The past couple of days I’ve felt like crying a lot.  It could be from the amount of stuff we’ve had going on lately (though really, not too much), the complete melt down of the boy-man-child (what do you call a kid who is 6 foot plus, almost 200 pounds, but really only 15?) the other night, frustration at my painting, a touch of depression, or cancer.  Probably it’s some undealt with stress over the CT scan I’ll have tomorrow.

It’s a scheduled one, for as much as we schedule these things.  The last one was in October, and all was fine.  By fine, I mean that there was no marked growth and there was some shrinkage of the cancer in my body.  Chances are good that this scan coming up will show the same thing.  But there’s still always that stress that pops up before a scan.

I’ve been lucky to be able to make appointments for my scans that are less than 36 (often less than 12) hours from when I call.  That really helps keep the anxiety down.  This time, though, it was more like 4 days out.  Not so much fun.

So today I’m working on breathing deeply.  I dusted off the Enya album (figuratively – it’s on my iPhone) and listened to it while I was in traffic today.  I’m going to go focus on pretty fabrics after I finish writing this, and will try to remove all thoughts of cancer, scans, etc., from my mind.

Denial does have its benefits.

Making a quilt, part 3

I’ve got my 100+ squares together, and it is time to head to the design wall.

For this piece, I decided to start in the center, with a large dark splotch.  I like to lay out a bunch of the log cabin squares, then fill in with the four patches.

First round

I’m liking this, but ended up removing the top two (partial) rows, and moving everything downwards, giving a rough gradation.

Second round

Filling in with the four patches, and it looks pretty good, but I’m bugged by the teal block that’s 3 rows from the right and 4 from the bottom.  It just sticks out a little too much, so I switched it for a slightly darker block.  (This is why I always make extra – gives me more play options.)

laid out

And there it is.  Thanks for listening.  😉

Finished quilt top

Finished quilt top

Not yet!

Last night Linda died. I met her in a support group that I attended last summer. Once school started back up, it was difficult to go, but I went when I could. I last saw her at a retreat in November, and was surprised to hear yesterday that she was on hospice.

On my walk today, I found myself crying for her (for me), and chided myself, because obviously there are people who know her better and loved her fully. But she touched my life, too, and helped me get situated on this stupid journey.

She was diagnosed in 2013, about 18 months ago. I keep thinking “Not yet! Not yet!” Am I thinking of her or me? Yes. I guess I am.

I notice that when I’m not posting about quilting, I seem to post about the things that break my cool. Being involved in support groups provides a lot of support, but also ample opportunities for me to lose my cool. On the whole though, I’m glad to not have to take this journey on my own.

Making a quilt, part 2

I realized that in my last post, I didn’t say much about how I pick the fabric that goes into my stash.  For this series of quilts, I’ve been leaning heavily into large patterns – usually florals.  Lately, I’ve purchased a lot of fabrics designed by Amy Butler, Kaffee Fassett, Brandon Mably, and Joel Dewberry.  Their fabrics seem to give me what I’m looking for – a lot of movement and blending of colors  (I try to find pieces that have a general single hue feel, while still bringing in other hues into the mix.)

I took a look at the fabrics I’d chosen, and brought in a few more pieces.  That light green is back, and I added two more to up the orange factor.  I particularly like how the fabric on the right can bring the orange and green together.

I added these fabrics to the bunch

I added these fabrics to the bunch

Each quilt in this series (so far) has been made up of 100 blocks – 50 four patches and 50 log cabin boxes.  For each quilt, I cut one 2 inch strip and one 1 inch strip from each fabric.  This will give me more four patches than log cabins, but because I often go back to use my leftovers, I gear my cutting to making sure I’ll start with at least 50 log cabins blocks.

Strips of fabric arranged by value

Strips of fabric arranged by value

After I’ve cut, I arrange the 2 inch strips by value, and make two 9 inch cuts, leaving me with four 2″x9″ rectangles of each fabric.  I then set up the strips by value, usually starting with the darks, by my sewing machine.  This allows me to sew without thinking too much, while still getting a variety of different blocks.

Getting ready to sew the four patches

Getting ready to sew the four patches

I start from the dark end and work to the light end.  My goal is to create dark, medium and light blocks, with some blocks acting as transition between the values.  I don’t have a set pattern, but in general, I’ll grab the first available fabric (lets call it #1), and sew one to the next fabric (#2), jump a fabric to #4,  #5, and then jump just far enough that I’m getting a fabric that’s about half a step away in value (dark / medium dark / medium / medium light / light).  Looking at the photo above, I’d probably go for #7 (if the bottom is #1 and you count up.)  There’s no real science, and sometimes I’ll be totally wild and use #3, #5, #6 and #9.  Whatever.  It’s kind of meditative and fun, and since I work my way up the value scale, I don’t really have to plan much, and that’s how I like to sew.

