Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ode to My New Semi-Colon*

A week and two days ago I went into the hospital to have part of my colon removed. I have had diverticulitis since 2009, and yeah that's a long time to suffer with that kind of pain, but it took a while to get it definitively diagnosed. I have some other stomach problems as well, which I won't go into in detail because I am a benevolent blogger and don't actively hate any of you at the moment, but the addition of those things made all the issues hard to treat as treating one would exacerbate another. I finally got my diagnosis over a year ago, but it took me this long to get brave enough to have the surgery, even though I probably had 4 or 5 attacks in that time. I have a muscle imbalance in my eyes and have had 5 surgeries for that in my lifetime, the first when I was 2, plus I had my gallbladder removed about 12 years ago, and I have had enough of anesthesia and hospitals and trying to pee while attached to a pole. 

 I worked up the courage to talk to a surgeon in January. I had to just pick a name from a list of surgeons who take my insurance, and I chose the first woman on the list. Turned out, I hit the freaking surgeon jackpot. I'm not terribly fond of surgeons, and if any of you happen to be surgeons I would apologize to you for my prejudice except I am totally justified. My experience with surgeons is they all generally see people as objects to be worked on rather than people to relate to. I kept trying to make jokes to the dude who took out my gall bladder 12 years ago, and he was not comfortable with that AT ALL. He kept looking at me like WHY WON'T YOU JUST BE A CADAVER? And when I was an optician, we had a number of medical professionals as customers/patients and the surgeons were all like that, even outside of the doctor/patient relationship. Except the neurosurgeons. They think they're the hotshot mavericks of the medical world ("Anybody can cut out a fucking appendix—I put my hands into your very soul.") and they want everybody to know it. (This one time, one of our favorite neurosurgeons came running in to get his glasses fixed and breathlessly told us that just hours before he had a patient "on the table" whose heart stopped during surgery, and he, being the fast-thinking, god-like hero he was, jumped on top of the guy and pounded on his chest until his heart started beating again. And we were like, "Dude, we fix glasses for free, you don't need to impress us with that COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS STORY." But we only thought that to ourselves because frankly we thoroughly enjoyed repeating his tale—complete with chest-pounding gestures—for years afterwards, and knew that we would. Never shoot a comedy gift horse in the face, or whatever the saying is.)

So, the surgeon I picked turned out to be a very personable and funny woman who gave me so much information about the surgery, hospitalization, and recovery that I was left with exactly zero questions for her. I liked her so much I wanted to do lunch or go shopping or something. And it turned out she knew my primary care doc, a wonderful CNP whom I also adore. So when I went to see her for my pre-op physical, she told me even more great stuff about my surgeon. "You have one of the best surgeons in Annapolis, if not the best," she said. Well okay then.

Oh! And my friend Kimberly made me this bag to take to the hospital, because she totally gets me:

In the 12 years since I had my gallbladder removed and my last eye surgery, they built a completely new hospital complex and I have to say it's pretty sweet. David got to wait for me in a comfy waiting room with a big digital board that had each patient listed (by a secret code number) with their current status: in prep, in surgery, in recovery, transferring to room, etc. The prep nurses and techs were all friendly and chatty and even the anethesiologist was a sweetie pie (I've never had much luck with them either.) 

And while I was waiting in the prep area before surgery, THEY PUMPED WARM AIR INTO MY HOSPITAL GOWN AND I LOOKED LIKE VIOLET BEAUREGARDE:

The surgery went well and didn't take as long as they had said, so I was in my room by late afternoon. when you have colon surgery, they need to know that your colon is "waking up" and functioning properly after being taken apart and put back together, so everybody asks you every five minutes if you have farted yet. But, of course, they call it "passing gas" because, dammit,  this is a hospital not a barnyard, Jim! 

I was introduced to my friend, the morphine PCA, and encouraged to press that button every 10 minutes like a good girl so that I would feel no pain.

