Monday, March 10, 2008

Feeling Wonky!

This is MS Awareness Week and several of us bloggers/quilters/MSers have joined forces to increase awareness of Multiple Sclerosis. Our goal is to inform and inspire by sharing our stories and our quilts in a fun way.

Block Party
37" x 51"
machine pieced and quilted
© Diane Burdin, 1997

The mid 1990's were a particularly stressful time for me. Since stress aggravates MS, I’m not surprised that it lead to my first serious exacerbation, a curious numbness and tingling in my arm that lasted for months. Over time, other unusual symptoms began to appear: fatigue, dizziness, depression, all of which my doctor attributed to stress. His advice? Slow down. Make a concerted effort to relax. See a therapist!

Meanwhile, some friends had organized a quilt challenge. I joined in, hoping the creative exercise would help me relax. Typical of these design challenges, the theme fabric was a hard to use print,  a wild "op art" pattern that made me dizzy if I looked at it too long. That became the theme of my quilt -- feeling "wonky."

It was the perfect opportunity to try Gwen Marsten's liberated piecing techniques for constructing wonky quilt blocks. I started with houses:

My first attempt wasn't nearly wonky enough.

Now I was getting the hang of it. No right angles here!

I tried a church with stained glass windows and a wonky sun.

Here's our house, with William peeking out the upstairs window.

Once I'd made enough blocks for a little neighborhood, I arranged and rearranged them like pieces of a puzzle. If a block was too small, I added to it. Several house blocks, for example, were enlarged by adding trees. If a block was too big, I simply trimmed it down.

For interest, I scattered bits of theme fabric throughout the quilt and also included other types of blocks -- all "liberated" versions of traditional quilt patterns: log cabin, nine patch, flying geese and stars. 

The thing about making a quilt this way is, you never have more than a general idea of how it will look when finished. Much like Multiple Sclerosis, it's hard to predict the course it will take. When faced with a challenging fabric or a challenging symptom of MS, the strategies for coping are much the same -- add a little something, trim a little something, adapt, change the plan. Chances are, you'll still create something beautiful.


  1. I'm so glad you are all doing this. I think there are so many people who just don't know much about this awful disease. MS is particularly prevalent here in Washington and Oregon. For a long time people didn't know why. Apparently there is now new research pointing in the direction of a deficiency in vitamin D in early life. That would certainly explain it around here - so very many cloudy or rainy days we have that kids aren't out playing in the sunshine much of the year. I know personally only one person with MS, but I know of many more. There are three in my SIL's family alone, and though his symptoms certainly point to MS the doctors keep saying he doesn't have it. The step-daughter of one of my Tangled Threads friends has had MS for some time, and a couple years ago she was picked as one of the national representatives for MS and posed for posters that were all over that year. I pray for both a way of prevention and a cure one of these days - it's such a crippling illness.

  2. Good for all you with MS,don't give up. As they say BE ALL YOU CAN BE!Wig.

  3. Diane,
    That is a great picture of you! It is good to see you smiling, but then you are always upbeat. It is TIME for them to find a cure!

  4. I agree with Wanda on everything: You do look marvelous and there definitely needs to be a cure.

    So sorry you were feeling out of whack when you made the quilt, but what a fabulous quilt to have made. I love it.

  5. What a great post! I love the photo - your smile is just beaming *s*

  6. Oh goodness this is a lovely post and I dont know why it didn't display until this morning. I'm very confused! :<

  7. How wonderful that you were able to make your fun Block Party quilt in spite of your symptoms. One of my favorite local quilter-friends has MS and I'm always surprised at what she accomplishes! Love the way you've used your other little quilt as an analogy for your condition too :- )

    I have become very skeptical about the things doctors and researchers and insurance companies say too, as a result of my recent medical experiences. It's really too bad that we're expected to become advocates for our own health when we're incapacitated.

  8. I love your block party - and I think you are beautiful in your picture! I had a friend at work with MS until it just got too hard for her to work. I"m so glad you all are sharing your experiences and information.