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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Studio

Back in June or July 2011 I began to really work on my quilting. I had bought a sewing machine. Not new, but gently used. Not top of the line, but not the bottom either. From a dealer and not a big box store or online. I set up a table I'd had for at least a decade in my bedroom and I set up the ironing board as a work surface of sorts and began to play.

This is what it looked like. All very catch as catch can. The two pillows on the ironing board had actually been finished but not turned into pillows years before, a decade or more. They are two of the three that are currently on my bed. The pin cushion next to the sewing machine was my first real project. Very useful, and I'm still using it although I've taken the thread catcher off. The bedding in the corner was from the old King Sized bed. I rarely made the bed up with the bedding although I always straightened up the blankets. The chair was brand new at that point.

I always knew the table was too high, but at that point I didn't even know if I was going to be sewing a lot, or if it would be one of those things I used to do and didn't do anymore. There had been a lot of that in my life.

Once I realized I was going to be doing a lot of sewing I made some changes. I got rid of the iron. It was heavy, and drove me nuts. I thought I'd like a cordless iron, but I actually hated it. It was never hot enough when I needed it hot, and like I said, it weighted a ton.

 This is what the studio looks like now. I have two tables, one a bit shorter than the other. They are from Ikea and the legs are adjustable. Turns out that we chose the height for the sewing machine perfectly. It is at least 4 inches shorter than the other table was.

The shorter one is my work surface. I've ordered a large cutting mat for it, and I need to work out where I'll be ironing things. I also got a 6 drawer cabinet for under the windows. I hadn't bought the plastic cabinet when I took the picture last year, but it was in the same spot.

I've got a bookcase where the bedding used to be. No books in it because none of the shelves is tall enough for craft and sewing books. I've got supplies in it. And I needed a place for that. The lamp on top of the bookcase will end up on the tables or the chest if I work in there at night.

You can see the pillow project I've been working on. It is going well, but I'm not sure a photo will show the progress. We will see when it is done.

I'm really very happy with how it turned out.

Take care all.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I belong to an email support group. When we started there were 16 caregivers and their sick spouses. All the spouses had some kind of dementia. A couple of people have left the group and a couple have joined us, but basically we are the same group and about the same number of people.

I think it has been about 2 1/2 years since it started. In that time 11 of the spouses have died, one just this past week, leaving 5 still alive. Only 5. If you can call it alive. One spouse is living at home with his wife, and a second in an ALF with his wife. The other three are in either ALF or nursing homes, two under the care of hospice.

Joe is one of the two.

All of the others interact with their families and the staff around them to some extent. Joe does not.

Each time one of the spouses die, the group huddles around the husband or wife, almost as if we were physically there. The last thing I did every night last week was to check email to see what was happening. The first thing in the morning too. That is pretty much how it has gone each time. 

Some of the spouses died rather quickly, one in her sleep with no warning. Some took as long as a week after the final crisis started. A couple actually took two weeks from when things got strange.

Each time I wonder when it will be Joe's turn.

At this point Joe is sicker than most of the others were just before the crisis happened, but he is not in crisis. It could happen any time, but it hasn't happened, and it could take as much as another couple of years. And I am in limbo. Stuck half way between my old life and my new life, not able to move on. Ready to move on in many ways, but pulled back almost constantly because the old life is not yet over.

I'm working my way through another grief book. I've had this book for a while. The last few times I started it I thought it was only for those who have already experienced the death of their loved ones, and that the death be a sudden one. I read further this morning and it doesn't require a sudden death, but the author does take it for granted that the person doing the reading is dealing with a physical death. There was one small bit in the beginning stories about someone having to grieve all over again when the death took a very long time to happen and lots of anticipatory grief had occurred already. I'm pretty sure that will be the truth for me, but there is no question that I've done a lot of work on rebuilding my life already as well. I'm hoping doing more grief work will help. And maybe the book will help me through it.

I'm sad some of the time these days. I actually cried this morning and I don't cry often. But I'm also happy and the next message is going to be about my new life because there is news there as well.

Take care all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I watched the last House episode last night. They finished it in a way that would make it impossible to ever bring the show back. I can see a way to bring the character back but it would be a totally different show. (If you mind being told what happened, stop reading now.)

He kills himself legally in that program. Not actually. But everyone takes it for granted that the body that is found in a burnt building is him, and maybe he was there at one point. That body gets buried as him. They have his funeral. But we, the audience know, that he has actually taken off for 6 months of adventure with his dying best friend at the end.

Of course, what happens when the six months are over and the dying friend has actually died? What then?

