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.

 

dons quilt

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.”

I just love this green two-tone machine. She sews like a dream and she is so darn Pretty! This Singer is gear driven, so there is no belt. The motor is housed in a cute little box on the back of the machine. They call it a potted motor.

Straight stitching is just gorgeous on this machine, and I almost wish it wouldn’t sell! Its on Craig’s list at 125.00 with the cabinet, buttonhole attachment and instruction manual.

What a beauty!

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At an estate sale southwest of Fort Worth, I recently acquired a Lenco Sewing Machine.

There were many sewing machines produced by Japan post WWII. They had machinists and manufacturing facilities, and they needed to turn their resources to non-military activities. They acquired either an actual Singer sewing machine or plan details for manufacturing them, and they produced many machines that were inexpensive and were shipped to the U.S. for sale. These machines were made very well and were very sturdy. Sold under many name brands, and even branded for department stores to sell as their own, these were very popular machines. They were so well made and so sturdy that we still have many of them available today.

This Lenco was in good working order, and I have cleaned and oiled it.  This machine is available in my Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/irishroseneedlearts.

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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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After years struggling with my old student model Singer machine, I have located a Bernina 831 at an estate sale. I will be blasting off at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow to be one of the first arrivals to view and hopefully purchase this machine.

I will be ecstatic if I am able to acquire the Bernina because I will be able to sew things again – the Singer only works when it feels like it, which is rarely when I feel like sewing.

Since I have my first grandaughter due in April, this is especially exciting. I will be first sewing a valance for her curtains, and then the sky is the limit on little pink baby projects!

Finally complete – the hand pieced and hand quilted Wedding Ring Quilt I started for my daughter before her wedding is done! It is beautiful and it is done! It is hard to imagine the number of tiny stitches put into that quilt, but it is a major accomplishment in my mind.

During my process, I have moved, divorced, lost a pet, and gained a future granddaughter. It has been a long road both literally and figuratively, and I have found success in cotton, needle and thread.

I am happy with this.

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