Wednesday, August 27, 2014

HANDLING STRESS....

Life here in the cottage is NUTS!  No two ways about it, life is crazy and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it!

We got back Dad's test results and there is another new cancer in his lung.  We will be going back down to the city at the beginning of September to discuss the particulars with the doctor and then he will be operated on come September 11th.  He has decided this is the LAST time he is going through surgery.  At almost 82 years old he figures he isn't going to live a whole lot longer and something else will probably take him before the slow growing cancer has a chance to take him.  So after this surgery he is going to "wait and see" and possibly consider something like radiation therapy in the future.  My Dad is handling this all well, but my Mom is beside herself.  Unfortunately, telling her to calm down doesn't really do anything.  Calming needs to come from within.  I am trying to remind myself of that!

Due to the stress, my health issues have flared much worse.  My pain has been more intense, my tremor is more pronounced and frequent and I have started having "twitches" or "tics" when I lie in bed at night trying to go to sleep.  I'm keeping myself and Dear Hubby awake!  My doctor has been discussing relaxation and stress relief with me.  I am supposed to remember to "breathe".  I find myself either hyperventilating or holding my breath numerous times throughout the day.  My muscles are tense, which makes everything worse.  I can't take any type of anti-inflammatory for the pain because once again I am bleeding internally and am becoming anemic.  I did NOT need this right now, lol. At last consultation with my gastroenterologist, the only cure for me is surgery.  Nope, not ready to handle that right now!  So please, hook up the IV iron and pump me full.  I've got too much on my plate right now to even think about surgery for me!

After I finished my Aunt's quilt I began work on a set of place mats for a friend.  Her kitchen is decorated in Campbell's Soup decor.  I don't know if it is the colors, my eyes, or the time of year/sunshine but I just can't seem to get enough light to work past noon! 


 

So, this past Friday Dear Hubby took me to Ikea to get a new floor lamp.  It is a Kvart.  I absolutely LOVE the amount of light it provides.  It was a breeze to put together until I reached the screws.  



Oh. My. Goodness.  Those screws were TINY!  Look at the size compared to the head of a pin!  I was trying to put them into the lamp alone.  Not a good idea.  I was shaking, tremoring, screaming and using more four letter words than the situation probably called for.  But, my stress level is Through. The. Roof!  Dear Hubby pulled himself up the stairs (despite his horrendous pain) and took over building the lamp for me.  God, I don't know what I would do without him.  I am truly blessed. 

Back to the placemats...


This is how my work space looks right now.  I have tried to hoop that placemat numerous times and it is always crooked.  Time to stop!  My work table is a MESS, and I find it really difficult to work in messiness!  However, I need all of those supplies to construct the placemats and I don't want to have to keep pulling them out of storage at every step, lol. 

I ordered the Campbell's Soup fabric on Spoonflower.  Then I searched the internet to find a "soup themed" embroidery.  There wasn't much to pick from, but I did find one I really liked.


This is the machine embroidery I just finished a few moments ago.  It is the fourth one I have done.  I had hoped to finish the last three today (I'm giving her 6) so I could assemble them for delivery this weekend.  BUT, even dear Ellie (my sewing machine) is having a bad day!  This ONE embroidery resulted in a broken needle and broken thread - twice!  What the heck?  Machine embroidery, especially all one color, should be easy!  Just hoop the fabric, thread the needle and push start! 

I"m taking the hint and stopping EVERYTHING today!  I am going to head downstairs, pour a glass of wine and plop myself down in front of the TV praying for something mindless to watch.  Maybe I will see if I remember any Lamaze from 26+ years ago.  Lamaze is nothing but relaxation and focus and I could sure use a strong dose of both right now!

So, if I am not around for a while...don't panic.  I will return once I am calmer.  That could be in the next few hours, days or weeks after Dad's surgery is over.  As usual, we would all sincerely appreciate any prayers, thoughts or virtual hugs you could send his way.

Toodles... 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

DAD...

Thank you all for your prayers, well wishes and hugs for my Dear Dad.  The lung biopsy went well today and he is resting comfortably.  We will hear in about a week if this nodule is yet another adenocarcinoma, which is what the doctor suspects.  If so, they will schedule surgery.  I have just climbed into bed, at 6:00 PM.  I am exhausted and hurting horribly.  It has been a long, stressful day and my body is rebelling.  I knew my body would not like today, but I didn't expect to be hurting this badly.  Oh well, I have an appointment with my rheumatologist tomorrow morning.  Perfect timing!

Toddles...

Monday, August 18, 2014

CALL ME IMELDA....the process...

Finally, my Dear Aunt's quilt is done!  Between all of the interferences of my health, Dear Hubby's health, and my Folks' health...this one was a long time coming!  I began designing this quilt in NOVEMBER!


I give you "Call Me Imelda"...



This is my third "theme" quilt and each one has gotten progressively more involved!  Here is my process for making this "shoe lover's" quilt!

