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Do you have quilt blocks or a quilt top in your closet? It might look like this…

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This mysterious package was found in an elderly lady’s closet. It was passed down to her nephew, and he didn’t really know what to do with it. That is how I ended up with it.

I took the package to a quilt shop and had them look at the pieces. I knew it was a set of Dresden Plate quilt blocks, but not much more than that. It turns out that the pieces are fabrics from the 1930s and they are quite lovely.

I will be placing each block on a muslin background like this:

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The muslin is actually a square, but it is mounted in a hoop while I hand stitch it in place.

 

Once the Dresden Plate piece is firmly secured all the way around, the block will have borders placed on two sides. The borders are called sashing. When I have a row of four blocks all attached, I will create a second row. Each row will have sashing across the entire row. I will then join the rows to form a quilt top that is 4 blocks wide and 5 blocks long.

I will keep you posted as the project grows. When the top is complete I will layer the batting and backing and quilt three layers together.

Keep your eyes open – you may find such a treasure in your closet or the closet of a relative one of these days. You can learn to convert pieces like this into a quilt or you can have someone make a quilt for you. Either way, don’t lose out on the chance to preserve someone’s hard work and enjoy a “new” heirloom of your very own.

Don’t forget – If you’re in Fort Worth – I teach quilting. I also have smooth-sewing vintage sewing machines available at very reasonable prices. Prices start at $40. If you aren’t into sewing yourself, I can take your closet find and turn it into a quilt for you. You just can’t have too many family heirloom quilts!

 

Quilts have been with us for centuries. Yes they did make quilts in Europe. They tended to make whole cloth quilts where the cloth was not pieced but the design was in the quilting. They did make whole cloth quilts in the infancy of the United States, but they also pieced quilts from various fabrics and old clothing to get a double use from the cloth.

Small communities would band together and work to put up a house or barn for newlyweds and the ladies would likewise gather a quilting bee to provide a quilt for the couple.

The quilt symbolized the blessing and love of the community as well as continuing warmth in the couple’s new life.

I finished a quilt for a grandchild not too long ago. The process of quilting led my mind to want blessings to follow the child who would grow up warmed by it.IMG_0777 IMG_0780

As these four quilts were requested by the parents of four adult children, I thought about what the wife repeatedly mentioned to me. “My mother always wanted the kids to have quilts.”

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Why would that be important? For the same reason it was important to my grandmother. When the first four of her granddaughters married within a few years of each other, she made a dutch doll quilt for each of them. It was important to her that each married couple have a quilt.

I don’t know if she made quilts for my mom and dad and for my aunt and uncle when they married, but I do know that everyone had quilts. My grandmother had a wedding ring quilt hand-made when she married and her mother before her had a quilt as well.  Quilts were cherished emblems of love of others towards the new couple. They represented warmth, love and care given in a special package.

As I made these four quilts, I realized another fact. People who make a quilt for someone specific think of that person. They ask God to bless the recipients, to give them warmth and comfort. It doesn’t matter who it is for, you want the quilt to be comforting and to be a symbol of your personal work – time spent meditatively over that person or persons who will use the quilt in the future. It also works with quilts when you don’t know who will use it. You pray for someone to see it and just love it. And you hope that the work of your hands, the planning and constructing will bless the recipient for many years of warmth and comfort. Whether the recipient prays to the Universe or to God himself, they well receive blessings when they have something made in this manner. You just cannot pick this up at Walmart for $29.95.

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This block is made from a photo. I take the photo media to a printer and have two 11×17 photos printed on regular paper. One serves as my “go to” or master and the other is cut into pattern pieces. In this example, the skyline was cut out as one piece. The paper was used as a pattern to cut the dark blue fabric into the skyline. I used a glue stick to secure the skyline fabric to the cloudy sky fabric. Once the glue stick dried, I used the buttonhole stitch feature on my machine to outline the skyline and secure it permanently to the sky background.

The next section of the photo was a line of trees appearing between the skyline and the lake. I used a fabric in a similar tone to that in the photo and let it represent the treeline. This was also cut out using the paper as the pattern for the fabric. The tree fabric was then glued on top of the skyline portion of the block with a glue stick. Having the master photo available is very helpful in deciding where to place the treeline on the block. When the glue stick dried, I once again used the buttonhole stitch to secure the treeline to the skyline. This made a stitching of 3 layers, but the machine seemed to have no problem with this thickness. When you stitch through dried glue stick, the needle and thread do not become sticky at all and the fabrics remain flat without interfacing or paper behind as can be required with a wide satin stitch.