I've been thinking about doors opening and closing in my own life. I was an art student in high school and college, but never worked as an artist. I literally did not pick up a pencil or pen to draw or paint to paint with for 40+ years. There were always creative outlets. I would not have survived without them. Just not painting or drawing. That might be getting ready to change. Or maybe not.

I almost had a chance to learn computer programming when we lived in Phoenix in the late 70s. We moved when Joe's job needed to change and that got put away. Twenty years later I was making my living programming Access databases, totally self taught except for some beginning classes.

Doors open. Doors close. Some of the time doors open again. Strange when you think about it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blogging vs. Journaling vs. Forums

This is a what I've learned piece. I expect there will be others, not always Internet related.

There is a difference between blogging and journaling. I've had people tell me they could not possibly blog because they already journal. My journals and my journaling have very little in common with how I see blogging.

First of all journals are private. I do Morning Pages, right out of The Artist's Way and they truly are a brain dump, so I can get my brain out of the round and round and round stuff and get it started. I've also called it screaming into the keyboard when I was typing my journals frequently in public places where a notebook would have been very obvious but typing was what I did all day anyway. I could yell on the page and no one around me had a clue that was what was going on. Even I don't read my journaling most of the time.

Blogs are public. Blogs are written to be read. I blog because I've got stuff to say that I'd like others to read. Like most bloggers I love feedback. I need to know that others have read what I wrote, but Google makes it very hard for a non-blogger to comment, so I understand when I get a LIKE to a link in Facebook, or a mention in an email that someone has stopped in to read. But mostly I need to get the stuff I want to say out into the world.

There is no way I'd be putting the stuff I journal online for others to read. The whole intent is quite different.

In the past I've done a lot of Forums and Conferences. They, like blogging, are intended for public consumption. When I'm writing a post on a forum or a conference it is intended to be read by other people. I'm communicating. I did local bulletin boards and echoed nets before the Internet. I did Usenet from local bulletin boards when dial up services didn't exist. I did Usenet when Web based Forums didn't exist. And when SPAM killed Usenet, I moved over to the Web based forums which were always intended to be moderated. I did Forums on archaeology, and astrology, on digital scrapbooking and genealogy, stitching and quilting, on books and authors I liked, and even I don't remember what else, and most recently on dementia.

I like Forums. One of the best thing about the Internet is that people with tiny, isolated interests, who could not possibly find another person where they live who is interested in that subject too, can form and build communities online that could never exist in person. And it doesn't matter if I'm writing at 6 am my time and it is the middle of the night where you are because when you get up and get to your computer you can read it then, and answer then. But right now I'm not doing any. That could easily change tomorrow.

Right now, I'm blogging, which I always said I would never do. Interesting when you think about it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Flowers - Summer Color

My friend and neighbor Marilyn helped me put my flowers into the ground yesterday. The yard doesn't look as good as it will once the leaves from the Spring Garden die back, but the pictures I took yesterday look pretty good.

This is an overall shot. Not too bad. The plants in the front are day lilies and they will begin to bloom in a week or two. There are a lot of buds on two of the three plants in this area.

There are a bunch of geraniums in three colors, and some begonias near the front door. 

The azaleas are on the other side of the door.

The azaleas are the only bushes put in by the builder that survived. Not sure what was different about these. We weren't able to do what needed to be done to the yard as Joe got sicker and sicker and I was left with a bunch of dead stuff until my daughter began to dig that stuff out and put in what she had available.

You can just see a hint of the geraniums that got planted in the corner.
This is the peony we put in this year. Good thing I took a picture of its flower yesterday because that is already gone.

I'm not sure what the three white bulb things are. They were another of my daughter's choices. Stuff she brought when I wasn't thinking straight. All of the rest of it just died out, but this plant is thriving.

Take care all.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

I figured out why I could not seem to take the next step on either of my quilting projects. Basically I don't have the free motion skills to do what I'd like to do on those projects. I've taken online classes and followed a couple of online blogs, so I know WHAT to do, but I don't actually know how to do it. Time to do something about that.

So here it is. I've been taking a free Block of the Month class at This is a great class to see the kind of thing that you can learn at Craftsy, by the way.

But I think the very young instructor is also learning how to teach on the platform, which is one of the reasons her class is free. The other classes I've taken from Craftsy are all by very experienced instructors who have gone all over the country to teach at quilt guilds and quilt shows. So the quality of instruction is better on the paid classes.

Craftsy has classes in quilting, sewing, knitting and some jewelry making. If you are interested in those things you might want to check it out. I've been very happy with what I've bought so far.

Still, I've learned a lot just watching her make a kind of block that I've never made before, or even considered making. I'm a perfectionist. Just letting a block design itself was not easy. But I did do it and I'm glad I did.

