I’m sitting in a hotel suite with six other women right now. We’ve got various projects spread out on the tables in front of us  – scrapbooking – both family and business, crochet, knitting, catching up on billing, doing homework.  In between stitches, cropping, notation, etc, we’ve been catching up on our lives. Kind of crazy, since we all live within 3 miles of each other, and have a serious coffee date each week. 

But life gets in the way. One of us started full time school recently. Others have work schedules that have gotten crazier. And I’ve been stuck at home on my sofa. 

I’ve found myself getting a bit jealous of my friends as they talk about their jobs, especially Cyn, who has just jumped into a very intense computer engineering and start up program. She’s pushing herself in exciting ways that are similar to (but much more concrete and high level) than what I’d been hoping for when I quit my job just before my diagnosis.  They’ve all got so much going on, though, and it is exciting to hear about, even if the little green monster rears its head. 

Once again dealing with redefining myself. I realized that, although I don’t have a traditional job, and although I haven’t been able to put much (OK, any) work into it lately, I’ve got the chance to work on my art. And that’s pretty great. Especially when I can sell and show my work. 

I sold two quilts this week, which is awesome, I think. And I’ve joined the Hayward Arts Council, and will show a couple of quilts in a show later this summer.  Two quilts are in the county fair. There are exhibition opportunities later in the year. I’m working on getting cards made of my work, too, to sell in the gallery, and small matted pieces. 

So I’ve got things going on. Now if I could just pull my ass off the sofa to make more artwork. 

UFO finish #1

Well, after quilting this one turned out totally wonky – wouldn’t lie flat for anything. So I had to get serious and engage in a little quilt bondage and water sports. Which is to say I sprayed it down and wrestled it flat on a knitting blocking board. Then I shoved it under my bed and forgot about it for a few days.  When I pulled it out this morning, it decided it was going to behave and lie flat like a good little quilt.   Got it squared and bound, and now I’m ready for lunch.

What? A sale?

No, I haven’t started listing my quilts for sale yet.  But if you’re interested in a pair of earrings made by Moi, today is your lucky day!  I’ve got a bunch of new earrings on my etsy site (lisabeedesigns), and older earrings are on sale for $6 or 7!  Plus, if you use the code APRILEARRINGS, you can get 25% off all orders of $35 or more through April 30.

UFOS be gone!

My closet of shame has been growing more crowded lately, as I continue to begin new quilts without finishing older ones.  So when I saw a group challenge to finish UFOs (unfinished objects) in one of my quilting forums, I figured I’d better take the hint and sign up.

A peek into the closet of shame

Obviously it’s much easier for me to get carried away by new ideas than it is to complete those ideas into a fully functional battle station.  Quilt.

For this challenge, each participant lists 5-10 quilts or projects they want to finish and then we have 3 months to try to get those finishes done. And if you do, everyone in the group sends you fabric!  Cause that’s just what we all need.  More fabric!

Here’s my list of projects.

1.  Patriotic pinwheels – I made this quilt top at a guild retreat about 2004. Everyone else brought red white and blue fabrics. Not me. Need backing fabric, quilting and binding.

2. Purple and orange garden – This needs backing fabric, quilting and binding.

3.  Purple, blue, and red garden – Needs backing, quilting and binding

4. Batik plus quilt – another oldie. Needs backing, quilting and binding. 

5. Yellow and red color wash – started in the early 2000s. Need backing quilting and binding.

6. Green and blue color wash – also started in the early 2000s. Needs backing, quilting and binding.

7. HST trip around the world – recent top made from charm squares I received in a package from the lovely Hillary at Entropy Always Wins blog.   Needs backing, quilting and binding.

8. Floral plus quilt – Needs a border, backing, quilting and binding.

9. Color fields, orange and white – Needs quilting and binding.

10.  Clown barf quilt – This one was going to be a coins quilt. Now it’s going to be something different.   Needs to be pieced and fully finished. 

Which should I try to finish first?

The good and the bad and the cancer brain

I had blood drawn today, you know, my every other week blood draw (which is much nicer than doing it once a week, but still…) I’m used to the drill. I make appointments for the lab work, which means it takes me 5-10 minutes, even if there are 30+ people waiting. (Suckers!) I show them my Kaiser card and ID before they ask. I look away before they poke me. I joke with the lab techs and reception folks. Today it was “You don’t cook because you’re working all the time. I don’t cook because of cancer” to the receptionist, and because I basically fell into the chair, “Oops, guess I shouldn’t have been drinking” to the lab tech. Ok, so I won’t make it on the professional comedy circuit.