The lake composed the entire foreground of this photo. I placed a light blue fabric under the tree line, glued it in place with the glue stick and then buttonhole stitched the bottom of the treeline to the water fabric. I used the rotary cutter and cutting mat to trim the sides of the “water” and align them with the skyline and treeline.

My Dallas Skyline block was now complete. I placed sashing around the block and prepared to incorporate it into the quilt.

When the quilting was done, I used a pattern of small choppy waves for the water quilting and swirling wind for the sky quilting. The city skyline was outlined in the quilting.

This photo was taken from the shore of White Rock Lake in Sunset Bay.

Dallas Skyline on Quilt

For the art quilt, I will begin with the block on the top left. This is an appliqued Texas flag block.

This block is three simple rectangles. The white rectangle is placed horizontally on top, red on the bottom. A seam is made to connect the two. Press the seam to the dark (red) side and then align the blue rectangle with the left edge of the red and white rectangles. Stitch the seam and press toward the blue side.

Cut out your star. Use Elmer’s glue stick or a good quality glue stick to adhere the star to the central location of the blue rectangle. Glue down the center and all rays to the blue fabric. Wait a bit for the glue to dry, otherwise the star will still be able to scoot around on the blue fabric. You don’t want the star to be able to move at all.

Adjust your stitch setting to the buttonhole stitch that moves the needle forward across your fabric and align the needle with the top right edge of the upward-pointing star ray. From here, stitch around the star always stopping the needle on the outside edge of the stitch to make a turn. Turn at the tip of each point of the star until the star has been stitched around completely.

When the flag block is completed, cut sashing strips to frame the block. Stitch these strips on the four sides of the flag, with two sides extending beyond the flag block and forming a butt end across the other two sashing strips. This means that if you sew the top and bottom sashing on, then you will cut the end sashing strips long enough to stitch across the flag, the top and the bottom sashing strips thus making a full block. You could place a square at one end of each strip but that would be more work. If this doesn’t make sense let me know and I’ll try to explain it better, okay?

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Last week’s blog left you when I woke up in the recovery room after my double mastectomy.

Desiree stayed with me overnight at the hospital and the next  morning she was instructed in the care of my dangling drainage tubes and how to empty and apply suction to them in the morning and evening. She was a great nurse and I couldn’t believe she was so faithful in taking care of me when she was facing health challenges of her own.

There was no additional cancer found, and the lymph nodes they took were also found to be free of cancer. The cancer they did remove was estrogen reactive, so I was going to have to reduce estrogen in my bloodstream.

I failed the trial with the estrogen reducing drugs. I could not function with them – whether due to my fibromyalgia or some other reason, the drugs sent me to bed with bones and joints aching so deeply I could not function. I finally settled on Calcium D-Glucarate and DIM supplements. I get my estrogen tested periodically and so far it has been too low to measure.

When the surgeons operated, there were flat expandable inserts placed behind my pectoral muscles. Over the next few weeks I returned to Dr. Steele’s office every ten days or so for an injection of saline into these inserts. By doing these injections over time, my pectoral muscles were allowed to stretch and make room for my reconstructed breasts. It was a bit like going through puberty again, except for the hormones, of course. I grew slowly until I was approximately my pre-mastectomy size.

When the doctor and I agreed on the final size desired, we scheduled an outpatient surgery to replace the expandable inserts with “permanent” silicon inserts of the same size. I put quotes around permanent because at any point where there is a problem with the silicon implants they will be replaced.

So now I had the shape, but my breasts looked somewhat lonely or as I called it “blind” without any form of nipple on them. They reminded me of those cave dwelling fish that have no eyes at all.

Anyway, after the implant surgery healed we scheduled a nipple surgery where flaps were cut and folded around on each other to create a raised “nipple” look. There was no color, but the shape was there. Mine did flatten a good bit but not enough to make me want to go through another surgery.

More than a year after the surgery I was able to get areolas tattooed on the skin around and including the raised areas. I am well pleased with the outcome, especially when compared to my fears of looking deformed or maimed like some victims of the early years of mastectomies. To quote Meredith Baxter (the mom to Alex Keaton on “Family Ties”) after her reconstruction “I now have the boobs of an 18-year-old girl. Now how many ladies over 50 can say that?!?

