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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Making Progress


I've got my first block. I took pictures of one of the final units and then the entire block. I didn't have an extra final unit when I took the pictures.






For one thing, I'll never do a project like this without making a sample block first. Right now the points on the block look good, but I have this strange feeling that they aren't going to look good when I put the blocks into the project.

For another, I've spent my life READING about various needlework projects, but not doing that many of them. And I've reached the point where I need to stop reading and start doing.

I take classes at Craftsy.com, and I'm enrolled in a free Block of the Month Class. My next traditional quilting project is going to be to make the monthly blocks. They are up to April, with May's class due in a day or two. I'll finish this project and buy some fabric for that one and I'm going to actually make those blocks.

The Block of the Month Class is a technique class. Two new techniques every month resulting in a set of blocks for a sampler quilt. Sampler quilts used to be very common back when I first started being interested in quilting, but I never made one. Time to make one.

I like a scrapy look. The bed scarf is going to be very planned. But I'll buy a background fabric and one or two other fabrics for the Block of the Month quilt, and just make sure my scraps fall into a color scheme. I think I'm going to have to avoid the blues and purples I tend to like the best and which belong in the bedroom for this new quilt. I'm going to enjoy looking for fabrics that are quite different going forward.

More photos when more of this project is together. Take care all.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

This and That

I brought the new sewing machine into the house on Wednesday, but didn't have time to set it up that day. I got to it on Thursday, and that day I mostly read the book. It is a lot more complicated than the machine it replaced. I am one of those people who needs to get into a new piece of equipment pretty quickly or I'll get stuck, so I got the machine threaded and sewed a test seam or two on Thursday afternoon.

The dealer didn't leave a small spool of thread on this machine, but he left enough thread that I could see the one tricky part of the threading process. The "tricky part" wasn't actually all that tricky, but the directions weren't all that clear either. Being able to see it made a difference.

I tried out a couple of the strait stitches and one of the decorative ones. The decorative stitch I tried was twice the width of the similar one on my old machine. I have a project waiting that will be useful for.

I like to keep the machine covered with a drape over it, but it is obvious that the one I made for the other machine last year is going to be too small for this one. I need to make another. The drape is to keep the machine from getting dusty. The one time I didn't use it, I was shocked at just how dusty it got. Both machines are electronic and they don't need dust in their moving parts.

The project I started with the old machine is a bed scarf for the end of my bed. It is done with a special ruler. The sewing is easy. The cutting, pressing and marking are not that easy. I've had some problems with it.

The block starts by cutting squares and triangles and sewing them to one another. Then you recut the unit so it is a square of a particular size. Then you sew one long strip of background fabric and the squares together it. This is what that looks like. These center squares are pretty much the same color as the sheets are but if you look closely you can see the triangle of background white.

You then cut the rectangle units apart and sew them to more white fabric. You can see the small unit below.

The bigger unit includes the next two petal units. There will be two more petals, in different colors, to make a larger unit. Then 4 of the larger units will be sewn together to make up a block.

At this point I've got all of the pieces for the petal units cut except for some of the triangles. I wanted to make one sample block before I tried to do all of it.

That is what I am going to be doing next. I've cut and marked enough pieces for a full block and one extra unit. It is much easier to decide where to mark, where to sew and where to cut if there is a unit available to look at, which is why I'm doing it this way.

I know of several ways to make a pieced block. When I made my first quilt I literally drew the sewing line on each piece by drawing around a cardboard pattern with a pencil and then cut them out by hand. And then I hand sewed them with a running stitch. That was how one made a quilt in the early 1970s. At that point I'd never seen a quilt made by anyone else, and I didn't know anyone who made quilts. Like a lot of the needlework I've learned, I was totally self taught out of books. I was successful in that I actually made a quilt that got finished, but there was so much wrong with it I'm amazed that I ever tried again.

These days most people sew their quilts with a sewing machine. They cut the pieces out precisely using a mat and a rotary cutter with a quarter inch seam and don't mark the sewing line. With this project I'm cutting some of the pieces a bit larger than they will end up and I'm using a ruler to mark some of the seam lines. I'm back to sewing on a marked line. Some of the other pieces are cut precisely.