The blocks on the class are 12 inches finished. This one is 18 inches with half an inch extra for the seam allowances. It will be a pillow if it comes out OK. At this point it has been sandwiched with extra backing and extra batting all around. That, by the way is what you are seeing around the block. It isn't a border of any kind.

I spend the morning setting my sewing machine up with clear thread in the needle and the bobbin. Not all machines can handle clear thread. Not all that can handle it in the needle can also handle it in the bobbin. This one can. I've done a bunch of checking it out with the Walking Foot on the machine. So the first step is to stabilize the entire block by stitching in the ditch (right on the seam lines) using the walking foot. This is the one part of machine quilting I already know how to do. But it will be the first time with this machine.

Then the next step is free motion quilting inside the pieces. That is what I'm not good at.

Take care all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Bed Scarf

After two days of just sitting there, I got moving again. And here is the bed scarf. The top is finished. It will end up about the size you see here. The quilting will make it a bit smaller. The binding will make it a bit bigger. A wash.

 I really don't know what was holding me up. I think I was a bit afraid of how the border would look when it was finished. It is fine.
I do have some decisions to make about the backing and the batting, so I won't get to that right away. And then again, maybe I will later this afternoon or this evening.

I'm going to machine quilt this project. It will be the first large scale project I'm machine quilting. And I need to make some decisions about how to quilt it before I put the backing on.

The problem is the seams. I don't have enough fabric to make the backing one long piece cut the long way. I've got plenty to cut the short way, across the fabric, but that will require a center seam. One more center seam means that the way I automatically thought I'd quilt this, can't be done.
I do have options. I could go out and buy a totally new piece of fabric for the backing. Or, I could come up with a different idea for the quilting. Either requires some thought.

Good thing that I've got other projects I want to get to.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just Can't Get Moving

Did you ever have one of those days when you just can't seem to get moving? That is what is going on today and I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure why I'm sitting here blogging when I can't seem to do any of the other things I should be doing.

I had a whole list of things that I needed to do, but one by one they have disappeared. I was feeling a bit dizzy earlier, so I decided I would not go and visit my husband and see where they moved him over the weekend. I called with my questions instead. I bought flowers over the weekend and one of my neighbors was going to help me get them into the ground, but it is raining on and off, so we won't be doing that until later this week. In the meantime they are sitting outside being rained on, which is good for them. Etc.

I should be putting in my 15 minutes at the sewing machine, but for some reason I just do not want to. Don't get it, but that is how it really is.

I have a new book from the library, but I don't seem to want to read.

I'm just feeling blah!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fifteen Minutes a Day and the Power of Doing Things Badly

I've been stuck since I posted the last post. Afraid to make a mistake. And the answer is 15 minutes a day, and allowing myself to do what I am doing badly. Allowing mistakes

I don't do free motion well, and the next thing on the art quilt is free motion. I've got a new sewing machine and it does things differently than the old one. In free motion the feed dogs are down and you control where the stitches go yourself by moving the quilt sandwich. Turns out I did learn how to do that well enough when I was trying to learn how a few months ago.

But it also turns out that THIS machine has thread tension problems with free motion. It is a "known problem" and the instruction manual had the fix. I was a bit surprised at how much I had to "fix" it. I literally tightened the upper tension to twice what it normally is before the problem of the upper thread showing on the bottom went away.

I also tried it out with more than one kind of sample. The tension fix is different on the two I tried out. I'm going to have to make up a sample that is exactly like what I will be working on and try stuff out before I work on the art quilt (which is still nameless).

The problem with the bed scarf was an unwillingness to cut into the fabric for the borders. I just managed to do that this morning. I don't know if the things I worried about will happen or won't happen, but it doesn't matter. I needed to go forward. And just think. Once I get the final borders on the bed scarf I'm going to need to quilt on that too.

I'm on the last chapter of the third book in the Complete Artist's Way and the subject of the couple of pages I read today was committing to 15 minutes a day at whatever your art project is, and allowing yourself to do it badly. As usual, Julia Cameron was right. She had a point. The problem is to show up (on the page or at the keyboard). She is a writer who was learning the piano and was writing music at the time she wrote that last book. For me it was sitting down at the sewing machine and trying to figure out what I would need to do to get the free motion stuff moving yesterday, and getting out the cutting board and rotary cutter and cutting into that beautiful fabric today.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Making Progress - Project Update

I've made some progress on both of my quilting projects. Enough so I've got pictures.

When I posted about the bed scarf, it looked like this. I had some small units made and one block. 

Now it looks like this. Not finished yet, but there are 5 blocks and all of the sashing and the first border are on.

