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.

Scan results and a quilt

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you probably already know that the results of my scan were good.  There was shrinkage in the lung lesions as well as in the abdominal areas.   (Or as some of my friends would say, “Hehe.  Shrinkage! Hehe”. Yes, my friends are 12 year old boys inside.)

So. That’s good. The Inlyta is working. Knowing this makes dealing with the side effects a lot easier.

Most of today was spent chilling in the backyard or working on a quilt in my room. I keep making excuses so that I don’t have to finish pieces, but at some point I’ll need to get over it and just get it done. Part of the problem is my constant state of indecision, coupled with cancer brain ADD. Hopefully I’ll work my way through that.  But for now, here’s my current project that allows me to avoid all the UFOs. 

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.

A few thoughts

I tried to write a more coherent post, but this is what came out – I almost think I should place everything in bullet points.

It’s been almost a week back on the Inlyta, and over all it isn’t too bad.  It isn’t too great, either, but let’s focus on the positives first.  Compared to the last round, I’ve done much better – only a little pain that was easily managed with Norco; while I’m taking naps daily, the fatigue isn’t quite as wearing as it had been; I’ve been able to be creative and even get outside a bit.  So, overall, not too bad.

At the same time, though, I feel like I’m more fragile.  I have to plan out each day so that I have the energy to do what I want or need to do.  If I overextend myself, I’ll pay the price.  I recently read about the spoons theory, which has really resonated with me recently, though luckily a shower won’t cost me 1/12th of my daily energy.

During the week, I met with a palliative care team at Kaiser.  They got me hooked up with the Norco.  It’s possible that ibuprofen would do the trick, but because I only have one kidney, and that one isn’t functioning at full capacity, I’m not supposed to use ibuprofen.  So, opioids it is.  And I’m thankful for them.

I am also looking for a support group for either metastatic cancer or for terminally ill patients. I feel like there are things I want to discuss that aren’t really relevant to a general cancer group where a large portion of the people can easily expect to survive.

And, since I’ve been able to get a surprising amount of sewing done, another thing on my mind is how to finish up some of these projects. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll try to get some quilting friends together to help me layer the tops that are finished. And I really need to find a quilter who can take care of the large top that I won’t be able to handle. Not difficult to find, but something I put off because of procrastination and not wanting to deal with the expense.

Also, I really “need” to hire a sewing team to execute some of ideas. I could get SO much done if people were sewing for me while I was in bed, resting. I’d be like Matisse, who was blind or nearly so, when he made many of his cut outs, using helpers to do the work.

I’m still struggling to get used to the way life is right now. Part of me gets a little depressed when I think that it may not get better than this. But, as Rob said today, what’s the alternative? I guess this is what they call the new normal. Ugh.

Lost treasures

My friend Jill came over today and helped me with a small project in my sewing area (now part of my bedroom). As we finished up, I remembered a box of fabric in the closet. I knew it was full of hand dyed fabric that I’d saved when we moved back to California in 2011.

What I didn’t realize was that it also held some fully and partially completed pieces, too. It was like Christmas all over again.









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.