Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Page Fright!

My friend Julie, editor of Designers’ Quarters quilt magazine, asked me to write a column about my experience as a quilter with Multiple Sclerosis. I feel more comfortable working “behind the scenes” as a pattern proofreader, but decided it was a good way to increase awareness of what seems to be an increasingly common disease.

The thought of having my words appear in print started giving me page fright. So, I decided to look at the assignment as a blog post, to be read by only a handful of my most faithful blogging buddies. That got the words flowing all right. Only now, I’m actually going to impose upon you to read the essay. Thanks!

Pins and Needles

Ask any quilter what “pins and needles” mean to her and she’ll reply that they’re indispensable sewing tools. Ask me the same question and I’ll be more likely to describe a peculiar “pins and needles” sensation in my hands and feet. It’s just one of many symptoms such as numbness, weakness, dizziness and fatigue associated with Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system.

When I was diagnosed ten years ago, I became one of at least 300,000 Americans afflicted with MS, more than half of whom are women. Many of us are also quilters, understandably concerned about this unpredictable disease impacting our needle skills. In my case, I’ve lost much of the strength and dexterity needed to quilt, but I’ve never lost my passion to create.

I’ve learned to quilt in new ways, adapting sewing tools and techniques to my changing physical needs. A new sewing machine with loads of stitches has replaced the sewing I’d previously done by hand. My physical therapist introduced me to ergonomic sewing tools and was even able to modify my rotary cutter to make it easier to use. The latest fabrics are conveniently delivered to my door with one catalog or Internet order. But it’s my friends who really keep me quilting, with their willingness to do those things I can no longer do alone. All it takes is a phone call and they’re here to help cut fabric, press blocks, stitch bindings or finish some long neglected project that I just can’t manage myself. These gracious women inspire, encourage and motivate me to keep stitching.

I used to worry that I’d have to give up quilting because of Multiple Sclerosis. Instead, I’ve found that my strong passion to create actually helps me cope with the challenges of MS. Quilting gives me a positive outlook, a sense of purpose and pride, and a connection with other creative women. And that “pins and needles” sensation? I still get it from time to time, only now it’s in anticipation of my next quilt project!


  1. Awesome story, Diane! Not even being deployed to Iraq stopped me- my mom pre-cut one block at a time and sent it to me to hand piece. I must have prayed for patience once... because that took a lot of it!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, I was wondering...but how to start that conversation?? Your piece is very nice, inspirational and, I think, speaks to all kinds of quilters and crafters who wonder what to do about the need to create, when life changes for them. Thanks, blog friend!

  3. I thought you wrote a lovely piece. An inspiration to anyone suffering from a limiting factor...MS or otherwise. Just goes to show that where there is a will there is a way.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I knew you could do it! You have such a way with words! I have a friend who has MS and she didn't start quilting until she met me and decided it was something she could do. She knew she would never do a lot of hand stuff or fancy quilts, but what she does do makes her happy and gives her friendship in classes and a shared love of quilts!

  5. Diane, I enjoyed reading your essay. Your positive attitude has certainly helped you through many rough patches. My sister-in-law took your hand quilting class years ago and she still tells of what a good teacher and caring person you are.