I'm really happy with how it looks so far, and it will fit nicely with the rest of what is going on with the bed.

This is a closer look at what the blocks look like. It is one of many blocks that are called Cactus Flower, but I know that this block also has other names. And the units can be arranged differently and have still more names.  One more look at how the blocks look.
And here I'm beginning to audition the last border. I've got a problem with cutting into this fabric. I know that if I cut into the fabric the long way, the pattern of the flowers will show and I have to be careful about exactly where I cut. That is also true if I cut across the fabric. There I will have to put two pieces of fabric together and I need to make some decisions about how I do that.

I need to choose where I cut the fabric carefully because this is a large scale print, and it is going to matter.

So I've put it aside while I think about what to do next.

I've started working on the unnamed art quilt again. Here is what it looked like the last time I posted about it. I've always intended to put some "flowers on the piece, but wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do that.

Last night I cut fabric that already had fusible web on it.  I cut it freehand. There are two different fabrics, one red and one yellow. I waited until this morning to fuse them down.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to add more fabric and more petals. But after looking at it carefully this morning, I knew that any more would be too much.

My next step is to start practicing free motion stitching and quilting. I'll need that for both projects. The petals will need stitching to hold them down permanently. Both projects will need to be quilted and I think this time I need to do most of it using free motion.

These projects are very different even though both belong to the quilting world. This is my third time around inside this world, and just as with the last round I find the technology has changed and what people want to work on has changed. There are still people doing a lot of historical and traditional blocks, but HOW they do it is different from what was going on 20 years ago. There is a huge art quilting community, and I'm enjoying my baby steps into that community. There is a third group that I'm already aware of called Modern Quilting. Much more improvisational, and clean lined than the traditional patterns. But more sewing and less painting and fusing. They end up with rather traditional projects, like bed quilts and pillows, using very nontraditional methods and patterns. I just might dip my toe into that area as well.

It is easy to see from these two projects that I don't have a style of my own yet. I seem to want to do stuff from a lot of different styles. That was true when I did digital scrapbooking too.

Take care all.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I do a lot of Journaling. There was a point where I would journal once in a while and print it out and put it into a notebook. But I wasn't doing much. There were 3 days of journaling in March 1994 that never got put into a notebook. On the first of the days I only wrote a little. I was working for the most abusive boss I ever met, and a second boss who was almost as bad. And the situation was getting worse than it had been during the previous 3 years because of a co-worker who wanted my job. I raised my voice to more than a whisper that day for one sentence, but got control over my voice immediately.

The second of those three days was the hot spot. I got called into HR to be written up. Twice on the same day for two different things. One of them the one sentence of louder than normal speech. Neither of them reasonable for a HR visit. And the paperwork was done wrong on both sets of paperwork. One had been signed off by a manager who no longer worked for the company. The other had not been signed off on by anyone. And company policy had not been followed in either case.

This kind of thing was weird. I was a legal secretary at that company. And I knew lawyers, including one who had written, and signed a memo to me warning me that something ugly was coming up. And he was the person who signed off on the first set of papers. There was no question that I had cause to sue them if I wanted to.

On the third day I went back to HR on my own, and basically asked for help. And what was even weirder, I got the help I needed to get out of that abusive situation, and to get into Unemployment benefits. I needed the benefits because we were in a recession in the state I was living in at that time. I think, looking back, that the head of the HR department had pretty much had enough. Since I wanted out, he got me out. It took me three months to locate the best job I had ever had in a long working life.

I've always thought that the co-worker who sparked the event that sent me down to HR got what she wanted. She got my job. Hope she enjoyed it, but somehow I doubt it because I kept seeing ads for what had to have been my job multiple times over the next couple of years. Neither of the lawyers I worked for had ever been able to keep a secretary for more than a few months before I came along.

It was interesting to see those 8 sheets of paper again after all of these years. I was so angry, and then so at peace all in less than 2 weeks. I am so glad that the kind of thing I was dealing with then, is long gone now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I've been quilting

I've been actively piecing the bed scarf. At this point there are 5 blocks and they have been put together with sashing and there is even sashing on the top of the row of blocks, but not yet at the bottom. I'll be putting borders around the whole thing as well. And at that point I'll take a picture of the "quilt top" and post it.

There will still be the actual quilting to do on the project. I'll quilt this one by machine. Until last year I'd always quilted by hand, but I don't think I've got decades to get projects done anymore, so I'm learning how to quilt by machine.

It will take a while to get to it because I need to do some practice pieces first. In the meantime, I'll go back to the small art quilt and figure out what to do with it. I've got some ideas in the back of my head, but I'm still not sure.

Take care all.