The center panel was bought while we were on vacation in North Myrtle Beach last November.  I had decided that I wanted my Aunt's theme to be either "shoes" or "convertibles".  She loves convertibles and currently drives a black 45th Edition Chevy Camaro convertible!  It is a GORGEOUS black muscle car with red, blue and white touches.  I couldn't find anything at all in fabric that was in a "convertible" theme.  Every fabric I found was child-like cars, trucks, etc... nothing adult and classy! 

When I spotted this shoe panel I KNEW it was just what I was looking for.  The shoes weren't too childish or too Victorian, but just RIGHT...the kind of shoes my Aunt actually wears! I bought the blue herringbone fabric and a striped fabric from the same line along with the panel.  Often times, the shops in South Carolina have a different stock than are found here in Pennsylvania and I wanted to be sure I had some matching fabrics before we went back north.  The brown, red, cream and black materials were found at my favorite quilt shop when I arrived back home...after I had designed the quilt and knew approximately what I needed in fabric.


Speaking of designing...

To this day, my Dear Aunt stores her shoes in their boxes with a description on the end of the shoe box so she can find them easily.  It is necessary as she is a real shoe hound, lol.  Hence, "Call Me Imelda".  I designed a series of "shoe boxes" around the center panel.  But, shoe boxes alone would be too "blah".  What it needed was an embroidered shoe on top of each box!  As you can see, my Aunt's quilt is somewhat different from my initial draft.  That is the way I usually design a quilt...a basic idea that changes and solidifies over the course of construction as I tie all of the theme strands together.




Putting together a selection of shoe embroideries that all "went" together was tough.  It is amazing the number of machine embroidery "shoes" on the internet.  Many of them were too childish, too Victorian, too stylized, etc.  I wanted something that looked "real" just like the shoes on the panel.  I purchased a large selection of shoes...some of which I didn't end up using as I refined her quilt to just a selection of "dress shoes". 



Once I found the appropriate embroideries, I then had to change the recommended threads to match my color palette.  The black alphanumerics are the Coats and Clark embroidery thread codes that I chose as a replacement for each color block of the shoe.  That was also a long process as not only did I want the blocks of colors to flow together nicely within the parameters of the shoe, I wanted them to flow together well with the overall colors of ALL of the shoes on the quilt.  I didn't want too much of any one color to dominate and I wanted the colors I chose for each shoe to be something I felt a real designer would put together.

Finally I had to change the size of almost every shoe to try to get them all around the same dimensions so the "perspective" would be right.  It took a lot of "playing" and embroidered "samples" of each and every shoe before they were all about the same.



First, I made a "mock up" of a shoe box with scrap fabrics and marked off an area for embroidering the shoe above the box. 
 


Once I was sure of the colors and size settings I drew the unfinished block outlines onto a piece of cream fabric with an erasable quilting marker.  I also marked the dimensions of the area where the shoe would be embroidered on top of each shoe box.  That was probably the biggest pain of the whole quilt!  Cutting separate pieces of background block for each shoe box would mean lots of wasted fabric as the hooping process for embroidery requires a minimum size of fabric to be hooped.  I didn't want to waste any fabric, so I drew all 12 background blocks on one large piece of fabric.  I located the center for each shoe area and then began the embroidery.  It was a long and laborous process!



I moved the hoop around the fabric as I moved from one shoe embroidery location to another.



When they were all done I simply cut the background blocks apart. 


I then used heat resistant template material to cut out the boxes from the red, brown and blue fabric and used a smaller template to cut out the box tops.



Using a starch process I appliqued a shoe box beneath each embroidered shoe, taking care to have four of each colored box, and also made sure to alternate colors of shoes within each set of boxes.  For the lid of the boxes I used the striped material from the fabric collection to make variations that would represent numerous manufacturers of shoes. 



Then I embroidered labels with a font that looked close to something printed by hand and appliqued an appropriate label to each box.


I used plain black sashing to form a window-pane design around the Shoe Shop window.

I planned out several more borders to make the quilt more of a "snuggle size", with a focal embroidery in the center of the top...


...and bottom...

...of the largest border.  Again, I had to change the threads of the original to match the colors of the quilt.  The "coat of arms" of the top embroidery pays homage to Imelda Marcos of shoe shopping fame, the impetus for the quilt name "Call Me Imelda"!




 Finally it was a flimsy!


I knew I wanted a shoe in the four corners, but I wanted something that was more of a "redwork" look...something closer to a single line quilted design.


Once the embroidery of the four corners was finished, I chose a stipple quilting around the top and bottom focal embroideries, the corner embroideries and the center shoe box of each side.  I used a grid quilting around the other eight shoe boxes.


Next came a "rope" effect quilting on the top and bottom large brown borders.  The quilting picks up the rope design in several of the box tops.








The "shoe sale" theme of the center panel dictated a "sales tag" theme for the narrower side borders.


I wanted to do a petal pattern on the red border to pick up the "flower" on several of the shoes, but it just didn't "pop" enough.