Some of the instructions I'm following, which came with the ruler, are not clear, and some of them are totally wrong, which was frustrating. That is another reason I'm going to be making the first block up totally before I work on the rest of them.

I've also decided I will to be trying out a couple of other methods I know on other projects. I'm not sure I love this particular method.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Sewing Machine

Last year I bought a gently used sewing machine. It was a step up from what I originally intended to buy, but I wasn't sure if I'd use it or not. At that point there hadn't been a good working sewing machine in the house for at least 15 years, maybe longer. During the last decade I worked I had the energy to go to work and come home and maybe spend some time on the computer or watching TV, but that was it. During the years after retirement when I was taking care of Joe at home, there was even less energy.

Well, it came as a surprise to some extent. I left the sewing machine set up in my bedroom and as a result I actually sewed some every week once I got it home. About a month ago I began to wonder if I had limited myself by not buying a better machine. I ordered one last week and I'll be picking it up tomorrow.

I'm excited about the purchase. I've made a bunch of high level purchases over the last couple of years. Most of them on my own. This one is pure pleasure. A Hyacinth for my soul.

Take care all.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Projects in Process

At this point I've got two quilting projects in process.

The art quilt I posted about previously has had some work on it, but now I've got to think about it. Close up it looks great. Pinned on the board so I can see it from far away, you can't see the machine stitching for the most part. That is OK because what I wanted from the machine stitching was a layer of complexity and I got that.


Get closer and you see more.




Originally the top layer was supposed to be more fused applique in bright colors in vaguely flower shapes, held down with some free motion embroidery stitching. But I'm also thinking about doing hand embroidery, similar to what I did with The Blues. So the art quilt, which doesn't have a name yet, needs to sit on the board while I make up my mind.

I also need to remember this is one quilt in a series. It is OK if it is not perfect. <grin>



The second project is a much more traditional project. I'm making a bed scarf for the end of the bed. I'm using "my colors" to do it. I've made a small start on the project.


I only put out 3 of the small units for the photo, but I've actually done 20 of them. I'm using a ruler I bought at the Lancaster Quilt Show. This is a traditional pattern, one of several called Cactus Flower, done in a non-traditional way. The units I've done so far are so small, they literally shocked me. You make the pieces bigger than they need to be and then cut them down so all of them are the same size. For these units I didn't need to worry about the seam allowance, because I was sewing on a drawn line. The next step is a bit different. I take the units and sew them with a quarter inch seam to a strip of fabric. The size of the seam does matter, but not totally. Once that is done they get cut apart and "squared up" again. Those units then get sewn to another strip of fabric and squared up again.

I'm enjoying the sewing and not making decisions as I go. I think I need to remember to have one traditional project to sew in between the art quilt projects, so I can hold off on those decisions until I'm actually ready to make some.

Meanwhile the Spring Garden is about to close down. I'll be deadheading almost everything this weekend in between rain storms. Or, if I don't get to them, after the rain is gone.

Take care all.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thinking It Through

I recently read a blog written by the daughter of a woman who died of dementia a few months ago. I have been thinking about what she said in that blog. She is having a very hard time with grief. I understand that. It worries me that she is taking it so hard, but I understand it. The first thing that has to happen when one is dealing with someone who is having feelings is to acknowledge that what they feel is what they feel. And that feeling what they are feeling is both OK and real.

Her grief is OK. Her grief is real. And so is her anger.

The grief specialists say that everyone goes though multiple stages. I'm not sure that everyone goes through all the stages in order, but one of those stages is anger. It is easy to be angry when you are grieving, not just with the disease that took away your loved one, or with the loved one him/herself for dying and leaving you alone, but with those people around you who didn't step up EXACTLY the way you expected them to step up. One of the things this daughter mentions in her blog is people who called her father instead of calling her mother. Of course, her mother was an extreme case. Lots of crazy actions. Lots of aggression and exit seeking. There aren't many patients out there who have those symptoms much worse than my husband did, but her mother was several times worse and it all lasted a lot longer than it did with Joe.