Now, I have always hated narcotics because they make me itch like crazy, and I explained this to the doctor, but she said, "Well you have to have something and we're giving you morphine." And within 24 hours I was indeed itching but I kept using my pump, figuring I could handle a bit of itching in return for controlled pain and a legal high. But by the end of Wednesday, my face had gotten quite red (though nobody but my husband seemed to notice it) and I was starting to shiver a lot whenever I got up to go to the bathroom. By Thursday, my arms had turned bright red as well and were extremely hot to the touch, though I didn't register a fever. And worst of all, my arms hurt—far, far more than any of the pain from the surgery—and the pain would increase with even the slightest movement. By now the nurses and techs were listening to me and they took me off the morphine and gave me Tylenol and Benadryl and after about 20 solid hours off the morphine, I could finally use my arms again.

Since I no longer wanted or needed the morphine and the reaction was dissipating, and because I was stinking up the halls like a champ, my surgeon let me go home Friday afternoon. 

My staples came out yesterday (I know you were dying to know that), and so now I have only to take it easy, know my limits, and give myself another few weeks to completely heal. I plan to get lots of reading done and binge-re-watch The Walking Dead until I see Daryl's greasy head in my sleep. And if all goes well, I 'll be able to work on some recent quilty projects that I've been waiting to show you—because I'm planning to turn them into patterns! This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a new phase for me, so I hope you'll stick around for it. I promise I probably won't mention staples again. I probably will talk about farting though.

*Hat tip to my friend Melissa Z., who made the semi-colon joke and made me jealous that I didn't think of it first.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I designed a quilt!

Waaaaay back in the spring of 2013, I was driving to Wegmans with my husband on one of the rare days when he was off work but the kids were in school and we could go eat sushi and Indian food and shop for cheese without two shorties wondering loudly every five minutes when they would be rescued from this, their own personal hell. It tends to make us a bit giddy. He was driving and along the way, I happened to notice a truck for a printing company that had an interesting logo.  The picture that I snapped from the car is gone, but here is the logo:

Naturally, I started thinking about quilt blocks. As one does. After we got home, I sat down at the computer and contemplated the logo. I knew it wouldn't work as it was, as I didn't want to just copy it anyway. But seeing it from far away in a moving vehicle during a light drizzle made me start thinking about blocks that were essentially half negative space, and constructed like a log cabin block. Set on point. As I played, I saw that I didn't want all the strips to be the same width, I eliminated green from the palette entirely, and I didn't use as much negative space as I had first envisioned. There was a lot of mind changing. And mouse clicking. I ended up with two blocks, and I loved they way they worked together.

After I worked out the design on paper, I figured out my fabric requirements and wrote out instructions that I would then have to follow myself as I constructed the quilt, to see if it actually worked. And by some miracle it did. I called it Breaking The Waves.

I was still working for Generation Q at the time, and I showed the finished quilt top to the editors, who said that they wanted it as a project for the magazine. Crap! That meant I had to quilt it, and I really didn't want to do that myself, so I begged Lisa Sipes to fit it in when she could. Lisa was in such demand, I figured she might never get to it and this would effectively eliminate any chance of my creative effort put on display for the world to see and judge, which was a win as far as I was concerned. I'm still a little shy about these things sometimes.

She brought it to me all finished at spring Quilt Market last year, and I brought it home to bind and be-sleeve. (Technical term, that.) Despite the wait, GenQ still wanted it, so I took it to our local beach to photograph for them.

They scheduled it for the January/February 2015 issue, which has just been released and should be appearing on newsstands now. And not only is this my first published quilt pattern, they even put it on the cover!

Big thanks to the GenQ art director Lisa Lauch for making my quilt (and my photos) look so pretty on the page. I am obligated to tell you that you should totally buy this issue and if you can't find it in a local store you can buy individual copies here or go to this page to find an online retailer that carries it. And while I do hope you buy it, what I really hope is that if you see it on a newsstand somewhere, you will pick it up and wave it around while yelling "I KNOW HER! I KNOW THE WOMAN WHO MADE THIS QUILT! AS MUCH AS ANYONE CAN REALLY BE SAID TO 'KNOW' SOMEONE ELSE THROUGH BLOGGING AND SOCIAL MEDIA. BUT STILL." But after that they'll probably make you buy it or pay some kind of restitution or fine, so be prepared.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blog Tour: Fast-Piece Appliqué by Rose Hughes

First. I must say that I am very honored that Rose asked me to participate in her blog tour for her new book, Fast Piece Appliqué. Of course I'm always honored when anybody asks me to do anything, because I'm kind of used to everybody being scared of me ("What if she uses a swear word???"), but I'm particularly honored this time as Rose is truly such an accomplished quilter. This is her fourth book, all of which have, in one way or another, focused on her unique appliqué technique.