I made this art quilt last year as a going-away gift for someone special. He had lived in the Dallas area for 5 years and was being transferred to Alabama. As I thought about what to give him to remember Dallas, I looked through my photographs of the Dallas area. This gave me the idea to use these photos to create blocks that would form a lap-quilt to send with him. Though he left in May, the quilt wasn’t completed until February the following year. Quilts take time, whether you make them by hand or on the sewing machine. This was machine pieced and machine quilted but still took a bit of time. Sometimes it took  time to simply visualize the block and how the photo would be converted to fabric. Other times it just took time to motivate myself to sit down with each challenge and complete it.

We had gone to the State Fair and rode the Ferris Wheel. We had spent time in Fort Worth’s botanical gardens. We had also spent time at White Rock Lake and I had photos of all these places. I also decided to add in the Texas and Alabama flags and some Alabama items that were significant, such as Magnolia flowers.  The Reunion tower was nearby and we were both Rangers fans.

The following photo is a picture of the entire quilt. Since he is tall, I made it crib sized so that he could use it when napping on the couch in chilly weather.

Subsequent blogs will contain how-tos for the individual blocks.

 

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Last year was great and awful – and often both at the same time.

In April I was blesssed with a beautiful granddaughter. While I was visiting and helping with her adjustment to life on the outside, I received a phone call from the mammogram center. I had missed my annual appointment and needed to come in. I scheduled the appointment for May and went on enjoying my visit with the new parents and baby. My daughter and I planned what kind of quilt I would make for the new addition to the family, even as I presented them with a newly knitted dress and bunny.

In May, I kept my appointment. I was ambivalent when they scheduled me to come in the next day for an appointment with the surgeon for a biopsy. It would be nothing. I knew it. It would be another one of those annoying cysts that pained me from time to time. I scheduled the appointment with very little concern. I had nursed my children, I was reasonably healthy for a person with fibromyalgia. I was eating well and watching my weight, losing a few pounds at a time – the healthy way. I still ate some white sugar, but had increased greens and decreased meat…

Then… I showed up for the appointment and asked the surgeon what he thought. “Its just a little fibroid cyst, right?” I asked. No, he said, it looks like cancer. It is small, though and will probably only require a lumpectomy. We will call you when we get the results. “Oh boy, I thought… that doesn’t sound good!”

The following day they called. I had had a sleepless night, tossing and turning, fretting, worrying, praying – giving the whole thing to God and taking it back again. They said it was malignant and scheduled me to go to an oncologist. The appointment came quickly and my daughter-in-law went with me, along with her sister who is a nurse and a good friend. Another sleepless night the night before, and we met the doctor with positive thoughts of a quick lumpectomy, over and done.

The Oncologist was not as encouraging as the surgeon in the mammography center had been. “We will probably have to take the breast, she said. Otherwise we will have to do radiation and if we do radiation, the reconstruction will not be good. So – one breast? Then she explained that if I had both breasts removed the chances for a full recovery and no recurrent cancer would be much stronger.

On the next visit to the Oncologist, we discovered that the cancer was estrogen positive. This meant that the estrogen in my body fed the cancer and enhanced the concept of removing both breasts. But she explained – I could probably keep my nipples. Keep them??? I hadn’t even thought of losing them, and now it seemed that had been a distinct possibility. She didn’t like the idea of me keeping my nipples though, because they contained breast tissue and could cause a recurrence. She had just had such a recurrence and was not pleased that her patient had to fight cancer a second time. I was insistent. I feared ending up with a maimed appearance. I had seen the results of mastectomies in the 70s and images of those incredibly scarred torsos flashed through my head. Nights were difficult. It is hard to sleep with fibro pain, but even harder to sleep with worries and fears of the future flashing through my mind.

I set about searching for surgeons. I had to find a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon who took my insurance and who both worked at a hospital where my insurance would be accepted. For a time I was afraid I would have to go to Dallas. It isn’t far from Fort Worth, but still, I didn’t want to be that far from home. Searching for these specialists was taking much longer than I felt was necessary but I was bolstered by the information that the cancer was small and slow-growing.

With my insurance company’s help, the two surgeons and the hospital were located and the appointments were made to meet both doctors. The surgeon outlined a plan to remove both breasts and reserve both nipples. He further confirmed that the cancer was small and slow-growing and told me that it had probably taken five years for the cancer to reach its now-visible state. That eased my mind as the surgery was still not scheduled.