The daughter's life was extremely busy when her mother was alive because of her mother's illness. They were taking care of her at home, mostly with no professional help until the very end, because of the kind of dementia she had. She just did better with family help. But that meant that in addition to going to school, and taking care of a family with two kids, and doing regular church work, she also spent several hours every day taking care of her mother. And she was exhausted most of the time.

Suddenly a huge block of time was empty after her mother died. It used to be filled so full that everyone around the patient was sleep deprived, and now that block of time is empty. One of the problems with grief is the question of what do I do now. One of the jobs of grief is to rebuild your life, but you can't rush that. You have to have the time to feel your feelings first.


One thing I've learned about helping the caregivers of terminal illnesses is that not everyone can do everything especially when the disease is dementia. I've had this problem myself supporting people other than my husband, especially when he was home and so sick. The person who can visit, can't do financial stuff or make phone calls for the caregiver, but the person who can do the financial stuff and make those hard phone calls, frequently can't visit the patient. It doesn't mean they don't care. At one point I needed people to do my food shopping for me and when I admitted my need to one person I suddenly had multiple people calling me to ask if they could do that for me. They couldn't take my husband out on outings, or keep him safe at home for me, but they could go to the grocery store and shop. Which, it turns out, was what I needed.

With some of my online friends I've seen families that mostly were absent during the disease suddenly produce a flurry of organized activity, in mass numbers, when there was something that needed to be done, and done fast. Because they knew they could do it.

Just because someone can't help you in exactly the way you want help doesn't mean that they have abandoned you because tomorrow something might come up that they would be happy to do.

You survive caregiving by recognizing this simple truth.

Take care all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Untitled Art Quilt

Writing about not being able to choose a project made it possible for me to actually pick one of them and start moving. This one doesn't have a name yet, but that will change.

I had pieced a background out of green and brown fabrics quite a while ago. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. It isn't random piecing, but it also is not a pattern and that is what I wanted. I never took a picture of it in that stage.

I put some fusible web on the back of several fabrics and cut long, leaf-like strips out of them. This is what the project looked like once they were fused down.

This picture was taken on my ironing board right after the fusing was finished. It isn't a great background for pictures of projects in process.

Some of the leaves didn't fuse down the way I expected and were flopping around loose when this picture was taken.


The next step was to use invisible thread and zig-zag each of the leaves down to the background. I learned that I had to do that from my last fused piece. Things looked loose and frayed when I was done with it. This looks a lot more stable.

I doubt if you can see the difference from them just being fused, but there is a difference seeing them in person. Each leaf is attached to the fabric below.

This photo was taken after I'd couched some of the stems to the piece. I'm going to be adding more of them in brighter colors, or at least I think so. Looking at the photo it is possible I've finished the couching part of the project.

I bought a bulletin board and the piece is now pinned to that. It makes it a lot easier to really see and I can look at it across the room. But mostly there is no distracting pattern behind it.

I think it is going to need borders. Not sure how I'll do that, but I will figure something out.

Take care all.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Creativity and Projects

I think some of the time having too many projects can stifle creativity. There are times when I don't do much on anything, because there are too many things out there I want to do.

Right now I've got the fabric bought for a bed scarf for my bed. I bought a special ruler at the last quilt show I went to and I want to try it out. I only allowed myself to buy one ruler there. But I'm not sure that is a quilting direction I want to go in.

And I've got scrap fabric picked out for a small art quilt piece. And I've got a pretty good idea of what I want to do with it, but I don't seem to be able to go and do the next step. It would take me in a totally different direction from the bed scarf.

And, I've been wanting to figure out a way to paint, without using my kitchen table to do it. I planned on taking the table currently holding the sewing machine out to the garage once the new tables arrived, but I've realized that I have a snack table I can use for smaller, less messy, projects right now. In the garage or in the computer room. But I haven't actually set that table up.

And I've gotten a bulletin board from Micheal's, and a second board that is intended to display scrapbook pages. And I bought the fleece to cover the bulletin board, and maybe the scrapbook display board, but I haven't actually done anything about either of them yet.

And a stack of books arrived in the house yesterday. Some by mail order. Two from the library book sale. One from a trip to Tuesday Morning. All pulling me in different directions.