Before I get into that, I am going to tell you how I know Rose. Rose has been a reader of my blog for a while, and I did know her a little bit from there, but she is also good friends with one of my former employers at Generation Q. When we went to our second Quilt Market in Houston back in 2012, Rose stayed in the group of hotel rooms GenQ had reserved for staff. She hung out with us and on one night a bunch of us went out to dinner and then shared a cab back to our hotel. Our hotel was quite nice, and happened to also be situated directly next to a rather large, um, adult-oriented shop.

Naturally, we had to check it out. So, I am one of the few people in the world that can say I have been post-Quilt Market late-night sex store shopping with Rose Hughes. Well, sex store looking, as we didn't buy anything, but still—it was a bonding experience and I am sure Rose and I will be friends for life because of it.

It was around that same year Rose published her third book, Design, Create, and Quilt, and I bought myself a copy. I was incredibly impressed with that book because it was really a series of lessons in art and design and composition, with each project illustrating a different lesson. She even starts you out with a folder project so you'll have something beautiful to store all your art inspiration in.

So, when she asked me to participate in this tour for her new book, Fast-Piece Appliqué, I said OH YES PLEASE, not only because I'm happy to support her work, but also because I got a digital copy of the book and I couldn't wait to see what she had done this time.

As I said, all Rose's books cover the Fast Piece Appliqué technique, but this one really dives into it. She also explores in depth the idea of taking a scene, a photo, an idea and reducing it to its simplest elements in order to make a bold graphic statement—and a quiltable one.

I'm not going to spoil the technique here—you'll need Rose's book for that—but I will tell you that it gives you a way to make absolutely ANYTHING you can think of. It's all done by machine and there's no fusible web involved! I will also tell you the main thing you will learn that you may have never done or even considered before is couching—where you lay down yarn and attach it with a zig zag stitch by machine. It's not hard, so don't be scared of that, and when you read the book and see how it's used you'll be all, I CAN TOTALLY DO THAT.

Now, have you ever heard that old Schoolhouse Rock song, Three is A Magic Number?

The number three has a lot of interesting mathematical properties, none of which I will bore you with here, but to me an interesting mathematical property is pretty much the same thing as magic, and Rose clearly had magic in mind when she made her projects for this book. Each quilt in some way includes, illuminates, embodies the number three:

(images courtesy of Martingale publishing, photography by Brent Kane)

Some of them are three-panel quilts; others are single quilts with three main elements. Rose has clearly been communing with the divine.

If you have not been following the tour, Rose has a special love-themed project download at each spot, perfect for making a love-ly quilt or wall hanging:

Or some super sweet pillows:

Each blogger on the tour got to choose a word for her download and I chose...LUST!

Naturally, someone already commented, "Of course YOU would choose 'lust'!" I have absolutely no problem with anyone thinking of me as 'lusty.' Lust makes life interesting, especially when you are a silver-haired forty-something quilter. And hey, I'm trying to write a romance novel, so I better have a good love affair with lust! Also 'lust' was the naughtiest of all Rose's words, and you know I can't just be sweet. I have to add a little salt.

To download your pattern for LUST click here. And to win a digital copy of Rose's book, leave me a comment telling me who or what you lust after. Riches? Chocolate? A lifetime subscription to Biblical Archeology? Danny DeVito's furry tush? There's no judgement here, you know that, right? I love all you freaky weirdos, so TELL ME EVERYTHING.

I will pick a winner on Sunday, January 18 and announce on Monday, January 19.

