" nine patches, which is a bit more than the 578? I needed. I keep forgetting the exact number I need for the quilt I want to make. These are getting put aside for now, but I will be cutting for this quilt as I process my scraps. I've been making these as leaders/enders for months! I'll likely not be doing any more sewing on this quilt until next year, but when I do get back to this, the tedious part is done.

Now I am working on pink/white 3" nine patches for a different quilt. I just passed 150, and I need 250 of those. I am out of squares to make them, so I'll be strip piecing the rest. Strip piecing goes so much faster, that I don't think it will take long to finish up the pink/white nine patches. Once those are done, they will be set aside until next year too. I've designed two different quilts with them in mind, and I'm debating which quilt to make. Each quilt needs the same number of nine patches, so once I have 250 of them, I could use them in either design.

I will be starting to work on wedding quilts on our trip to California. I have four wedding quilts to make right now, with more likely to be added. I am guessing my next few years will be spent making a lot of wedding quilts, followed by a lot of baby quilts! My kids, nieces, and nephews are just all around the marrying age, and even a few of my kid's friends that I am especially close to are likely to end up with a wedding quilt made by me.

DH and I leave for California in 6 days! The first five days we are gone he will be attending a scooter rally (AmeriVespa) while I sew to my heart's content at the hotel. After that we go up the West coast and see whatever we see. Our plans are pretty vague at this point, it's mainly a trip to spend some time together, just the two of us. We'll be gone two weeks total. Hopefully I'll have some great photos to post of the trip.

I got most of what I wanted to do before our trip done. I haven't finished another quilt top and gotten it basted, but I may be able to do that still. I have gotten a bunch of smaller jobs finished up, including making a couple potholders this morning. If I don't sew another stitch, I'm still happy with all I've gotten done in this portion of my summer break. I have three quilts pin-basted and ready to quilt when I get back from California, before our trip to New Mexico in August. It's a fun, busy summer!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Eight Year Journey

Yesterday was Father's Day, an important day in my life, but not likely for the reason you think. Father's day 2005 I got a headache. No big deal, you might think, why is a headache important? Well, the thing is, I still have that headache, 8 years later.

The only good thing about the many doctors I have seen is that they all believe there is something real going on, they just don't know what. I have had all kinds of expensive tests, most of which come out normal. Some things they know are wrong, like my reflexes not responding correctly.  All are neurological issues, but with no obvious cause. I now have a host of symptoms with no diagnosis, no treatment, no relief.

I rarely talk about my medical issues, but this post is all about them. It's not meant to be a whiny post, and I sure hope it doesn't come off as one. I'm not likely to mention anything about it again, at least until next year this time. It is a wonderful story, really, because it's all about coping strategies, living a victorious life despite challenges, and realizing your blessings far outweigh your burdens.

When I first got this headache, it was annoying. I was irritable, confused, and tired. After a week of having it, and having some other issues starting, ringing in my ears, eye pain, ear pain, and light sensitivity, I went to the doctor. Oh, it's likely just a bad migraine, take this medication. Nope. No change at all. Go for these tests, all normal.

The first few months were the hardest. All five of my kids were teenagers, living at home. I was homeschooling four of them. Some days I felt like I was losing my mind. Keeping the household going seemed too hard to do at times. They tried a couple different medications. The side effects were worse than the headache. One made it so I couldn't hold onto anything. It was a lousy way to get new water glasses, breaking all the old ones :-P

On a good day, my headache is like a shadow, barely there, like the remnant of a bad headache. On a bad day, well, on the worst days, I am non-functional, gasping for breath because I keep holding my breath, forgetting to breathe because of the pain. At it's worst it is easily the worst pain I've ever felt. Childbirth was a breeze in comparison. Broken bones? Been there, done that, this is worse. When it is at its worst, I can't talk, can't form a sentence even in my head. I can barely move, and can't really process anything besides the pain. Thankfully, there aren't a lot of the worst days. Unfortunately, the really good days aren't plentiful either. Most days are somewhere in between.

 The tension in my muscles because of the headache led to a bunch of neck issues, which at this point is causing more pain than the headache itself. I can do exercises for the neck issues, which helps with the headache, but makes the numbness in my hands, feet, and face much worse. 

One of the things I am most thankful for, is our God-given ability to adapt. I started learning ways to cope with my new normal. If I couldn't follow a recipe that day, I learned to cover up all the words in the cookbook except the line I am on. Move the papers around with each ingredient, and I could cook again. Light sensitivity especially bad? Sunglasses in the house works. Ringing in my ears driving me nuts? Turn on the radio, it's a distraction. Numb hands? Don't chop food with  a knife, use the food processor, use an electric can opener. Having trouble concentrating? Write a list of what needs to be done.