Walking out of the hospital, however, I just thought, “Damn it, I’m over this shit. Can’t I just be done with cancer?”

Oh, if only it were that easy. Why the hell can’t it be that easy? Can I find some emotionally healthy way to block out all of the cancer related stuff, and only pay attention to the non-cancer stuff in my life? It’d be a lot easier if I weren’t spending hours a day sitting on the toilet as everything I eat goes straight through me. (And side note, why the hell have I gained a pound this week when I’ve had diarrhea for the past 3 or 4 days?)

On the upside, another part of my lab work ritual is that I usually treat myself to a trip to the mini outlet mall across the freeway, and today I found a great pair of pants and a couple of pairs of sunglasses (to go with my new Farrah Fawcett hairdo).

I am continuing to jump back into life, and I think my shopping habit shows it. Over the past week, I’ve purchased a lot (almost all on line, because I’m still tired) – a bunch of fabric, some summer tops, odds and ends for the household, and just tonight I ordered my face cream from Macy’s. I’d been putting that purchase off because it isn’t inexpensive and because, frankly, I was feeling pretty grim about my future. But dammit, if I’m going to die, I’m going to die with the best skin I can have.

I had a bunch of girlfriends over for an artsy craftsy day yesterday. We spent a few hours making fused fabric landscapes. Definitely gave me a sort of high to spend time with them and to see all of the amazing work they did. I’d like to extend an invitation of quilting lessons to anyone who wants to learn to quilt. I might put you to work on some of my stuff, too.

I wish I could weave all of these various threads into a more coherent, cohesive post. But that seems to be how my mind works lately. In order to make sure I remember something, I often have to put down a thought or an activity half baked. It makes everything more scattered, especially when I have to try to remember to go back to the original thought or activity. And I often don’t remember until much later.

Ugh, frustrating.

And I just realized that this Monday of last year, I quit that stupid ass job that was sucking the life from me, and I was re-evaluating everything that I was doing. I was excited for what I thought was coming – more school, new opportunities, etc. Just didn’t realize that everything would be turned upside down just two days later by the emergency room trip and the cancer diagnosis and horrible prognosis. But I think I’ve done pretty well over the last year, all things considered.

Back on the horse again?

My doctor finally got back in touch with me.  (Usually he’s much more prompt.)  He really encouraged me to give Inlyta another chance to see if the side effects will settle down, this time on a smaller dose.  I told him OK, but with two caveats:

  1. We start with a set time frame – if this doesn’t work within X weeks (I’m thinking 3), then we drop it and move on to the next therapy.
  2. I get palliative care to help with the pain.  The marijuana does help a bit, but not completely.  And if it’s any indication – before Inlyta, I was using it once or twice a week.  On Inlyta, it was as much as 4 or 5 times a day.

There’s a third caveat, but that has more to do with my friends and community, and not at all to do with my doctor.  I know this line of treatment will knock me out and wear me out, and leave me unable to do much.  So, for that, I’m going to need support, and lots of it.  I know I’ll be tired, but I’m also going to need to see people and talk to them.  So, texts and visits would be greatly appreciated.  Phone calls, too, though I’m not sure what my phone skills will be.  If you want to come by, but aren’t sure about whether I can do it, please just ask.  I will tell you yes or no, and I will mean whatever I say.  And yes, you may wear me out a bit, but I’ll have plenty of time to nap;  your company will help more than you might expect.

On the up side of it all, I feel really good right now.  No pain beyond what I normally had, being a 46 year old out of shape person with cancer.  My energy levels are much higher, though I still feel a bit of fatigue, as if I were getting over a bad cold or the flu.  So, that’s good.

Also on the up side, I bought some fabric today.  I needed a little fabric for the binding of one of the quilts I recently found again, and when I walked into the store, I was blown away by all the pretties.  So, I blew most of the last bit of money that was on my state disability card on a few cuts.  In away, I think this is a good sign for my mental health.  I don’t NEED this fabric (no, really, I don’t!  shhhh!), and purchasing it means I’m looking to the future, and being able to use it.  I’m seeing a future!


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

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.