Cutting the four patch pieces

Cutting the four patch pieces

In the photo above, you can see the strips that I’ve sewn together, along with my piles of cut pieces that are ready for the final seam.  I’ve found that doing large batches of cutting and chain sewing speeds up the process so that I can get to the really fun part!

organizing the log cabin blocks

Organizing the log cabin blocks

For the log cabin blocks, using the 1.5 inch strips, I make two 1.5″ cuts, two 2.5″ cuts and one 3.5″ cut.  That’ll be enough to make two blocks from each fabric.  I don’t pay too much attention to value when I arrange them with the center square, but in general, I don’t tend to pair the very dark with the very light.  Mostly.   And again, chain sewing and ironing helps me get through this section pretty quickly.

Next post – putting it all together.

Making a quilt, part 1

I’ve been encouraged to share how I make my quilts.  Most of what I do is fairly intuitive, so I’m interested to see how well I can give form to the process.

Every quilt starts with fabric choices, which means heading to the fabric store or the stash.  I store my stash in two bins below my cutting board, with warm colors (yellow, orange and red) in one, and cool colors (purple, blue, and green) in the other.  I’ve got a third bin for storing neutrals and projects in progress, and the top bin holds scraps.

My fabric stash

My fabric stash

Today I want to make a green and yellow piece, so I’ve pulled out a bunch of fabrics to audition.  I’m going for green, yellow green, and yellow, and I want a range of value, from very light to dark/medium dark.  In general, yellow has a lighter value than green, but if I work it right, I’ll have some greens that are lighter than some yellows.  I can’t stress how important it is to have a good range of value in a quilt.  They say value does all the work, and color gets all the credit.  It’s true.

First choices

First choices

I’ve decided to remove a few fabrics.  The two greens below don’t have much movement and are monotone with white, so I don’t think they’ll give me the look I want.  (I might revisit the lightest one on the left.)  The peacock feather in the middle has the perfect amount of movement and color changes, but it is far too blue.  It would be great in another quilt, but not this one.  And, looking at the photo above, I think the top left fabric reads to pink for this quilt, so that’s going to be removed, too.

Rejected fabric choices

These ones aren’t going in – for now

There are a couple of other fabrics that I’m still unsure of, but for now, they’ll stay in the pile and I’ll probably make blocks with them.  Whether those blocks make it in this quilt, well, we’ll see.  I might end up throwing in a little bit of orange, too, just for fun.  But for now, here’s what I have.

Final (?) fabric choices, stacked by value

Final (?) fabric choices, stacked by value

Now I’m off to start cutting these lovely fabrics!  I’ll cover that and the sewing of blocks in the next post.

After the break

After taking a break from my cancer meds, all of the hairs that had turned wispy and silver grey start coming in thick and dark.

This creates a striped pattern, somewhat reminiscent of tree rings – you can chart my dosage history in the grey and light and dark brown sections.

I’m also reminded that hair grows not only on my head, and grudgingly pull out the razor and the tweezer again.

In a few more weeks it’ll be back to the new normal. One that still startles me when I see my image reflected in a window or on a photo, but which is growing more familiar with time.

No stress New Year.

I’ve been thinking about how much easier things have been lately.  Certainly the physical stuff has been SO. MUCH. BETTER. since I took the meds break in December, but I’ve also felt better emotionally and mentally, too.  We’ve had a two week break with all four of us at home, over the holidays, usually a fairly stressful time.  But this year, I haven’t felt so stressed, and while I’m looking forward to having everyone get back into their routines with school (kids) and work (Reil) and being the car service (me), I am not salivating over it as has happened in previous years.

I haven’t been hiking as much as I’d like to, and when I do get out for a walk, it’s usually just that – a fairly short and flat walk.  I haven’t been challenging myself at all.  And yet, when I get out there, I feel happy and content.

I think the key to all of this is that I’m giving myself a break.  Although I’m not challenging myself physically, I’m also not feeling upset or disappointed that I can’t achieve my hiking goals.  Because I’m not pushing myself, I’m not getting winded (and then frustrated).  Same with being home with the kids.  Usually, I’d want to have lots of activities planned, and to be a hard ass about being on the computers.  This year, well, we’ve done some nice things (trip up to my home town, playing tourists in SF for the day, movie day), but for the most part, it’s been a lot of puttering around the house and a heck of a lot of video games.  And you know what?  The kids have had a great time.  And they’re going to be fine.  And I’m not stressed.

Do you think there’s a lesson there?