Please visit all the stops on the tour to get all the word patterns and more chances to win:

Jan 5th-  KISS-- Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Jan 6th - SOUL-- Natalie Barnes
Jan 7th - SEXY --Maddie Kertay
Jan 8th - SWAK-- Teri Lucas-Generation Q
Jan 9th - LEAP-- Mandy Leins
Jan 12th- LUST-- Megan Dougherty
Jan 13th - HUGS-- Jenny Wilding Cardon
Jan 14th - FIRE-- Sam Hunter
Jan 15th - SING -- Rachel Biel-TAFA
Jan 16th -- Rose Hughes

UPDATE: Did you know it is already January 19th?  I have no idea how that happened. Anyway, the winner of the digital copy of Rose's book is Debby E! You kindly gave me your email in your comment, Debby, so I will forward that to the pertinent parties and you should have your e-book soon.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best of 2014

I have started this post a bajillion times, each time thinking I'm going write about all my accomplishments from the last year, and instead I find myself whining about how the last year pretty much blew chunks. Again. Seriously, y'all, I am kind of tired of looking back on the year and thinking, "Well, thank Gof THAT'S over." (I realize I typed "Gof" instead of "God" but now I'm imagining some personal deity who looks over my life and determines how shitty my year is going to end up being and apparently his name is Gof. All hail the mighty Gof!)

I keep having these conversations with my husband where I tell him that I feel unmoored, that I don't know what to do with myself, that nothing, no project or endeavor, seems like the right thing to pursue. Should I try to be a novelist? Should I keep working on the everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-quilting-but-all-the-other-quilting-books-were-too-stuffy-to-tell-you book instead? A newsletter? Embroidery designs? Quilt designs? Nothing appeals to me, and then I remember that I know so many people in this business who are trying to make a living doing these things and here I am going, "La dee dah, what shall I occupy myself with today?" and I feel guilty.

Unmoored. that's the word I keep coming back to. I feel so unmoored.

Despite my lack of moorings, I have managed a few things, not the least of which is the I'm A Tula Fan quilt. Do you know Karlee Porter? Well, allow me to introduce you. Karlee is a very young (like twenty-three or some such nonsense) longarm quilter who has developed a style she calls Graffiti Quilting. She uses several different design motifs and combines them, producing this really cool effect that is, frankly, kind of mesmerizing to look at. All of the work I had seen of Karlee's had been very high-contrast, but I imagined it on the Tula quilt just in the background areas and only adding texture, not color. It just so happened that Karlee had been playing with monofilament thread and that is what she used on the Tula quilt. She then did a very regular looping pattern in each dresden plate and a kind of casual, free motion circle around and inside each center.

I bound it with a black and grey Tula print from the Moonshine collection and placed the last stitch on the label on Monday. I think it's freaking magnificent and I cannot stop looking at it.

A million thanks to Karlee for giving this quilt a soul.

So generally sucky was 2014 that I assumed there was nothing else for me to go back and point to as an "accomplishment." Certainly, there were no other quilts this year, but upon review there were some pretty good blog posts. In fact one of them set massive records for views and comments, even though it wasn't the least bit funny. So I thought I'd just list them all here, in case you maybe missed one or two.

So, here's to a happy, healthy, prosperous and well-moored 2015. Thank you again for joining me on this ride and for not once telling me this past year to watch my language.

Design Wall—or The Drywall-Destroying Panels of Doom? 
In which I discover a really cool way to make a design wall that, as of today, has still not come crashing down on my head.

My New Book
One of my favorite activities is to make an April Fool's post and then wait for somebody to link to it on Quilting Board. Those people are APPALLED by me and it's so entertaining.

Traditional neo retro post-industrialist modern punk quilting or TNRPIMPQ 
You want to create a quilting 'movement" that isn't really a movement at all? I got your movement right here. Movement. (This was also the second most popular post of all time for my blog.)