And I got a book through Amazon that I know will jump start a bunch of art projects I've got in the back of my head.

And I'm in the middle of a knitting project. It isn't really part of this project decision because I'm knitting while I'm watching TV. I was careful to pick a project I could do that with. I used to do a lot of things while I watched TV, but mostly that doesn't work anymore.

Time for some choices. Time to make some decisions. There are worse places to be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Care Conference

Yesterday I went to the care conference at the nursing home where my husband is a patient. I have mixed feelings about care conferences. I go to all of them. It is important to me that the staff know I care, but I think most of the families don't go. I understand why.

This one was pretty typical. I was there. The head nurse on the floor was there and the hospice nurse was there. This is the first time I've ever seen a hospice nurse at one of these meetings. I got some pretty good information about how Joe is doing from both nurses.

As usual most of the people who should have been there, were not. I've gone to care conferences where the only people present were the social worker and me. This time the social worker was absent. It is rare for someone from the dietician's office to be present. Someone from activities will come to the occasional meeting, but very rarely. With Joe's current condition, it wasn't surprising that activities was not at this meeting. I doubt if they are doing anything with Joe at this time. One of these days I'll be the only one who shows up.

It is all hit and miss. This care conference was about 3 weeks after the last one. They used to be every three months. I've told them there is no reason for me to go to care conferences every month especially if Joe goes into another plateau where nothing is changing. I know they will keep on keeping on with his care, and that if something changes someone will notice and call me and, if appropriate, call in the doctor or the hospice nurse. I know that, because that is what has happened in the past.

We are all doing the best we can in the current situation. And it is all good enough.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Blues - Finishing a Project

 I had a great Easter weekend. And one of the things that made it great was finishing up another project and getting it to the point where I could put it on the wall. The problem with perfectionism is that you tend to think that you can't just declare something good enough and display it. I'm working on that.


On Saturday, I finished working on two small art quilt pieces I'm calling The Blues, because the background is a blue/green mottled fabric. I took a class on Craftsy.com called Stupendous Stitches. I like taking classes there because you can take them on your own schedule, and because you can go back and watch parts of the class as your own projects get to specific places. I've got a bunch of classes, several of which I haven't finished, but I did finish this one, and worked the project, and a couple of others as well. I'll get to the other projects when I get to them. 


So here are some pictures to show what I got out of the process that was taught in the class. You start out by using a couching foot to couch down fibers. I used rat tail cord, and doubled floss, and some pearl cotton embroidery thread.

The next step is to use the decorative stitches on your sewing machine in between the couched lines. Then I did hand embroidery with pearl cotton. And finally, when the backing and additional stiffening were added, I machine quilted them You can just barely see the quilting in the photos if you look hard.

I zigzagged all around them twice to finish them off.

These pieces are literally stiff as a board because of the interfacing and fusible fleece in them so they were stiff enough to sew a hanging hook on the back and put them up on the wall.
 
These two small pieces were so much fun to do that I'm beginning another, based on this class and one of the other classes, Art Quilting 101, that will be my own design totally, and which will combine the two processes.
 
The Rime Quilt is now hanging above my bed. It took 19 years to finish this quilt. The binding got done because of yet another Craftsy.com class where I learned how to bind and finish a quilt up. It might not have gotten finished without that class.

And now I'm declaring the project of this post as finished, and I'm putting it out there.

Take care all.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Heros

I am working through a couple of self help books. I've talked about THE ARTIST'S WAY before, but I've picked up Barbara Sher's LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE. One of the things I'm being asked to do in that book is make a list of imaginary allies. To a large extent, especially with historical figures or people who you know about but don't actually know, they are the people you look up to. Your heroes. I've discovered I don't actually have any. So I'm spending time trying to figure out who I really do look up to. Who I'd want on my side if I needed help, or encouragement.

She says you should include favorite pets, so I've added Willie. He was my dog, 20+ years ago. The only one I ever had. When I was sick or needed comfort he would know and come to be with me. He was there when I was trying to fight a regular nightmare that had me waking up screaming. He tried to protect me from all kinds of real or imaginary problems.

I've also added Leonardo da Vinci to my list. He was a great artist and a polymath. Someone I could really look up to. He had an interesting life as well, and there was nothing I know about that turns me off in that life.