My year in books

Here I am, looking at fabric online, AGAIN.  Contemplating purchases of many, many yards of luscious material because it is just so pretty (and let’s face it, I’d be getting a deal here.)  If I click the purchase button, you all have to promise to kick my ass into gear and get some quilts done!  I can’t bitch too much because I have two finished tops, one almost finished top, and another well on the way.  But there’s still lots of fabric in my drawers and it needs to get used, and I haven’t been doing a whole lot about that.

After a weekend of doing nothing but lying on the sofa, watching TV and movies, because I couldn’t do much else (I missed a Camp Kesem reunion and a 4-H sewing meeting, where I’m one of the leaders), I finally have some energy.  This, I’m sure, is in no small part because I’m taking a short vacation from the cancer medication.  Last week I finally had it up to here with constant diarrhea and literal butt hurt, so I contacted my doctor and got the OK to go off it for a week or so.   Of course, I used the energy yesterday and today to finish consuming the latest Department Q book, The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  It was due today, and I couldn’t renew it again, so it had to be done.  I love my Danish mysteries.

Over the past seven years, I’ve tracked all of the books I’ve read on  (My user name there is Lisabee, if you want to connect.)  Most years I read or listen to about a book a week.  This year, perhaps for obvious reasons, I’m falling a bit behind – so far, only 43 books, with 3.5 weeks left of the year.  (Yikes, that means there’s only 2.5 weeks until Christmas.  But that’s another post.)  This year has been mostly thrillers and mysteries, which isn’t far from the norm for me, but there’s definitely been a stronger trend towards the comfort reads for me.  Again, probably for obvious reasons.

So, what HAVE I been reading?  Lots of mysteries, of course!  Last year, one of my co-workers, Cheryl, introduced me to Nevada Barr, and I’ve been making my way through her Anna Pigeon series, all set in national parks.  I just wish I could visit them all, too.  I read or re-read a few of the Kathy Reichs‘ Temperance Brennan (Bones) books.  I also started reading a new series by Malla Nunn, set in 1950’s South Africa;  enjoyed Stuart MacBride‘s newest Logan McRae, Aberdeen detective, full of wonderful characters; and got my second taste of Harry Bingham‘s Fiona Griffith, and another of Sharon Bolton‘s Lacey Flint.

I’ve also read the new books by a few other of my favorite authors. Michael Connelly – both Burning Room (a Bosch novel, and again terrific) and The Gods of Guilt (Lincoln Lawyer, good).  I can’t wait for the Bosch series to come out on Amazon Prime in February.  Lee Child put out a new Jack Reacher novel, which, while fun, wasn’t quite the top of his game.  I also listened to a novella (High Heat) set when Reacher is 16 (sometime in the 70s).  Barry Eisler put out a new John Rain novel, which like High Heat, goes back in time to when Rain is young – 19 or 20 and just out of the military.  I tend to lump these three authors together because they almost always put out terrific work.  Their protagonists are also getting older – Rain and Bosch born in the 50s, Reacher in 1960.  So they’re all well past their physical primes, and all in “business” in very physical fields.  So I wonder where the authors will go with these characters.  Eisler seems to have taken the series backward in time, and I’m hoping to see a new arc of novels with a young Rain.  I suspect that Connelly might focus on the TV series (hope?), but it sounds like there might be at least one more Bosch book.  Jack Reacher will probably be kicking ass and taking names until he’s 90.

Lest you think I’m all murders and mayhem, I took a few side trips to Australia.  Three books by Liane Moriarty, who I describe as the thinking woman’s chick lit writer, and who managed to continually delight me, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, which was a wonderfully fun romp through Asperger’s.  (Did I really just write that?  Oh, read the book.  You’ll see.)

I turned to Christopher Moore for some comedy, too, and can’t even begin to stress how amazing he is.  We listened to The Serpent of Venice on our way to Portland and Thanksgiving time.  It’s a mashup of The Cask of Amontillado, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello, and the audiobook performance is exceptional, hilarious, and a rollicking good time.  I listened to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal right after my diagnosis and surgery.  I’d read it already, but enjoyed the second experience just as much, if not more than the first.

And of course, there were the cancer books.  I’ve read part or all of a number of them.  But the best book about cancer that I read this year was The Fault in Our Stars.  Read it, watched the movie, cried the whole way.

Ok, now I have to go order some fabric, and then turn to the giant stack of books next to my bed.  You guys should go read some books or send me your favorite recommendations.