One of the big things that I started doing during this time was quilting. I have always loved quilts, and I always wanted to make quilts. I bought a couple quilting books years and years ago, but could never find the time. I had made a couple fledgling attempts at quilts, a wall hanging, and denim quilts for two of my daughters beds when we were redoing their room. When DD#1 was getting married, I decided it was time to try my hand at a big quilt, one for their bed. I picked a rail fence pattern, but put it on point to make it look a little more intriguing. I tied that quilt, and the next one I made for DS the Elder. I thought about all the people I wanted to make something tangible for, something to show them I loved them.

I think in those first couple years, I was really thinking this headache would kill me. I kept getting tested for brain tumors, hearing the word aneurism, and I always had it in the back of my mind, maybe they missed it. I think the beginning of my quilting was my legacy, and within the first three years of my quilting, I made sure all of my kids had a quilt made by me.

Quilting may have started out as a legacy for me, but it has become my coping mechanism. Creating is my outlet. I can vary my activities based on how I feeling that day, or sometimes that minute. Is my head so bad I can't do anything complex? How about making some string blocks? Can't stand the sound of the sewing machine? Do some cutting. Hands too numb to hold the ruler? Get out the Go cutter, press something, design a new quilt on EQ. Ever wonder why I always have a dozen projects going at once? That's why. It's not because I can't finish anything, it's because I have to vary my activity based on my pain levels.

Life has gone on in the last eight years. Kids moved out, kids moved back home, kids got married, grandchildren were born. Right now there are six people living here, and life is busy. When it's not as busy, I make myself busy. Staying busy keeps me from being depressed, keeps me from being so self-absorbed. Chronic pain has a way of wearing people down, making their number one concern the pain, or trying to avoid the pain, or dealing with treating the pain.

I am not on any prescribed medicine for the pain. In fact, I'm not on any medication at all. Most days I don't even take ibuprofen, but I will if I absolutely need to. I use heat packs and ice packs and such as frequently as I need them. I don't leave the house without sunglasses, even on a cloudy day. I do things as necessary to help me cope.

If you have medical issues, don't stop living your life! Adapt! Find new ways to do things, new methods that work better with your challenges. Learn a new skill. I started quilting after I got the headache, you can learn something new too.

This is my battle, and I will not let the pain win. I will enjoy my grandchildren, I will be there when my kids need me, I will be a wife to my husband. I will not give up, I will not stop creating, I will not stop praising God because He is good ALL the time, even when circumstances are not. The victory is mine!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Future Quilter?

It's been a funny couple of days. The twins are becoming more and more curious about my sewing studio. They come down and visit me in there as often as they are allowed. Mr. L unfortunately is attracted to everything sharp; pins, needles, scissors, etc... Miss S, however, is attracted to the fabric! Yesterday when her Mommy called her upstairs, she reluctantly went, but she was hiding something behind her back. When she got upstairs, it was discovered she had a handful of fabric scraps ;-)

Today when the twins came down to see me, Mr. L went straight for the pins and got sent upstairs, but I gave Miss S a bin of 1.5" squares.  She was a happy camper, and played with those squares for a while. She named all the colors and lined them up. When she is a little older and can lay out a pattern, I'll have her design a doll quilt and I'll sew it up for her.

This has been the project I've been working on in the evenings. I had trimmed a bunch of bonus HST's to 1.75", and finally got the trimmed ones pressed. Now I am snipping the dog ears off and sorting them by color. The bin in the back still has ones that haven't had the dog ears cut off yet. Lest you think I am actually making any kind of progress on these, I still have two gallon Ziploc bags filled with HST's not yet trimmed or pressed! The size is odd, so I have decided to make a bunch of Depression blocks which will let me use the hundreds of these I have without having to cut any additional fabric to such an odd size. I will make as many blocks as I can, and see where I am when I run out of HST's.

I also got a baby quilt pin-basted today, and cut a bunch of 3.5" strips for multiple projects. I love having so much time in the studio lately!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More Finishes, Both Quilty and Not!

I finished another floral/cream quilt. The photo would have been better had the sun not been in quite that position, but I take photos when I can. I had originally planned to alternate dark background/ light background blocks in checkerboard fashion, but when I counted up the blocks I had made the numbers didn't come out right for that, but worked perfectly for vertical columns.

I finished this quilt up for a friend of DD#2 and DD#3. DD#2 chose the border fabric, and the backing though I didn't take a photo of that. All of the floral/cream quilts will be 100% from stash. This is the second of the floral/cream quilts to be finished, and the last quilt that had to be quilted before our trip to California.

My ironing station is completely finished now. I had enough heat resistant fabric to make two ironing board covers, so I made both. This way when this one wears out, I'll have another ready to go. DH put up the shelves and hung my clock today. I've been anxious to get a clock in my studio, checking my phone for the time is not always convenient, and I never wear a watch.

Can you spy my new purple iron made by Sunbeam? My Black and Decker Classic iron is heavy and has no auto shut off which is nice, but it eats HST's. The iron I had for HST's died, and I replaced it with the purple iron. It works great on HST's like I thought it would. Somehow pointed tip irons and I don't work well with HST's, but rounded tip irons do fine for me.