And Hatshepsut, a "king" of Egypt. A woman who made her own way at a time when women could not do that. Who became a king because the idea of a reigning queen was something no one could even imagine in her culture. And not a bad king either. She built up the country internally, and began diplomatic journeys internationally. She successfully brought up the step-son who was too young to be king at the time when she took over as his regent and then as the senior co-reigning king, so when he did take over he was placed to successfully become the warrior king that his country needed at that point. He was not beaten down so he would not be able to take her place, and that is pretty impressive all on its own. He was able to build on what she had done in Egypt internally, and he invented empire.

I'm not sure who else I will add to the list, but I am working on it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Guilt

I was going to write a post about my own guilt. Every caregiver I know feels some guilt. Rationally the healthier we are the more we realize we should not be feeling guilt because we are doing the best we can with a disease that asks more of the caregiver than most of us have to give.

Last week, there was a news story in the Lehigh Valley about a well respected man who killed his wife and then himself. She was a dementia patient. In her case probably Alzheimer's, but not necessarily. A good proportion of dementia patients don't have Alzheimer's. At some point he promised her he would never place her, that he would take care of her to the end at home. And last week, that promise almost certainly caused the murder/suicide.

The reporters have been searching to find out if he was taking advantage of any of the support groups out there. It looks like he was trying to do this totally on his own. There are probably 4 or 5 face to face support groups where you can just walk in. Meetings are "advertised" in multiple ways. If you know such things exist, they aren't hard to find out about. There are also multiple support forums available online. He almost certainly wasn't lurking, much less posting, on any of those either.

My own support groups have always been online. I don't know how a caregiver survives without them. And, in the case we are discussing, he didn't survive without them.

There was a recent op ed piece in the paper by someone who knew him, possibly very well, in better days. But it was quite obvious that although the writer knew and respected the man, and to some extent the couple, that he knew nothing about what it is like to care for a dementia patient. Especially a spouse.

One thing. I don't say that caring for a spouse is easier or harder than caring for a parent with the disease. But it is DIFFERENT. Pain is pain. Grief is grief. Everyone involved in this set of ugly diseases feels pain and grief. But a spouse losses their support system along with the disease. Frequently there are money issues that children don't experience. The person who did the other half of the work around the house is no longer doing it. The person paying the bills, making the meals, cleaning the house, taking out the trash, changing light bulbs in the ceiling fixtures can't do those things, and they fall on someone already stressed with the rest of the the caregiving issues.

In the case of the couple we are discussing, when the crisis came, all of the options other than immediate death were gone. And most of the nursing home placements I am aware of occurred during a crisis of some sort. He had closed that option off early on when he didn't think it would be necessary. He had made a promise that he could not keep, almost certainly because of guilt. And as a result both of them are dead almost certainly because of guilt.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Does My Garden Grow

Spring is the time that the little garden in my mulch looks best. I live in a community where the grass and common areas are taken care of by the community, but each of us has a small area near the house where we can plant if we want to. Some people have done very professionally planted gardens. Others are simpler.

 My garden was planted by my daughter over several years. The Spring bulbs have now gotten old enough that they look amazing.


At this point multiple kinds of daffodils are out along with snow drops. The hyacinths are actually just past their prime, and the tulips have just started to show.

The mulch has been refreshed by the crew that also does the lawns. They do a Spring and a Fall cleanup, so I really don't have to do much gardening myself.

The lilacs at the corner near the garage have leafed out. I'm going to have flowers this year, but I don't yet know how many. The crab apple tree looks like it just might decided to bloom pretty soon as well.
 
I finally got a chair out front so I can enjoy my plantings when the weather is nice. It hasn't been warm enough so far this week for me to sit outside. But it should be soon.

The day lilies have greened up and at least some of the Summer perennials we planted last Fall made it through the Winter. There will be quite a bit of color in the Fall, but except for the day lilies I don't currently have anything in the garden that blooms in the Summer. I'm thinking some annuals this year so I can have some flowers and some color in July and August.

We bought two chairs and a small table this Sunday too, but those are in the back, and that is another post.

Take care all.