The Laughter Quilt
I thought it would be really cool to collect quilt squares from all my readers and turn it into a massive quilt devoted to the power of laughter. I may have slightly overestimated my readership or how willing people would be to write down what makes them laugh on some simple little quilt blocks, but I will not give up! About 100 people immediately responded. I still need about 600 more. I do still get questions as to whether I am still accepting blocks (even after I re-post links to the original post as a hint, hint). YES!!! I am still accepting them. Otherwise, the Laughter Quilt is basically a Laughter Table Topper.

Quilting With the Big Dogs
This actually started out because of some appalling behavior I was watching from a fellow Quilt Industry Professional and I had thought of trying to make some aspects of that person into an animal character, but then I started writing in the voice of a dog and realized I really love dogs and didn't want to make my quilting dog into a total asshole. Also, cats get way too much attention.

Behind the Bolts
I interviewed a JoAnn's employee and wrote about what she told me.  The most viewed and commented-on post of all time.

Super Helpful Amazon Product Reviews
Sometimes, even when I'm feeling pretty low, I still manage to entertain myself.

I'm A Quilting Fan, I Think
One of the most gratifying things about writing this blog has been hearing from people who appreciate seeing something they have often thought or felt put into words. I didn't think that would happen so much from my expression of quilting ennui.

Texting With Mom
Fake texts are one of my favorite forms of comedy. Once I finally figured out how to generate them (even though I forgot which bubbles are the sender and which the receiver), I was in giggle heaven. Another moment where I made myself laugh and that was all that mattered.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Texting with Mom*

*not my actual mom
(and yes, I realize I got the sender and receiver mixed up on these, but I'm not doing it all over, so hopefully it still works)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Romancing the Gnome

Christmas approacheth again, damn it. I was one of those idiots who did it in the spring and produced a child right before Christmas, so I also have to contend with a birthday at the same time as wondering why I ever thought making the children believe in Santa was a good idea. The kids know we don't have a lot of cash on hand, so they figure they'll just ask us for one small thing and Santa will take care of the rest.

Every time we talk about Christmas, my husband says, "Hey, you should do a Christmas sale!" And I say, "A Christmas sale of what?" And he says, "Your book," and I go, "Oh, yeah," because yes I do forget about it sometimes.

But, first let me tell you that I have signed up for NaNoWriMo, which, for those of you that don't know, is National Novel Writing Month. Each year, people pledge to write a 50,000 first draft of a novel during the month of November. You need to average about 1700 words a day to finish by November 30.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been wanting to write something as a sort of practice novel, but my year plus of ennui has gotten in the way. And so many of you responded with OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE WRITE THAT I WILL BUY SO MANY COPIES. If you ever think that commenting on some rando's blog just goes out into the ether and disappears, I am here to tell you you are wrong. Every single comment and email I got meant the world to me, and I read each one over and over. A friend mentioned NaNoWriMo a few days later and I decided to take the plunge and announce it on Facebook, so I'd have some chance of actually doing it. I like deadlines and obligations—I'm weird that way.

I spent the next few days with a notebook and pen, sketching out the details of the plot. After about 15 handwritten pages, I decided to just dive in, even though November hadn't officially started yet I wrote 5000 words by October 31, and I'm already over 15,000 words in as of today. There is indeed a hot fireman, some evil quilters, a garden gnome, a possibly demonic cat, and a lovable quilt pattern/fabric designer with a smart mouth and an intermittent ability to make things move with her mind. The process has already been utterly fascinating, and I can certainly see where I have PLENTY of room for improvement, but there have been moments where I actually made myself laugh, and that's always a good thing. It's a wonderful feeling to go back over something and realize you actually wrote the words, "Who the fuck do you think you are, coming over here and talking shit about my garden gnome?" and know that, though there are many other flaws, at least that one line is just right.

So, thank you. You kicked my butt hard. And I liked it. Do it again.

And just for you, because I love you, I am putting signed copies of my book on sale for the month of November. They won't be on sale at this price anywhere else - just here, because this is for you. (I realize it's not much, but, hey, it's all I have to work with.) Until November 30, signed copies of Quilting Isn't Funny are only $10.00 plus $3.00 media mail shipping ($12 for international - see below). The only caveat is they will not be shipped until after Thanksgiving, so keep that in mind if you order. Also I apologize in advance for how may times I will mention this sale, but that is what you gotta do when you are marketing your own stuff.