The only thing left to do for my studio redo is hanging two corkboards over my Bernina cabinet. I bought them used and they needed a little sprucing up, so DH is priming and painting them for me. Eventually I am hoping to make a couple quilted wall-hangings for my studio, as well as some fabric sewing machine dust covers. Right now both of those things are low on my priority list.

I have two more weeks before DH and I leave for California. I've finished the quilts that needed to be quilted before we left. I am hoping to have as many quilts pin-basted as I have pins for before I leave. I have two pin-basted now, and another ready to baste. I think I will have enough pins to pin-baste another quilt after that, but that is my last quilt top that is finished. I guess getting the rest of the floral/cream quilts into quilt tops needs to be my next priority. I have been working on getting some block quarters sewn into blocks, and I have over 70 of those blocks made so far. I should have over 150 when I'm done, so almost halfway.

My summer is somewhat divided by trips. From the time DD#3's school let out and our trip to California, my priority has been finishing projects and working on my studio. When we get back from California, I will be home for three weeks, during which I hope to spend most of my time quilting, and finishing the next batch of quilts. We then go to New Mexico for DH's family reunion, and I'll only be home for about a week, when DD#3 goes back to college and I am back to full-time babysitting again. Once she's back in college, my priority will be working on the four wedding quilts that I need to make. I'll be back to sewing during naptime and late at night. I am making good progress at getting some of my current projects done, and that is making me a very happy quilter.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Sixth Quilt Finish of the Year in the Sixth Month

^Only showing the back of this quilt right now. Once it's gifted I'll show the front. I ended up using three different gnome fabrics  on the backing, because I ran out of the one I bought to be the backing. They are all from the same line, so I think they blend pretty well. I finished this quilt yesterday, June 1st, so I am now at one finish per month!

^This is my first finish from the floral/cream quilts. I am making two Jacob's Ladder quilts, this being the first finished. I'm working on another of these quilts right now, a Friendship Star, made from the same fabrics. I will have five quilts in total from these same fabrics, but I won't be keeping any of them, and I've busted a bunch of florals, so it's all good. This quilt has a fabric with cottages on the back from stash, but I am hoping to bust more florals on the backings of the other quilts.

I was really skipping around on projects today. I finished another 100 white/black nine patches, but not all are pressed. I finished assembling the center of the Friendship Star quilt, and now I have to figure out borders. I started pressing some block quarters for a Twice Broken Dishes quilt. I have LOTS more to press, then all of those will need the dog ears trimmed before I can sew the quarters into blocks.

I tried pressing some HST's I've been trimming, but the iron I like to use for HST's died, and won't turn on at all. It sounds funny me saying I have different irons for different units, but it is really true. The iron that didn't die gets really hot, and it has a very pointy tip to the sole plate. That pointy tip usually catches on HST's, and I end up with a nasty wrinkled clump. That iron is great for when I'm assembling quilts though, it gets so hot it can easily flatten the intersections when you assemble a top. The iron that died doesn't get as hot, and the tip is very rounded. It does much better for HST's. I went out and bought a new iron tonight, but I couldn't find the same one as I had, so I just looked for one with a rounded tip. I'm hoping it does as well with HST's as the old one did.

Tomorrow I will sew in the morning, likely finishing up a quilt backing I am making out of ten inch squares. It am hoping to pin-baste a quilt in the afternoon/evening after the twins get picked up by their other grandmother. I am not planning to quilt this quilt until after I get back from our California trip (which was just extended a day due to change in plans) I do have one quilt I want to finish before I leave, but its the Friendship Star quilt, and I haven't figured out borders for it yet.

Getting any quilt to the next step is a good thing. I hadn't realized how many projects I actually have going until I reorganized my sewing room, and I now I am REALLY feeling the need to get a few things done. I have five new starts coming up, four wedding quilts and one baby quilt. I'd like to have several quilts off my list by the time I start on those.

As far as stashbusting goes, I see the biggest dent in my stash when I make backings. Whether I am using yardage, or piecing up some misc. fabrics, I see big dents when I make a bunch of backings. I often give in and buy an extra wide backing when I make a queen sized quilt, but I am determined to not do that on the upcoming wedding quilts. I will stick with my stash, and piece as necessary. The backing I am making out of ten inch squares right now, will be for the quilt that is just in block quarters now. I know I am far more likely to use a pieced backing if it's pieced before the quilt top is finished. I know what size quilt I am planning to make, so piecing the backing beforehand is not a problem. I am getting closer to my goal of fitting my fabric in its allotted space, so I must be doing something right! I have decided how large I am comfortable with my stash being, and right now it's over that. I am getting closer, and it is shrinking. I still buy fabrics on occasion, but only for a specific imminent project. I am using much more than I'm buying though, so my stash goals are in sight!