Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Quilted Librarian in Retirement

Our lives have been turned upside down since my husband's illness began in May of 2013.  Finally, after three different courses of antibiotics, the last one killed the staph infection in his back, but he suffered a compression fracture of the T12 vertebra sometime in November and had to spend eight months in a sort of tortoise shell brace.  The fracture healed on its own (which was a blessing because he is not a good candidate for back surgery now) and with physical therapy, he is regaining his mobility slowly but surely.  He returned to teaching after several months off, but it was necessary for me to take him and pick him up.  It became clear that my retiring would be the best course of action.  Since I turned 65 in July and had the required amount of time in, that is what I did.  So whilst I am technically retired, I am still a librarian, so the name of the blog will stay the same.

Also in July, three days before my birthday, my mother, Kathleen Warner passed away at 94.  She had been failing for several months.  Anna came to stay with Jim in June so I was able to fly down to see her.  Several weeks later, it became clear that she was not going to get better, so  Jim and I drove down.  My brother and his wife flew in and were actually with Mom when she passed.  I'm glad that we could all be together and support my dad.  He is doing well, but misses her tremendously.  They were married for 67 years.

I have not been idle during this time of being a full-time caregiver, though.  I've made a number of baby quilts, a t-shirt quilt for Anna's friend Philana, curtains for Anna's godson's room,  and am working on a full size quilt for our son Danny and our daughter by marriage, Steph.  I've also read many wonderful books and have added more yoga classes, zumba, and cardio workouts at our local Y.

This is a quilt for Danny and Steph's new niece, Aria, who was born last spring.

The t-shirt quilt was composed of Philana's high school sports shirts.

This is the back and the bias binding.

I'm currently quilting this bento box quilt for a little baby girl.

These are some of the double wedding ring sections for Danny and Steph's quilt.

The setting is called Posies because four sections of a similar color are put together to form flowers.

Monday, February 17, 2014

New scrap quilt thanks to Pinterest

I've started a new scrap quilt thanks to Pinterest.  It's creator, Deanna of the Wedding Dress Blue blog, named it the "Film at Five" quilt and it is an extremely serviceable design for all sorts of scrap arrangements.  I started looking for a likely candidate design when my scrap box had to be declared totally out of control.

Once I had the design, I dumped the scrap box and began cutting two-and-a-half inch squares.
Having a two-and-a-half inch ruler is a huge help so you can quickly see if you can use the scrap in question.
Slipping is always a problem, but a saw a great idea in the new American Patchwork and Quilting magazine about using shelf liner to help hold a larger ruler still.  It works like a charm.
The blocks in this quilt are twenty-five squares, and the illustrated quilts on Deanna's website were mostly charm style (all blocks different).  I actually had large quantities of several fabrics, so I did some improvising.  The first block I did used an overall floral and difference pink fabrics.
The next one used two different fabrics only.
Putting them together using string piecing went very fast.  You can see the threads connecting the rows.
This block used crayon fabric and then solids in the crayon colors.
Calling the vertical rows one through five, turn row two over onto row one

and then starting at the top, pick up the five pairs (starting at the top and putting the next pair on the bottom) and take them to the sewing machine.

Sew the five pairs together without breaking the thread in between pairs.
Pick up row three as you picked up the first row.
Starting at the top, open the pairs and sew row three to the pairs, again without breaking the thread between the now-forming rows.
Once you've picked up all twenty-five squares, press in one direction for the top row and the opposite direction for the next row and so on.  Pressing is really important as it makes you work more accurate and looks better.

Press the finished block from the right side.

Most of the time, I just cut blocks, but for several of them, I did do "fussy cutting."

Here's the finished Clifford block.
I also "fussy cut" the Cat in the Hat fabric.
This is the dinosaur fabric.
As you can see, the blocks are largely children's fabric.  This one is the exception, but I think it works with the others.
I love all the kitten's green eyes staring out from this block.
For the borders, I decided to use one fabric for the corners. The white fabric is a white on white print of numbers in different fonts.
The rest of the border blocks use solid fabrics.

I'm very pleased with the nine-block size (54 square inches) and I've got other ideas for new color combinations.  I'm an old-fashioned quilter in many ways and using up my scraps is certainly one of them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Old Favorite, the African Stripe Baby Quilt

 A new baby girl is coming into the world later this spring and I'm creating yet another African Stripe Baby Quilt.  I found this wonderful inspiration fabric at my local quilt shop, the Studio Stitch.  It's called "Fairy Magic" and is part of the Riddles and Rhymes collection by Tina Givens for Free Spirit by Westminster Fibers.  It will be the wide border around the striped fabrics center.  The dark blue thin border is from my stash. The addition of the borders parts from Kaffe Fassett's original design, but the striped fabric set in alternate directions is all his genius.
I'm getting ready to pin baste the layers together.  The backing fabric is flannel print of sky with fluffy clouds.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Coming up for air

Our last eight months have been spent in a continuing journey of illness and pain for my poor husband, Jim.  It took several months after he initially was plagued with terrible back pain, to discover that he had a staph infection in his back.  Mercifully, it has stayed out of his blood, but that also makes it harder to fight.  He's been hospitalized three times with vomiting so severe, he has become dehydrated. (We finally learned that this is his body reacting to the infection.) He spent three more days in the hospital after an open biopsy around T12.  He just finished his second six-weeks long course of IV antibiotics.  I've learned to start an IV drip bag and use a syringe to administer these drugs and help him get from place to place and help with his personal care.  Last week, we learned that the infection's abscess is still there, but hasn't grown.  We also learned that he has a compression fracture of the T12 vertebra. Now I strap him into a rigid, clamshell, body brace each morning. The doctor hopes that T11 and T12 will fuse on their own while he is in the brace for two or three months.  Pain remains an unwelcome guest in our house.  He has lost nearly 80 pounds during this time which is good for his heart and general health, but not an approved method of weight loss.

Our children, and I include our wonderful daughter in law,  have been great.  Anna has come and spent many weeks with us when Jim was recovering from an open biopsy surgery and at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Dan and Steph came in July and again at Christmas to provide love and support and lots of laughs. Our hearts overflow with love for these amazing young people who make up our family.

I've only been at school about four weeks during this school year.  Everyone at my school has also been incredibly supportive.  Jim's staff and faculty and students have also overwhelmed us with their care and concern and visits.  Over the summer, several of his staff and faculty moved his office to a building with a handicap ramp in the entrance.  And while I was able to help Jim start the school year and teach classes, he was not able to return after the last hospital stay.  This experience would be unbearable without all of them.

 During this time, I've come to appreciate even more the strength of character and compassion of my dad who has cared for my mother for the last three years.  When Jim went to the emergency room with the first case of mysterious vomiting, I was in Florida as my parents transitioned from their home to a retirement center.  While caregiving is tiring and stressful, it's also terrible to see someone you love in pain or distress and feel inadequate and helpless to make things better for them.

Please keep Jim in your prayers or practice.  We are ecumenical and appreciate all offerings. I am hopeful that this will pass away and he will regain his health and strength.  As with all trials, we will be closer and stronger because of it.

My heart is so full of you.