Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Buoyed by my successful completion of a quilt last week, I bought some more batting and set about finishing the shark quilt top I had made for Harper over a year ago.

As I was pin basting it, I stabbed my thumb with one of the safety pins, not realizing that I had drawn blood until I saw a spot of red on one of the white strips of the quilt. Naturally, I said something unrepeatable and Harper wanted to know what had happened. I showed her my thumb and pointed to the blood spot on the quilt, and in typical Harper fashion, she raised her arms as if in victory and said, "You got BLOOD? On my SHARK QUILT? That is SO AWESOME!"

So I've decided to let the blood smear that I got on it when I let the sewing machine needle gouge another finger while I was quilting it be a surprise. 'Cause you know me. I'm a giver.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Red light! Green light!

Merry Two Days After Christmas!

As I mentioned on Facebook, a few weeks ago, just a couple days after I broke my toe, I woke up with a shoulder muscle completely seized up. It was clenched so tight, I couldn't lower it to a normal position and it hurt like a motherfucker so I had to keep my left arm curled up against my chest to keep the weight of it from pulling on the injured muscle. Thus, for several days, I was a limping hunchback, gallumping around the house muttering, "Yes, master...."

I lived with it for almost two weeks and then finally broke down and went to see my doctor about it. She put me on steroids and muscle relaxers and said if I wasn't seeing improvement in 3 or 4 days then we would talk about physical therapy or chiropractic.

I'm sure many of you have been or are currently under the care of a chiropractor and think they are wonderful, and I am honestly glad that you have found relief in their care, but I have yet to meet one that did me any good. On the advice of real, seemingly competent medical professionals, I have sought the help of chiropractors three times and all three times I ended up no better than when I started and in one case probably worse.

My favorite of the three was Dr. Wagner, a youngish, Jon Denver-y looking man, who was very earnest and enthusiastic about all the money he was about to get out of me, and he tried hard to be the kind of practitioner who would educate his patients as well as treat them. Except he didn't take into account that one of those patients might be an over-educated skeptic who requires peer-reviewed articles from major medical journals and years-long, double-blind studies before she might be convinced of anything.

So on my second visit—the one where he showed me the results of my x-rays—he wanted to explain all about "subluxation" and had a small model of a spinal column as a visual aid. The model had not only the vertebrae but also the spinal cord within it and nerves branching out from that. The nerves ended in tiny LEDs. So as he spoke about "displacement" and "dysfunctional segments," he surreptitiously pressed a button to make all the little LEDs flash red, indicating, I assumed, pain and general Bad Feelings. Then, as he extolled the wonders of cracking my neck repeatedly, he secretly pushed another button, which made all the little lights glow green. Green for Go! Green for Yay, Spine! He then sat back, looking rather satisfied with himself, and awaited my response to his elegant proof. Which was essentially, "You're shitting me, right?"

Despite this, I let him crack my neck and other parts of my spine many times over the next several months, and while I kind of liked how my back felt immediately afterwards, it did nothing to improve my chronic back pain or my migraines and I eventually stopped going, indicating to him, I suppose, that the Red Lights of Evil had won. Several years later I went to another quack - I mean chiropractor (I know they prefer Doctor of Chiropractic, but they can bite me) - when I was pregnant with Devon. My hip joints were so loose that they would often collapse as I walked, which was extremely painful. It was bad enough that I left my job a few months before I intended to, because the office was up a long flight of steps and we had no parking nearby. I even bought a cane. The doctors I consulted all insisted that a chiropractor was my only option, so I went and this one was a lovely young woman who happened to be pregnant and was due around the same time as me. She proceeded to take some medeval looking device and hammer my hip with it, then some electrical doohickey, and by the time she was done, I was in a hell of a lot more pain than when I started. And I went back! More than once. Not because I believed she could do anything for me, but because I wanted to at least be able to say that I had tried it when I decided to make someone listen to my complaints about how goddamn much my hips hurt.

So, suffice to say I wasn't keen on pursuing that option. I have become even more blunt from years of self-employment and the consequent lack of socializing, and I'd probably get myself kicked out. AREA WOMAN ARRESTED IN CHIROPRACTIC MELEE. "She kept screaming something about green and red lights," said terrified onlookers.

So, after 3 or 4 days, it wasn't much better, but I decided to wait until after Christmas to do anything about it. The things that hurt most were working at the computer, driving, and pushing a shopping cart. Naturally, I spend most of my time typing and driving, with occasional pauses to pick up stuff at the grocery store. Thus, my lack of posting and the sorry state of the snack shelf in our pantry.

Then - a Christmas miracle! Saturday morning was the first time I awoke without having to immediately take a megadose of Advil and apply alternate rounds of heat and cold. As suddenly as it had come, it went away. There's still a bit of stiffness, and a twinge now and then, but otherwise it's all better. Chiropractors across the Maryland capital area can all breathe easier now.

Strangely, the one thing that didn't hurt was quilting. Which I suppose I should take as some sign that I should just be sewing instead of writing, but no one's gonna pay me to make crappy quilts (at least no one's offered to - yet). I finished the table runner and got that mailed off, so I got the crazy idea that I might try to complete one of the quilt tops stacked up in my closet. Back in 2009, I made this for my youngest child:

Sometime after I finished it, I added a dark purple border and made my first attempt at free motion quilting an entire quilt. I bought the gloves and the silicone thingy and made a good effort, but only got about a quarter of the way done before I gave up.

What I was missing was a table to the left of my sewing table to hold up the weight of the quilt. I got my husband to help with a wee bit of furniture rearranging last week, and I dragged out the quarter-done quilt and gave it a go.