Fortunately, an online class by Cindy Needham taught how to use "scribble" quilting to push down the background and make the non-quilted items really come to the foreground.  Perfect timing.  It took me six hours per side to do all of the scribble quilting around the petals!


To make the petals "pop" even more I added a tiny button to some of the "flowers"...intended to pick up the tiny buttons on the panel boots.



In the center of each red border is a "feathered crown" embroidered quilt motif.   Unfortunately it is impossible to see on the red border unless the light is hitting it just right.  So this is a picture of the embroidery on the back of the quilt. 

Lastly, I quilted a simple vertical line on the herringbone border and folded the backing around to the front as my binding.  I had originally planned to use the striped fabric as my binding, but the quilt called for something more "sedate and refined" and the plain black binding doesn't detract from the quilt's focus.


The label was the final step of completing the quilt.   Now I just have to wait (impatiently) until Christmas to give it to my Aunt, and hope I don't "spill the beans" in the interim!  I can't wait to see her face when she gets her own quilt to snuggle under. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

MORE QUILTY DECISIONS MADE AND MORE PROGRESS MADE....

Today has been a GOOD day!  Thank you, God.  Today I finished the upper wide brown border.  Then I made my decision about the skinny side borders.


The side border is filled with sales tags...free motion quilted by me! 



Here are my tags.  They alternate along a "string" running down the border.  Not bad for my first try at "writing", lol. 

I also knew that the area around the petals on my red border needed to be densely quilted in order for the petals to "pop".  I didn't know exactly how to do it...until I watched a class by Cindy Nedham on Craftsy.  She taught us how to do a technique called "Scribbling".  It is REALLY neat. 


It is a little bit tough to see the "puff" of the petals in this picture because of the pattern in the fabric.  Densely quilting the in between portion pushes it down and makes it flatter so that the petals pop.


It is a LOT more visible on the back!  Four done and a WHOLE LOT MORE to go! 

I am learning SO MUCH in making my Aunt's quilt.  I kinda wish I had learned all of this before I started her quilt so that my technique would be a little bit more proficient.  But I guess we only stretch ourselves when we come upon a situation where we NEED something new.

I sure hope tomorrow I can sew, but even if I can't...I've gotten so much done today that I feel really GOOD!

Toodles!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

QUILTY UPDATE...

I've managed to fit a bit of quilting on my Aunt's Christmas present...in between bouts of total lack of cooperation on my body's part!  But I am REALLY happy with how it is turning out, so I guess I will have to learn to have a little patience, lol.


I have finished most of the red border on all four sides.  I had originally decided to stop at the point of four leaves meeting in the middle of each red square.  However, the design doesn't really "pop" enough, so I think I am going to do some dense quilting around the leaves to give them more depth.  I am also planning to put a tiny black button in the center of the leaves (on the front of the quilt).  I haven't decided yet if I will sew them on with red thread or black thread.  Any ideas?  I have also found a "feathered crown" quilting motif that I want to put in the center of each of the red borders.  I have left a 10" section free of quilting on each one of the red borders.  I will do that very last as I will have to set up my embroidery module to do the "quilted" motif. 


This is a picture of the back of the red border.  See the space around the four leaves?  That is where I am going to do the dense quilting.


After I finished the red border I began work on the large brown border at the bottom.  I am really REALLY happy with how they turned out.  Tomorrow I hope to finish the large brown border at the top.    I still may decide to densely quilt the background so that the rope really stands out.  That decision will wait until I am finished with the background quilting on the red border.  I am not fully decided on how to quilt the thinner side brown borders.  I have it narrowed down to two options, but with make the decision when more of the other quilting is finished.  All of that quilting may impact my decision one way or the other.


This is how the back of the two quilted areas came out.  I'm lovin it!

Keeping my fingers crossed that I can do some quilting tomorrow.  Now that I am getting nearer to the finish of this quilt, I am REALLY anxious to see it completed!
 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

STEADY AS SHE GOES...


Ahhhh...much better today!

Toodles

A TINY FINISH...

A while back I bought a Mollie Makes magazine at my local quilt shop.  Included with the magazine  was a kit to make a small purse.   The kit was quick, fun and the tiny purse was definitely useful. 



I have been using it to hold my empty bobbins.   However, the more I sew it seems the more empty bobbins I need!  This little purse has no room to grow!

Then, a week or so ago, I decided to do a bit of FMQ practicing.  I have a stack of miscellaneous 5" charm squares that I use to make coasters, mug rugs and practice sandwiches.  I pulled out one of my favorite charms, found a solid pinkish charm to match and sewed them together to make a 5" x 9.5" rectangle.  I added a layer of batting and a scrap of black material for the backing. 

After practicing a bit, I was ready to toss the sandwich into the trash...but stopped short.  It was MUCH too cute to throw away!  So today I sewed a few seams, added a snap and made a new bobbin holder!


Isn't it cute?  I have a LOT more room to store my empty bobbins now...


...and the bright, HAPPY colors make me smile!