The visit with the plastic surgeon came next. He examined all the documentation and outlined his own plan for reconstruction. I felt like a fish out of water just gasping for air as he explained that the nipples had to go and reconstruction would be done “from scratch” with everything removed and then re-created slowly over several months to a year. He was somewhat comforting however, as he showed me photos of reconstructed breasts and they did appear to be somewhat normal looking.

A single lady in my mid-50s, I was a bit anxious about this. I was dating, but wow – this kind of drastic measure could ruin a marriage – what would it do to a dating relationship? How  would I feel when I looked in the mirror? This was only some of what went through my head. I was thankful for the blessings that were included – no chemo, no radiation, no long-term negative prognosis. So many women had a much darker future than I did. Some were still very young. There were ladies carrying toddlers and wearing kerchiefs on their heads to cover the chemo after-effects when I went to the cancer center. I knew I was being blessed and protected in many ways, but the fear was still hard to handle.

I was thankful for insurance, and even more thankful for the laws that require patients who want reconstruction to be allowed to have it. I wasn’t sure how it would all turn out, but I wanted reconstruction. The idea of seeing myself in the mirror with my most visible feminine attributes missing was disconcerting at best and extremely depressing at worst. What if… what if… what if???? thoughts raced and i repeatedly prayed and surrendered to God’s will only to jump back in and try to handle things without God. Oh dear! This was hard!

Finally the surgery was scheduled. Daddy came with his wife, Tina. My son Daniel and his wife Desiree came to the hospital. Desiree spent the night with me after the surgery and got the aftercare instructions. She would be helping me with drains and tubes during recovery.

Waiting in the pre-surgery waiting area, I was anxious. I felt immensely private about the surgery and had only told closest family and friends. I knew prayers were being sent on my behalf, well-wishes and all that, but I was scared. I was going into this a “whole woman” and coming out flat-chested as I had been as a child. This was drastic and I was tense, nervous, afraid. Daniel and Desiree kept telling me to breathe. I guess I kept forgetting.

Finally, into the surgery prep area and then into surgery. When I woke up I remember touching my chest with both hands in recovery. Flat. “They’re gone” the nurse said. “Everything went fine.”

Research on the mason jar dates it to 1923-1933.  It’s hard to imagine a 70 to 80 year old jar, but there it is!

The one-piece lid was made of zinc.

I found some jars at an antique mall recently, but they were listed at 35 dollars and more, so I let them go.

Ball Perfect Mason Jar Lamp Mason Jar Lamp mirrored Mason Jar hanging lamp Swirl Quilt and Ball Mason Jar LampMy friend Don found this Ball Perfect Mason Jar at an Antique Mall, and it was full of wooden spools of thread. Some of the spools contain silk thread, and the others contain cotton. The spools themselves are interesting, as some retain the original 10-cent price tags! I cannot remember thread selling for 10-cents!

So I took the jar, which already had a hole in the lid, and wired it for a light bulb. Then I found a vintage style bulb, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The bulb gives off an amber glow and is not too bright to hang without any type of shade.

Interestingly, the lid is one piece molded metal – lead, aluminum or some blend by the looks of it. The jar would hold about a half-gallon. I will have to get more information to determine the age.

After trekking to North Dallas by 6:30 a.m. and waiting for the estate sale to open at 9, I was disappointed in the look of the Bernina sewing machine. It looked old… Really old. I found the manual though, and thumbing through it I realized that the previous owner had followed each of the instructions and made a sample of each stitch design covered. The samples were stapled into the book and notes were made in the margins. The stitching was beautiful and the samples sold me on the 1980 model 831.

I had no luck talking the price down, so I went ahead and paid the full asking price. When I got the Bernina home, the zigzag knob wouldn’t turn. I applied some WD-40, but still no movement. I was resigned to the concept of a trip to be serviced.

Meanwhile I proceeded to clean and oil the machine. Later in the day my friend Don came over and I was showing him the stuck zigzag knob. He managed to open a compartment I had not been able to move, and then directed me to apply more lubricant to a few specific areas.

Now the 33-year old baby purrs like a kitten, and the stitching is beautiful. The tension is perfect and the seams are so smooth I just want to feel them to make sure I’m not dreaming!

I can’t wait to get creative with this great machine! I’ve already whipped out two valances and curtain tie-backs for my April grandbaby’s arrival.

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