It took me several days to complete the work I had done on it back in 2009. I finished the rest of it in one afternoon.

I used a lavender thread and stippled the living crap out of it. Found a slightly different purple fabric for the binding, and by Christmas Eve, my youngest daughter had a new quilt, one that her mother made entirely herself, without having to resort to paying someone else to quilt it. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that I was able to do that, when so many other tasks were incredibly painful, but I'm sure someone could make a model with red and green lights to help explain it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Monogram Project

One evening last week, the new neighbors' kids were over at our house and the eldest, a girl who is turning 9 soon, eventually decided to hang out with me rather than the other kids. At some point, the answer to one of her many, many questions contained the words "sewing room" and she wanted to know what kinds of things I sew. So I showed her a couple quilts, and she was duly impressed. That's why I love making quilts for kids - they think its so awesome that you can do something like that and haven't quite yet developed the "so you didn't have enough money to buy one at the store" mentality that older kids and many grown-ups have. I also showed her a purse I had made and that's when her face really lit up. "Wow! I could sure use something like that,"she said. "I have a wallet but I don't have a purse and my mom always has to carry it in hers." Knowing that her birthday was coming up in just over a week, I asked what her favorite colors were, and she said blue, green, and orange. And was very emphatic about the orange.

I scoured the internet and tapped into the Facebook hive mind, and finally ended up buying this pattern. I used fusible fleece instead of interfacing and used solid fabric instead of jelly roll strips. I actually had an orange fabric with green and blue stripes in my stash and paired it with an old Erin McMorris fabric I bought a couple years ago.

But now that I've made it, I'm wondering if she's allowed to have a purse. She's always telling me what her mom won't allow her to do, and of course they are all things I totally let my kids do. I will leave it to your imagination as to what those things actually are.

So, I might get in trouble, but I've decided I don't care. That seems to be my general attitude these days. I might get in trouble, but I don't care.

I've been thinking about the new year coming up, and I will be glad when this one is over. There have been some good things about it, certainly, but 2010 will forever be the year my brother got brain cancer. And, as I say, good things have come even from that, but even so, I am anxious to leave 2010 behind me.

I started thinking about all the quilting projects I would like to do in the next year, and many of those will be given away. I've also been thinking about wall hangings and about pushing my nascent applique skills further in 2011. I've been focussing on hand applique but I also want to learn to do it by machine, and while I was thinking about this, I just decided - out of nowhere, really - to take a couple of the fabrics from my Christmas quilt and make a big M. Like a monogram. Then it occurred to me that this would be a neat ongoing project throughout the year, or maybe even longer.

So I have decided that for every project I complete, I will take some of the leftover fabric and create an M applique, each with a different font. I may quilt and bind each piece separately, or I may even frame them. Or perhaps they will end up in one quilted piece to be hung on the wall. Whatever the final product, I think it will be a neat way to commemorate all my projects and keep a piece of them with me.

Now I just have to figure out what the hell I'm doing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Or should I say, "TOE-rture"? No, probably not.

Um, have you noticed that Christmas is looming? Every year I have panic attacks starting December 1, because every year I find myself in a situation where there will be no Christmas unless certain parties who owe me money cough it up in a timely fashion. This situation was aggravated four years ago, when my chosen method of birth control failed around tax time and our second daughter was born 6 days before Christmas. Even though we had David neutered a couple years ago, I still won't let him near me in April. Or May, just to be safe.

So, once again, I am biting my nails and hoping for the best.

In between working on the next articles, I have been staring at the dresden plate table runner and wondering how the hell to quilt it. I have done nothing beyond stippling yet, and I really wanted something different, so I went back to my Virtual Quilting Mentor, Leah Day, and let her words of wisdom convince me to try a paisley design in the area surrounding the dresden plates.

Here is what I did, on a practice panel:

Not great. But not so bad that I'd have to wad it up and use it to scrub toilets. So I was all ready to start in on the real thing when WHAM. I smashed my right foot against the leg of a chaise in our (to quote Git Down Kitty) "fo-yay."

This was not an unusual occurrence. I smash my toes on furniture legs all the time, and so when I hobbled into the kitchen and announced what I had just done, pretty much everyone just rolled their eyes and went, "Again?" But I knew something was different about this time because usually I'm in blinding pain for about a minute and I say lots of bad words and then it goes away. This time it was oddly numb, but I still felt panicky and I wanted to say lots of bad words, but I didn't need to. Harper helpfully reminded me, after noting my unprecedented restraint, that I could say the word Ramona came up with in "Ramona and Beezus": guts. So I sat in the kitchen with ice on my foot shouting, "GUTS, GUTS, GUTS!"

Then the pain set in. And the swelling. And the colors! Such pretty colors. 

I suppose I could have gone to a clinic or the emergency room, but since the toe wasn't pointing in an unnatural direction and the pain wasn't more than I could bear (as long as I didn't actually, you know, move it or walk on it), I elected to just buddy tape it and stay off of it for a day or two. This of course meant that I got to read all day yesterday, and that meant I plowed through the last book in the Outlander series in record time. And of course she leaves you with the most tantalizing cliff-hangers in this one, when I have to wait for her to FINISH WRITING BOOK EIGHT. I suppose I should be glad I have something to look forward to, but WHAT IS JAMIE GOING TO DO TO LORD JOHN? Or Claire, for that matter? And God only knows what will happen to Roger. He'll probably end up blinded and castrated. 

Or forced to wait years for book eight, because that, my friends, is torture.