SALE OVER - THANK YOU!! Books go out this week!
International buyers, please go to my shop page to purchase. Thank you!!

And just so you know, if there is enough begging—and the begging is of high enough quality—I might share some longer tidbits from the work in progress.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm a Quilting Fan. I think.

Yes, I've been a wee bit quiet lately. Some of that is due to the fact that everybody in the Quilt Industry is currently in Houston for Quilt Market and I am not. This is because I am basically no longer a part of the Quilt Industry, at least not the part that goes to Quilt Market. And this is actually a good thing. I had gone to the last Quilt Market in Pittsburgh hoping to become more comfortable with the whole process (trade shows are no place for introverts) so that I could eventually go and truly market my own stuff (instead of being too embarrassed to do so), but instead it turned out to be a clusterfuck of mega-proportions, and I left feeling unsure of my future in the industry as well as unsure of even my love for quilting. Usually I  come home from Market at least somewhat excited about new fabrics and patterns. But this time? Meh. I really started to wonder if my love affair with quilting was over.

I had been thinking that my articles were starting to get that "phoned-in" feel, and I really wanted to work as an independent artist and not as anyone's employee, so I bid a final farewell to Generation Q magazine and wrote one last column for the September/October issue. I spent the summer mostly hanging out with my kids, but I also started writing a book. I wanted to remember what I love about quilting, and I wanted to impart that love to other people. I won't say much more about the book than that, but I have managed to write over 15,000 words so far. That's not a Stephen King pace by any stretch, but it's not nothing either.

I've also been planning a novel, one I have mentioned in the past. I still want to write this, though it scares me and I am still working up the courage to start. I plan for this to merely be a "practice" novel, one to help me get the feel of the process and the structure, but I do have a dream to create quilt-related fiction that isn't all treacle and sunshine and heartwarming tales of friendship and family. No, I think there needs to be hot guys, evil bitch quilters who steal pattern ideas and take the good seats at guild meetings EVERY SINGLE TIME, and it should be GODDAMN FUNNY.

But I still wasn't inspired to actually, you know, quilt. I rearranged my fabrics several times, and even acquired some more, but I still felt no call to actually do anything with any of it. I've been collecting Tula Pink fabrics for a while, and got some more over the summer, and one day while going through some drawers I came across a "fan" ruler that can be used to make wedge shapes, as for Dresden plate quilts. The ruler came with a "Fan" pattern and I immediately thought of making an "I'm A Tula Fan" quilt. I pulled out all of my TP fat quarters and started at them for several days.

Then I selected a group based on the color wheel and cut my wedges. I had no plan. I was making shit up as I went along.

I sewed the tips into points and then tried to decide among several configurations. Just a mix to make it all scrappy? Full Dresdens? Half-dresden fans? Quarter-dresdens? Color wheel? Then, once I got that all worked out, I had to figure out the centers. I had already decided to use two blender prints from Tula's Fox Field line as the background, but I wanted something different for the centers. I played around with circles and squares and hexagons until I finally came up with a hexie/circle combo that I really liked.

I spent the next few weeks hand sewing like a maniac. All those dresdens could have been machine stitched down, but I just loooove the look of hand appliqué and I didn't mind the time it would take to do it. I mean, where the hell am I going, right? But it didn't really take as long as I thought and in a couple weeks (and after watching Outlander A LOT) I got them all stitched down. I finished sewing all the individual blocks together yesterday, and it now hangs on my design wall, waiting for backing and quilting and binding and just looking like a badass motherfucker.

I am so proud of this.

Am I desperately in love with quilting again? I don't know, to be honest. I sometimes feel a bit like I've seen too much of the little man behind the curtain. I do know that writing about quilting was a hell of a lot more fun when I truly was an outsider, and not so much when I was trying too hard to not be one.

So, I don't know where the next couple of years will take me.  I think there will be a lot of experimenting, and some of that will show up here. Because, ultimately, I just want to Make Stuff, and to be proud of what I make.

Even if nobody gives a damn but me.