Thursday, September 25, 2008

Odds and Ends

Wow, Thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post. I never expected to get more feedback about my gleeful expression than on my very favorite quilt! I’m telling you, I heard from old friends as well as total strangers (from as far away as France) about my smile. What a testament to the appeal of blogging. I blog to feel connected with other women, on more than just a “quilty” level. Connect with me you did and I am grateful.

I thought I would tie up a few loose ends from previous posts. Several people asked if Milly Churbuck’s hand dyed fabrics were still available and where they could be found. After trying to contact Milly in a round-about way, I finally gave her a phone call. We had a great conversation and here’s the scoop. Sadly, she is no longer dyeing cotton fabric. Following the trend for wool applique, rug hooking and needle punch, she now works exclusively with wool fabric and threads. She has no website as of yet and befitting her “semi-retired” status, is vending at a limited number of quilt shows. I promise to promote her business here on my blog, once she gives me the particulars.

Regarding the Hourglass blocks that make up the doll quilt in my August 14 post, a few people wondered how I pieced such tiny blocks with accuracy. The answer is, I didn’t! Although I claimed the blocks finished at a minuscule 1”, they actually finish at 1 ½”. Sorry about the “guesstimate.” I had no ruler at hand. Even so, the blocks were small, with fiddly seam allowances, so here is how I dealt with them:

I use this technique to construct Hourglass blocks. Normally, I’d start with squares cut 1 ¼” larger than my desired finished size, but when working with such small pieces, I add a fudge factor of ¼” to ½”.

After constructing the block, use a seam ripper to pick out a few stitches where the seams intersect. This frees the seam allowance so you can press it in opposite directions, eliminating bulk.

Press the block gently with steam.

Finally, trim each block precisely to 2” (1 ½” finished) using a bias square ruler and rotary cutter. As you pin blocks into rows, match carefully where blocks intersect. I probably alternated the direction in which I pressed seam allowances for each row. However, if you want to eliminate more bulk, press seam allowances open. If doing so, shorten the stitch length on your sewing machine to make seams more secure.

Hope this clears things up.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shoot Me

We needed photos to accompany my Designer Quilts article about quilting with MS. I called on my friends, Sheila and Kathy, who helped set the stage for the photo shoot and also posed for the camera.

Now that I no longer go upstairs to my sewing room, I work at the dining room table. It's become a dumping ground for fabrics and quilt projects, as well as anything else my family doesn’t quite know what to do with. Before we could take photos, the table had to be cleared, a stunt quilt located, and various poses discussed (so much for spontaneity).

Sherry, my photographer friend, set about snapping our pictures. Although the scene was staged, the smiles and laughter were genuine. Thanks, dear friends, for coming on such short notice to help me meet a deadline.

The quilt that hangs in my dining room is a deceptively simple looking one patch, made from Milly Churbuck’s hand dyed cottons. The assorted 3 ½” squares came precut, in swatch packs Milly used to sell, featuring various color ways of her fabric. For a small price, I got plenty of colors, with scraps to spare for another project

What I tried to emulate was the look of simply pieced but elaborately quilted comforters from Provence, France. CLICK TO ENLARGE the photo below. As you scroll around, you’ll see the borders are each hand quilted with a different motif. The date appears in the lower left corner.

Readers have often asked if Milly Churbuck’s hand dyed cottons are still available. They are not. However, I can recommend Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabric or Vicki Welsh Hand Dyed Fabrics.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Final Issue

A few months ago my friend and editor, Julie Golimowski, asked me to write about my experience as a quilter with MS. The article is part of a feature on Multiple Sclerosis in the summer issue of Designer Quilts magazine.

Since hiring me as a pattern proofreader four years ago, Julie has shown concern about my health and the impact of MS on my life and work. Does the stress of deadlines increase my muscle tension and fatigue? YES. Is my ability to concentrate good enough to check math, diagrams, and wording for ten quilt projects an issue? MOST of the time. Am I able to climb stairs to get to the computer where I do my work? NOT ANY MORE!

Over time, her questions have become more specific. What was my first symptom? NUMBNESS and tingling. Am I in pain? SOMETIMES. What kinds of medical tests confirmed my diagnosis? MRI and SPINAL TAP. What medications do I take? DAILY INJECTIONS and PILLS for everything from muscle spasticity and incontinence to anxiety and depression.

Julie’s interest became more than concern for a good friend when she herself was diagnosed with MS. She revealed her condition to her readers in this latest, and last issue of the magazine. Her husband Joe writes:

Designer Quilts Magazine (formerly Designers’ Quarters) has ceased publication. In 2006, Julie, the editor of Designer Quilts Magazine and my wife, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS is an incurable disease that attacks the central nervous system. Lesions in the brain and on the spine cause a variety of symptoms from blindness to the inability to walk. Julie has relapsing and remitting MS which means that her symptoms come and go without warning and it is no longer possible for us to publish our magazine. Sincerely, Joe Golimowski Publisher, Designer Quilts Magazine

There's no predicting the path MS will take for either of us. In spite of that, Julie and I maintain good attitudes. That's half the battle in managing this debilitating disease. It's been an honor and pleasure working with Julie on Designer Quilts Magazine. Now, if we could only edit MS out of our lives.